I'm floundering in limbo as I write this post, stuck waiting for a flight out of Coollangatta airport home after a shoot for a Byron Bay leather goods company that required a 4.30am start. I have a three-and-a-half hour wait ahead of me and I've decided to pass the time by inhaling more than a few salad wraps from Sumo Salad, which, for those of you who don't live on the east coast of Australia, is kind of like saying, "I was temporarily banished to Hell and happened upon the sign for the Anus Buffet and thought, why not grab a bite?"
I've wanted to write about this subject for quite some time but was never really afforded the possibility when any human but myself would be charged with publishing it – for the feminist publications such as Catalogue that I submit to this would undoubtedly be perceived by the audience as an attack unleashed against my own gender incited by THE PATRIARCHY! and it would be an equally fruitless pitch for any other publication given their general stance regarding feminist issues: "Women? Yuck."
What I would like to discuss is the concept of bitching and basically the acceptability regarding female criticism of other women.
Bitching is something that the majority of women are intimately acquainted with, admittedly some to greater degrees than others (particularly those who may or may not have attended private Presbyterian schools on Sydney's north shore). I think most women can admit to even the most momentary participation as the bitchers – or perhaps the bitchees – and that's because as adolescent women, psychological warfare was kind of our bread and butter.
Naturally that behaviour is gradually phased out by the bounds of social acceptability associated with adulthood, in much the same way that gleefully smacking your friend's testicles is gradually phased out in the male population. Bitching becomes a taboo indulgence in adulthood, conducted only in whispers and one is, more often than not, instilled with a distinct feeling of self-loathing after the fact.
I suspect that this is because bitching is predominantly considered an activity for the idle, and the ability to be expertly mean is no longer a powerful or awarded characteristic once you have departed your teenage years – not like in the days of playground politics where an aptitude for making other girls cry was sort of like having a teardrop tattoo in prison (pair that with a pair of platform ROC shoes and you were definitely going to be the first in the grade to give a handjob).
The more I've become entrenched in online feminist communities, the more I have noticed that bitching is largely equated with more general and rational criticisms of other women and that makes it a prohibited activity – behaviour that symbolises a denouncement of 'the sisterhood' in the social revolution we're raging against patriarchal values. It makes sense to some extent – after all, aren't women simply programmed to hate each other on the basis of sexual competition? Don't we aim to denigrate for the sake of scaling the social hierarchy? Don't we hate each other because of men? Surely this is an intrinsic factor in the process and its a stance that a vast majority of female online readers appear to adopt.
There seems to be an instinctual recoiling from female criticism of other women because it is so often aligned with juvenile behaviour and identified as counterproductive to the feminist cause. Responses to a great deal of my articles have been dominated by rejection based on my tendency to chastise female public figures (Kim Kardashian). Admittedly, I do tend to write in a hyperbolic and vitriolic manner but there are, nonetheless, behaviours and characteristics of other women that I am more than willing to publicly condemn and this is mostly due to the fact that – shocker – I view women as people.
I am undoubtedly a feminist in the sense that I believe wholly in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes but I think there is another principle present amongst a majority of feminists that I refuse to subscribe to – the belief that to be part of the cause, you have to love all women. Of course I believe in the values associated with empowerment and supporting other women to achieve their goals but I resent the notion that to be a good feminist, I have to submit myself to a sisterhood whereby any criticism of another woman's actions is unprecedented and grotesque.
I don't say this because I think a lot of women are morons, I say this because I think a lot of people are morons and it shouldn't be outside the bounds of rationality to deconstruct the poor behaviour and ideas of humans that happen to belong to my gender.
I don't believe in a sisterhood because I don't agree with the concept of summarising the world as naively as an "Us and Them" vision; I don't believe it's true and I don't believe it's productive. I refuse to wrap every woman I encounter in shock-absorbent foam because that wouldn't be handing them the credit that they're due as a free-willed, lucid human being. It's sort of like that moment in 21 Jump Street where Channing Tatum punches that kid in the parking lot who turns out to be gay and Jonah Hill interjects, "In a weird way, it might have been homophobic not to punch you just because you were gay.." It would make me sexist not to take ideological stands against particular women to the same degree that I do everybody else! After all, they have just as much right to be intolerable fuckwits as men do.
Of course I don't engage in bitching in the same manner that I did as a fourteen year-old because I don't actually care about ohmygodwhatisshewearing anymore but I do maintain my right to logically dismantle thoughts and behaviours that I discern as painful or offensive or useless. It's philosophical criticism, I'm not even wearing ROC boots!
That being said, when it comes to crunch time, I think I am far more likely to stand up for a woman than I am for a man but I think that honestly just comes with the hardware.
P.S In the process of writing this rant, I was privileged enough to observe the Virgin baggage staff on the tarmac cheerfully unloading the pet crates from a flight and madly giggling as they poked their fingers through the cages to say hello to the dogs. It was great. Really, really great.