This is a first response to Camille Paglia calling Taylor swift a bunch of nasty things. It has been edited to remove any personal attacks on Ms Paglia. If you find any please call me out and I will find a more neutral way to express the sentiment.
I will not quote Camille Paglia because I will not give her words further reach. Suffice to say she had some inflammatory things to say about a woman in the spotlight and until I have had time to read her entire essay and prepare a piece by piece rebuttal, I’m not going to quote her. It’s been touted enough.
I will only say that speaking to my personal experience, words and ideas such as those espoused in her article, focusing on ripping down another woman, are what drives me away from calling myself a feminist.
We must not sink to the level of insulting each other if we want to accomplish anything. We must not constrain each other if we ever expect to have actual sisterhood. Competing with each other is integral keeping us enslaved. We don’t need jailers if we will just do their work for them. I don’t believe in a male conspiracy. We don’t need one. I believe in that these attitudes are so ingrained and so pervasive in both gender groups that it perpetuates itself. We fuel it with every cruel thing we say. We advance it every time we judge someone and say they’re not our sister for whatever reason. “They don’t know what being a woman is. They’re not a real woman.”
Any time we define a “real woman” we cut away a slice of the female population that doesn’t fit that definition. For example saying “real women have curves” alienates women without curves. Who are we to decide who’s real and who isn’t? Who are we to decide what a “real woman” does with her life or her body or her style of dress? No wonder they’re so close to banning abortion in this country! We’re shooting ourselves in the foot constantly. We need to stop shaming each other. Stop slut shaming. Stop fat shaming. Stop skinny shaming. Stop religious shaming. Stop saying trans woman aren’t women. Who are we to even think that? A cis woman has no idea what a trans woman has been through. Who are we to judge anyone but ourselves.
If we don’t have room for a freedom of choice then what are we even doing? Who cares if someone’s skirt is too short or someone is have “too much fun” with their friends. Does that short skirt diminish us? No it doesn’t. We need to stop telling each other that being “slutty” or whatever we don’t approve of as “appropriate” female behavior is harming the movement. I put forward that being competitive, mean and nasty is what hurts the movement because it hurts members of that movement.
I think we have to choose if we are going to have a sisterhood or if we are going to be judgers. Everyone one of us has that decision every day, every minute. We choose by how we treat each other every single time we interact. Every time we DON’T entertain the thought that another woman’s skirt is too short this is micro win. Every time we say something empowering instead that is a positive contribution to the world we want to see. Call them micro-acts of empowerment if you will.
This is the world we want to see isn’t it? A world where women are respected and feel safe to be who they are is what we all wish for right? Don’t we aim for a climate where a woman can do or be anything she sets out to be?
If we oppress each other, news flash, it’s still oppression! I think we all have areas where we can improve on how sisterly we behave. I have only within the last few years learned what slut shaming is or how I played into it. Even now that I realize that these aren’t beliefs I agree with, the jibes and the learned behaviors are still there and rear their ugly heads every so often. This stuff is insidious and it is real work to stamp it out of our thinking and our words. We may not even recognize where we are doing harm but it starts with a choice of how we behave.
To me the movement IS choice. I validate and protect your choice. You validate and protect mine. We thrive on the idea that we can be different and equally important. Come on if we can’t overcome our differences within our own gender how are we going to overcome gender inequalities? If we refuse to recognize the value of each others differences then we are doomed to fail.
There are two parts to equality. I am no better than you and you are no better than me. I only have control over myself. I can only start with the space between my ears. In order for there to be harmony in my own head I must believe both halves. I cannot just go around saying “you are no better than me” but that’s what we do. This is incomplete and it accomplishes little but make us feel slightly better about ourselves temporarily.
You know how I learned this? The hard way by being a self righteous bitch and getting called on my bullshit! My mom sat me down and said “hey, I don’t love you any more than your sister just cause you don’t smoke pot.” Now I have humility and I smoke pot. Win!
“I am woman hear me-” NOT define what it is to be a woman.
I will not go bra-less. This does not mean that I do not believe woman should be constrained. I believe women should wear what THEY want. If you want to go bra-less I will support your right to do so. I WILL shave my legs. This does not mean that I bow to the whims of the fashion machine. I just prefer my legs smooth, sometimes. I WILL wear makeup if I choose. I WON’T wear it if I choose.
I am a heretic, daughter of a heretic. I can do anything I want regardless of what anyone says I should or should not do. I will stand with other woman in their choices whether they are popular ones or not. I say anyone who says they identify as a woman is a woman. I BELIEVE you. Come on in!
What about individuals who identify as “gender queer” or gender neutral? Are we going to leave them out of the discussion? What if they can add a perspective that none of the rest of us can possibly contribute? What if we are losing out every day by excluding people with our ever narrowing definition of a feminist?
I say you can be a sister and be a stay at home mom or a career woman or not a mom at all. I say you can be a feminist sister and [insert anything here that you believe makes you a “bad” feminist.] I will BELIEVE that you have the power to make your own choices. I will NOT try to classify your level of “realness”.
It is not up to Camille P to judge based on what she sees Taylor Swift doing, whether she is vapid or if she is being genuine or not and calling someone a Nazi is something we do far too often. I think perhaps we need to be reminded just how big an allegation this really is. At first glance I suspect this is simply someone who is being triggered by Taylor Swift’s looks and for whatever reason is taking it out on the trigger.
This woman does not speak for me. I don’t care how many books she has published on the subject of feminism. I feel it is likely that she does not speak for most women. Thus I feel that when we mention Camille P and women who write and say similar things that we point out that they may not be a representative voice for women and that they may not be expressing the spirit of sisterhood at that moment. They may come around if they choose to. In the mean time they’re just women like the rest of us. Their word shouldn’t carry any more weight than any other among us.
Let’s “woman up” and stop the pettiness, stop the bullying, stop being part of the problem! I long to see this nastiness fade away in my life time. My hope is that eventually we will no longer need this type of behavior to make ourselves feel better but it’s a choice. It’s a choice and we have to make it ourselves.
My piano teacher taught me something valuable. During my competitions I had to write down one thing that each of my competitors did well in their performances. Maybe we should try that collectively.
I promise not to bash other women.
Say it with me.
I promise not to bash other women.
Now go out and do it.
If we want to go one better decide that we will actively empower other women in their choices no matter whether we agree with them or not. Say something nice to each other instead.
Then and only then we will have a sisterhood that we all WANT to belong to.
Post Script this could relate to some nastiness come from Rose McGowan at this point too. Come on y’all we can do better.