Feminine Shaming: Why Do We Hate One Another?

by Be Heard on November 8, 2012

in Parenting

You probably heard the story of Amanda Todd, the young girl from BC, Canada, who posted a YouTube video about being bullied and then sadly took her own life.

Her story was awful, but unfortunately, not entirely uncommon. Bullying, especially cyber bullying, despite all the hopeful messages from celebrities and almost everyone else in the wake of one of these tragedies, isn’t going away. Sure, we can all talk about how terrible it is, but the hard truth of the matter is that there will always be people who bully and there will always be victims.

What struck me though was sitting in my living room the other night with my 14-year-old daughter playing on her iPod who turned to me and said: “You know that Amanda girl? She was a slut.”

I was stunned. This poor girl who died, who took her own life because she couldn’t stand the pain she was living in, being reviled by my own daughter. But I didn’t want to just fly right off the handle at her and start yelling (okay, I did, but I wanted to talk even more) so I asked her what on earth would make her say such a thing about a girl she didn’t know?

She told me that she had read some stories online about how this girl had had sex and how she had sent a topless picture to a boy.

“So what,” I told her. “She was a teenaged girl. Teenage girls have sex and sometimes they send pictures to boys. But what makes you think that reading a story tells you who she was, or that a particular story means that her memory deserves ridicule?”

She looked down. I went on to talk to her about the news story I had read. The one which explained how a boy pressured her into the picture and then spread that picture online to everyone they knew. I mentioned to my daughter how only months ago a boy had asked her for the same thing and, though she didn’t send one, she did talk to me about it because it freaked her out. I asked her if I had told her own story to a friend, would my friend have the right to call her a slut?

She apologized to me, but I told her I didn’t want her apology. What I wanted was for her to remember that everyone has their own stories and that whenever these stories get spread around, as can happen, often the facts are distorted.

We hugged and I know that she spent some time that night thinking on my words, but so did I. I wondered why it is, when we women are already so damn hard on ourselves, are we so incredibly quick to judge one another? I know that I have hard days with my body image, but that doesn’t make it okay when I am in a bad mood and refer to another woman as fat. I don’t know if she has health problems, or if she is truly happy with the way she looks; moreover, it’s really none of my business. Why is it okay for us to trash one another to make ourselves feel good? Because in the end, that is the act of a bully and a coward.

I think it’s time we took a long hard look in the mirror anytime we have an urge to label someone as slut, whore, fat or bitch. Because as long as we throw those words out onto other women, they will surely eventually be thrown at us.

I’m tired of all the hate.

nualaCurvy Girl Guide Contributor, Nuala Reilly, is a mother of five from Tillsonburg, Ontario, who spends all of her free time either trying to promote her books or talking her kids out of making her officially loopy. Bargaining with them only works if she uses cash and/or access to the car. You can read her blog at www.nualareilly.wordpress.com and buy her books at www.nualareilly.com , as well as follow her on Twitter.

image via Facebook

Tovah November 8, 2012 at 9:54 am

Wow. You really handled that well. I don’t have children, but I can imagine how hard it was for you to not yell, but have a meaningful discussion. Those are the kinds of things we remember all our lives.

Cristina November 8, 2012 at 10:44 am

Great read Nuala, thank you for posting. I shared it on my site.

Nuala Reilly November 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Thank you for the comments, guys! My daughter read it when I wrote it and she thought it was a good lesson to share.

Laura November 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm

What a great response. I don’t know if I would have retained my composure like that.

SwingCheese November 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

I agree that you handled that well. And I’m sure that your words will be in your daughter’s head for a long time – I only wish more parents took the time to teach their children empathy.

As for why women are so shaming to each other, I think it’s because we want to believe that these sorts of horrible things won’t happened to us because we’re “different” in some way from the victim. I saw it happen a lot over the Jessica Ridgeway case, when there were always a few people who condemned the mother for not driving her daughter to school, for not having her cell phone in the room with her while she was sleeping, for being neglectful, when in reality, this tragedy is the fault of the perpetrator, and no one else. But it’s a parent’s absolute worst nightmare, and because we fear it so much, we want to believe that it would never happen to us because we do x, y, z, as though these behaviors are magical incantations that will protect us from all evil. I think this is why some women will still think that rape victims should have done things differently – we want to believe that as long as we do things differently, we’ll never be raped, when the truth is, rape is the fault of the perpetrator, and we cannot control the perpetrator. And we know that, and that is a frightening truth, so we hide behind condemnation instead, which doesn’t help anyone and, in fact, leads to a less empathetic society which can, in turn, foster more sociopathic behavior.

Nuala Reilly November 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

That’s a really good explanation, and I think you are pretty much bang on with it. It just sucks that as a response, especially younger girls, automatically go to the shame and blame reaction. I know first hand that it can happen to anyone, but that’s not something that I will discuss with my girls, at least not yet. They’re far too young to be told about something so personal like that. I’d rather take the time out to talk things through with them on as real a level as I can get it right now and hope that I’m giving them the right base to get through their teen years and into their adult ones.

SwingCheese November 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Thanks, and I think you are also absolutely right – everything needs to be age appropriate. Young teenagers would not be able to process information that is too personal – I just found out a family secret at the age of 34 and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it – but talking things through with them is key. As long as they have that compassionate base to start from, empathy can grow from there.

Amy Simmons November 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I just received this from a girl I knew 11 years ago in high school. We have had no contact since then other than what I post on Facebook. All because I checked in at Ihop. Why do we do this to one another? :

I deleted you as a friend because the destruction the geneticly modify food had caused in my life. I feel sorry for all of us hurt by this. It pains me to see expecting mothers eating the garbage that they put out in this world. I feel sorry for all the unborn babies that don’t have mothers who are okay with killing their babies before they are even born. Even with promoting this for years now, and with a lot of mothets knowing and not caring sadens me and I feel sorry for them. You seem to fall in this group, which is sad, and why I can’t be your friend, I can’t watch you kill your children with this poison. Do you really want your kids to be as fat as you are now??? Because I wouldn’t. Just think if you would have know this back in high school, would you be like you are now, or like me, the same size and not killing my unborn child?

SwingCheese November 11, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Wow. That’s a nasty message, and serves no other purpose than to try to make you feel bad about not being exactly like her. That is just another example of bullying, plain and simple. This person doesn’t know you – from what you’ve said, you’re acquaintances at best – and just wants to make you feel bad. It’s the same old mean girl bullshit – she’s not only the same size as she was in high school, she’s maintained the same maturity level as well.

Sara November 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Wow! I am so sorry! I cannot believe the self-righteousness in her tone. I hope you won’t let her comment get to you too much. She obviously has issues and felt like taking them out on you.

And, some of her sentences don’t really make sense so I wonder if she was in full use of her own senses when she decided to write such a mean spirited email. It’s sad, really.

Remember what Eleonor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Hugs to you.

Nuala Reilly November 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I say. I don’t know Amy, so I’m not letting her comment bother me.

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