I’d like to say that I am a woman who loves women.
Women are fascinating and inspiring.
I think men are too, of course, but I’ve spent most of my life watching movies and shows by men, about men; reading books by men, for men; and listening to music written, produced, and sung by them.
Around the same time, I watched female characters, created by men, that all had the same characteristics: skinny, white, upset about a man, looking for a man, focused on a man, backstabbing a woman, competing with a woman for a man, etc.
I didn’t act like these women. Of course, I didn’t want to act like these women, so when
my guy friends said things like “you’re not like other girls” or “you’re just one of the guys,” I took it as a compliment.
But it isn’t a compliment, is it?
How could I love myself? How could I love women, when it’s considered an insult to be one?
I was taught many things that even my alpha-female mother couldn’t prevent:
1. Boys like the skinny girls now, but you’ll have boobs before those skinny girls do.
2. Just kidding, boys like skinny girls with unrealistically-sized boobs for their body-types.
3. Did I mention you need to be skinny, but you also need to be able to eat a burger because men “like a woman that can eat”?
4. Boys don’t like smart girls; they’re intimidated.
5. Boys don’t like athletic girls; they’re intimated.
6. If a boy is mean to you, it’s because he likes you.
7. Men are more sexual than women.
8. Sex doesn’t mean the same thing for men.
9. Women are catty-backstabbers.
10. Show some cleavage.
11. Don’t show cleavage; men can’t handle that.
12. Seriously child, put those shoulders away, do you want to distract the boys from their studies?
13. Try being modest for once, you temptress.
14. Don’t put out too early.
15. You’re such a prude.
16. You don’t want sex as much as a man does.
17. Don’t let a man use you.
18. *Watches a million commercials where women are used as sex objects to sell cars, cheeseburgers, handbags, etc. You name it; we’ll attach a half-naked woman’s body to it and sell it.*
19. Well, what was she wearing?
20. Was she drinking?
21. You don’t want to be like other women.
22. Women aren’t funny
23. Women aren’t interesting
24. If you’re funny and interesting, you’re just one of the guys.
This isn’t an extensive list, but you get the point.
From my experience, there are all these expectations set on a woman’s behavior: like we have to be this sexy-modest virgin that slays in the bedroom, who also doesn’t get too drunk at parties while simultaneously maintaining her party girl image; hanging out with all male friends and no female friends because women are backstabbing b*tches.
That girl doesn’t exist. And if she did, she would be miserable, and her guy friends would whine about being in the friend-zone.
I think we all go through a phase where we try to be that girl.
I know, I went through it.
I began to shrink my servings, then my body, and then my voice — all because somewhere along the line someone told me that’s what men want; Someone told me that’s what women should want.
So I tried to occupy less space, sit pretty, spend less time thinking about the world and more time thinking about makeup.
I struggled to laugh at stupid dude-jokes but, I’d think, “just laugh, men have precious egos, they won’t like it if you’re so sarcastic.”
I’d buy anything that promised to make me skinnier; prettier.
I’d buy into the idea that this would make me happier.
I’d cry over crop tops that didn’t expose a perfectly flat belly.
I’d try to be that girl.
A friend of mine once told me, “Women have to unlearn all the things that we were taught to find ourselves.”
But it’s hard to do that with friends that can’t stop competing over who ate fewer calories.
Luckily, I found my women on the steps of Hillman Library, out on a smoke break.
Mary, who I was friends with in high school, Leah, Camille, Kelsi, and Cèlia.
They were uniquely beautiful people; unflinchingly stylish and effortlessly aware of their sexuality.
I still picture us gathered at our usual spot in the library talking politics, philosophy, and social justice over piles of books. We’re all sleep deprived of studying or drinking; we’re moving quickly from topic to topic: we’re giving a run down on each of our research papers, then we’re discussing places to travel, then half of us are napping with our heads on the table, and the other half is typing furiously in an Adderall-ridden trance.
We didn’t talk about our weight, we never called other women sluts, we never called other women ugly—that’s important. You are who you surround yourself with.
Of course, these women weren’t perfect, but that’s what made them so fascinating.
They taught me how to love myself and how to love other women; something I am forever grateful for.
Unfortunately, I’m still a hater…
If I see a woman that looks better than me at the gym, I hate her.
If I see a woman who looks damn good in a revealing outfit at the club, I hate her.
If my friends say another woman is so beautiful, I hate her.
I want to say things like “well, she’s got a nice body but she’s not very beautiful,” “she’s dressed a little slutty,” or “she’s ok, I guess.”
I want to say these things, but I don’t, because I know that my initial response is coached. I’ve been trained to view other women as competition for men’s attention. I’ve been trained to think men’s attention actually matters. So instead of trusting my not-so-instinctual instinct, I talk to myself.
“Haley, why are you thinking like that? She looks damn good, good for her for coming to the gym tonight to work off some stress. Praise girl, go lift, do your thing.”
“Haley don’t slut shame; you are the problem. She looks amazing, good for her. I support her decision to wear what she wants no matter what people will think.”
“Yeah… she really is gorgeous.”
I’m only a hater for a split-second, but it’s a split-second long enough to remind me that I’m still un-learning.
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