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Feminspire | April 17, 2014

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Girl Hate is Not Okay (Even When it’s Against Ann Coulter)

Girl Hate is Not Okay (Even When it’s Against Ann Coulter)

As feminist issues the world over continue to gain recognition and support, there is a significant problem that has yet to be addressed, though it may be one of the strongest barriers holding us back: girl hate.

Feminism will never feel like a chapter out of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but the practice of women attacking women instead of working through differing opinions to affect change only keeps us from moving forward. In order for feminism to grow, women must be able to respect other women’s choices, though they may disagree, and continue a constructive dialogue on why feminism exists and what it supports.

Sometimes this is as simple as explaining to women who are opposed to labeling themselves as feminists that at its core, feminism is the effort to create equality of the sexes and genders, a goal that all of us should be able to stand behind.

When Katy Perry accepted the title of Billboard’s “Woman of the Year” by saying “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women,” many of us cocked our heads to the side in confusion, wondering why the singer just said something equivalent of, “I don’t like chocolate, but I’m a HUGE fan of Godiva!”

I respect Katy Perry’s opinion that women are strong – in fact, I agree 100 percent. What I don’t agree with is her misinformed view that her opinion isn’t backed by feminism. By equating that it isn’t, she is putting down all the efforts of women who advocate the strength of women through feminism, and that in turn hurts all women.

When it comes to more polarizing feminist topics, instead of discussing ideas, people sometimes validate their opinions by directing their anger at women for being women, which is particularly harmful if done by women themselves.

One such topic is that of bodily autonomy and abortion, where we have women such as CEO and President of Concerned Women for America Penny Nance, who argues that a woman’s control of her body stops the second she becomes pregnant, even when that pregnancy is the result of rape.

“It is very difficult to talk about the rape issue because it is such a horrific crime,” Nance has said. “We understand, though, that the hopeful message is one of life. We don’t want to further injure women who have been raped and the baby doesn’t know the difference… we consistently believe in life, and we believe in a life of the mother exception.”

And instead of discussing birth control as a means to protect women from unplanned pregnancy, poverty, high rates of abortion and as a human right to have control over our reproductive health, we have women calling each other sluts for their choices of sexual expression, and some actively campaigning to restrict or eliminate those rights.

Instead of discussing equality in the workplace, including equal pay and equal opportunities for promotion, women are being called unfeminine or described as having “anti-family” values when they decide to eschew motherhood for career goals, or god forbid when they try to “have it all” by balancing the two. On this topic we have author Suzanne Venker, who shames women for not allowing nature to take its course by stepping aside and letting men rule over them. “Men want to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them,” Venker writes in her Fox News editorial, “The War on Men.” By not offering women the same choices that men unquestionably have in balancing a career and other values, all women lose, both the single female CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the stay-at-home mom.

In essence, girl hate is women’s denial of women’s rights by victimizing women instead of advocating the goals of freedom of choice and individualism for us all. 

A prime example of girl hate surfaced last week from journalist Ann Coulter, who referred to women who advocate for freedom of reproductive choice as being “murderers.” Her comments brought me such frustration on behalf of womankind that I began to feel the very thing I am writing against, a hatred for Ms Coulter for speaking those words against us.

In such moments I have likened Ann Coulter to a robot designed by the patriarchy, one made to systematically set the women’s rights movement back by decades each time she opens her mouth.

However, in a more likely reality, Ann Coulter is just an extreme conservative who argues against liberal points of view on controversial topics. Comments she makes in her books, television appearances, speeches and syndicated newspaper column are sometimes followed by “I’m kidding,” but it is often hard to tell.

One example of this was in 2006, when Coulter said “We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ crème brulee,” speaking of the partial writer of the Supreme Court opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe v. Wade. “That’s just a joke, for you in the media.”

More recently, Coulter used an opportunity when speaking on Fox News about gun control to support the idea that we should have a public record of the names and addresses of women who receive abortions.

In the context of the news segment, Coulter may have thought her argument made sense: After the tragic mass shooting that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut in December, New York newspaper the Journal News published the names and addresses of residents with handgun licenses who lived in the paper’s area of coverage.

But instead of staying on the topic of gun control during her appearance, Coulter went on to propose the release of names of recently-paroled criminals, celebrity body guards, rent-controlled apartment tenants and women who’ve had abortions.

“I think mothers might want to know what other women on their street might be willing to murder a child,” Coulter said.

By Coulter’s logic, women who have had abortions are now on par with mass murders.

Ms Coulter has the right to her opinions, regardless of how misguided we perceive them to be. However, no matter how limited access to abortion may be, abortion is legal – murder is not. Nor is access to anyone else’s medical records, which would be an invasion of privacy, which is also why abortion is legal under Roe v. Wade.

Coulter’s argument does not add to the discourse of gun control or reproductive health. It unfairly oppresses women by shaming a human right that we feminists have fought to maintain.

If we ever want to see progress in women’s rights, we have to stop the repression of women, and that starts on an individual level. We must understand that when we turn other women into villains for their choices, we’re putting a person before an outcome.

And yes, I guess this even applies to Ann Coulter.

Instead of hating on Coulter, we should direct our anger toward the restriction of reproductive rights. Instead of hating other women for their choices, we should hate the patriarchy and the boxes it tries to confine us to. We should use these opportunities to build better arguments, to educate, and to come together as a united force.

If we can’t count on each other for support, on who the hell can we?

Written by Lauren Slavin

  • Liane Graham

    I don’t understand. I can’t hate Ann Coulter, even though I think she’s an abhorrent person with twisted values, just because she’s a woman? I didn’t make her a villain, and she certainly isn’t one because she’s a woman — she just sucks because she SUCKS. I don’t have to give special respect to people who say things I find offensive just because we are of the same gender.

  • ER

    I’m a little confused by this article, to be perfectly honest. Of course slut-shaming instead of addressing underlying socioeconomic realities in our country is a bad way to go about the discussion of abortion and birth control. Of course HIPAA (rightly) prevents people from publishing lists of women who have had abortion, and of course those lists shouldn’t be published anyways (not to mention the other groups she discusses– I find the recently paroled criminals suggestion particularly gross, given the realities of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and recidivism in this country). Shaming women for their choices because they are women or because they do not conform to misogynistic patriarchal standards is wrong, and especially sad when done by women because of internalized misogyny. But disliking someone because they are an absolutely hateful public figure who spews venom rife with sexism and particularly nasty ableism? That is not wrong. That is, in fact, right. Ann Coulter might have a right to her hateful biases– but I don’t think they’re misguided, I think they are wrong, offensive, and gross. And I’m pretty much okay with disliking her for those reasons, regardless of her gender.

    In any case, I would argue that feminists *are* talking about internalized misogyny– it has not simply gone unrecognized. It is a problem; misogyny is pervasive and depressing in today’s society, and it reproduces itself in the minds of women just as much as the minds of men. But internalized misogyny is not the same as disliking any particular woman– and to say otherwise, to me, is sort of missing the point.

    Then again, perhaps I am misreading this article somehow– I would welcome a response or discussion, if you have further thoughts!

    (I am also interested in the choice of the word “girl” for the title. If it was a specific choice, I’d love to hear why.)

    • The_Mazziah

      Agree with you 1000,000 over!

    • LK

      I don’t understand what people are finding so confusing about this article — it’s pretty straightforward. We should be fighting the system, not each other, and not damning other women for their choices. We need to work together. At least, that’s what I got out of it.

      You can hate women like Ann Coulter for their views but they aren’t the real problem, only representative of it.

      • ER

        But we’re a part of the system– misogyny and patriarchy do not and cannot function in a vacuum. I’m not saying blind hatred is the solution– it isn’t, and I don’t hate Ann Coulter, though I find her views repugnant. But saying that you can’t critique women for their internalized misogyny (or other biases, as my distaste for Coulter stems more from her gross and ableist comments than anything else) is also not the solution.

        Don’t shame women for being women, don’t damn them for the decisions they make with their bodies. Yes. But Ann Coulter and people like her are not working together with me, no matter how I feel about them– my critique will not change that. They are symptomatic of a deeper problem, but they are also perpetuating the problem– and that is something that we need to talk about, criticize, and argue against.

      • Emily Vrotsos

        That makes a lot of sense. Thank you for articulating it, especially the last sentence.

    • http://twitter.com/misssunshineUD miss sunshine

      “I am also interested in the choice of the word “girl” for the title. If it was a specific choice, I’d love to hear why.”

      “Girl hate” is that thing where girls and young women (who still call themselves girls) say things like “I hate other girls, they’re all mean and bitchy” and similar, or as a group they hate on other girls for really pathetic reasons (e.g. jealousy).
      Rookie had an article on it: http://rookiemag.com/2011/09/getting-over-girl-hate/ :)
      It’s obviously not something that stops in young adulthood though, since it’s still common to hate on women in the same way as we all get older.

  • Yvette

    YES THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING THIS.

  • KM

    This is a bit of a confused article, but I think I understand. In general, I think, it’s a more specific form of not demonizing the enemy. It’s easy to reduce a person to their one bad quality, like thinking of Ann Coulter only as a mislead, twisted idiot. It’s just so damn easy because that’s all we see of her, and it’s easiest to think that way. But we kinda have to remember that she’s a woman too.

  • P

    sharing this with literally every person i know. thank you.

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  • MarlenaRae

    eh. I don’t think it’s my job as a woman or as a feminist to support every other women and not criticize her; that’s some second wave bullshit. I do think we should focus on ideas and action rather than individual people, though.

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  • http://twitter.com/NanoJr5 fernando Rivera Jr.

    Well, here’s what Ann Coulter had to say about feminism fairly recently:
    ,
    “I think civil rights are for blacks, not feminists” – Ann Coulter.

    She said this on ABC about a year ago. You can search this quote in Google to find video of her saying this.

    “If we ever want to see progress in women’s rights, we have to stop the repression of women, and that starts on an individual level” – This article

    Can you please explain why stopping repression of women starts on an individual level? First of all, Ann Coulter isn’t repressed, she’s incredibly well known and respected by many, and second of all, any hate Ann Coulter gets isn’t because she’s female, it’s because she’s an empty headed bigot. Ann Coulter is very influential, she writes books and gives speeches. People listen to her and believe what she says. She’s hurting your cause, and it doesn’t matter that she’s female.

    “If we can’t count on each other for support, on who the hell can we?”

    Well, you can’t count on Ann Coulter, she’s insane and probably hates you.

  • Daniel Paulhus

    I’m fairly certain Coulter is disliked for her oppressive views against pretty much every racial and social minority/emerging majority in her country, not because of the parts she was born with. Any man saying the things she says would be cast down without hesitation by the masses of the sane populace. Sure, feminism can start on an individual level. But so does stopping oppression and the restriction of basic human rights.
    Unless I misinterpreted the article, you’re telling me we can’t lash out and tear this person down over their absolutely horrifying and outdated views on how society should function because we have to promote the strength of women and she is a woman? By all means, power to women, but there is a line that has to be drawn. Marriage “is not a civil right — you’re not black,” according to Ann Coulter on the topic of homosexual marriage and the homosexual population’s long enduring struggle to make it acceptable within America.

    Seriously you are okay with this person just because she is a woman and you don’t want to oppress a woman’s views because you think that is in turn translating to the oppression of all women?

    It doesn’t. It’s the oppression of ignorance, something this world needs more of quite frankly. She has very one dimensional views that don’t make sense within the mindsets of most of society. She has a following but they are held in the same regard as her by the majority of people, just not as publicized…
    I’m all for empowering women and achieving a true sense of equality within society between genders, but there has to be a limit. Being a woman can’t entitle you to blind support from other women no matter how twisted, cruel and ignorant your cause or views are. No man gets that, I don’t see why we’re going to start with Ann Coulter. She’s a monster and has no concept on how hurtful and uneducated she is on human function, let alone the pursuit of a functioning society.

    Cast her down because she is an idiot, not because she is a woman. Ann Coulter has nothing to do with feminism besides her gender. And really, we should stop attributing gender to feminism too. She’s a human being with villainous views she created for herself. Her views make her, by definition, a villain in most first world societies. She represents views not shared by the youth of today. And they are horrible oppressive views. She made herself the villain of society, not anyone else.
    And villains can’t be ignored, that’s exactly what happened with Hitler. He not only called for oppression but managed to enforce it, because society stood by and let him. Are you really going to take nothing from history, and let oppressive people continue to try and promote that kind of treatment towards people of BOTH genders?

    I could rant further but fuck I’m about to lose it because of how poorly thought out the last half of your article was. Ann Coulter is a monster who represents a host of awful things, but definitely does not encompass the female gender. Everything that makes up her creates what we call a moron. And morons are gender neutral.