Feminism today does make me crack a smile. To see how far we’ve come, looking back through the years, the decades, and even the centuries, is truly a breath-taking thing that many people do not stop to appreciate. Within literature, media representation, the breaking of gender stereotypes and of all those boundaries that have kept us confined and quiet for so many years, progress is being made. However, people will take this information and assume it means that we don’t have any further to go.
This is a real problem for me and for any self-respecting feminist today. For example, it seems anyone who has come to the revelation that we live in a patriarchal society - whether subconsciously or not, will then shame those who have not done the same, instead of trying to teach them. For example, the ‘pick me girl’ idea, which you may or may not be familiar with - you may have been called this, or you may have even called people this. It’s premise is correct - I have met many girls in my time who crave male validation of the physical and social kind, and are willing to pull other girls down in order to receive it and even to degrade themselves over some man, who, let’s face it, is probably not even worth it.
But by this analogy, people then assume that all ‘pick me’ girls are below them, as they are trying to ‘pull’ them down, and therefore are to be judged and ostracised from our own little feminist, educated bubble. But I think that this really misses the point of true, modern feminism. You yourself must have once been, whether you were very young, or it was very recently, a ‘pick me’ girl yourself - someone who still felt that their only worth was in their physical appearance and sexual attraction in contrast to a man’s gaze. You can never truly escape this - the patriarchy, as with many other forms of systemic oppression, has held too strong a grip on our society ever since its convention for this feeling to just go away from inside girls and feminine folks. And so to think that you can be free of this, and even then to think that therefore you have the right to lord it over others, for me is a fatal flaw in feminism today. Feminism wants equality between men and women – but also, for freedom and liberation amongst different women who choose to live their lives differently to each other.
‘Pick me girls’ aren’t horrible people, in the same way that you’re not a horrible person for disliking them. They’re just girls who are trying to work with what they’ve got, and they know that using certain looks, methods of interaction and tropes can help them get to what they want and can help them in social situations - to use this for your own gain is actually an extremely feminist act, contrary to popular young feminist opinion.
Feminism can be broken down into different categories, as Deborah Frances-White states at the beginning of her book, the Guilty Feminist - I recommend reading this by the way. For me, the ‘pick me’ girl falls under the category of parasitic feminism - someone who has taken a look at the patriarchal society that we live in, and decided to play the game, to work the system, to not overextend themselves changing something that they know will be difficult to fix, but instead to find a way forward that can benefit them and get them to the position that they want to be in in the world. This is not for everyone, but it is also not for no one, and all different aspects of feminism have to come together to achieve the true equality that we all want. By different women fighting amongst each other for who is the “better “or “worse” feminist, we are actually aiding patriarchy in its efforts, as doing this distracts us from the real problem at hand. It’s hard for feminists to realise this, but once you do, it will make you look at every so-called feminist action you take from a different angle, and every action you see another take and are quick to judge or criticise differently, too.
We have to remember that there are stages of becoming aware of the way that we are made to live our lives, interpret the world, and how we are interpreted. Some people, possibly more educated, possibly not, work through the stages faster – the young feminists of today. The first point is that no one ever finishes the race – definitely not yet at least. Because of the fact that no one is ever free from patriarchal bias, to turn around whilst running, to see those behind you in the race, and to discourage them and shame them for where they are and their progress down the road of revolution, is wrong. You will not increase their pace, and will not, as we all want, cause them to speed up to reach you, and for us all to then continue together down the vast, winding, and difficult road that we need to go down to effect change. By doing this you also inhibit your own progress, as to complain about those you see, you will have to slow yourself down. In short, judging anyone who is more or less educated is not going to help. Feminists need to find a solution to this problem, where we do not create a dichotomy between those who are feminists and are ‘not’.
Women are all inherently feminist in my opinion - we are all just trying to find different ways to express it and to live. Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been some evil women - in our current time, before and certainly after it - who will go out of their way to perpetuate and uphold the patriarchal system, as possibly due to their class, race, or religion, this will still benefit them in a certain way. Sometimes judgement is needed. But these violent attacks on women on social media who are not harming anyone just go to show that there are many feminists who actually take actions which demonstrate fighting over the appeal of a man - if you’re even reading this, I will assume that this is not your number one priority.
So, I implore you to wake up, if you are one of these people. ‘Pick me’ girls don’t need our judgement, our condescension or our teasing - what they need, what they truly need, is just our help. Someone who is uneducated on any topic surrounding their own or another person’s oppression cannot become educated by being ridiculed - they have to actually be taught, to unlearn behaviours and re-learn new ones. And for this they need to feel supported and appreciated. Talk to these women - befriend them, even. Help them see, in a passive way, that perhaps not the only thing that’s important in their lives is soothing the male ego. Show them that actually having girls to fall back on can be a nice feeling.
Because divide and conquer is not going to work for us - we need to be united. And for me, hopefully that is what feminism today can learn.