I’ve been spending a lot of my time thinking about women. More specifically, what it means to be a woman and how I interact with other women. I think about the single moms that I know, the athletes that I know, the single women, the coupled women, the women I work with, the women I pay to paint my nails. I’ve been thinking about them all and I’ve been thinking about myself and I came to the realization that…. I’ve been unkind to my own.
I’ve been thinking about my behavior for the past few weeks but Roxanne Gay’s essay “How to Be Friends With Another Woman” confirmed it. I’m unkind to other women.
Out of all the mistakes I’ve made, this is the one of which I am most ashamed. (So naturally of course I am sharing it on my blog.) But honesty is the best policy, I am told.
I was the girl in high school who hated team sports and exercise because I resented the girls who loved their bodies, who were more competitive, and who took the time to cultivate friendships with one another.
I was the young woman in college with “more guy friends than girls”, who would laugh at girls stumbling home alone in their high heels instead of offering them a safe walk home.
I was the woman who adopted the beliefs of many men as her own, because it was easier to see what they saw than to fight it.
All of these errors come from the same place. I am often threatened by other women. I get to say “often” because I am sort of capable of making new female friends, and I have many older women I look up to and admire, and I take their advice very seriously. I do not walk around looking to spite all women, but I’ve done my fair share of distancing myself from womanhood.
Up until this point it has been as if I could remove many of my own personal weaknesses by saying, “That’s what THEY do, this is what I do.” It’s so easy to create a “they”, isn’t it? “They” can give all sorts of matters an air of legitimacy, and it is so much easier to blame “they” than to blame ourselves.
I avoid groups of women at parties because I do not want to be grouped, by men of course, as one of them. “I am not gossipy, I do not care about their work, I do not care about their relationships.” I judge women like men do. The saddest thing is that I am certain that 98% of the conversations I did not engage in were smart and intelligent and wonderful and I missed out, because I was either avoiding them or seeking out attention from men.
The good news is that, even after spending so much of my time cultivating friendships with men, I have a small pack of women who know me as I truly am. And I’m finally learning to love the woman I can be too. Why the hell have I been so afraid of being a woman?
There is nothing wrong with how women handle the world. In fact, it’s probably better in many ways but we’ve been conditioned to think that the feminine way is the wrong way, the weak way. To be feminine is to be lesser. To watch television shows about female relationships is ridiculous. To love deeply and without question and to crave that in return is foolish. To want to study and learn about interpersonal relationships is silly.
(I realize that a lot of time needs to be spent discussing gender norms, identity choices, and how we perform our roles. That’s another conversation that deserves far more time and energy. For my purposes here I am speaking of traditionally feminine traits and our society’s fear to embrace them as legitimate. Caring, nurturing, empathetic, and affectionate.)
I’ve been hiding from what it means to be a woman for quite some time. And I have a lot of questions to ask myself and work to do, but for now… I need to apologize for being half in and half out of womanhood.
I am vocal about reproductive rights. I am vocal about rape culture. I am vocal about being a feminist. One foot in. But I am afraid to admit that I like to nurture the people I love. I want to pretend I am not tender or patient, when really I am. I judge women based on single mistakes. One foot out.
I’d like to stop thinking of women as how they are depicted in television and movies and books. I am a complicated human being. I am not a trope by any means. Neither are my close friends, my mother. Why, oh why, I thought that other women were just movie tropes, I’ll never know for sure. But for now I can focus on seeing all women for what they truly are and not what I choose, or what men choose, to judge them to be.
I’m sorry I’ve turned my back so many times on so many women. I’m here now. I’m warming up…