Sunday Musings: Women Hate Women
Did any of you watch The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu? It was absolutely banoodles. I remember reading the book in high school but I don't think I fully wrapped my mind around all that was happening in that world. It also seemed so far removed from my current reality, that it really carried very little weight at all. It was just a fictional book that I happened to stumble across, read, and quickly forget about it.
Fast forward to current day, and a series has been developed from the book. I was literally obsessed. It's a great show, albeit freaky. Whoever does the score, has done a phenomenal job of accenting every scene with perfectly appropriate music. There were so many times at the end of an episode, where the song selection just gutted me emotionally.
Let me stop gushing about how much I'm into the series, and get into the heart of what I think about while watching this show. Firstly, for those who don't know, The Handmaid's Tale, tells the story of a frightening dystopia where women's personal liberties, rights and freedoms have been stripped away. Women aren't even allowed to read and there is a cast system in place where women fall into one of the following categories: wives, aunts, handmaids, jezebels and unwomen. We are viewing the story through the eyes of one handmaid. Handmaids are a group of forced surrogates to the wives.
There are so many themes and aspects of this story that one could analyze and dissect. I could probably dedicate a series of blog posts to peeling apart this multidimensional show, but what struck me the most, is how fragmented women are as a whole. In fact, oppressive patriarchal systems such as the one in the fictional, Republic of Gilead, do not exist without the support of some of the very people they oppress; in this case, women. Isn't that how systems of oppression usually work? Putting people with seemingly similar self-interest against each other? Creating distrust amongst people who should be working together to overthrow a system that constantly marginalizes and consistently fails them?
The thing is, this concept is absolutely true and relevant to current life. In every day life, it has occurred to me that no one hates women, more than women themselves. Myself included sometimes, and this helps to perpetuate a cycle of oppression and impedes progress, even if we are simply speaking from a mental perspective.
Some women subscribe to a belief that their value and worth is pre-determined by the value placed on them by the male gaze. We see this best with sexual experience. The way some women slut-shame other women or feel intrinsically worth more, because they became a wife or their sexual experience pales in comparison to another woman they know. How? Why in this day and age, do women continue to allow a man to set the standard for what it means to be a "respectable" woman? Why are women still deeming who amongst them is valuable or worthy based on a set of criteria that was developed by antiquated male opinion?
To me, being a true feminist is about choices. A women's right to choose. Another woman respecting that woman's choice. Fine, if I value working outside of my home and having my own independence, but I won't knock you for choosing to stay at home with your children. Fine, that one woman may not personal want to have multiple sex partners or want to wear what society deems to be "modest clothing", but I don't assign her lesser value because she is more sexually free and leaves little to the imagination with her image.
I remember going to a new church with my parents when I was about 15 years old. It was a conservative church, and if your skirt was higher than your knees when you sat down, they passed out a cloth for you to cover up your exposed legs. This was to prevent men from being distracted during the service. At that age, I remember asking if they were also handing out blinders to the men?
These sorts of practices simply do not work, if women do not accept them as a collective. If we stop viewing other women as our perpetual competition and stop assessing her based on a pejorative male standard.
Frantz Fanon, was a psychotherapist who wrote about the damaging and lasting mental effects of slavery in his book "The Wretched of the Earth," and how they could be seen, long after the slave had been freed. I believe this basic concept is also applicable to women. Of course, we are able to do whatever a man can do at this point, from a rights and freedom perspective, but we continuously judge ourselves and other women according to what men have long dictated and determined for us as a group.
The key to any power, is undoubtedly the ability to define your own identity. To reconstruct what you think a woman "should be", based on who she wants to be and feels she is, and to interact with other women by respecting their same freedom of self-expression and self-identity.
Imagine a world, if you will, where women were unequivocally and most definitely FOR other women?
Photography by Abi Polinsky