I’m going to take a little break for sewing and cats and fashion history to have one of my rare rants about something that matters hugely to me.
First, a caveat: It’s well after midnight. I’m writing this because the prompt for this distressed me so much that I couldn’t sleep. I’m not supposed to be blogging tonight. I’ve got two dresses to hem, put fasteners in, and do a ridiculous amount of appliqué on before I get on a plane tomorrow. Oh, and a hat to make. I’m not supposed to be blogging, I’m supposed to be sleeping or sewing and I’ve done too much of the latter and haven’t had enough of the former. So this won’t be my most well-written or eloquent post, but it is, nonetheless, important.
A blog post entitled ‘I won’t be *that* woman’ is doing the rounds of Facebook.
At first I read the post and thought ‘Yes! Totally! Let’s not bully! Bullying is bad!’
And then I realised that she’s not just saying ‘Let’s not bully.’ She’s saying ‘Women need to not bully other women and pull them down, because that’s what women do’
You know what? It’s simply NOT true.
Women do NOT bully more than men. Women are NOT inherently mean and catty. Women AREN’T mainly held back by other women. Women’s groups do NOT advance the women in them at the expense of other women any more than men’s groups do or do not advance the men in them at the expense of other men.
Women are NOT bullies, and we need to stop perpetuating the idea that women are mean to other women, and pull them down, because it’s NOT true, and it’s destructive to women as a whole.
I was bullied in intermediate school. By girls. And it was indeed awful. Then I homeschooled for two years, and went back to the same school, with the same girls who had bullied me when we were 12 & 13, and you know what I noticed? They had grown up, and in growing up, had grown out of being bullies. By 15 and 16 the girls at my high school were, by and large, kind and supportive. The boys still bullied each other, and certain boys in particular, mercilessly, but the girls had matured out of it. The most popular girls were also the nicest – we rewarded and respected their kindness.
I was still an outcast, but it was by choice (I just wanted to read!), and I was welcome to be part of a group any time I wanted, and was even elected student body vice president.
We had squabbles, but they were respectful.
My high school was not an anomaly in my life. As an adult, my overwhelming experience has been that women are kind and supportive, particularly to other women.
I went to a women’s university, and while there were girls I didn’t like, and girls who didn’t like me (I’m outspoken and opinionated – not always popular!), we were still respectful of each other, and when push came to shove, we were there to support each other and the university as a whole.
I’ve worked almost exclusively in female dominated fields: museums and sewing. In both, I have received huge amounts of support and help from other women.
My life today is the product of hundreds of amazing women who have supported me. Most of the groups I am in are full of women, and they all support each other.
The Historical Sew Fortnightly? Vastly women, and all of them helping each other, and complementing each other, and congratulating each other. 3000 of them, 3 years, and only 3 times in 3 years have we had to remind a member to be kinder.
Wellington Sewing Bloggers? 30 amazing women who all help each other with sewing and life. No competition, no trying to one-up or do better. Just helping.
My sewing classes are mostly women, and in every class the members help each other out with the actual class projects, as well as everything from recommendations for paediatricians, to networking, to wear to get the shoes someone is wearing.
Yes, some people are bullies. Yes, sometimes we slip up and say something bullying. Yes, we need to not do that. Yes, bullying is BAD.
But bullying isn’t something that women do to women in particular. Let’s not say ‘I won’t be *that* woman’, as if that was something unique to women.
Let’s say ‘I won’t be *that* PERSON’.
I won’t be the person who bullies anyone.
Let’s not perpetuate the myth that women hurt each other and pull each other down, because, it’s NOT true, and it’s hurting women, and it’s pulling us down.
We aren’t mean and catty and backbite-y. It’s a terrible stereotype that society has foisted on us, and that the media perpetuates. Every time a women criticises another woman, that’s called ‘bullying’, or ‘being catty’, but when men criticise other men, they are called ‘strong’, or ‘thoughtful’, or ‘well considered.’ The standards are totally warped. Yes, some women are bullies, or catty. But so are some men. It’s not something that we inherently are as a gender to our own gender, and the minute we stop buying into the media spin, stop accepting the idea that that’s how women are, and look around, we see how supportive and NOT BULLIES women actually are to each other.
I don’t want to be a bully to anyone. Male or female. And I don’t want anyone to be a bully. Male or female. But it’s not a woman thing. It’s not an ‘I won’t be *that* woman’ thing. It’s a person thing, that we all need to stop.
So I won’t be *that* person.
But when I comes to what my experience with women has been? Supportive, kind, helpful, willing to share knowledge, experience, and resources?
Yes. I will be *that* woman.
Because that’s what women actually are to each other.
And to all the women who have been that to me, too many to name, but you know who you are, from the very first and most important (hi Mum!) to someone who has just read one blog post but stopped to say thank you, THANK YOU! Your kindness has been felt, and I try to pass on all the support you’ve given me to the next woman. You’re what women are really like.