|We are all enough.|
Sansa Stark likes lemon biscuits, dresses and stories about brave knights and elegant girls. She is everything a young noblewoman from Westeros should be. She survives in the lion’s laver with the Lannister’s, because of which nearly all her family had perished and succeeds in surviving where the elderly and physically stronger than her would have died. Despite this, Sansa Stark is one of the most hated characters in the Game of Thrones. When we talk about empowering female characters from the Song of Ice and Fire, we mention Daenerys, Cersei, Brienne and Sansa’s younger sister Arya Stark, characters who are all more or less resistant to traditional perceptions of women and have characteristics that are often associated with men. Sansa is not like that. Sansa is not as cruel as Joffrey nor depraved as Ramsay Snow – she is polite and feminine, which is why some see her as a weaker figure than other women in the series, and others openly despise her.
“This is what frustrates me,” said Sophie Turner who plays Sansa. “People don’t like Sansa because she is feminine. It annoys me that people only like the feminine characters when they act like male characters. And they always go on about feminism. Like, you’re rooting for the people who look like boys, who act like boys, who fight like boys. Root for the girls who wear dresses and are intellectually very strong.”
This attitude does not stop just at fictional characters. When she was only 13 years old and just started to act in The Game of Thrones, Turner admitted that accidental passers approached her on the street and said they did not like Sansa while at the same time praising her sister from the series Arya, played by Maisie Williams.
The most common arguments are: Sansa is boring, Sansa is passive, Sansa only cries. Arya fights, Sansa dreams of knights.
This is not the case that people whose gender presentation is more feminine are more or less worthy of somebody else’s approval – what the problem is that femininity is constantly equated with weakness, that the persons who are feminine are not respected and that they are written off as empty-headed weakling without any affect on their own lives, which is as sexist as punishing people who do not fit into traditional gender roles.
Conviction of different types of femininity can be seen even when we talk about the differences between “me” and “other girls”. Many of us want to be Arya, with a sword in her hand and a list of people she wants to kill, but Sansa, who says that the ladies’ armor is courtesy, is another story. The same thing is on the other side of the screen and out of the book pages.
We are constantly comparing ourselves to others. She wears short skirts, I wear a punk t-shirt. She plays tennis, my kill / death ratio in Battlefield 4 is the best on the server. She listens to pop music and bleaches her hair, I have undercut and cry at The Antlers. I’m not like other girls.
We know who in this case is “I” that is not as “other girls”. We watch her in music videos, read about her in books and meet her in popular films. She is Katniss Everdeen, who is not burdened by her appearance, but is still attractive, who frowns and is surprised by women that beautify themselves and condemns them because of shallowness. She is Arya Stark, who says most girls are stupid. She is Taylor Swift in You Belong with Me and Avril Lavigne in Girlfriend, alternative, different, and hence better and more suitable than “other girls”.
But who are the “other girls”? Who are these hordes of evil girls who only care about superficial stuff and creating unnecessary drama, while I am well read, sophisticated and prefer male company because women are simply dreadful harpies who will stab me in the back as soon as I turn? Who are these girls who are moving in packs and at whose reverberating laughter I lift my nose thinking that they are stupid, what is the stereotype, how am I not like them, how am I better than them?
Here’s an amazing surprise and hot water – in reality there is not such a thing. “Other girls” are the fabrication that is feed to us from an early age, ever since we found out what was “for girls” and what was not. Pink is for girls, make up is for girls, high heels and short skirts are for women.
Dresses and butterflies are served to us from all sides, at the same time showing us how women and girls are inferior and that everything that had been characterized as feminine is bad and worthy of mockery. There is no good way of performing gender on the female spectrum, because femininity in girls is not appreciated. It humiliates them or sexualizes them, or both.
Girls are taught that it’s ok to be hostile to the other girls, and this hatred is internalized by rhetoric “I’m special, not like any other girl,” as if it’s bad to be a woman. It teaches us that “other girls” are probably crazy for boys and obsessed with their own looks. All the covers and posters intended for women tells us that we need to be more beautiful, younger, and slimmer. That we are not good enough.
We perceive one another as a threat, and therefore we hate our own kin and we praise that we are not like other girls, we are proud that we reject the standards of beauty and femininity that society is trying to impose while mocking all that embraces them.
Internalized misogyny has not brought any good to anyone, and it is not that the society of people who identify themselves as women is more receptive when dressing more butch, or prefer an appearance closer to what society generally considers to be “male.”
We cannot stand young girls because they are young no matter how feminine they may be. Feminine features and form of conduct are devalued because they are linked with women, and women and girls who are doing things coded as “male” are hated because they refuse to adjust to the standard of femininity.
No wonder that from such a contradictory attitude arises an attitude like “I’m not like other girls”. Nobody wants to be ridiculed and humiliated with everyone else, so we try to rise above it all, walking over other women and girls just to succeed and survive, as if we are each other’s biggest enemies. It is time to stop teach girls to hate each other.
Society is very interested in young girls, it has always been. But what all these articles tell us, what we watch on TV, we read in the newspapers and listen to the news, about Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball, about Taylor Swift and her failed relationships and songs written about them, about Rihanna and her transparent dress with Swarovski crystals, is not that we care about these, young girls, about their welfare or morals.
What we do care about are these mythical other girls on who we project all of our cultural anxiety. We are sexualizing young women, and at the same time we panic when they dear to show their sexuality in their own way in which we did not explicitly determined.
Countless musicians, mostly men, have built up successful career on songs about all the girls they used to date, but at the same time Taylor Swift is attacked because she writes about her ex-boyfriends.
Paparazzi are tracking well-known girls all over the world, while at the same time the whole internet is scolded over the selfie culture and the fact that young women have the power to control how they want to show themselves to the world for the first time after a long time. We teach girls that dresses and pink and fairy tales about princes and princesses are for them, but we hate Sansa Stark for the same reason. We appreciate and judge girls as objects of desire or contempt and sometimes both, without considering them as individuals. Identifying itself as a woman is sufficiently complicated and difficult without moral panic, expectations and lusts pervading guilt that entire culture projects on girls, women and teenagers who are expected to be empty shelters just waiting to be defined and given meaning by others because of course that they are not allowed to identify themselves as they wish.
Destroy the idea that “I’m not like other girls” is a good attitude, and that it’s okay to despise and condemn (OTHER) young women. The other girls are just as real as Cinderella or Snow White. Let’s break, totally, with the mentality that one type of femininity better than the other.
Dear misogyny: we are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together.