As usual this week has been chock full of news and things I could choose to get outraged about. I’m trying a new thing where I try to limit and focus my outrage like a laser beam rather than just letting it splatter all over the place ineffectually… So for me there are two big stories this week, that ended up being a little too similar for my liking. The two stories? Marines United and International Women’s Day.
HOW can they be the same at all, you might wonder, a story about men in uniform sexually harassing and humiliating their female counterparts online and the day of a general strike for women’s labor? Pretty much seem like polar opposites, don’t they, that is until we all get to comment on them, until we get to participate with the news, until we become part of the story.
After I read an article on Marines United the other morning, I hopped on Facebook for a few minutes, to dish up some kind of greeting to the day and say hi to folks before I dug into work and while I was there, for just five minutes mind you, I saw three separate posts (that had obviously been shared multiple times) by women/for women that shamed women for amusement, for entertainment, for point and giggle, click and share fun. Leggings mistakes, muffin top parade, and the ever popular “10 things you shouldn’t wear if you’re over (what age are we down to now, 15?!)” series. Mind you, this was just today and my feed is likely far less full of this kind of stuff because of my friend list and FB algorithms that protect me from stuff I don’t agree with/have any interest in. I feel confident that other people’s FB feeds also include all manner of slut shaming, celebrity fat watch posts, and other sadly unambitious uses of free speech. At the end of the day, Facebook is just another place where women can work hard to shame other women so men don’t have to. We wouldn’t want them to have to work at it, would we?
And THEN a few days later I got to enjoy the controversy over International Women’s Day AMONG WOMEN. Women shaming each other for participating. Women shaming each other for not participating. Women making assumptions about other women based on their participation status and then feeling like it would be a good idea to share those assumptions in a public forum. Honest to Pete, people! So you think women don’t need to strike – great – don’t do it. So you think women do need to strike – great – do it. If you think women do need to shame other women, work that crap out; talk it over with somebody, noodle it out in your journal, discuss it with a trusted friend IN PERSON, but maybe don’t act on that instinct, eh? If she already thinks it’s hard out here in the world, your shame isn’t going to help, and I’m assuming that’s what you’d really like to do, right, help… someone… sometime?
This is not me shaming you, well if you post that stuff, maybe I am a little. The thing is that this is how hierarchies work. All of the participants have to agree to the order of things or the order eventually fails. Women have to agree to being shamed about our bodies. Women have to agree that we were at our physical best when we were about 13. Women have to agree that other people have the right to, maybe even SHOULD, mock us if our bodies don’t meet their vision of what is beautiful. In fact, women have to do more than agree, they need to become the gatekeepers. They need to mock one another to secure their own positions on the ladder. They need to measure and count their intake and punish themselves for human error. They need to size up the room to see how they compare with the other women. They need to make alliances and be cautious and talk about the new girl. They need to argue about what “real women, good mothers, the best daughters, best friends, real family members” do. They need to laugh at the people they fear they are, could be, or will become. I’m sure I’ve done it, ensured my rung on the ladder, enforced the pecking order, made the new girl uncomfortable. It’s all the same stuff you see. It all keeps us down, separate, isolated, ashamed, uncertain, intimidated. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can follow a different example. We can do it different.
What would happen if every post women posted for each other was simply informative or uplifting? What would happen if we stopped participating in our own freaking body shame based subjugation? What would happen if we decided that women’s liberation actually meant women can choose things for themselves? What would happen if we consistently put as much effort into stopping that public shaming digital horseshit as we put into worrying about whether our own bodies and our own decisions make the grade?
They tell us that soldiers fight for our way of life, and Marines United is giving us one example of how best to use those freedoms. We are better than this. Let’s show them how it can be done girls.