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May 18, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]


I took the Facebook ‘Are you a bitch?’ quiz last night:

Question 1
On you 21st birthday your best friend kisses the guy you have the hotts for, you:
1. Slap her, then run into the bathroom and cry.
2. Tell security at your party that she’s totally intoxicated and abusive and you don’t want her back in.
3. Kick the shit out of her and kick her out.

Whatever option I picked, I was going to come out a bitch. Bitchiness and cattiness between women has become so ingrained in our society that we accept it without question. What is it that breeds this hatred of women among women? Women have images rammed down our throats every day telling us how to look and behave. Some conform, some rebel. Yet whatever we choose, we face judgment from our peers. Why are the pressures inflicted upon women as a group reproduced and inflicted within the group?

In The Sex in the City The Movie, a film that supposedly promotes women being honest about and confident in themselves sexually, we might assume the women can relax and be comfortable about their bodies around their best friends. Yet when Samantha catches a glimpse of Miranda’s bikini line and exclaims “Jesus, Honey! Wax much?” Miranda feels ridiculed and embarrassed, and her argument as to why she hasn’t waxed (fair enough too—she has her dissolving marriage and son to think of before visiting a salon) is left looking like a tantrum.

Why does Samantha assert that women should wax? Perhaps because she accepts the commercially constructed images of women that are rammed down her throat by the male-dominated fashion industry and media. Whatever the fictional characters believe, this scene reinforces a constructed norm, giving the message it is unacceptable to miss one bikini wax session, and leaves Samantha feeling superior and Miranda ashamed.

While women decide to wax or dress a certain way for a number of reasons, not just because the media or their peers tell them to, many women decide not to wax, either for their own reasons or because the media and their peers tell them to. While many feel they must conform to commercial constructions, others feel compelled to oppose them.

I was disappointed, but not surprised to find this letter sent to Salient following the women’s issue:

“This is a note to all those female students, be they first years or otherwise, who like to prance down Cuba Street in stilettos and miniskirts, pissed off their faces.

You make me ashamed of my gender. You and the bitch off the old Clearasil ads with the ‘We all want the same thing—clear skin!’ …”

What is it exactly that makes you ashamed of your gender as a whole when you see girls drunk and dressed in mini skirts? Is it that you feel they are sexualising themselves and thus increasing their objectification by men? Are you unable to believe that a woman may be proud of her body and that she has the right to wear what makes her feel good? Are you suggesting that women do not have the right to have fun and drink?

If you have made the decision not to conform to the pressures to dress the way society tells you to, perhaps you are just conforming to the trend to be negative to anyone who strives to adhere to the images presented to them. Perhaps you have been sucked into the social trends that make it okay to be negative toward women. Because our still-male-dominated society breeds negativity toward women, it also breeds negativity between women.

Feminism originated when women united to stand up for their interests as a group. Now that women’s movements have been divided among so many different approaches, their differences often breed negativity toward each other. There are those who believe making themselves sexual objects and embracing ‘raunch culture’ is empowering, and others who believe it is detrimental and degrading to women, reinforcing the patriarchy.

Women as a group are subject to so many pressures every day telling us what to conform to. Let’s not let these ideas become so ingrained in us that we start to project them onto each other. And let’s also not let our resistance to them become so strong that we cannot see past it. If you react negatively to the actions of a woman, take a moment and think about why she may behave and dress like that. Support each other. Build a community rather than a clique, that’s how we’ve got where we are today and how we will move forward.


About the Author ()

Fiona was named "Recessionista" in the ASPA Fashion Awards 2009 for her Takaka op-shop frock and spray painted shoes. She co-edits the arts section and also likes to write about women and other stuff.

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