Growing up, girls were my competition.
Why does Brittany think she’s so cool? Why did Brad like Ashley – she’s not even that pretty? Why did Lindsey get the part in the school play – I’m funnier than she is?
My middle school playlists were made up of songs like “Girl Next Door” by Saving Jane, “Stupid Girls” by PINK and “You Belong with Me” by Taylor Swift. Insulting other girls seemed normal, almost as if that was what I was “supposed” to do.
Thinking about this now, I guess my mindset was that if I wasn’t happy with where I was, surely some other girl was at fault. Because girls are just the worst with all of their drama!
Flash forward to now.
I was sitting at a football game a couple of weeks ago, huddled close to three of my girlfriends because it was so cold. For whatever reason, it was in that moment that I looked back at my life and truly realized how much my life and who I am as a person has been shaped and strengthened by my friendships with other women.
Looking back, I shouldn’t have begrudged girls for appearing confident when I know about all of the pressures girls and women face to be and appear a certain way (plus, confidence is awesome anyways). If Brad didn’t like me and liked Ashley instead, that is clearly not Ashley’s fault. And if other girls got something I wanted, sure, that can sting, but in the end, I should’ve celebrated their achievements instead of trying to bring them down.
Obviously, this goes both ways. I’ve been insulted or bullied by girls who wanted me to stay away from the boys they liked. I’ve lost friendships with girls because of jealousy and crushes and “drama.” I’ve been cut down by girls who wanted something that I had. I’ve been isolated from girls for seemingly no reason at all.
But I don’t blame them. I blame a society that encourages us to compete with each other. A society that wants us to think other girls are stupid, stuck up, slutty, bitchy – you name it. I’m sure most women have been called most, if not all, of those things at some point. And that’s a problem.
I blame the society that encourages us to blame the “other woman” when a man cheats. The society that finds something wrong with girls regardless of how they behave. The society that produces songs shaming women for being confident, pretty or stereotypically feminine.
I’ve come a long way. I’d rather listen to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” than “You Belong with Me.” If someone doesn’t like me and likes another girl instead, that’s cool – there’s no reason to be mad at the girl. If a woman looks great or accomplishes something, that doesn’t bring me down in any way.
I know these things now. But it would’ve been nice if I had known them about 20 years ago for I wouldn’t have spent my life shaming other women who were dealing with their own insecurities and hardships, just like me.
Girls should’ve never been my competition. All my life, through the ups and downs, they were my support system. I wasted time viewing other girls as the enemy or “stupid girls” or “Miss America when I was just the girl next door” when they could’ve been my friends instead.
We live in a society where 13-year-old girls call their crush’s girlfriends “skanks” or “bitches.”
I’m not blaming the 13-year-old girls for that. I’m blaming the society that makes girls feel like they have something to prove, and like the best way to prove that is by distancing themselves from other girls. I blame the society that makes them compare themselves to other girls, looking in the mirror and at the girls around them, obsessing over whose nose is smaller, whose outfit is better, whose body is slimmer. I blame the society that makes them feel like they’re just the girls next door, like they’ll never be good enough, like they’d never be able to run the world.
Images via Tessa Pesicka