“She’s not even that pretty,” “She’s so full of herself,” “She wears way too much make-up.” If you identify as a woman, chances are, you’ve thought or said one of the following about other women.
Toward the end of 2020, my Twitter feed convinced me to read a book called Women Don’t Owe You Pretty. Despite feeling that it wasn’t exceptionally informative, one very important message in the book has stuck with me until today and completely transformed my interactions with other women.
Now, I know you may want to click off this article after what I’m about to tell you, but hear me out. Remember those statements at the start? If you’ve thought one of these things or judged someone, it’s probably because you’re insecure about something yourself.
Think of someone about whom you’ve made these comments. What is it exactly about them that you dislike so much? Could it be that they’re more confident than you? Are they more openly sexual? Or maybe more conventionally attractive?
If so, then it appears that you’ve caught a bug running and contaminating people worldwide. That bug has a name, and it’s called internalized misogyny.
Media has taught us that there’s something called a “perfect woman.” When we feel like we’re not upholding these standards, we become hyper-insecure. We start hating on other women, either because they uphold these standards to an unparalleled degree, or because they choose to go against them.
Have you ever caught yourself saying the phrase, “I don’t like her. I can’t explain why, I just don’t?” This was my go-to phrase when I’d tell family and friends about my so-called “rivalry” with another girl in my grade back in high school, named Maya.
Whether it was for the school talent show or a Model UN conference, Maya and I always ended up competing in high school. Although I would never admit it, the unfortunate truth was that she usually won. After these competitions, I’d go home and rant to my parents about Maya and her “secret agenda” to see me fail. I would say things like, “she’s just so full of herself” and “I just know she hates me too.” But the reality was that Maya and I had never had an unpleasant conversation. We’d never fought. We’d never been petty.
When it came down to it, the only person who had been judging me all along was me. Deep down, I was jealous of Maya’s confidence and envied her ability to fearlessly take risks and put herself out there. I judged her constantly as a quick way of dealing with the things I disliked about myself. Yet once that satisfaction of criticizing her wore off, I was, again and again, left with my unaddressed insecurities.
I’m not telling you to like everybody. What I’m asking is that you try and recognize whether they’re the problem or whether it’s your own self-doubts. It’s time to stop viewing other women as competition and start viewing them as inspiration. The next time you find yourself competing with someone, or comparing yourself to them, stop yourself and focus on consciously uplifting them. It’s time to celebrate other women.
Contact Salma Sarkis at [email protected].