I recently saw a tweet appear on my timeline indicating that girls supporting girls is not unconditional. This made me think about my own belief system and when I consider placing conditions on my own feminist ideologies. There is an obvious answer to this, as supporting someone who represents racist, homophobic and bigoted views is not something I could ever do, regardless of how they identify. However, this tweet really made me question the bigger picture. How women can sometimes reflect the patriarchal conditions placed on their womanhood, perhaps as means to protect themselves from succumbing to oppression from men.
“No, I’ll only support nice girls.”
While I agree with this concept to an extent, it could also be a dangerous precedent to set. The word nice is far too vague to categorise women. Reverting back to the stereotypical 1950’s woman, they would most likely only be seen as nice if they dressed a certain way, served their husband domestically and remained silent on controversial issues. Bringing us back to the 21st century, would the average woman, who perhaps has some unaddressed internalised misogyny, consider a woman who is outspoken, opinionated and possibly disagreeable, as not nice?
The image of the ‘nice’ girl
This has made me question what it means to be a ‘nice girl’ in our society. Whenever we encounter someone who is not a ‘nice girl,’ how do we respond? Do we consider the challenges they may have faced? This is not to say that certain behaviours should not be condemned, but how can we rehabilitate the ‘not nice’ girl without learning her experience?
The cycle of internalised misogyny
I can only speak for myself when I say that after analysing my own internalised misogyny, and any problematic opinions that came along with that, they are often rooted in my own trauma that I have experienced at the hands of the patriarchy. The constant underlying fear of being rejected by men, has often caused behaviour that I no longer identify with. Spiteful comments towards other women, judging them based on appearance, disliking someone out of jealousy are all behaviours that were encouraged by the patriarchy. Such behaviours cause competition between women so that we can compete for what is assumed the ultimate prize: a man’s affection. Now when we read it like this, we realise the absurdity of the concept. But in the moment, it feels like protection and survival.
We have grown up with the magazines that published headlines like Angelina versus Jennifer, pointing out every female celebrity’s flaw. As a result, we have been conditioned to do the same. This is not to say that problematic behaviours can be excused. However, when we look at how we have been socialised, it is easier to understand why some girls may not be so ‘nice.’ The way our trauma resonates with us and expresses itself internally, could sometimes make others uncomfortable. Especially those who haven’t faced the same kind of oppression.
How the ‘bitch’ is born
It is not our responsibility to educate those who do not want to learn and prioritise bitterness and resentment over their own happiness. However as women, we do have a responsibility to recognise that there may be a cycle here. A cycle that we consistently feed into. The misogyny that is integrated into society affects every person identifying as a woman. The constant anxiety that minorities face, inevitably conditions them to have survival reactions and instincts that may appear to be excessive.
It is all too easy for the men and women of our society to sit there and say ‘she’s a brat,’ ‘she’s a bitch’ or ‘she’s not a nice girl.’ We must ask ourselves: how much are we talking to the not nice girl, and how much are we actually talking to a reflection of someone who has spent years and years of being condemned for simply having a personality and opinion. The not nice girl, eventually goes onto create a self-fulfilling prophecy. She recognises that her peers perceive her to be abrasive, defensive and a ‘bitch.’ So she becomes that bitch. She has found that being a bitch, is often easier than arguing her point.
Of course, the concept of girls supporting girls is conditional. This is an obvious statement, however I think society has a responsibility to be kind to even the most vulnerable women. When it comes down to it, do these tweets not represent the ultimate aim of the patriarchy? To condemn women, to the point where, even they become alienated by other women? To ‘not support’ another woman due to the possible effects of her oppression? Confirming the ideology that the patriarchy created? This is representative of a vicious cycle. Individuals should take responsibility to heal their own trauma, but we can also educate others and be more tolerant of those who are still on that journey.