For my J1 a couple of summers ago, I was a camp counselor at an all-girls sleepaway camp in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. I was just after a breakup at the time and craved the support and comfort the ‘all-girls’ environment promised. The experience proved really good for me. The place was kind of like a weird utopia with healing powers in the small creeks flowing through. It brought together women from an array of different backgrounds and I went on to form transatlantic female friendships that I’m confident will
last a lifetime. Not everyone felt the same way as I did though. One night one of the girls spoke about how she was surprised she liked the experience at all as she wasn’t “friends with women because they’re too much drama”. I’d like to think that it takes a lot to make me truly angry. I can stick people mispronouncing my name, sitting next to mouth-breathers in the library, and even slow walkers on the stairs in the Kane. But when I heard this girl, I swear I looked like one of those little cartoons with the red face and steam erupting from both ears. See, this wasn’t my first time at the internalised misogyny rodeo, and it wasn’t to be the last either.
For nearly every girl there’s an age where you renounce the colour pink, skirts and romance movies in a bid to fit in. When I was around 14, being labelled a “girly-girl” was worse than a death sentence, it meant you were weak and lacked intellect, or more detrimentally, that you weren’t “cool”. Girls in my all-girl friend group at the time would often openly declare that they preferred the company of the boys because they were “so much less drama”. Behind quoting the Fault in Our Stars and wearing see-through black leggings with Ugg boots, girl- hating was one of the biggest trends. This was peak internalised misogyny-where a woman enacts learned sexist behaviours towards themselves and other women. Nobody wanted to be the girl who was only friends with other girls, who wore frilly dresses or believed in the soppy notion of love. That was just lame.
You know what’s actually lame though? Prescribing one common personality trait to a whole gender and being so deep in your own internalised misogyny that you utter something as nonsensical as “women are too much drama”, seemingly forgetting that you, yourself, are a woman and by default are painting yourself with the same patriarchal brush. It’s ludicrous and it’s toxic and women get too much of a hard time already for us to be turning against each other. Women make for amazing friends, they take you to buy pregnancy tests, hold your hand and refrain from slagging you off when you cry over your ex for the umpteenth time. They send you for a warm shower when you’re feeling down, bring you cupcakes on your birthday and don’t complain when you invite them for dinner and it’s pesto pasta again.
Internalised misogyny was fed to us ripe over the summer on tv hit Love Island. Love it or loathe it, Love Island was a huge deal for a huge number of people. Although I lowkey have a moral objection to the show, I must admit I did tune in to a couple of episodes. One of the contestants on the show, Lucie, caused quite the stir when she claimed she has "never had a girl friend” and that “girls are drama” while men, on the other hand, “say it how it is”. Her comments caused a sort of social media cyclone. Many viewers of the show agreed with Lucie’s standpoint, taking to Twitter to proclaim that women were in fact, much worse friends than men. Others rightfully pointed out that it’s nobody’s business who Lucie chooses to be friends with. Which of course is true but writing off the whole female gender is beyond problematic. The support for Lucie’s comments online is worrying. It shows that a vast number of people have fallen for the age-old narrative that women are bitchy and dramatic whereas men are more simple and upfront. This just isn’t how things play out in real-life. I’ve found the male friends in my life to be enormously more “dramatic” than my female friends and I know a lot of people who would say the same.
Love Island isn’t the only culprit here, other “reality” shows like the Real Housewives-of-wherever-the-hell, try to shove this idea down our throats, that women cannot be pleasant
with each other for any meaningful lengths of time as they constantly engage in bitchy and dramatic pursuits. As we keep teaching each other these harmful narratives, we are inhibiting healthy relationships between women from flourishing. By fighting each other, we are distracted from the real enemy: the patriarchal structures that are in place that impact everything-from whether we get home safely on a night out to how much we are paid in comparison to our male counterparts. It’s not just a shame, it’s a damn tragedy!
We’re all negatively affected when broad assumptions are made about us just because of our gender. We see this with men and toxic masculinity. Society, in general, expects men not to express their emotions as freely or openly as women are allowed to. This societal stigma is often blamed for the proliferation of male suicide and a male reluctance to visit the doctor when feeling ill. I love my friends for a beautiful variety of different reasons and none of them pertain to their gender. In order to undo the damage done by generations of sexism we have to understand that personality traits are not gendered. We are the product of our upbringing, environment and decisions and that shouldn’t have anything to do with our gender. Besides, these across the board “I won’t be friends with women because all women are dramatic” proclamations are a bit, well, dramatic, no?