A Girl's Guide to Being Friends With Girls











{February 8, 2012}   Girly Girl

One of the very first things I brought up in my first column is that there is no such thing as a “normal” girl.  And I stand by that.

Of course, that gets kinda hard to believe sometimes.  Our society is so mired in ideas about gender that there are many things that get labeled “feminine” for whatever reason (and often stupid, stupid reasons).  And then girls are supposed to like these feminine things.

But here’s an added problem: the same people labeling these things as “feminine” do their damnedest to convince us that “masculine” things are the default setting and the CORRECT things.  Anything “feminine” gets associated with being weak, wrong and/or second class.  So, if you choose to like feminine things, you’re wrong.  But if you choose to reject them, you’re also wrong.

You noticed a recurring pattern in these columns?  The world REALLY likes to tell girls that no matter what we do, we’re screwed.

REJECT

Because of the whole “femininity is gross/weak/wrong” idea, it’s no shock that the world at large belittles and rejects things it eagerly labels as feminine.  And it’s no shock that there’s a lot of girls who do the same thing in retaliation.  Fine, you want to say that girly things are bad?  I won’t like girly things.  At all.

But that doesn’t solve the core problem: that femininity is still vilified.  To give into that frame of mind just continues the idea that being emotional, liking pink, being compassionate, appreciating beauty and all of those other things we hear conflated with femininity are somehow negatives is just continuing a ridiculous unwritten rule of gender.  In order to break down that sort of ideal, we have to reject the idea that girly things are inherently bad.

ACCEPT

Of course, there’s the opposite end of the spectrum, too.  Living your life by some guideline of how to be a girl is just as limiting and harmful.  Because the things that are labeled as “feminine” aren’t necessarily traits that all women everywhere have.  “Feminine” doesn’t automatically equal “female.”

I know.  That’s maybe a little hard to think about.  But take that as proof of how ingrained and unavoidable society’s ideas about gender really are.

The thing is, expecting us to accept all things feminine also doesn’t reverse the vilification.  Because some girls don’t like pink, don’t like kids, don’t want to wear make-up, aren’t infinitely compassionate, etc.  And asking them to go against themselves in that way is also incredibly harmful.

JUDGEMENT

So what does any of this have to do with friendship?  Well, here’s the point: a lot of girls tend to fall into the category of judging one another based on accepting or rejecting these social ideas.  It leads to the “I’d rather be friends with boys” mentality.  Or the “I’m not like OTHER girls” mentality.   It can lead to making assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation (“Look at how she acts, she’s such a dyke!”) or promiscuity (“Look at what she wears, she’s such a slut!”).

The problem isn’t just about not being able to get to know ourselves.  The problem is that this is just another chance for us to turn against each other and sit in judgement around some concept of “normal” that we didn’t create and that we don’t even get a SAY in.  We can get so busy enforcing the REJECT or ACCEPT mindset that we don’t get to know each other as people.

And see, that’s the thing.  We’re PEOPLE.

REFUSE

And that’s the basic idea we need to work with.  On a personal and a social level.

On a personal level, it means not enforcing feminine or non-feminine on yourself.  You don’t have to follow strict guidelines one way or another.  Just be yourself.  If you happen to like a lot of things that are considered feminine?  Great!  If you don’t?  Also great!  The only person you have to be is yourself, regardless of any asinine rules or assignments the world tries to make for you.

On a social level, it means not enforcing the same thing on other girls.  You know that you are a more complex person than that.  So realize that other girls are the same way.  It doesn’t mean we’re all going to love and understand and get along with one another, but it does mean we can relate as people who do or don’t like each other, rather than as unwitting gender police.

And, for once, it means we can actually think about the boys.  I don’t like to bring that up very often because this is a column for girls and I hate the “BUT THINK OF THE MEN!!!” mindset…but guys get a ton of crap for this, too.  Because they’re expected to default to “masculine.”  And guess what?  The “masculine” stuff fits all men exactly as well as “feminine” fits all women.  Guys should be able to be complex human beings as well, which means we also need to stop enforcing crap gender roles and ideals on them.

The way we approach and deal with gender is so awful.  Let’s not do that anymore.

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