By: Marie Cantor
In today’s media, we have seen many realistic women enter our screens. Film and television production companies are finally seeing the value of creating three dimensional, complex female characters. Now, the flaws of these female characters are central to their behavior, which is quite different from the past where women were either seen as perfect or as victims. In this new era of media and female representation, we are beginning to accept women for their flaws. Women, just like everyone else, are humans, and are therefore flawed as well.
On December 19th, 2018, I confronted my middle school bully. And when I say “confront,” I mean I wrote a lengthy message on
Facebook. When I say “bully,” I mean a girl that loudly insulted me in my 8th grade English class. It’s not the most conventional bully story, but nonetheless, it affected me in more ways than just one.
Let me set the scene for you. I am 13 years old, wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt and low-rise jeans. My English class smells as if every adolescent drowned themselves in expired Axe body spray. When I stood up from my seat, “Susan” shouted an insult at me pertaining to my appearance. Looking back, I can almost justify the remark since I did take fashion advice from the early 2000s, despite the fact that it was 2012.
The class grew quiet. All eyes were on me. I felt like a street performing monkey who had just failed the magic trick. From what I remember, I laughed awkwardly in order to appear as if I were in on the joke.
Even though this might seem insignificant, this moment stuck with me. As the years passed, I grew more curious as to why Susan did this. We were never enemies, friends, or even frenemies. We barely knew each other. Of course, I can now attribute her anger to the awkward years of middle school, or maybe to the fact that she needed an outlet for that anger. But I wanted an answer.
So, I found her on Facebook and decided to send a message. I attempted to write the best message a person could write in this situation—unaccusatory and understanding. I had immediate senders regret, but there was no turning back.
A couple days pass and I get a response:
Hey love, even though I may not remember I still want to apologize. That was very rude of me and I can only imagine how bad my comment made you feel I am very sorry. I hope you know that you were beautiful and talented and all that you do always believe in yourself and strive for your full potential.
That wasn’t the response I had wanted.
To be frank, I expected too much from the situation. I can’t deny that her message was kind, but it was also safe. And safe in the way of disingenuousness. I realized that the message was in response to drama from 8 years prior, and that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t receive as satisfying of an answer as I had hoped for.
I may never get a why from Susan, and that’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t owe me any explanation for something that was trivial middle school angst.
I think what struck me was the overwhelming positive support I received by others on Facebook. No one questioned my morals. There were just blind compliments. The positive reinforcement, however nice it was, felt strange.
It felt strange because I am not a perfect individual. I am flawed. I am not the airbrushed and groomed femme-fatal of cinema’s past. I am not a victim. I, the bullied, was also a bully. I have been confronted by someone who I had bullied 10 years ago. Fortunately, we were able to talk, move past it, and build a strong friendship.
One slogan used by many feminists is “Babes Supporting Babes.” To many people, it is used to support other women. And while I am wholeheartedly for female empowerment, this phrase is support at a surface level. Support should not mean blind reassurance of our beauty and our talent, as Susan had told me. Support is accepting the flaws that are found within us and grabbing them by the throat. We must embrace our flaws through moments of self-conflict and self-reflection–– like the urge to message a bully at 3am. A babe supports another babe by challenging her to overcome the obstacles that society brings.
Women are taken advantage of when they are seen as perfect. Women should be seen as flawed individuals who have to prove themselves just as much as the next person. For decades, the image of the “flawless women” was an excuse to see her as inferior–– “The flawless must be dumb.” I want to be challenged as a whole being, even by my flaws. I find that empowering. We get enough of the superficial from the posters in corny teenage magazines. It’s time for true support.