Most of us have realized by now that we don’t have to be women to be feminists, queer to support LGBTQA folks, a person of color to support the Black Lives Matter movement, or even, in this freaking election, a democrat to vote for Hillary Clinton.
But being a good ally means more than just saying “I support you,” even though that’s certainly the first step.
It can be overwhelming if you’re coming from a position of privilege and trying to not only understand but help those who are less advantaged than you are. And a lot–and I mean a lot–of people make really offensive or even harmful mistakes.
So let’s talk about it. I’ll give you some pointers, and maybe some commenters can help me out. This is the kind of conversation that really flourishes when it involves many perspectives.
Hello. First off, if you found this page because you’re trying to find out if your boyfriend is abusive, I recommend talking to a professional or at least reading through a website meant specifically for that purpose. RAINN is fantastic, and they also offer a free chat with a real person (like a help line without having to talk on the phone), and if you prefer the phone, they also have a helpline at 800-656-HOPE.
I’m happy to help provide support, and hopefully this article will do some good in that capacity, but I strongly suggest turning to people who are better equipped to help you if you need it. I’ve used those websites and chats–especially RAINN–in my own experiences with abuse, and they were massively helpful. I highly recommend them.
This article is meant as a broader discussion of many issues, including abusive relationships, which plague feminist women in a particular way and make them ashamed to ask their questions outside of privacy and anonymity.
Now, as to the article. I will try to maintain a solid sense of humor to help you through this, because this is a tough one. But I think it’s very important, because lots of women who are feminists go through this kind of weird pride/shame thing when it comes to certain issues, and we need someone to address that.
You share a blog post, article, video or podcast by someone you think is funny.
It can’t be you. It can be your girlfriend, or your grandpa, or your business partner, but it can’t be you.
It doesn’t have to be specifically a comedic thing, but it has to be funny.
It also can’t be like XXX explicit. No gore, extreme violence, or pornography. Also no hate speech please. R-rated is fine.
You share it here, in the entry box below, and I will post it in this article. You can just do a cold link, or you can write a little bit about it if you want to. Then, you go and share this article and tag that person on Twitter, with the hashtag #comicshareparty! If you also tag me, I’ll be more likely to see it and retweet (@comicwisdom).
This is a great way to show some PR love to the people who make you laugh! You can also leave a link to your own website or social media page in your entry, if you’d like, and it will be included with your name in the submission. So perhaps a little PR love for you too!
I’d like to begin with the disclaimer that I am a giant fucking hypocrite and have been watching all the late-night clips about Trump, retweeting the memes, texting them to my boyfriend from the toilet, etc. I mean…Trump as a person is hilarious.
Of course, so was Hitler, but…
It’s also a natural human reaction to tell jokes about horrible things, or things we’re afraid of. So “haha the world might end under President Trump” is the kind of joke that’s sort of to be expected.
This isn’t quite what I’m talking about when I say “Trump isn’t funny.”
Hey, other 90s/early 00s kids. Remember that scene in A Cinderella Story where they’re on the date at the masquerade ball and Chad Michael Murray is asking Hilary Duff all those “get to know you” questions? Remember that part where he goes “rice cake or Big Mac” and she’s all “Big Mac” and he goes “I like a girl who eats” and we’re supposed to think that makes him cool and progressive and makes her down-to-earth and fun and not-like-all-those-other-girls?
Well I say fuck that.
I mean think about it for a second. He’s quizzing her to see if she’s qualified to be his girlfriend, and one of his requirements is that she prefers a Big Mac to a rice cake. First of all—shallow, am I right? Second—some women can’t look like Hilary Duff and still eat Big Macs. And third—what if she was a goddamn vegetarian? Like…this question might be more complicated than you’re making it seem, Chad.
Which brings me to my letter.
Dear Cool Girls,
This letter is not for the Disney “cool girl”—the (usually blonde) cheerleader with expensive clothing and a nasty attitude. This letter is for the girls who think they need to be Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story to have worth, or for boys to like them. Who is “mostly friends with guys.” Usually the type who likes nerdy stuff, or maybe “boyish” stuff like sports.
Grown women do this too, so even though it’s addressed to girls, this is for all of us—anyone who identifies as female and is therefore put into these bizarre boxes.
First I want to say, make no mistake—what you’re in is a box. Boys (and men) will tell you that it’s not; that you’re not like other girls, that it’s cool that you can really “be yourself.” But most of the time, these are lies. And I will get to that.
Here are some things I want you to know.
What you eat has nothing to do with how cool you are.
Do you like salad? Do you like rice cakes? Do you like clean and healthy eating? Do you need to eat clean and healthy to maintain the body you want?
Because all of that’s okay.
Look, there’s this fucking weird stigma around vegetables and turkey breast and other healthy shit that’s totally not okay. It affects men too—other men make fun of them when they eat healthy foods; it’s super fucking strange—but like most things having to do with bodies in our culture, it disproportionately affects women and girls. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation: we’re expected to stay thin and fit, but to eat pizza and drink beer and eat Big Macs. Why? I have no fucking clue. But it feels like one more way to control us.
So eat what you want, okay? I recommend considering what you put in your body to anyone; it greatly improves your quality of life. But don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have a salad, that you can’t have a Big Mac, or that you can’t have anything else you want. Don’t let someone make you feel guilty for taking a bigger or a smaller portion. It. Doesn’t. Matter. Not to anyone but you.
You should be free to like Star Wars and video games. You don’t have to like Star Wars and video games. You can have a voice about Star Wars and video games.
I have belonged to sets of people with varying degrees of nerdiness throughout my life. In some of them, I was the giant nerd who knew more about Star Wars than anyone else there. In others, it was weird that I didn’t play video games or have strong feelings about the latest Spiderman movie.
I experienced a constant pressure to live up to the expectations of whatever group I was in to be exactly as nerdy as everyone else there, one direction or the other. In the nerdiest groups, I was even treated like the “girly girl” because I was just not into the idea of playing Dungeons & Dragons or whatever the latest version of it is called, and sat out.
We were expected, as the girls in the group, to be “cool” in a way that the guys weren’t—to prove our nerd badge, we had to know everything about anything we claimed to like.
But—and this is a big “but”—we were not allowed to have an opinion about anything we claimed to like.
I have a friend, this woman a couple years younger than me, who is a total “nerd girl.” She’s super into fantasy, video games, superheroes, and board games. She’s also really knowledgeable about natural medicine, a great writer, has a keen sense of style, and used to be a model. But you don’t hear her talk about that stuff in front of the boys. Her value to them is being “cool;” being the nerd girl.
She also, around the boys, doesn’t talk about stuff like finding the way women are portrayed in video games kinda icky. If anything she takes the “guys’ side” and asserts that women need to stop complaining about how they’re portrayed. But when we’re alone—and I don’t think she even notices that she does this—she talks differently.
Here’s this totally awesome, interesting woman with a perspective on a fantastic variety of topics, and I know her as this well-rounded and fascinating person.
But to the guys, her value is only how cool she makes them feel about themselves, and so she diminishes herself around them. Or I don’t know–maybe it’s more accurate to say they dimish her.
Look, girls. It’s okay to like whatever you actually like. It’s okay to like something but think it could be more inclusive. It’s okay to like something but not another thing even though the people around you like both things. It’s okay to like something they don’t like. Being cool has nothing to do with liking video games or football or Dungeons & Dragons or anything else, and it certainly has nothing to do with not liking girly things.
And as for asserting opinions about those things? Don’t you let anyone tell you that you can’t have them. It’s a huge issue that women find video games aren’t inclusive enough, and often portray women poorly. It’s a huge issue that until the latest Star Wars movies, there were like 3 female characters. It’s okay to think these issues are important.
After all, you can bet your ass the guys aren’t going to think twice before sharing their opinions about the new Ghostbusters movie. So why shouldn’t you?
It’s your pop culture too.
You don’t have to be hot.
It’s pretty sick, really, how these people who prefer “cool girls” pressure them into being everything they want them to be, with the extremely prevalent requirement that they also look like Daenerys Targaryen. Newsflash: not everyone is that kind of hot.
“Nerd girl” should not have to automatically mean “hot nerd girl,” period. Seriously. Gross. You are not a decorative vase. How you look does not determine your value.
You don’t have to distance yourself from feminism.
It’s telling to me that it’s such a common thing with “cool girls” to not only eat, talk, drink and behave like boys (but still be hot like girls), but also to share boys’ opinions. About everything.
Look. Being a feminist just means you believe in equality of the sexes. All those other scary things you think it means are not true. Perhaps that’s what it means to some people, but the truth is that the meaning of feminism is just a belief in equality.
Most women, whether they know it or not, are feminists. Most men are too, even if sometimes they unknowingly support a system that works against women. It’s kind of like racism—most people don’t believe racism is right, even if they are sometimes part of the systemic problem without realizing it. It’s almost impossible not to be, if you’re white. Some amount of ignorance just goes along with privilege.
But the really weird thing to me is—most people will declare vehemently that they’re not racists, even lots of people who actually are. It’s simply not socially acceptable in most circles. But feminism? Tons and tons of people will declare just as vehemently that they’re not feminists. They think it paints a bad picture of them.
“Cool girls” do this all the fucking time. They hang around in these social circles where being a feminist is being the enemy. The people they’re around don’t want that kind of mentality and in fact are often the kind of people who call women “SJWs” on the internet and crack jokes about Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits.
Listen. It’s okay to believe you deserve equality. Standing up for yourself and other women should not make you uncool. “Social justice warrior” is a lame insult because it’s kind of a compliment. If people don’t like your compassion, your sense of justice, and your progressive mentality, they are not your friends. Fuck ‘em.
You can be friends with other women.
This is probably the worst thing that guys have done to “cool girls.” They’ve distanced them from other women.
Growing up, I remember declaring loudly that “most of my friends were guys” and that “I couldn’t be a feminist because I liked men too much.” At the time, I thought I was being cool; being laid back; being open-minded.
But I was just listening to lies.
I kept hearing that I was “not like those other girls” and that I could “take a joke” and that I was “one of the guys.” That kind of inclusion and self-esteem boost is hard to ignore, especially if you’re kind of a lonely, vulnerable kid like I was. So like the social animal I am, I believed the crowd and tried to be more and more like those traits they encouraged.
And I got farther from my female friends, and less true to myself.
Women need other women. Having other female friends, even girly ones, is completely okay. You can have beer and play games with the guys and then go paint your nails and watch Pretty Little Liars with your girlfriend in the same day and that doesn’t make you “the same as all the other girls” or lame or annoying or anything else they might try to make you think.
Distancing you from other women because they make you think it’s the only way to be unique, to stand out, or to be “cool,” is super shitty. Don’t listen to them. Enjoy people, regardless of gender. Surround yourself with people you like and who are good to you. Redefine cool for yourself—cool is whatever you want it to be.
And anyone who really likes you for you will think who you are is cool—in all your complexity, contradictions and habits.
You can wear makeup and pink dresses and like Star Wars. You can wear Batman shirts and sneakers and like going to the gym. You can eat salads and Big Macs and rice cakes and be fatter or thinner or anywhere in between. You can do what you want to. You can like what you want to. You can be what you want to.
Below you’ll see Comic Wisdom’s first chat/interview, with comedian and co-host of the White Wine True Crime! podcast Caitlin Cutt. We’ve done this first one as a back-and-forth chat, but interviews are new for me so I really want your feedback not just on the content but also on the format (I’m considering video & audio)! So please, if you have thoughts–what you like or don’t like, and what you’d like to see in the future–leave them in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And I hope you’ll enjoy our conversation! I feel so lucky to have gotten to talk with Caitlin; she’s hysterical and sharp and her insight was really fascinating. Here goes!
The Grand Opening of Comic Wisdom is coming SO SOON–July 30th! I know you’re excited–but try to be chill.
We’ll also be posting our first chat with comedian and co-host of the podcast White Wine True Crime! Caitlin Cutt on Launch Day! You can check out the podcast here and on Twitter @WWTCrime, and also follow Caitlin on Twitter @bossymatilda. Let her know how excited you are to hear from her and how cool the podcast is!
In the meantime, you can sign up for email notifications–you’ll get a reminder of the launch on Grand Opening Day: