It’s easy to pin women against men in the blaming game and our fight for gender equality. Men’s dominance over women throughout history is popularly seen as the sole reason for female oppression. This is the stance the original radical feminists took almost 40 years ago: assuming that the only way to gain rights as women was to remove and punish men.
Men and women have been so far removed from each other that it is hard to think of them as being completely equal. The gender equality issue is more than closing the gap between men and women, however. We must also close the gap between women and other women.
In an effort to hold women in higher esteem over recent years, society and the media have praised women for their diversity. Women’s magazines cater to the “complex new woman,” who works, cooks, plays, shops and more. More and more of these magazines have popped up to interest women specifically interested in working or in cooking, from Glamour Magazine to Town & Country Magazine.
While celebrating women for being unique is a step in the right direction, separating women and giving them reason to be in competition with one another is not. Images of flawlessly photoshopped models and tips on making your butt look bigger instill the mindset in female reader’s minds that they should want to be thinner, prettier and better than the women they see on the pages of magazines. We are taught to be envious of this “ideal” woman and therefore see her as an enemy.
Media sites such as E News! and People Magazine also pin women against each other with “Who Wore It Better?” segments. These contests teach readers to view one woman as superior to another from the images they are shown, which only teaches women to view others with disdain rather than praise.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stated in her famous “We should all be feminists” TED Talk, women are also taught to compete with one another for the attention of men. To catch the man of your dreams and keep him, women are told to be sexier and more charming than their female competition. They must bat their eyes for longer and wear more revealing tops, while portraying confidence that doesn’t come off as arrogance. Women are told to bend themselves into so many different positions, and all at the expense of men.
Instead of this being a “healthy” competition among women, we actually become more aware of the females around us — viewing them as a threat. This is shown in gossip among girlfriends, or side comments about the girl walking by whose skirt is a little on the short side. I’m guilty of putting other women down to feel better about myself too. If my friend’s crush is flirting with another girl, I’ll whip out a comment such as “You’re prettier” without a second thought as to the damage it’s doing.
Women have enough to deal with as it is, from unequal pay to street harassment. We definitely don’t need to add competing with other women to that list. We won’t achieve gender equality until we start treating our own gender with more respect. So the next time you want to put down that girl for always looking flawless in her Instagram pictures or rolling your eyes at the woman strutting the streets like her own personal runway, applaud these women for being beautiful individuals to look up to. Take note of the woman’s outfit that caught your attention long enough for you to silently hate her fashion sense for being better than yours. Instead, turn that hate into appreciation and inspiration for your own closet.
If we become more conscious about our reactions to other women and show that we are deserving of respect, hopefully the fight for gender equality will become a little bit easier to handle.