By: Alyson Peabody, Editor-in-Chief
Stop keeping up with the Kardashians. Nothing makes my blood boil more than the sexist notion of pitting women against each other for dramatic attention. There are enough mixed messages presented in the media for how women should look and act. The last thing women need is to be portrayed (and perceived) as catty, backstabbing b****es.
I talked with my roommate at length about this idea of women being perceived as catty. She attended Smith College, which is an all-women’s school. Her experiences at college were not even close to the relationships portrayed on screen. The most common question she is asked is about the amount of drama she experienced on campus. She was unable to recount a single incident.
I want to emphasize that the Kardashians are not the problem. The toxicity of female friendships portrayed in the media is the problem. I find that there is a lack of celebration in real world female relationships due to negative social media.
I want this to change.
I am the daughter of many women I’ve never met. Without Dorothy Parker’s dark wit and Audrey Hepburn’s compassion, I would not be who I am. I am standing on the shoulders of my personal heroes: Maya Angelou, Georgia O’Keeffe, Hedy Lamarr, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sylvia Plath, Sara Bareilles, Agatha Christie, Sutton Foster, Clara Bow and Emily Dickinson. I have discovered that there is no limit to where a woman can go. More importantly, there is no limit to what she can do when she gets there.
When it comes to women in my own life, I have been fortunate to have been raised by artists, musicians, thinkers and dreamers. My mother, Kimberly, teaches me about inner strength and the power of a positive mindset. My sister, Megan, shares her love of travel and discovery.
They are both forces to be reckoned with.
Friends I have made since moving to Portland four years ago have built on the foundation laid by my family. Julie Pike works tirelessly in her journalistic pursuits. Lydia Libby shares her passion for yoga. Lindsey Snow and Kate Gardener both create whimsical local art while studying at MECA. Melissa Kelly is a DIY queen. In their own way, they have each led by example.
All of these women have helped shape the way I see the world. Without them, I certainly would not have the same determination to pursue my path. I would be without their bravery, charisma, confidence and drive.
Fostering healthy relationships with other women should not come with fear of competition. According to Joyce Benenson, a researcher at Emmanuel College in Boston, competition among women has three unique characteristics: verbal aggression, normalizing conformity as proper femininity and social exclusion. I personally experienced all three of these when I was bullied in middle school and high school. In recent years, the women who used to torment me have since come forward and admitted to their behavior spurring from jealousy. This thought makes me sad because I know they were not the first (nor the last) to succumb to this toxic behavior.
Societal pressure for women to compete with each other for money, power and sex damages our ability as a population to value women equally as people. One person’s value is not diminished by the successes of someone else. It’s disheartening to read comments that slander a woman’s appearance or discredit what she has to say because of the way she looks. It is disturbing to think that female friendships lost to shallowness or lust are normalized.
We need to actively change the way that we relate to each other on a fundamental level, starting with our female friends. We need to celebrate our differences and our passions. Differences do not divide us, only people can do that.
Strong women are not our competitors; they are our teachers. As Maya Angelou once said, “I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”