I’m a neophyte when it comes to feminine identity formation. I don’t mean that I don’t know what gender I am. I’m informed enough to know that the concept of “gender” is a socialized one anyway, and that there are individuals out there who’d argue that I define my gender, and not whatever color palettes some Chief Marketing Officer thinks should be the first thing I encounter when I enter a store. I mean simply that I am just an awakened individual when it comes to feminism.
Academically and personally, I’m just more in tune with ethnic identity. I see myself as American Asian first. It is the identity concept that I hold most at my center; it is more nuclear to my sense of self. It’s a very complex thing in itself, being American Asian, so the next circle of
Google+ identity around that one is my being female, but it’s simply not as dense as my ethnic identity.
I’ve never identified myself as a feminist. I’m not against the feminist movement at large, I just haven’t devoted myself to it as much as I have to learning about my own ethnic background. When it comes to female networking groups and female-specific initiatives, my stance has largely been “I don’t want that to be what people know me for. I just want to be a ball-buster, without being female as some sort of handicap. I can run with boys, so why push my gender as if that means anything different?” – This is a struggle to verbalize. I’m obviously not as eloquent in my feminine identity discussions as I am in other topics, but that’s just an extension of what I’m trying to say. I’m in the process of examining (*cough* Lotta *cough*) my possible place in the feminist world.
There are some female-oriented things I’ve become more aware of in my adult life, though, and I’m not talking biologically. (Male readers, no need to fear.) Girls, why are we so fucking mean to each other? Women have been pitted against each other for no other reason than to fit into this self-defeating image of crabs in a barrel pulling other crabs down.
The biggest thing I keep recognizing in my possible feminist awakening is how judgmental I am, particularly toward other women.
Today it was because I cracked open the August Vogue.
It started with Sarah.
Sarah Jessica Parker is on the cover – It’s her sixth cover, Anna Wintour tells us – and SJP always conjures up mixed feelings of distaste for me. This is silly and pointless. First off, I’ve never met SJP. Second, SJP’s image is a controlled, possibly contrived, public image. Both of these points illustrate that basically, I don’t know the real SJP. I also never will, and I’m perfectly fine with that.
My immediate thoughts when I saw her face went:
Whoa, there is some mediocre Photoshopping going on here. Oh, SJP, I used to enjoy Sex and the City, but I never enjoyed Carrie. She was so neurotic. Just like the ‘Oh no, my stratta!’ girl in The Family Stone. Didn’t enjoy that movie either.
But then there was that time you performed for the Tony Awards because you were in The Princess and the Pea. That makes me want to like you.
But then I remember that someone told me your character says something like ‘Do I really look like a horse?’ in Ed Wood. And I am reminded that your face is rather long. And I laugh at it: Ha! Ha! Your life ISN’T so perfect, is it Sarah Jessica Parker? Because your face is atypically vertically gifted!
I’m not in competition with SJP, not remotely and certainly not directly – Why do I feel like I can pass judgment on her? What makes me think I’m qualified enough to dub her “annoying?” She’s achieved success in the way she wanted to achieve success – Why should that disgust me? She plays characters. How do I know I wouldn’t be delighted to shoot the shit for a coupla hours with the real SJP?
Perhaps Sarah Jessica Parker is a poor example of how I apply a rival mentality to random women because she’s a celebrity/public figure who’s just kind of subjected to that by default, but the same situation holds true for a lot of women-on-women criticism. We’re just especially harsh on each other. Professionally, casually, from afar, insidiously without the other one knowing. It’s hard to find female friends who don’t fall into a bit of one-upwomanship (See what I did there?) once in a while. Isn’t it all a big game of comparison? Sure, there’s no prize, but the way we race each other, you’d think there’s a golden ticket on the other side of getting a promotion before your BFF.
I’m not trying to be super self-righteous here. To compare is human. Seems like a reflexive response that would naturally develop thanks to adaptation and survival of the fittest. Generally groups of girls at the mall passing judgment on other groups of girls at the mall would be passable behavior because it probably doesn’t amount to much. Teen Girl Squad A probably only occupies Teen Girl Squad B’s minds for about one minute, so who cares? A little bit of “I don’t like her shoes.”/”Her roots need a touch-up.” are insignificant opinions and observations.
I just don’t understand why I feel like I have to be doing better. All. The. Time. Namely when I’m meeting with women I don’t see often and who ultimately have no significant role in my life. I don’t seek quality time with them, and yet when I know we’re going to be in the same spot, I want to make sure I have a new bullet point to hold over their heads. I’m not explicitly against them. It does me no good when they don’t do well. It does not benefit any collective good if I do better than a different she. So why?
While I haven’t kept a log of Instances of Asshole Knee-Jerk Judgments, I’m fairly certain I don’t do this as much when I meet with guys. Sure, there are men that I feel are on my level who make me feel compelled to stay ahead, but I can easily name more women peers that I want to do and be better than.
I think it speaks to how much and how far women have had to come – Thanks to feminism, of course. I wouldn’t be here without specific ladies’ competitive survival spirits. Mothers and grandmothers had to bust ass to get to where women are now, but at that time they were fighting the status quo and men. Nowadays, the idea that you should always look out for Number 1 is still true – for both women and men – but women put fellow women on a different ranking system. I feel like I’ve internalized an instinct to clamor my way to the top compared to other women. Seems especially off since, like I stated before, I’m not one to outwardly identify with specifically female groups in the first place.
So I’ve been reading a bit (More on that later.) about situations where it’s Girl vs. Girl and the contention comes seemingly out of nowhere. Fortunately, I’ve fallen into a female group of super successful and educated women who can speak about this openly and don’t mind discussing things into the wee hours of the morning. The discourse has been refreshing, and in the end we always agree: We have to learn to be supportive of our sisters.
To do so, I must unlearn my quick reactions to judge and put down my sisters. It’ll take some proactive prodding on my own part, but hey, I recognize that I have a problem and I have the power to change myself.
Am I completely off my rocker here? Is this all a specific experience that only affects a certain type of woman? Do guys feel this way, too? I’d be happy to be perfectly wrong and just in need of my own prescription. Tell me what you think in a comment.