I was a bully in elementary school. I can be very judgemental and cutting. In high school, I won the “Class Gossip” superlative. If I die young, anyone who says I was “really nice” will be lying. So the rest of this column might come as a shock to some. Nay, many.
Although I was raised to be and have always identified as a feminist, that label never really had any significant bearing on my personality or actions. Feminism can take many forms but, over the past year, I have grown into my personal brand of feminism that has not only made me a happier person but also a better woman. In light of Women’s History Month, I encourage you (boys and girls alike) to try it. It is very simple. I love all women.
I love all women. Or at least I try to. It is hard because normally I hate everyone. Since I started writing this column in August, I have been more routinely forced to think about how the male dominated culture in America affects not just me, but all women. I appreciate the fact that every story is unique but reminding myself of the common struggle that we as women share has proven to be a powerful force in the continued development of my character. The phrase “common struggle” can be a little misleading. I know that I, as a wealthy, cisgender, educated, straight, white woman do not face even a fraction of the hardships that my sisters in other walks of life do.
I also know that just “loving all women” is not a tangible solution to the violence and abuse and discrimination that so many women face, but in my daily life, it has become a small way that I have been able to feel connected with the women I know and new ones I meet. Loving — and in turn, supporting — ALL women has become a mantra and lifestyle. Even girls who have wronged me in the past, annoying girls from class and ex-friends, even Republican women, share so many uniquely female characteristics and experiences. Reminding myself of that has helped me let go of years of grudges and approach my world with a new understanding and drive to be better.
To my freshman year friends with whom I haven’t talked in years, I love you. To the girl who beat me in that election I really wanted to win, I support you. To all the girls I’ve talked about behind their backs, I want to be there for you. To all the girls I developed an unfounded hatred for because of my own jealousy, I am proud of you.
I, too, know the the feeling of being talked down to because I am a woman. I too know the uncomfortable touch of an unwelcome hand on the small of your back. I know the pain of period cramps and the pain of a love unrequited. I too have been slut shamed and talked about. I too have been harassed and assaulted. I too have felt like I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or skinny enough or smart enough.
I ask for your patience while I go on this journey of feminine discovery and I ask your forgiveness for the ways I have acted in the past. My entire life I have felt as though other girls were my competition, not my teammates. Loving women has caused me to think about and make everyday choices that support and benefit women, like supporting female-owned businesses or donating business attire to help local low-income women prepare for job interviews. Loving women is about treating everyone better and judging everyone less. Saying, “hey I love your jacket,” or even just not saying “wow I hate that girl’s jacket” to someone else.
It may seem as though I’ve had rose-colored glasses forcefully taped to my head, but I know there are some women that are bad (Tomi Lahren) and some women that seem to hate other women (Ann Coulter). However, this new attitude is more of an everyday effort than a hard and fast rule.
The concept of women hating other women is nothing new. Women have been pitted against each other and conditioned by society to feel competitive with other women. Growing up in this society, it is impossible to survive without a smattering of internalized misogyny — which can manifest in women being more critical of other women and feeling competitive.
Being a feminist is more than believing in equality and voting for women; it is about striving every day to lift other women up and understanding that, although it affects us to different degrees, we are all forced to operate in a sexist and racist society. So I hope after you read this, you can go say something nice to some girl in your class. Or do the dishes for your roommate. Or even just smile at that girl who ignored you at a party that one time. Men tear women down enough and it is time we lift each other back up.
Willow Hubsher is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Not a Sex Column appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.