One of my favorite music videos growing up was P!nk’s “Stupid Girls.” It featured a parade of young, ditzy women doing things like shopping, twerking, having plastic surgery, and spray tanning. All the while she longingly sings “Where, oh where, have the smart people gone? Oh where, oh where could they be?” and finally declares “I don’t want to be a stupid girl.”
As a kid I thought this stuff was pretty empowering. To be a “girly girl” was to be a stereotypical woman, i.e. unintelligent and shallow. But today P!nk’s lyrics disturb me, as they seethe with a subtle misogyny. Does liking clothes, dancing suggestively, or changing how you look make you stupid? According to P!nk, the answer is yes.
I was once again reminded of this type of hidden sexism when a few months back Kim Kardashian posted a nude photo of herself on Twitter and was met with harsh criticism from the morality police. Chloe Grace Moretz lambasted Kim, telling her that “I hope you realize how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than our bodies.” P!nk jumped in by saying “Shout out to all of the women, across the world, using their brains, their strength, their work ethic, their talent, their ‘magic’ that they were born with, that only they possess. It may not ever bring you as much ‘attention’ or bank notes as using your body, your sex, your tits and asses, but women like you don’t need that kind of ‘attention.’”
On the surface their words might ring true, and indeed women do need to be told their more valuable than their looks. But is attacking another woman for showing off her body really the way to do this? After all, if we’re to grant women full autonomy over themselves, we should be able to do whatever we please with what’s physically ours.
P!nk’s and Moretz’s mindset are a kind of concern trolling that’s plagued feminism for the past few generations. It’s one that tells women that unless they make certain choices, they’re bad feminists and somehow contribute to the patriarchy’s grip on society. I’ve heard of women being criticized for practically everything, from liking makeup to talking a certain way. The implication here is that embracing traditionally feminine roles is inherently bad, as if things typically associated with women are somehow tainted.
Take, for instance, a feminist who criticizes a woman for taking her husband’s last name and deciding to be a homemaker. Her logic might look something like this: women have fought so hard to earn the right to keep their surnames and have a career that choosing anything other than these options is a set back. However this argument is flawed.
Feminism should be built on the concept of free will and choices, not obligations.
Anything else isn’t really a call to women’s rights, but rather a chance to feel a sort of smug, self-superiority.
Of course, women have the right to criticize each other, as our gender shouldn’t be used to excuse our actions. But simply judging women for their choices because they don’t correspond with yours is just petty. The way to dismantle the patriarchy isn’t to take on traditionally male roles and behaviors, but rather to expand our definition of what it means to be a “respectable” woman. All women are created equal, and our personal choices don’t change that.