It's painful to think that, as women, we might be shaming other women without even realizing that we're doing, but it happens daily. Not all women do it, of course they don't, but many do, although some of them might not know it. It happens in the real world and it happens with frightening regularity online. We see a topic that we're passionate about or simply have an opinion on, and we dive in with both feet. From that point on, anyone with a different view, opinion, or preference is wrong – and not just wrong, but sometimes stupid, ignorant, slutty, nutty, ugly, fat, ridiculous, uneducated … and so on. Some women wield their opinions like facts and weapons, and the results are never pretty. They're harmful to everyone involved. We need to stop shaming other women. We need to be aware of doing it.
Slut-shaming is so commonplace that it's a little terrifying to speak out about your sexual experiences, desires, and opinions, especially on the internet. When the news reports yet another rape, there are still women who ask what the girl was doing, what was she wearing, was she drunk, and why she put herself into that situation. Taylor Swift is called a tease, a slut, and a whore. Women who enjoy sex are berated obviously and subtly, not just by men but also by women. It all goes back to the idea that women who enjoy sex are somehow dirty or loose, but really, isn't it time to stop that mentality?
In addition to being shamed for their views on sex, women are also shamed for their birth control. Women who expect their insurance to pay for birth control are called leeches and told they want everything for free, or they're advised to keep their legs closed. The same demand is used when the subject of abortion comes up – that if we keep our legs closed and don't have sex until marriage, we won't get pregnant with a baby we don't want. Women tell other women who are pro-choice that they hope those women die – but there's shaming on the other side of that coin, as well. Women on each side make snap judgments about the other side.
Why didn't you leave? Why did you stay with him? Why didn't you defend yourself? What did you say? How do we know you're not lying? Women shame abused women every day. Sometimes it isn't overt, but often, it's loud, proud, and hateful. One need only to look at the comments on any article about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. She's lying, she's a gold digger, he didn't abuse any of his other girlfriends, she just wants his money, she's trying to get her name in the spotlight.
This comes from all sides, as well. Conservative or Republican women call liberal or Democratic women fembots, feminazis, welfare queens, and any number of other epithets. Liberal or Democratic women refer to conservative or Republican women as brain dead, traitors, and gun nuts. There's no agreeing to disagree, no acknowledgment that women can make their own choices and those choices are simply different.
The mom-shaming movement is multifaceted, as well. Mothers are shamed constantly for how they raise their kids, the feelings they share, and the choices they make. Breastfeeding moms are shamed, and moms who breastfeed privately or with a cover chastise mothers who choose to breastfeed in public. Moms who breastfeed and mothers who choose formula are at each other. Women who choose not to have children shame women who do and mothers put down women who don't want kids.
You're too skinny. You're too fat. You're too hairy. You're too short. You have a muffin top. Your features are masculine. Your breasts are too large. Your ass is too big. If you are thin and proud of your body, then you are told you're promoting bulimia or anorexia if you share photos of yourself. If you are overweight, proud of your body, and share pictures, you're promoting obesity.
In the same vein, we put other women down for what they wear, regardless of size. Admittedly, however, you often see curvier women shamed for wearing shorts, crop tops, bikinis, and close-fitting dresses. Thin women are shamed for what they wear, as well, and let's don't get started on the subjects of tattoos, body modifications, and hairstyles.
She must have slept her way to the top, we say, or we don't listen to each other's experiences in certain professional sectors. Sometimes jealousy plays a part – often, in fact – and sometimes it's simply hard to see someone else succeed when you don't feel right with your own life and choices.
Whenever we tell another woman to get over it, to move on, to stop whining, we're stripping them of their experiences and erasing their identities. When women of color discuss racism, appropriation, or even the vital importance of intersectional feminism, other women speak up and subtly shame them with these phrases, or with anecdotes designed to shut down the conversation. This happens when a transgender woman discusses her experiences, it happens in conversations about feminism and sexism, it happens in dialogues about racism, and it happens when the talk turns to religion.
I could go on, but I'd like to hear from you. Have you noticed any ways in which women shame other women? We have to stop. We have to stand up for each other and support each other. Having different opinions is perfectly fine – essential, even – but you can share your opinion without shutting down someone else's choices. You can, in fact, choose to listen to those experiences that are different from yours so that you can look at an issue from an entirely new perspective.
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