Women shaming other women

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This post has been sitting in my draft folder for a couple of weeks now, or at least the mostly blank page, bar a couple of little notes.  I resisted writing it because if I had done so when I first saved it, it would have been a huge, angry, one-sided rant, mostly fueled by my sensitive nature; I get so damn offended, so damn easily.  On top of that I have this huge problem with not feeling good enough, with feeling as though everyone judges me, with feeling as though I don’t fit in.

What was it that sent me into this whirl of anger and… well, pissed-off-ed-ness?  Fifty Shades of Grey.  That’s what.

When the movie was finally released and reviews began rolling in, I started to get defensive.  Everything I read (and I’m not exaggerating when I say everything) in that first 24 hours suggested that if a woman wanted to see the movie, there was something badly wrong with her.  Amongst the reviews were people suggesting anyone who saw the movie was insulting all the women who fought so hard for women’s rights,  that they were essentially saying it was acceptable for men to control women in all senses of the word

Before I turn this into the rant it would have been a couple of weeks ago, I’ll move on…

What I realised, after a long talk with my wife, is that women are far too good at shaming other women.  No, not all women do this, but it seems women are judged for almost everything they do, that if they don’t do things a particular way, if they don’t feel a particular way about something, then they are scum.  Or this is how it seems to me anyway.

I always knew women could be bitchy, but it wasn’t until I became a parent that I realised just how nasty women can be to one another.  To start with, I was a single parent… there was a look I used to get, always from other women, the type of look that said ‘something is obviously wrong with her if she can’t hold down a man‘, then there is the ‘I bet she got pregnant after a one-night-stand and didn’t even know the guy’s name‘.  Not only was I a single parent, I was a single parent who gave birth via cesarean section – twice – and formula fed both babies.

To a lot of women, cesarean section seems to equal taking unwarranted risks, and endangering the life of mother and baby; similarly when it comes to formula feeding, it seems to equal not caring about what is best for your own child, being completely ignorant, and putting your own needs ahead of your child.  What BOTH of these scenarios in particular have in common, is that all the judgement thrown around makes those who didn’t have a natural birth and/or  didn’t breastfeed feel as if there is something wrong with them as a woman.

I remember being told by more than one person “Women’s bodies are created to give birth naturally” – and I knew this actually meant “you’re not a real woman because you opted to have your baby arrive via a surgical procedure” or “I went through 20 hours of labour, I deserve to be proud… you had a 45-minute-long surgery and didn’t do any hard work, pfffft, and you call yourself a woman?!”

My first cesarean was an emergency delivery, my second was because my anxiety disorder meant I was terrified of the process of giving birth, terrified of being the one responsible for bringing a baby into the world, being responsible for making sure she entered the outside world without dying.  To say I was terrified is an understatement.  Do I wish I could have delivered naturally?  Yes, I do.  I had dreams of a waterbirth with my first, and fantasised about a homebirth with my second.  I wasn’t strong enough to fight the anxiety-ridden part of my brain.

I lost count of the number of people who commented “Oh…. so you’re not breastfeeding?” when they realised I was feeding either of my babies with a bottle.  It was always said with shock, with disappointment, with disgust even.  I managed to give my eldest breastmilk until she was 14 days old and my second until she was four or five days old.  I TRIED MY HARDEST.

Those people who gave me the look had no idea of the hours I’d spent crying, upset because I couldn’t do what I should naturally be able to as a woman.  They had no idea how much I hated myself for not being able to perform this one task other women seemed to be able to do no-handed.  They had no idea how depressed it made me, how guilty I felt, how inferior, how useless, how worthless it made me feel.  I saw a lactation consultant in hospital with my youngest, but that was the one time she actually fed well.  She told me I would do fine.  I left the hospital and it was just me.  No nurses to help latch her on, to talk me through what I was doing.

One of my problems was my relatively flat nipples, the other was the fact my boobs are HUGE.  My babies DID get smothered by my boobs while they were feeding, the nurses at the hospital told me, the midwives told me, I could see it myself.  I tried all the positions I could to find the one that worked, but none of them did, not for me.  As I said, hours were spent crying about it.  Rather than enjoying breastfeeding for the bonding experience it should have been, I dreaded it…  I was told flat out by THREE people that big boobs isn’t an excuse not to breastfeed… but how would they know?  They had normal-sized boobs and more than that, they had the support at home, someone to sit and help them try to reposition the baby, to speak words of encouragement.

I already felt bad enough about not having the natural births I wanted, about not being able to breastfeed for 12+ months… but other women made me feel worse, a lot worse.

And this is how I am made to feel about wanting to see the Fifty Shades movie, and having read the books.  All three of them.

Do I think the story is an accurate depiction of a BDSM relationship, or the BDSM lifestyle?  No.
Do I think the relationship in the story is healthy?  Not particularly.
Do I think the story is well written?  No… I don’t.
Do I want to see the movie for any deep, philosophical reason?  No.  I want to go because… SEX!  Sex.  I love sex and seeing sex in movies.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, their own thoughts on the matter, their own reasons for liking or disliking something… but should that opinion entitle us to shame another woman for liking or disliking something?  For doing or not doing something?Hell.  No.

All the articles and posts on social media that pissed me off, I could have responded to negatively, starting an argument; but I didn’t because I know every single person who states an opinion on a matter does so for their own reasons!  It’s not the opinions that get to me, it is the attitude of ‘I believe ____________, so if you don’t believe __________ as well, there is something wrong with you’.  It’s the ‘I’m looking down on you for wanting to _____________’ / ‘I’m looking down on you because you did/didn’t _____________’ attitude.

It’s the seeming desire to make other people feel inferior for living their life in a different way; for choosing a particular parenting method, for formula-feeding rather than breastfeeding, for liking a certain band, for liking a certain author, for liking a certain genre of movie, for being in any relationship other than a heterosexual monogamous one, for having a particular kink, for having a particular job, for liking sex, for not liking sex, for their weight, for their fashion sense, for wanting children, for not wanting children.

As you can tell, this is something that has really been eating away at me!!!  If you are still following, I applaud you.  I just wish people would focus on the positive things to have come out of the ‘whole Fifty Shades thing’.

Alternative relationships are being spoken about!  Never has BDSM been spoken about so much in the mainstream, and I think it’s great.  It’s not something that should be hidden, it is something that should be spoken about, that people should be informed about, that people shouldn’t feel ashamed for feeling curious about!

What constitutes abuse in a relationship is something else being spoken about.  The relationship between Ana and Christian has made people consider what abuse looks like in a relationship, that it’s not always as obvious as a black eye or a fat lip.

People are discussing what is healthy and what isn’t healthy in a relationship, about control and manipulation, about sexual abuse, about the importance of consent, the need for communication.SEX is finally being spoken about in a wider context, and I think it’s brilliant. … I would love to know how many people, after reading the books or seeing the movie, have decided to explore their own little kinks?

Imagine a world where spanking was something openly spoken about in the break room at work.  When you could tell tales about that time you tried out those really intense nipple clamps.  Or maybe about that time you tied him up and flogged him.

Okay, I doubt the above would ever happen, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that the world would be a better place if we could be more open about sex… and perhaps Fifty Shades is going to play a tiny little part in helping us evolve toward that point.

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