By Urvi Verkhedkar, Year 11M
I was scrolling through yet another trashy Wattpad novel with Mary Sue, the protagonist, who’s super cool, strong and independent and I’m completely absorbed – until she says “Oh, I’m not like all of the other girls…”
I stopped reading.
So most of us agree with the ideology of feminism -“the equality of men and women”- and are even strong supporters of the movement. Naturally, you would expect all feminists to incorporate the beliefs in every aspect of their lives and treat both genders fairly; yet, ironically, some of them are the same people who call other girls [insert derogatory word(s)], and curb boys within their stereotypes.
Now, I can literally see you nodding your heads in recognition- thousands of heads bobbing earnestly to the shock of this hypocrisy. Ladies and Gentlemen, you’ve just encountered the Mistaken Modern Feminist.
I can’t be the only one sensing the disdainful tone in the novel, the tone hinting “No, actually, I’m better than all the other girls”,“I’m different”, “I’m not like the other girls!” What kind of girls?
The girly kind?
Even then, what’s wrong with being a girly girl? It seems like an offhand, trivial statement, but it stuffs the whole uniquely varied population of females into one stereotype…the other girls. A super girly damsel in distress who epitomizes the catty drama-queen and treats scornfully any “different” girls like the poor Mary Sue. Surprisingly, it’s not just in obscure novels that one encounters such disdain for other women – I’ve had “feminist” friends who will fervently support women empowerment in the news, but come reality, will utter statements like “I don’t like hanging out with girls, there’s too much drama…” and jump at any chance to put down other women.
Why do girls strive to be unlike the rest of their own gender -the women they call sisters- in order to be wanted and to be taken seriously?
This generalization can be very harmful, if you think about it. Imagine this kind of mentality rooting in young women’s minds since adolescence, and flourishing as they grow older and start working. These women will be leaders, bosses, and hold great positions of authority in their chosen fields – can you imagine the impact of these role models making decisions based on their rooted prejudices? Let’s – for argument’s sake – say she has retained the viewpoint that only the “different” girls should be celebrated; now she will go in the workplace already thinking she is above the rest of the women there and her decisions concerning them are so much more likelier to be unfavorable, because, according to her, she deserves success more. Continually, she will put down the other women in her field and hinder their achievements solely based on this prejudice.
Relating to this generalization, putting down other women is commonly found in other forms of casual sexism as well. Shaming other girls is a prominent example; you must have overheard, at least once in your lifetime, vicious comments on that short short skirt so-and-so wore the other day – “gosh, what an attention seeker!” Or heard someone bashing another girl for her social media activity, judging her entire character from the accumulated pixels of an Instagram post.
Ridiculous, isn’t it? And this bashing all stems from a sense of competition with other girls; not only for looks, but also attention, echoing Beyoncé’s statement in her empowerment anthem “Flawless”:
“we [as a society] teach girls to see each other as competitors,
Not for jobs or for accomplishments –
(Which I think can be a good thing)
But for the attention of men.”
For women to feel empowered, we all need to stop this negative reinforcement of stereotypes and vicious behaviour, which is an issue extending to boys as well.
A common blunder of The Mistaken Modern Feminist is to generalize all the boys, because, obviously, all boys are the same – impassive and incapable of grasping/feeling complex emotions like women do. You can throw verbal sticks and stones at them and they’d miraculously emerge unscathed; I mean, they’re boys! They are all lazy and messy. Indifferent. Inattentive. Admittedly, some of these may seem accurate at individual level (I’ve met some fitting people), but can you really judge the whole male gender with these set of stereotypes? It’s definitely unfair to the countless exceptions who feel the pressure of conforming when these “expectations” of behaviour are forced onto them. When they show emotion, or vulnerability, they are boorishly labeled “gay” (though not a bad thing, is thrown at them spitefully.) They are stuck in this tank brimming with societal “norms”, even though they can burst out so only the sky’s above them.
The Mistaken Modern Feminist lives a bit inside all of us; therefore, its only up to us change so that boys and girls have the full opportunities to thrive in our society.
So, Mary Sue, you might think you’re not like “all the other girls”…well, they aren’t like you and are all different to each other.
This article was originally published in Perspective, Issue 7, December 2016.