I love having feminist friends. It’s one of the things I’ve most valued in coming to understand feminism as a core to the struggle. I’ve just come back from having coffee with one of the strongest feminist’s I know and she brought up the recent article written by actress Ashley Judd regarding discussions of her ‘puffy face’. The article, a scathing exploration of the way patriarchal power is enacted on, through and with women, is a powerful piece (read it here) which raises as many questions as it answers.
Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.
The point Judd makes is one which I have been struggling with lately, we as women, even as feminists, continue to aid and exist within the patriarchy. Why do we do this? We as women are not working effectively together, we are eating each other alive. When we as women put each other down we don’t help women, we don’t help the movement, all we are doing is perpetrating the myths and stereotypes which have assisted the patriarchy to keep us down for so long.
My friend and I commented today that none of us are innocent of this bias, this double standard. I certainly know that for all of my talk, and my strong belief, that we as a feminist movement need to bind together and support each other if we are to achieve equality, I still find myself making snide comments about other women within the movement. On their politics or their clothing. I am, as Judd says, trying to identify myself as one of those who is my own denigrating abusers, and abusing other girls and women.
My friend raised her voice and said of her own internal comments, “Why am I even doing that?!” why are we even doing this? It doesn’t help us, it doesn’t help the cause and it certainly doesn’t move toward equality. Men don’t do this to each other, not in the same way. Why do we even do this? How can we even stop?
“I ask especially how we can leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women.”
The question is not an insignificant one. Even those of us who work hard to create strong networks of women are not always successful. How can we as a movement stop eating each other alive? What do you all think?