Today more than ever, women are pushing for change and social justice. We are becoming unified and empowered. Slowly, progress is being made in the pursuit of true social, political and economic equality worldwide. It may seem contradictory, but the greatest obstruction to this movement is women themselves.
As a young woman, I see girls in fierce competition every single day, as that's how society teaches us to act. This leads to girls tearing each other down constantly. We call each other derogatory names if we're too successful, or if we're not successful enough. We whisper about each other in the hallways of our high schools. We feel entitled to know about and judge every detail of each other’s lives: nothing remains a secret, and nothing goes unacknowledged.
This competitive high school culture, where every activity is cut-throat, with girls pitted against girls, is a product of our society. Our male-dominated culture has taught us that we are constantly competing for the attention of men, and that’s our primary aspiration, which seeps into every other facet of our world. All of these factors are magnified in the high school setting, where we’re all trying to define ourselves and determine how the world will view us. Additionally, we spend the majority of our time with the same community of people, not to mention the hours spent interacting with them on social media.
Consequently, we, as teenage girls, learn to never be too much, nor too little. Never too smart, nor too slow. Never too vocal, nor too quiet. Never too interested in boys, lest we be called “easy; nor too disinterested, lest we be called “prude." Boys and men may be threatened by our triumphs and defining traits, yet it’s our fellow girls who will criticize us most harshly. Girls are the ones creating a set of social “do’s” and “don'ts” that enable every girl to fit in and be “socially acceptable," so long as they are willing to abandon their individuality.
Any girl who dares step outside these lines will be met with the judgmental stares of their female classmates. They’ll send text messages and screenshots of Instagram posts to mock: “Omg, did you see what she wore today?!”; “Yeah, she talks so much in class, she’s so weird;" “Did you guys hear about how many guys she’s talking to?! They only want her because she’s easy;" are just some of the messages that may be written, making us as activists discouraged. How could girls be so cruel to each other, so dismayed by originality? Why aren’t we celebrating every girl’s expression of her identity?
The culture in American high schools is desperate for advancement. We teenage girls need to come together, to create an environment where we’re free to explore ourselves and our relationships, and to succeed to the fullest extent without fear of judgement. If we want to create true equality in our world, it starts with women uniting and supporting each other, and it starts in high school. We are the future, and it’s time for us to start shaping it into something better. Start with yourself: break the rules. Empower, and be empowered!