As young, intersectional feminists we’re taught the importance of women supporting women, of helping other women to rise up.
We subscribe to shine theory, in which powerful women befriend each other and support each other, rather than compete and try to push the other down.
But women are still just humans. And humans will sometimes do things we disagree with or don’t like. So as a feminist, when is it ok to criticize other women?
This is something I’ve genuinely struggled with, both as a writer and as a person living her life. I’m not immune to gossip, but I’d like to think I wouldn’t tear down other women publicly just because I have Twitter at my fingertips.
Some situations are obvious, of course. I would never in a million years critique another woman’s body or appearance. That’s just off limits. And in the same vein, I condemn all those tabloid-run “Who Wore It Best,” whose only purpose is to degrade women down to the shallowest of appearances and pit two women against each other unnecessarily.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are some faux pas that I could never ignore. Kendall and Kylie’s continual cultural appropriation with no regard for the consequences needs to be condemned.
But there are so many instances that fall in the gray area for me. Lena Dunham, for example, has made a habit of saying unwise and insensitive remarks while under the guise of feminism. Her most recent incident involved her decision to defend a sexual offender. This disgusts me on every level. That a woman would refuse to believe the account of another woman, especially a victim, is one of the reasons victims are afraid to come forward. But would me condemning Dunham be the solution?
And diving even deeper into the gray area, I find myself face to face with Taylor Swift. Taylor is clearly not a malicious or bad person in any right. But I do disagree with her decision to remain silent on all things political. My guess is that it was a business decision on her end – she weighed the pros and cons and decided it was not worth it to upset her Trump-supporting fans. Again, this is merely conjecture. For all I know she stays mum because she just doesn’t give a shit about politics. I don’t agree with Taylor’s decision but are her (non)actions so horrible that she deserves a public lashing? So horrendous that I should put negative energy out into the world at the expense of another woman? Especially one who has many, many other wonderful qualities to her.
Of course, we as women, like most humans, are multi-faceted and imperfect. And obviously not every imperfection deserves an entire rant dedicated to it. So where do we draw the line?
Personally, I’m going to try to air on the side of hesitant critique. If I see something clearly morally wrong, I would never turn a blind eye. But if I simply disagree with another woman’s decisions? Then shine on, babe.