Live Through This

Girl-on-Girl Crime

If only there were a 12-step program for misogynists.

Collage by Minna

Collage by Minna.

When I started high school, I despised a girl named Ella* who had recently joined the small group of friends that came with me from my primary school. She seemed to appear from nowhere, instantly fitting in with the popular group I had worked hard to join, getting invited to all the parties, and being the object of my crush’s affections. These things gave me enough reason to hate her. At one of the first high school parties I attended that included drinking, kissing, and sleeping over, Ella hooked up with a guy under a sleeping bag in a room full of people too terrified to touch one another. I had no feelings for the guy she slept with, I didn’t see what happened, and it didn’t affect me AT ALL, but none of this stopped me from judging her really harshly. While IMing with a friend the day after the party, I took it upon myself to detail what had happened and how “slutty” Ella had acted at the party. I vividly remember calling her “dirty” for what she’d done. As I ran down a list of misdeeds I knew nothing about (I was a 14-year-old kiss virgin), I felt totally justified: Ella had done something I didn’t like, and I had a duty to register my disapproval with our peers.

The next day at school, the girl I’d been IM’ing brought a printout of our conversation to school and showed everyone. But rather than revile me for being a gross, unfair, jealous gossip, people took my side. I still feel guilt today over how I treated Ella, and other girls like her, back then. It’s really difficult to get over the shitty things I thought, said, and did 10 years ago, and it’s not like I can go to a Misogynists Anonymous meeting and embark on a 12-step program to deal with them.

As a teenage girl, there was nothing I wanted less than to be a teenage girl. I mean, I thought I was pretty great, but I held the very misguided idea that my fellow girls were less awesome than I was. I felt no greater pride than when I was considered “one of the boys.” I spent my tween years in baggy cargo pants and secondhand surfing tees, in an effort to be a tomboy on the level of Roberta, Christina Ricci’s character in Now and Then. I made it my mission to let adolescent high school boys know I wasn’t just another dumb girl, because there seemed to be nothing worse. I was a chronic girl-hater.

I know I didn’t come to that behavior on my own: Girls are basically trained from birth to hate one another. Even kids’ shows have plot lines about one girl stealing another girl’s boyfriend; and even in 2013 we are encouraged to look down on women we think are “sluts,” to see every other female as a threat to our relationships and self-worth, to disparage the looks of women we disagree with politically or intellectually, and to regard successful women as “bitches.”

When I was 16, I discovered feminism on a very basic level when my modern-history teacher used Pink’s “Stupid Girls” video to introduce the concept to my class in a way that made a lot of sense to me and got the wheels going in my brain. But it wasn’t until I was 19 and in my second year of university, when I was exposed to revolutionary ideas and surrounded by new friends who supported, encouraged, and agreed with my fairly new worldview, that I began to really develop the feminism that I call mine today. It’s always expanding and evolving as I get older, but one thing never changes: I will always feel some remnant of guilt and shame for the myriad things I said and I did during my PF (pre-feminism) years in the service of making Ella and other girls feel bad.

Every feminist has a different story about their journey to feminism. Some people change perspectives as a response to a specific event; others grew up in really socially conscious environments and can’t imagine anything else. I built my feminism Lego-tower-style, brick by brick, adding, removing, and changing components as I went along. Kathleen Hanna did an interview with The AV Club late last year where she described how her particular feminism evolved from a knee-jerk, man-hating breed to something more all-encompassing and universal after she had been exposed to the effects of the patriarchy on all people, including men. This quote really stuck with me, because it almost perfectly mirrored the growth in my feminism over the years, as my priorities have changed and I’ve become more accepting of the idea that feminism is not one mission statement that applies to all people.

When you first step into the Feminist 101 personality, you’re like, “Get the fuck out of my face, men!” I was just sick of it. Every movie I saw, everywhere I looked, I saw sexism. I had never been looking before. And once I had that lens on, I just got more and more rageful…I’m more interested in a feminism that ends discrimination for all people. It’s not just about a woman becoming the CEO of a company or something. It’s connected to racism and classism and gender issues that go beyond the binary. It can’t be pulled apart from those issues. There is definite overlap in many people’s lives, so you can’t just be like, “This is my only issue, this one kind of feminism about having more women CEOs or more women in Congress.” Even though that’s important. It’s more about [the] intersection.

That word—intersection—was a turning point for me to move beyond Feminism 101 to something
“more nuanced.” Intersectionality basically acknowledges that people can be subject to more than one kind of oppression at the same time. Women, racial minorities, LGBTQ people, trans people, and people with disabilities experience multiple systems of oppression all at once. So you’re never just a woman—you’re a woman who is Latina, or a woman who has a disability, etc. Becoming aware of intersectionality made my feminism feel more solid and important than it had been before; it taught me that ableist, racist, and classist words and actions are as destructive as the sexist, homophobic, and misogynistic behaviors I’d slowly unlearned over the years. And I was comforted to know that, while my feminism was morphing into what it is now, I had role models like Kathleen Hanna to guide me.

When the holy princess of music Grimes apologized on her Tumblr earlier this year for having worn a bindi, I saw it as a way for her to reconcile the guilt she felt for doing something ignorant before her feminism had evolved. While he’s not exactly a feminist role model, I was really glad to see the rapper A$AP Rocky, in an interview with Alexander Wang in Interview magazine, reconsider homophobic things he’d thought and said while growing up. Rocky is an awesome example of someone unafraid to continue to educate themselves—and the people they influence—about inequality, to admit their own mistakes and apologize for them. When I was younger, I too said and did some pretty shitty things out of a combination of social conditioning and sheer ignorance. I grew up in a small, regional town in Australia where calling someone “gay” or “retarded” was par for the course. As much as I despise these behaviors when I look back on them now, they mark an integral point in my feminist journey. They gave me things to move on and learn from, habits to unlearn, and intolerances to overcome.

It’s important to me to resist the urge to deny these phases I went through, no matter how much I want to. I’d much rather forget the years I spent hating on girls like Ella in attempts to impress boys, but that wouldn’t get me anywhere. To really learn and move on from our experiences, we need to admit to them and understand why they’re problematic. Not everyone’s feminism will end up at the same place or follow the same path, but if we start by being honest about ourselves and our own prejudices, at least we’ll be headed in the right direction. ♦

* Not her real name.

29 Comments

  • Abby October 9th, 2013 3:50 PM

    This is perfect because it makes me feel like much less of a fuck-up. I still struggle with shitty things I did and said (and probably still say and do occasionally) when I was younger. Thank you.

    • Brodie October 10th, 2013 1:00 AM

      You’re welcome, Abby! We’re definitely not alone there xx

  • nikkiduck October 9th, 2013 4:09 PM

    I really like this article!

    I spent my teen years pretty much despising feminism, because all I knew of it is girls who didn’t shave and hated men. Plus I was under the false impression that it meant that one group (women, particularly white, upper-class women) should be better than the rest. I realize now this thinking was a product of what the media was feeding me, but I was younger and hadn’t yet been taught about media biases! Then I joined Tumblr and went to university and my eyes were suddenly wide open to the vast world that feminism really is.

    I regret all those years wasted, but Rookie and Tumblr didn’t exist back then! And I’m glad I can still keep learning and growing today–I think that’s the important part :)

  • saramarit October 9th, 2013 4:22 PM

    I know that girl on girl crime is a real thing but when I read about it now it always reminds me of an experience I had working with men who I would say were sexist and sexist towards me. During one of many discussions where they told me what they thought all women were like they said “why are women all so bitchy towards each other?”. It really angered me that they thought this way and were accusing me (who they barely knew) along with millions of women who they’d never met. I’ve always been the type of person to avoid drama and gossip but this expereince has made me even more determined not to judge other women and add fuel to these delulsional views. I swear I would be dead right now if it was not for the support of women in my life!

  • flocha October 9th, 2013 4:38 PM

    This article is so amazing! I too would like to forget some of the shit things I’ve done before now, but I realise now that they were wrong, and because I do I can learn from my mistakes. I also agree that feminism isn’t just about getting women in high powered jobs (as all my teachers seem to enjoy telling us). It is also about freeing women from the various restraints they endure.

    http://www.whimsicalprocrastination.blogspot.co.uk

  • Gabby October 9th, 2013 4:51 PM

    <3

  • Rowen October 9th, 2013 4:59 PM

    I absolutely adore this! I am incredibly lucky to have discovered feminism and started calling myself a feminist in an inclusive and inviting (for the most part) environment (aka the nice side of Tumblr, haha), but I still notice myself being excessively mean to any girl who gets attention I don’t. I’m working on it! Thank you for telling me I’m normal, basically!

    PS: This is my first comment and I just registered so I’m very excited (hence the exclamation marks)!

  • neenay October 9th, 2013 5:06 PM

    This is so important.
    Thank you so much for writing this because it’s there and it’s relevant and I think all of us, no matter how feminist we are now, have made a mistake in our logic or behavior.
    I remember doing the cliche thing that alot of girls go thru when they are friends with more guys where they say “girls are too much drama” and “girls are so lame and emotional” and I would play up how different and unemotional and cooler I was. It’s true I had dude friends and maybe I never liked crying over the same chick flicks like my peers did.
    But really? I didn’t need to diminish my own gender with a wave of the hand. That sort of mindset is so common and it’s minor, but after middle school and entering college or even the real world, that kind of thing persists in so many layers, like this piece explains, esp in cases of race.
    So reading about this type of growth is really significant and I hope it sticks with people like it did for me, to assess past damage and continue to learn.

  • elliecp October 9th, 2013 5:38 PM

    This is so perfect as you admit your opinions and actions were wrong…we’ve all been there, and done things we regret but it takes guys to admit to it. Thankyou rookie <3

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • elliecp October 9th, 2013 5:39 PM

    *guts! Not guys

  • maxrey October 9th, 2013 5:43 PM

    Thank you, Rookie, for yet another article that is so relevant to my life and comes at just the right time. <3

  • Ryn October 9th, 2013 6:22 PM

    Thanks for posting this article, from someone who is 20 and can relate to the Ella story. I got made to feel like a lesser individual by a large group of ignorant people, and for a while I did feel that way. It’s sad that some people who should be able to form their own opinions separate from the social norm just can’t, and someone else has to pay for it.
    But yeah, this article did provide some comfort ;3

  • Justin Case October 9th, 2013 6:26 PM

    Thanks for this article. I always had a nagging problem with girls who prided themselves on everything non-girly they did: how they got along better with boys because girls were stupid, vapid, and bitchy, how they could eat junk food, have 1$ pizza and watch slasher movies (how exactly these things are masculine, I don’t know), and ‘not care about fashion’ (when actually they are obsessed with maintaining a perfect skate/négligé/boyish/surfer look, which is fashion just like everything else).

    The perfect excuse to demean other girls and have a piece of the misogynist cake. (I’d say this is a rampant problem in the queer community, where some masculine women are into a ‘player’ persona, which is somehow cooler, queerer, and an excuse to act like jerks from Grease to potential flirts).

  • tahliatweets October 9th, 2013 6:53 PM

    I’m so refreshed by your honesty, brilliant article.

  • spudzine October 9th, 2013 7:20 PM

    I like the fact that intersectionality was mentioned, and the fact that, yes, there is no singular kind of feminism. Feminism is different for every individual who holds such ideals to their heart, and it’s nice to know that we are fighting to make the world a safer place for all.

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

  • Chloe22 October 9th, 2013 7:32 PM

    Even though this AWESOME article was kind of primarily about sexism (which is totes fine!) I really really want to thank you for including ableism in the list of prejudices. For my whole life my father has been going blind, and recently he’s had to use a cane more and more often. Whenever we’re together, he has to deal with the stares of people on buses, in grocery stores, etc. (and their too dumb to realize he has some sight, so yes, he sees some of you!) And no one seems to be talking about the group of people who are deaf who were discriminated against at the Astor Place Starbucks in NYC! A cashier refused a woman’s order even though she wrote him a note! They even called the police on them, claiming they didn’t buy enough food to stay (they all ordered full meals). What you wrote about ableism was very small, but it helped me realize there are other people out there who care and are aware of this form of prejudice. Thanks!

  • Isobelley October 9th, 2013 9:14 PM

    When I was about 14 or 15, I didn’t say anything about other girls (probably because I had no friends to say it too), but I had such low self esteem because I knew that teenage girls aren’t taken seriously. I thought I stupid and incompetent, and that I could never achieve anything, so I spent pretty much every moment not at school in my room being depressed. I also remember when I was 6 or 7 and would look through art books and although I wanted to be an artist I thought I could never succeed because every successful artist was a man. Throughout my life I tried to prove that I wasn’t a normal girl by looking a certain way or listening to some bands or watching TV shows like gossip girl.

  • Amy Rose October 9th, 2013 9:20 PM

    I goddamn love this piece. Every bit of it.

  • nizmocat October 9th, 2013 11:25 PM

    My journey to becoming a feminist definitely begun with Rookie, so thank you Rookie!!!! You guys have taught me so much about this very important subject and helped me to realise the errors of my ways <333

    http://myperpetualperplexities.blogspot.co.nz/

  • wallflower152 October 10th, 2013 1:45 AM

    This article is awesome! I hate to admit it but I was one of those girls who said “I like hanging out with guys better cuz girls are just too much drama” and the messed up thing is the reason there can be drama with girls is what was talked about in the article. Vicious circle. I’ve always been a feminist deep down, way deep down. But it’s only been the past year or so that I’ve identified as a feminist and stand up for feminism when an issue arises. Already, it has made me a WAY better person. I am less judgmental to anyone, I stand up for myself way more than I used to, I respect myself and my body, I have stronger opinions in general, I just feel like I know myself better idk how to describe it but it’s one of the most positive things to happen in my life. I have Rookie, in part, to thank for it! (Along w/Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast and an awesome literature professor that assigned lots of feminist works). The other day I was going through old tweets and I said some really insensitive things, I’m glad that part of me is gone. I recently stood up for a trans guy my friend was talking negatively about and tried to explain to her why her viewpoint was wrong and what it means to be trans, unsuccessfully maybe but it’s a start.

  • ifellfromlalaland October 10th, 2013 5:07 AM

    On the subject of girl on girl crime, i went to girls’ schools for primary and secondary school (and am actually now doing a course which i estimate is 90% female) and i always get asked “was it not really bitchy?” and how i “coped”. Hellooo people girls are generally nice and it was fun. No more bitchy than i imagine any other school. Plus you could walk around the corridors openly asking everyone if you could borrow a pad if you needed one. Gurl power 4 eva gaiz

  • Fee October 10th, 2013 11:49 AM

    This is such a perfect piece, and these things need to be said. I think for a lot of young/budding feminists it’s really hard to reconcile how you feel now with things you did when you were younger because most people have done these sorts of things at some point, shamed a classmate or a celebrity for being “slutty” or called a really shitty class at school “gay”. It’s important to acknowledge why you did those things and why you now won’t, and move on from that. Thank you for this.

    http://contraluna.blogspot.com/

  • Shaina October 10th, 2013 6:08 PM

    EVERY time I read an article on here I’m like “man I wish Rookie was around when I was 14.” But it makes me sooo happy to think that there are younger girls reading your site right now and I bet it’s really helping them through their jr. high and high school years.

    Thanks for being so awesome!

  • MabelEnchanted October 11th, 2013 12:14 PM

    When I was very young I never seemed to care. I knew the concept but never really looked into it. It wasn’t until I listened to this Radio 4 programme about Riot Grrrl http://www.fallingtree.co.uk/listen/riot_grrrls that I really became interested. Now I notice how other inequalities are just as major as gender (being a part of a Maxist family, class is a major one).
    I really appreciated this because I still cringe at some of the things I used to do and say. But we all learn and grow – that’s just the way of life.

    http://mabelsmind.blogspot.co.uk/

  • lizziefranalan October 11th, 2013 4:16 PM

    This is going to sound ignorant but i wanted someone to explain why wearing a bindi is bad :/

    • Danielle October 11th, 2013 4:22 PM

      It was explained to me that different colors mean different things; a married woman might wear a red bindi because it symbolizes love and prosperity, for example. It’s insensitive, because people who wear them to look cool often don’t know the cultural history that comes along with it. We have a really good article about cultural appropriation if you want to know more about this, but thank you for asking! It’s the best way to learn, and often really hard to do, so high five for putting yourself out there.

  • mariasnow October 14th, 2013 9:58 AM

    Oh man, I was such a girl-hater until I was 23. That was the year one of ‘my boys’ raped me. I didn’t report it and I didn’t tell but one of the guys in my group of friends (who was one of my best friends and who cried with me), I just confronted the guy privately and removed myself from that social group entirely. There was this whole stupid ‘bros before hos’ thing and apparently I was an ‘honorary bro’ but I knew I’d just be making life worse for myself if I was honest with the entire group.

    A while after it happened, the other three girls in the group who I wasn’t that close to because I’d always been ‘one of the guys’ sought me out and invited me to hang out with just them and I decided to go along with them for a weekend. Well they’d figured out what had happened, they had noticed his behavior and added it up. They believed me, comforted me, and supported me and we became much closer after that. It sucks that it took something really dramatic like that to bring it home for me that girls are not the enemy but I’ve only been more convinced of that since it happened.

    Not to trash my boys because let me tell you, I love men and boys. I love masculinity and never really felt like a ‘real girl’ probably because I was bisexual and insecure and not gifted in most ‘girl’ arenas. But my boys have let me down time and time again in major ways related to gender. Besides the incident I mentioned earlier, 90% of my manfriends had crushes or wanted to be physical or resented me for not wanting to be with them and whenever the guys flaked, the girls were always there. Always.

    • Brodie October 16th, 2013 6:00 AM

      It’s so fantastic that those girls sought you out and supported you – I feel like it really takes moments of support like the one you described to rewire your brain and realise that female relationships aren’t the competitive, nasty ones we’re told to expect.
      I’m so, so sorry for what he did to you.
      xxx Brodie

  • mariasnow October 16th, 2013 1:55 PM

    Thanks, Brodie. <3 I loved your article so, so, so much.

    Yeah, I had mistakenly assumed that the girls would close ranks the way I rightfully assumed that the guys would close ranks (oh I was thought to be a monster maneater for 'leading a guy on' and then dropping him for 'no reason') if they knew what had really happened but not only did they not do that, they sought me out and made me feel so safe that I could go from being not that close to them to trusting them with this terrible information just a few months after it happened. They didn't owe me anything, I'd never been there for them in a similar way, I'd assumed that they wouldn't understand me. Then not only did they listen and validate, they respected my privacy and did not use this information to start a big commotion (which I had feared).

    Going even further, these three girls were always being good bystanders and keeping an eye on this guy and his predatory behavior, even going so far as to warn their other friends to be aware of him.

    It's sad that women have to look out for each other in this way and definitely, the one male friend I told was a good bystander and a good friend to me, but rape culture allows non-rapists to turn their backs on actual rape behavior in their midst when these otherwise good men should be fighting it and supporting women similarly. Someday in a perfect world…until then we need to get the word out, "Other girls- not the enemy!"