It started when I was in elementary school–the competition, the betrayal. In the only world I knew until much later, men held all the power and had the only voices which mattered. To be safe in the world, to have the hope of being valued, I had to align myself with my penis-bearing peers as soon as possible. I’m not like other girls.
Being female was a zero-sum game. If a boy liked you, he couldn’t like me. If he didn’t like me, I didn’t have value. So I lied. I lied with my words. I lied with my actions. I contorted myself into whatever would attract the attention of the ones with the power, the ones with the voice. I listened closely to the complaints males had about my competition and did my best to convince them and myself I’m not like other girls.
This continued through high school, into college, even after marriage. As I saw it then, all women wanted to have value, to be valued, and the only way to have that value bestowed upon them was to gain the undivided attention and affection of a man, so all women were in a war with each other for approval, for the sanctioning of their very existence, by men. More attention=more value.
I’m not like other girls. Pay attention to me. Give me value. You have the power, you have the voice. See me and make me worth something. Please. I’ll do anything.
Having clocked in for thousands of hours of excruciating work to overcome the harmful lessons I’ve learned without meaning to learn them, imagine my chagrin upon hearing my daughter utter those horrible words one day as she talked about a conversation she had with a boy at school. I’m not like other girls. My daughter, my hilarious, resilient, powerful, wise, tenderhearted daughter, betraying herself, betraying her sisterhood. Our backgrounds are so different, how did we end up learning the same destructive, convincing but erroneous lesson that other women are to be denigrated in order for us to feel like someone worthy?
The blame for the proliferation of the lies which encourage women to idolize males and demonize females rests on the shoulders of too many individuals and institutions to enumerate here, but I will not carry that load of shit anymore. I will not tear women down to build myself up. I will not attempt to add to my value by devaluing somewhere around 50% of the human population. I will not give you that crap about other women that so many of us women know so well and I will not listen to it from anyone without speaking up. I will not betray you, my sisters, and I will not betray myself. I will not. I will do all in my power to encourage everyone, male and female, to stop playing this twisted game which profoundly wounds us all. And when I fail, when I catch myself speaking with condescension or suspicion or criticism in a moment of feeling bad about myself and desperately trying to climb out of my pit of self-loathing by stepping on the backs, the wardrobes, the dreams, the pursuits, the parenting styles, the relationship status or values, the existence of other women, I will correct myself. I will apologize and I will resolve to do better next time.
You other girls? You are spectacular. I would be proud to be more like you in some way.