A Girl Thing
8 May 2009 1,415 views One Comment
By Hannah Hewes Clark In my last article, I described my—is it safe to say?—unique relationship with my girlfriends. I know with great certainty that I wouldn’t be the person I am had I never been friends with them. They have all played a huge role in shaping my personality, my beliefs, and the manner in which I present myself. Now, we’re getting ready to disperse ourselves around the world—as I head off to New York City for college, two of them are going to be in South America, spending a year soaking in foreign cultures and, I’m sure, leaving their own marks on the people who will be lucky enough to encounter them. With our good-byes quickly approaching, we are analyzing more than ever the meaning of our relationship and how we’re going to change as we adapt to our respective new locales. As I spoke about in the last article, our deep friendship has allowed us to understand ourselves better. Once we embraced our individual personalities, we began to analyze each other—observe what makes each girl tick and how she handles herself in certain situations. In this sense, our friendship has not only given us independence, but it has also allowed us to understand other people, to become receptive to the differences that makes every person’s mind his/her own—especially that of women. As I look at other relationships between girls and women—my mom and her sister, other high school friendships, my boss and her employees, and of course my own relationship with my mom—I wonder how we females can avoid the stinging competition that often plagues our relationships and instead reach that point when we begin to learn from each other and learn about ourselves through each other. From what I’ve seen in my eighteen years of living, there are many layers to female competition, and some are easier to identify than others. The most recognized and possibly the most unfairly blamed reason for competitive tension is men. In high school, you hear the same lines over and over: “She’s a bitch because she hooked up with my boyfriend,” or, “She can’t date him because I did two years ago.” There’s even, “What a skank, you know he’s only flirting with her because she’s hardly wearing any clothes.” Girls in high school will find any reason to dislike each other and usually the most available reason revolves around the guys. Girls hooking up with other girls’ boyfriends creates civil wars and major “trash talking,” while the actual guys who cheated seem to just shrug and walk away without even a scratch. At this age, boys are too often an excuse for girls to lash out at each other. So why are girls so desperate for a good cat fight? Perhaps it’s partly just for dramatic effect, but what’s even stronger than that is the discomfort that girls can feel during their high school ages. We are still getting to know ourselves and becoming more acquainted with our sexual identities. Therefore, as high school girls “experiment” with their sexuality, they’re put under criticism and usually hypocritical scrutiny. Contrastingly, because my friends and I helped each other reach that place of self-confidence, we haven’t felt the need to call each other “hoes” and “bitches.” In high school, those who are most comfortable with themselves are usually the most well-liked. For my group of friends, the trick to having a strong, respecting relationship was to help each other figure out and accept our own identities. Perhaps the root of women’s issues is sexism. Throughout history, men have always had the upper hand in society. They’ve been able to go to college where they want, work where they want, dress how they want, etc. When a man does something bad or good, he’s still assured a pat on the back from another man. Women haven’t always had that privilege, and therefore, though the feminist movement has come an extraordinarily long way, women still feel the pressure to get ahead and show men that they can do everything just as well, if not better. While a normal high school girl’s idea of “feminism” may be sexual freedom and wearing a low-cut prom dress, women in college and beyond have a natural tendency to show themselves as just as strong, smart, intelligent, and independent as men. How do we abolish this competition without making Betty Friedan turn in her grave? Is it as simple as becoming comfortable with ourselves, or does that only apply to a younger generation? Although the answers to these questions are relative and therefore ultimately unanswerable, I do believe that if we celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and help each other out during our failures, we’d create a much more respectful environment that lacks gossip and other forms of cattiness. As I move on to Barnard—an all women’s college—I look forward to meeting smart and independent women who I can learn from and support. This is the women’s world I hope to build for myself.