Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Other" Girls

Sloane Cornelius, one of my beautiful WOC friends, shared this today and it sparked a good conversation. We both viewed it and got very different messages. I think that both of them are really worthy of discussion.

She pointed out how it was useful because it addressed the reality that many women often feel the need to put down other women in order to make themselves feel special. Ain't that the truth! It drives me nuts when I hear women say things like "All of my friends are men, because women are too _____ for me to be close to them" or make claims asserting that they are better than the "average" woman. That's so unnecessary and Sloane was right when she pointed out how it's patriarchy in action. Enforcing patriarchal notions don't benefit women like me and the ones in my life. I don't know where I'd be if I excluded women from my support system. However, there have been many times in my life when the women around me were the only folks who stood by my side, let me cry on their shoulders, and had first-hand experience with my particular struggles. I suppose I could live without them, but why would I want to? The women I love enrich my life.

At the same time, I found a few things problematic about this particular picture and, to be honest, I'm not really feeling it. See, I'm not like other girls, but it isn't because I have notions about what girls are supposedly like. It's just the truth. Not all girls are like me. Why shouldn't I set myself apart? Why should any girl want to be seen as basically interchangeable? This seems some real hegemonic crap.

I definitely support the destruction of patriarchy, but I don't want us to substitute it with cheer-leading Western hegemony. The picture claims that "Patriarchy has created this culture" and that's just not true. Patriarchy is incapable of creating anything. All it does is degrade cultures. That statement also assumes that we're all living in the same culture. We're not.

Furthermore, cultures are created by embracing differences. If we listen to the command "Do not set yourself apart", then who gets to decide what's the norm and what's apart from that norm? Considering the way that this picture completely ignores race and colonialism, even as it proceeds to make comments about what's legitimate culture, it's a pretty safe bet that it's being written from a White, Western, middle class woman's perspective. White Western middle class women dictating what's legitimate culture are never acting in the interests of WOC, especially not our young girls who are so vulnerable already.

I don't think this picture really benefits young White girls either. They deserve to know that they don't need to  "be like the other girls". It's completely okay to have their own ideas about what's right and wrong even if most girls have different beliefs. They shouldn't have to believe that they need to be like other girls in order for them to be true revolutionaries.


Rootietoot said...

From the perspective of a white middle class American woman, there is a terrible mixed message to girls and young women: Be yourself! You're Special Just Like You Are! (as long as you're thin and pretty and not too smart unless you wear glasses and don't dress too weird) It's right up there with the "if you don't sleep around you're a prude and if you do you're a slut."

bint alshamsa said...

Can I give you two internet thumbs up? That's exactly what it's like. You can't win for losing, if you try to follow the advice on this picture.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Girl hate sucks, but I don't believe that saying you're 'not like other girls' is necessarily hateful or anti-feminist. Girls are already policed for their expression so much, and I've seen how people have used the popularity of being against Girls Who Are Not Like Other Girls as an excuse for calling them 'special snowflakes' and for being plain misogynistic. Being 'different' is hard. Even if in the grand scheme of things you're not that different! And if a girl wants to say 'I'm different and I'm proud of it' because it's better than hating herself for not being like the Other Girls we shouldn't, like, throw peanuts at her.