You probably knew that girl who looked different, would rather die than dress up, thought that masculine things were superior to girly girl things, and swore that she’d never get a boyfriend. Maybe you hated her. Or maybe you were her.
You know, I used to be that girl. Usually, there were two kinds of girls who weren’t like other girls: the ones who were super sporty and could beat a boy at his favorite sport and then the super dorky science nerd. I fell into the latter category.
This internalized misogyny started off innocuously. I naturally gravitated towards things that were typically reserved for boys. I usually scored the highest in math and science, while most girls complained about adding simple fractions. I was more interested in playing with Legos, building Bionicle heroes and villains, reading science fiction and fantasy, looking at bugs under a magnifying glass, listening to rock instead of pop, doing research about dinosaurs, playing with model cars, writing stories about the galaxy, and visiting science museums.
A few weeks ago, I watched Miss Congeniality and within the earlier scenes, I was instantly reminded of who I was when I was a little girl (but no, I did not punch a boy in the face) and when I was an older teen (which wasn’t too long ago). When I was 16, I thought I could enter a male-dominated field and prove that being smart at science made me superior to other girls who only cared about dating, fashion, makeup, and celebrities. I used to think I was so cool for not caring about fitting in, not making an effort to look feminine, and not being brainwashed to obsess over pop culture or the latest trends. I even took pride in trivial things such as being able to eat as much as a boy, swearing like a sailor, having a naturally lower voice than other girls, and wearing black turtlenecks like Steve Jobs.
In retrospect, I was a judgmental little bitch who took her insecurities out on other girls. It all stemmed from the problem of being compared to other girls and feeling like I sucked at being one. I thought that if I couldn’t be better than other girls in a traditionally feminine way, I could prove my worth in the opposite way – do everything that a boy can do and be the “cool, undramatic girl” who could pass of as “one of the guys.” I thought that if I were modest and wore loose-fitting clothing, I would be taken more seriously. I thought that my lower speaking voice would give me an edge over most girls who had voices with a higher pitch. I thought that if I liked the same things as guys did, I would stand out from “the competition” – a.k.a. other girls.
I realize all along that the internalized misogyny from my earlier years was a symptom of self-loathing and envy. For the longest time, I hated myself for not being as beautiful as other women, not being poised enough, not being good at pleasing others, not being social enough (because girls were praised for being social butterflies, while it wasn’t as much of a priority for guys – they didn’t seem to have the same pressure), and not being desirable enough to date. People tend to bash what they can’t have and make excuses as to why they can’t have it, and that was totally true for me.
But I’m sick of judging the crap out of other women because ultimately, all I’m doing is hurting myself.
After many years of shedding my old, toxic views on femininity and questioning where they came from, I’ve come to appreciate the uniqueness of all the women who inspire me. The more I read articles from intelligent, inspiring, and unique female writers, the more I regret ever going through that wretched “I’m not like other girls” phase. I’m in awe of all the beautiful gifts that women have to offer, especially when they share personal life stories that I highly resonate with. Women can crush it in their professional and creative endeavors while finding the time to pursue everything else they love and help other women become better versions of themselves. Women don’t have to be in competition with each other to prove their worth because we are all sisters who are in need of connection. The popularity, the highlight reels, and the accolades will lose their significance in the end, but sisterhood lasts forever.
And I’m so sorry for ever thinking otherwise.
Certain interests do not have to be mutually exclusive. I don’t have to pick a female side or a male side because I can like a variety of things, regardless of what gender they’re associated with because that doesn’t matter. I can have a Taylor Swift song on the same playlist as a Ronnie James Dio song. I can be engrossed in a futuristic novel with starships and parallel universes just as much as a young adult romance novel. I usually wear oversized crewneck sweatshirts and put my hair into a messy bun, but I also love feeling beautiful when I’m wearing a dress and letting my hair down. I can write a girly love poem and feel just as damn proud of it as a poem about the metaphysics.
Even though I can’t erase the past or erase the memory of a past self that I’m most ashamed of, I’m trying to get better. It all comes down to real self-love that’s completely free from the pressure to meet society’s expectations of a certain gender. I can allow myself to like what I like without categorizing each thing as a male interest or a female interest. To show support for a woman who’s had her heart broken. To congratulate a woman for meeting the love of her life and wishing nothing but the best for her. To compliment other women for inspiring me and helping me heal myself. To be in awe of beautiful masterpieces equally and not fall into the trap of believing that a man’s work is somehow deeper and more significant than something created by a woman. And most of all, to love myself for being the woman that I am.