Girl power — a phrase that has surrounded me since I can remember. Empowering women has been part of the feminist movement long before I was born, but started to take drastic strides in the past decade. After reading Time Magazine’s “Firsts: Women Leaders Who Are Changing the World,” a project on the stories of successful women, this month it’s not hard to find iconic women who embody what it means to change the world. And although it is amazing to see how the world can change for the better when everyone has the opportunity to go after their dreams, “girl power” and its definition has morphed into something else entirely.
On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and in most articles about female success stories, there is one common theme: women should lift each other up. However, the “women should lift each other up” mantra is typically paired with “instead of tearing each other down.” There is a culture now that women should be supportive of other women no matter what – because we are female. And that is an extremely limiting mindset.
Although it is crucial for women to be there for one another, people who are blindly pro-woman are actually doing a disservice to them by avoiding real constructive criticism and dialogue. If women choose to blindly support other women solely on their gender, then this implies that we have lost the ability to think critically and judge fairly.
Owning one’s voice is important to becoming an independent and thoughtful person. Although there is nothing wrong with women supporting women, it is important for us to remain critical. According to Forbes, GW’s student body is composed of mostly women – 58 percent during the 2016-17 academic year. That’s a whole lot of female students who wish to make power moves both in and out of college. We are setting the bar for those who come after us, whether at GW or elsewhere. It’s important that we’re satisfied with the image that we pass down to future women.
This culture of women being pro-women stems from the history of us not being supportive of each other. In a study by professor and researcher Tracy Vaillancourt with The Royal Society Journal, she argues that women compete with each other as a form of indirect aggression in order to become socially and sexually attractive. Although I believe that this theory is more scientific and less to the individual interactions women have with each other, it’s important to keep in mind that this competitiveness often happens unconsciously.
Criticism, for me, isn’t something I say because I dislike a person or want them to feel bad. It’s because I see an issue, and think that something can be done to fix or help that problem. But sometimes the truth hurts. I’d rather have women criticize me than ignore the problem and watch me fail without speaking up. Women are still fighting for their right to be treated equally, and that means women themselves must help each other, but doing so blindly hurts us all.
Renee Pineda, a junior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.
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This article appeared in the September 14, 2017 issue of the Hatchet.