The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Everybody’s Free… To Judge Other Women

Posted by Mel Campbell on July 8, 2008

It always troubles me when I feel something another woman does is repugnant or demeaning. As a feminist, shouldn’t I avoid calling other women’s choices ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? But then I wonder: isn’t it more of a feminist act to treat the choices of both genders equally? What’s more, I’ve always believed that feminism, like any other ethic, shouldn’t be dogmatic: it should respond to the problems you encounter in life, and if a scenario should arise that troubles your ideas of feminism, this calls for argument and debate.

The trouble is that our culture treats the criticism of men’s choices as legitimate debate, however when one woman criticises another, she’s understood to be expressing a weakness or failure in herself. How many times has your criticism earned you responses (or doubtful thoughts) along the lines of, “You’re just jealous/bitter/humourless/unsuccessful/unattractive/afraid of your vagina*”?

Pop culture tends to present this in animalistic terms – being a ‘bitch’ or being ‘catty’ – and the media adore narrating or refereeing girl-on-girl ‘spats’ or ‘catfights’. Worse, some doofus commentators like to suggest that competition or criticism between women means that feminism has ‘failed’. In their fantasy worlds, ‘successful’ feminism is about complete consensus. However, when not applied to women, that tends to be called ‘totalitarianism’.

Dissent is healthy, and dissent among women even more so. But has anyone else ever kept quiet about something that troubled them because they couldn’t be arsed unleashing a patronising tirade upon themselves?

* Seriously. Last year, some anonymous crusading member of the Vagina Luv Brigade suggested in a comment on my blog that the reason I had criticised women who circulate sexually explicit mobile phone pictures of themselves was that I was ashamed of my own genitalia.

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3 Responses to “Everybody’s Free… To Judge Other Women”

  1. tina_sparkle said

    I can’t express my abhorrence at the “you’re just jealous” line that gets trotted out so regularly amongst women that it’s laughable.

    it’s a sad day when women can’t express a negitave yet legitimate opinion about anyone’s choices (male or female) without ‘jealousy reductionism’ being the default motivation behind it.

  2. audrey said

    Especially when it’s about things like brazilian waxes and breast implants. The value-masquerading-as-empowerment line drives me crazy.

    But what would I know? I’m just jealous because other girls get more dates than me and boys prefer ‘feminine’ women.

  3. Rhiana said

    A couple of years ago I had an argument with someone at a party (yes, he was male) about my views on “third wave feminism”, my critique on the sole use sexuality/superficiality as a means of empowerment was turned into him labeling me a “crazy”, “ultra-conservative” feminist, who was just not “hip” to what women really want out of life, which apparently is to be a Suicide Girl or a porn star.

    I’m not going to go into the whole debate about third wave feminism now (something I’m working on to be posted next week), but yes, it is amazing at how women have been made to feel that by critiquing women they are anti-feminist, anti-women, anti-men, out of touch and ultra-conservative.

    The idea of a sisterhood based on gender is an illusion, or delusion, it was proven to be the case in second-wave, the split between Queer and Feminism and now in the ‘is third-wave feminism really empowering debate.’ However this does not mean that feminism is a lost cause, Lee is write in arguing that feminism should not be considered a totalising dogmatic ethic, instead debate including the critique of both femininity and masculinity is entirely necessary, and dear I say it, healthy for future feminism(s).

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