I Was a Cool Girl
Women can’t drive.
Women aren’t good at sports or video games.
Women are crazy.
Women are selfish.
Women are materialistic.
Women are gold-digging sluts.
During my early twenties, these were all things with which I readily agreed when my guy friends said them. Not necessarily because I agreed wholesale, but because I felt like I was different from other women. I was smart, geeky, and not into “drama.” I liked men better than women and wanted them to like me — as friends or as boyfriends.
So I put other women down. I told sexist jokes and laughed at them when they were told. I rolled my eyes at movies and TV shows with female leads. I thought I was better than most women.
And get this — I identified as a feminist even then.
I was a bad feminist. I was plagued with internalized misogyny. Worst of all, I didn’t call people out when they laughed about or advocated sexual harassment or assault. I had male friends who actually admitted to having sex with women who were passed out. Did I blame my friends? No. I blamed the women. It was their fault for getting drunk. It was their fault for being friendly with the guy. It was just…their fault.
I can’t point to a single incident that snapped me out of this woman-hating mode of thought. I was sexually assaulted by friends and boyfriends. I was stalked and harassed by strange men. I also met women who didn’t match the stereotypes I’d learned. Eventually, I started to have more female friends than male friends. Then the scales tipped back a bit until my friend group was more balanced. As I matured, I realized that stereotypes are stupid and sexist jokes are harmful. I realized that both men and women can be toxic—or awesome.
I also realized just how pervasive sexual violence is — against both men and women—and how readily people excuse it. I made a promise to myself to stop telling sexist jokes, to stop throwing other women under the bus to make myself look better, to stop assuming I knew everything about other people’s lives and situations. I took responsibility for my biases and worked to correct them. And most importantly, I stopped wanting to be a “cool girl” and instead strived to be a good woman.