The Spice Girls knew about girl power. (Pic: Thomas Coex/AFP)
The Spice Girls knew about girl power. (Pic: Thomas Coex/AFP)

Of all my feminist failings, this was the worst

I AM not proud of what I'm about to say.

But to paraphrase the great Natalie of Love Actually, if you can't admit fault on International Women's Day, when can you, eh?

Years ago, when I was substantially younger, slouchier and had a haircut befitting the mid-2000s (heavy fringe, lots of streaks), I had an amazing group of girl friends. They were funny, smart, tolerant, kind, everything you want your own version of the Babysitter's Club to be.

But for some reason, it didn't stop me from saying some truly, truly shitty things about other women.

Things like, "I don't really have girl friends. They're just too much drama." And, "all my friends are guys, I just like, don't get girls." Or, the particularly cringey, "I'm basically a guy with boobs."

Aside from being totally untrue, these claims were relatively harmless and innocuous, but they weren't the only ones.

I made bitchy swipes about the appearances of other girls; critiqued their sexual choices; stood tall when my tearing down of others was rewarded with laughter from whatever audience I was trying to impress - all because I was deeply insecure and threatened by anyone around me who wasn't. And as my own kind, girls were the easiest target.

Sing it, sister. (Pic: AFP)
Sing it, sister. (Pic: AFP)

For so long, so much of who I wanted to be centred around boys and my quest to win their approval. I wanted to be the only girl at the party wearing a Strokes band T-shirt; the girl who preferred the taste of beer to Cruisers; the Summer to their Seth.

Every song I listened to, every movie I watched, every book I read reinforced that as a woman, this was the ultimate aim of the girl-life game. If only I had realised then that finding a girl wearing a Killers T-shirt would be the start of a lifelong friendship. That drinking Cruisers until you threw up with your girl friends was a rite of passage. And that really, it was always about Marissa and Summer.

When I did finally get that much desired male attention, it didn't feel anywhere near as good as I had thought it would and it made me wonder what all of my efforts had even been for. Why I had wasted so much time tearing down those who, in retrospect, I'd give an arm and a leg to build up. Sure, men are nice, but these were women.

The saving grace, if you could call it that, is that my heart was never truly in what I said. I knew they were lies the minute they left my mouth, but still I said it all anyway, somehow believing that if I just offered up enough scalps, I would eventually gain entry into some unknown upper echelon of cool.

When I warily admitted my sins to some women I worked with last year, several others confessed to having taken part in similar rituals themselves, as though throwing those around us under the bus is the coming-of-age ritual some of us women go through shortly after getting our first period. And while I thought learning I wasn't the only one would make me feel better, it only made me feel worse, because now I knew that despite growing up completely removed from these people, I was not operating alone.

Every Summer needs a Marissa. (Pic: The OC)
Every Summer needs a Marissa. (Pic: The OC)

At the time, none of us bothered to ask each other why we did it. If men did something similar when they were growing up (my guess is no).

A now know that, if you want to, you can change your ways and celebrate women for everything they're worth.

Which, as it happens, is quite a bloody lot.

Katy Hall is a writer and producer at RendezView.


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