Musings

My Experience Tells Me That It’s Also Women Who Oppress Other Women

My Experience Tells Me That It's Also Women Who Oppress Other Women
Written by Jennifer Nini

Given the way society treats women, it comes as no surprise that many of us women internalise oppression and has us buying into harmful stereotypes, judging and holding each other back. Recently in an email newsletter I shared my thoughts which got the community email replying, texting and WhatsApp messaging us with words of support. 

I didn’t expect my unfiltered words to resonate with so many of our email subscribers or attract the response that it has. As a result, I’ve decided to republish the email here. I hope my story and words serve you well…

Hi guys,

My direct, no-BS communication style sometimes rubs people up the wrong way, and in truth, it’s usually women that it rubs up the wrong way.

How do I know this? Because people gossip about what I’ve said and how I’ve said it and it gets around (tell it to me straight, I adore straight shooters and plus I can ‘handle’ it). It’s women who send me direct messages telling me how ‘brave’ I am for writing this or that, or how ‘ballsy’ I am for speaking out about some of the things I disagree with. It’s women who tell me that they wish they could be more direct but fear “pissing people off”. I even had one woman recently tell me I “get away with it” [sharing my views and opinions] because I am pretty. 

I find this all rather interesting because you see, I believe what holds us back in positions of primary power (I read in the New York Times recently that among heads of state, only 7% are female) is the way we seem to hold women to higher standards and how we expect women to be nice and polite, to speak and behave cordially, to look and present themselves in a certain way before they are listened to, acknowledged, and even accepted. I’m certain some women look around and decide it’s all too hard, having to meet these expectations and struggling with their own personal ‘perfection’ complexes. When I reflect on this, it’s little wonder we women don’t hold more positions of primary power.

Jen Nini wearing Pure Pod top and Nobody jeans

Here I am looking chic in ethically-made Pure Pod top, Nobody Denim repurposed jeans and carrying Re-code upcycled bucket bag made from industrial waste materials! Credit: Ben McGuire

It’s ‘safe’ to talk beauty and fashion, food and travel. But publicly discuss topics outside of these, and watch how others behave (usually they don’t enter into the convo). Watch how few ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ you get on a well-articulated thought on social media that has nothing to do with the ‘safe’ subjects. It’s understandable that we turn to posting photos of ourselves and selfies over and over, looking happy, wearing a cool outfit, eating dinner or drinking champagne, looking sweet and posing somewhere. It’s ‘safe’ and it gets us ‘likes’. Popularity remember, is not the same as profound. 

What I’d love to see more of though is women modelling behaviours and thought processes that are ‘real’. I long for the day when what I say is just what I say and it’s not ‘brave’ or ‘ballsy’ or whatever. I long for the day where women openly discuss rather than privately discuss. The number of ‘off the record’ convos I participate in is frustrating. I am privy to stuff that I wish more people knew about but then, no one wants to ‘go on the record’ because they don’t want to rock the boat. It’s so friggin’ frustrating!

And then we wonder why change and true equality is so slow to achieve.

So how do we help the future generation of women into STEM positions and positions of primary power? How do we achieve true equality?

Model the behaviour. Be the change. Encourage role models from a spectrum of industries and not the ‘safe’ industries of beauty and fashion. Stop picking apart the appearance, hairstyle, family choices, relationship status or whatever of another woman, female politician whatever. And call out others who do this. Speak out and keep doing so. Challenge the status quo, I mean really challenge it. Don’t allow the fear and the bullying of others or pressure to conform, stifle your truth.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. It’s why I will continue to amplify my voice and discuss the topics that matter. May my behaviour serve as encouragement and motivation for other women and men to do the same.

Peace, love and all that jazz, 

Jen aka editor-in-chief xx

So I want to hear from you: What are your thoughts on this? What are your experiences? What do you want to see change and how do you think we can improve? Feel free to leave a comment, thoughts or share your own story below. 

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she launched Eco Warrior Princess to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she’s not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her certified organic farm reconnecting with nature.

3 Comments

  • While I agree with you that oppression and patriarchy are internalized, and often rear their heads in ugly ways in “women’s spaces,” I know I’m surrounded by women, both online and off, who work to find that balance between tactfulness and tackling hard subjects truthfully. Just to name a few, I think Holly from Leotie Lovely, Fran from Ethical Unicorn, Hannah from Life Style Justice, and Alden from EcoCult are all strong, honest women who challenge themselves and each other. I also work to ensure that my blog posts and words are challenging and relevant.

    I think there also tends to be a dichotomy between many women’s “real lives” and online lives. Often, blogging is an outlet for less weighty conversations and interests. We don’t get the full picture.

    And to your point about women being nice and polite, I think we ought to find a balance there, because kindness AND accountability go a long way toward longterm change. One issue with second wave feminism is that it seemed to assume that because men did it, it was empowering. But patriarchy cuts both ways, and some characteristics traditionally associated with femininity – like patience and hospitality – are things everyone should cultivate in themselves WHILE not being afraid to stand up for what’s right.

    • Great point Leah, there are some amazing well-rounded strong women out there, some I admire aren’t even in the blogging or writing space but use other mediums to tackle tough topics. Mel from Fashion Revolution Aus & NZ is someone that immediately comes to mind but there are so many women, too many to list here.

      Ahhh that’s an interesting dichotomy. I’ve heard about the dichotomy between women’s “real lives” and the one portrayed on social media. That is one that comes up again and again in the circles. I was recently asked by a friend who runs a popular site, what software I used to edit my photos on Instagram and I was like, “ummmm I don’t use any”. The reality is that I might use the Insta filters, but most of the time I don’t and I don’t care to learn photo editing because it’s not a skill I want to cultivate. But the exchange got me thinking again about how we portray our lives on these platforms and the pros and cons of social media…

      Now the one false dichotomy that is often raised to me, is the one between beauty and brains. I admit I tire of the beauty and fashion talk and that’s not an attack on the industries (because that would make me a hypocrite since I LOVE LOVE LOVE fashion) but rather, that I crave discussion outside of these subjects (I have been known to say, ok, changing the subject, so what do you think of what’s happening with [insert political or social issue here]). I also get perplexed with the ‘dumb model’ stereotype and exasperated with the ‘if you love politics, why the heck do you follow fashion?’ question. Some people like to pigeonhole others so they can feel like they’ve worked them out tsk tsk.

      Now I love reading bloggers sites but I don’t have the chance I to read them as much as I one did given that time is in short supply given all my responsibilities and priorities. I do recall people being funny with the word ‘blogger’ and I remember thinking, well call yourself a writer then. For me it’s the word ‘influencer’. Must we commodify everything? I think the blogging community has changed a lot over the years since the focus on monetisation became a real thing, but there are still some bloggers who really care about the quality of work and I’m thankful (some of whom you’ve mentioned and I would include you in that too, as well as Summer from Tortoise and Lady Grey from the top of my head)

      And I agree with your last point, you’re right there should be balance although I think we still have a long way to go yet with gender barriers and issues. Like if I consider ageing parents or caring for children – why should it be expected that the woman/sister/daughter be the one to care for them? And why should naughtiness be more tolerated in boys than in girls? And why aren’t breadwinning and caregiving roles seen as equally important? We have a long way to go yet with gender resocialisation. The one podcast show that really blew my mind on this topic is the Freakonomics one about gender barriers, one I think everyone should listen to (You can find it here: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/gender-barriers/). Years ago I actually worked in IT recruitment where I would help to secure contracts for senior consultants, negotiating daily rates of upwards of $1200 per day. Then the GFC hit and I was made redundant and got a job in an ‘economic-proof’ position: recruiting within the health and medical fields, hiring nurses, doctors and medical/health staff. When I moved to the country where jobs were hard to come by, I worked in employment services dealing with our most disadvantaged and those on the ‘low-socioeconomic rung’ of society. And I often wondered: why is it that nurses and care staff get paid so much less than those IT project managers who only exist to save or make their companies millions? Why is it that the community reaction of a woman going to prison and disappointing her family is much worse than a man going to prison and disappointing his family?…

      Anyway thanks as always Leah for such a thoughtful comment. I can feel my mind turning….

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