Girl on Girl Crime

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As I personally support natural, non-chemical, and non-hormonal family planning methods, I expected to like this article on women sharing their choices: “We Asked 24 Women Why They Don’t Use Birth Control And These Are Their Answers.”

I had to take a long shower to process why I felt offended, judged, and shamed even when I technically agree with many of their reasons.

This isn’t the first time I walked away from an article on women’s personal choices that left me feeling like a total failure as a woman.

The article is a list of twenty-four women holding up signs like, “I don’t want to put something artificial in my body to stop something natural from happening” or “Because I want a healthy, natural, organic body” or “Because no one is ever really ready for kids — and they are the best, most exciting and fulfilling things to ever happen to me!”

That’s fine, that’s interesting, that’s women sharing their personal reasons and experiences. Let’s hear some more.

“Because I can control myself.”

“Because I don’t have to give up my womanhood to be a feminist.”

“Because I am responsible and make mindful decisions accepting the consequences of my actions.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what now? You can control yourself — as if women on birth control can’t? And how does birth control amount to giving up one’s womanhood? And staying off birth control is the only way to be responsible?

Even if these women meant their reasons as merely personal, they come across as antagonistic and holier-than-thou towards other women’s choices. This is the only way to be a woman. This is the best way to be a woman. This is the moral choice.

We women have all experienced this — another woman putting us down to elevate herself, another woman supporting her own choices by trashing everybody else’s.

As Tina Fey’s character from Mean Girls puts it, it’s girl on girl crime.

I don’t think we even mean to do this to each other. For the most part, we all want freedom to make the best decisions for our bodies, lifestyles, and families. We all want accurate information disseminated to us and our fellow females about the choices we could make. We might disagree (and disagree strongly) with other women’s decisions, but we don’t mean to knock down other women with our statistics and opinions. We, in theory, want the best for other women too.

But women are in a unique situation. We’re women, for one thing, and we deal with all kinds of complicated physical factors like periods, PMS, pregnancy, and breastfeeding and complicated sociological factors like balancing work and family life. There is more to think about, decide on, and juggle as women — at least compared to men.

Do men hold up signs defending their reasons for why they don’t use Viagra? Are there support groups for those wounded in the “daddy wars”? Do men get scrutinized on their beauty routines and clothing choices in the public eye? Thank heavens, no.

There’s not as much antagonism towards men’s personal decisions as there is towards women’s, and as a result, there’s not as much defensiveness.

Women feel defensive about their personal choices, because women feel attacked, because women feel guilty, because women feel like their womanhood and their morality are at stake with every personal decision they make. 

It gets to the point where we women shame ourselves even if a woman is simply stating her own choice, based on her own research, with no intent to shame anyone else — or even worse, we shame ourselves even if no one else is around. The very fact that we drink coffee while breastfeeding or don’t want kids or want kids or favor feminine clothes or masculine clothes or wear makeup or don’t wear makeup or take birth control or have more than 1.5 kids makes us feel guilty.

On top of this, there’s a huge push for women to feel liberated, empowered, unashamed, and vocal about who they are and the choices they make. Plus there’s the internet. So women hear not only subtle messages that they’re female failures, they get to see smiling, confident women openly telling them they are. 

“I don’t use birth control because I’m a real woman.”

“You can’t be pro-life and pro-feminist.”

“I don’t wear a bikini because want to glorify God.”

“I wear a bikini because I’m not a prude who’s ashamed of her body.”

“I stay at home because I’m not selfish enough to sacrifice my kids for my career.”

“I’m not a stay-at-home mom because I want a real job.”

Girl on girl crime — all because we want to prove that our choices are moral, meaningful, and completely in line with being a woman.

I think it’s fabulous that women are combating this guilt, shame, and pressure in public, online forums. It’s awesome that we feel empowered to speak our minds and share our opinions and who gives a damn. But in a female world of guilt and shame, where many personal situations and beliefs give rise to many different choices, we need to be wise communicators — especially when our communication is pithy little posters and punchy one-liners.

I found myself asking what on earth this Buzzfeed article meant to accomplish. Obviously it hoped to bring awareness to the myriad different reasons why women opt out of birth control — but to what end? To encourage respect of other women’s choices? To change people’s minds? To spark a productive conversation?

Because I assure you, I didn’t feel any inclination to respect the women implying women on birth control abandoned kids, their bodies, their womanhood, and responsibility. My mind wouldn’t have been changed about birth control reading most of those signs. And the first thing I wanted to say in response to this article wasn’t at all productive.

I don’t feel this way about all social media campaigns about women’s issues. People of all different sorts posted photos of themselves saying, “This is what a feminist looks like.” When the face of feminism becomes stay-at-home moms, male CEOs, and your quiet Republican friend who never posts on Twitter — that’s powerful. That gets you thinking.

Such a campaign is not necessarily making any arguments for feminism. It’s merely combating a false narrative that often shuts down the conversation — that all feminists are whiny female SJWs who hate children and men. It humanizes an otherwise volatile conversation.

Conversely, this is what made the Buzzfeed article so offensive: the women tried to advance a defense of their choices through poorly nuanced zingers. Instead of humanizing the conversation in a positive way, their smiling faces made their comments seem like a personal attack: I think you’re a slutty, irresponsible, child-hating, lesser-than woman because you don’t practice NFP like me.

It’s not that women shouldn’t advance defenses for their beliefs and choices, or even advocate against something. I’m all for a well-written article entitled “Why I Hate Condoms,” or “The Medical Arguments Against Hormonal Birth Control,” or a sign that says, “I’m not Catholic, middle class, crunchy, or Michelle Duggar, but I still practice NFP.”

What a conversation starter! I want to hear more.

Sure, we all could take things a little less personally sometimes, but let’s face it — we do get ridiculous amounts of scrutiny as women. We all feel defensive, and if we’re honest, we’ve all been on the offensive, too.

Come on, ladies. We’re all in the same boat here, so let’s hold respectful, thoughtful, nuanced, passionate conversations about our choices in a way that doesn’t shame other women for theirs.

No more girl on girl crime.

Photo from Buzzfeed

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13 thoughts on “Girl on Girl Crime

  1. Lea

    Most of these just confuse me. Number 18 is legit (regarding potential medical issues with the pill – see also #21/23) and doesn’t judge anyone else’s choice, but it also doesn’t really explain why you wouldn’t use a condom.

    I feel like there was no reason to make the answers about ‘girl power’. They are just choices. People all make these kinds of choices and its really personal.

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    • Bailey Steger

      Yeah…maybe we’ve all gone overboard with the “girl power” language when it comes to personal choices… especially something as personal and individualized as health, medicine, and treatment.

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  2. Abby

    Thank you for this article Bailey! I see this all the time, and it happens in all circles where women are involved. I see this all the time in my workplace since I’m in education (I’m sure you see it too) and it crosses all lines from family planning to childcare to when you go back to work after a pregnancy to whether to dye your hair. We all need to take a breath and realize that people can make different choices from our own without it being the end of the world :)

    Would you be willing to do an article on NFP and your thoughts and research on it? It’s something I’ve been thinking about/looking into since reading some articles on Verily and I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

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  3. comfortdeliveredhome

    I can fully understand why this raised questions. The funny thing is, parenthood is not for every woman. It does not complete you as a human being. And kids are not better than pets! They are far more expensive, talk back to you, and you are financially responsible for them for far too long, where pets, you get them for about 15 years.

    Reproducing doesn’t make you a real woman.

    It seems to me that the women they asked were in a much higher socio-economic position than a lot of women, who face rougher situations where birth control is necessary.

    Then there are people whose bodies can not exist on a “normal” calendar, are they less a woman because they take hormonal treatments in the form of birth control pills?

    You are absolutely right to question this article.

    It pissed me off!

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    • Bailey Steger

      The way they facilitated the conversation definitely showed a lack of sensitivity towards women who need birth control because of poverty or health, nor did it allow room for other expressions of womanhood beyond bearing and raising children.

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  4. Bethany C

    First off, totally agree on your reaction to that post. I hadn’t seen it before but I see a lot of this stuff in my periphery: that Facebook ad for the ‘first non-hormonal birth control app’ or whatever that is has always annoyed me. I have never looked into NFP very much but if people think ‘oh I can just follow what this app says in order to not get pregnant’, I don’t see that going very well. Unless as you mentioned pregnancy isn’t a huge concern. And it isn’t morally better to avoid hormonal birth control, as a lot of those comments implied! Ugh.

    Unfortunately I think you will find this in spades as (and if) you move into a parenting phase of life. People are incredibly judgmental (both of themselves and others) about all things relating to how to be pregnant and give birth ‘the right way’. I think there is a lot to be said for ‘natural’ approaches to healthcare, childbirth etc–I think a midwife-type approach to birth and reproductive health can be a great deal more calming and less coercive than that of some MDs–but it should never ever be a ‘better than you’ type of thing. A friend of mine was pregnant recently and the incredibly harsh, nasty things she would be told from friends & family were shocking to me. Oh you don’t plan to have a ‘natural’ birth, oh you did this or didn’t do that. Obviously there are baseline actions that people should take for the health of themselves and their child. But it makes me sick to think that alternative birth medicine, which has roots in women reclaiming their health and intuitive knowledge from a patriarchal establishment that demonized ‘old wives’ remedies, has become in some cases a bludgeon with which to make women feel guilt that they aren’t doing pregnancy and birth ‘right’.

    Gonna stick in my 2 cents on BC here, in case it is of help to anyone :) I was worried about hormonal birth control, and almost settled on the Paragard copper IUD. (I think that could still be a good non-hormonal option, but it can worsen menstrual cramps.) Instead I went with the Skyla, which is hormone-based. But my doctor, very sensitive to concerns about hormones, said that in her opinion it would have less of a whole-body affect than the Pill. It’s obviously very much up to personal needs, but I have been very happy with my IUD. There is a variable amount of pain with getting it placed–some friends who have gotten it recently had a really rough go. But for 3 years of lighter periods, barely any cramping, no pregnancy scares, and reduced PMS? Works for me! :D

    Good luck to everyone pondering these questions, and let me know if I can answer any Qs :)

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  5. dolphinswithmohawks

    I wonder if the purpose of the article is to be controversial and generate clicks for buzzfeed.. Controversy makes money.
    As far as women putting down other women, yeah, i agree, it happens too much and does so much damage.

    Like

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