“Girls support Girls” is a movement that has swept through pop culture, outlining an essential part of feminism as being the mutual support of women by other women. It calls for women to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down, because they can’t begin to overcome the restrictions placed on them by society if women themselves are enforcing them. But can Girls Support Girls go too far?
The sexism that still exists in some sectors of society believes that women are inferior to men, only useful for supplementing their thoughts and actions. Fortunately, feminism has come a long way in combating such attitudes, and many people now harbour liberal and egalitarian attitudes about the value of women to society, recognising their equal worth and deservedness of opportunity and acknowledgement.
There are, however, still those who carry sexist beliefs about the worthiness of men and women, consciously or otherwise. While the expression of these beliefs by men has damaging effects on women and wider society, the expression of sexist beliefs by women is just as dangerous.
One of these expression of internalised sexism by women is the target of Girls Support Girls. Some women tear other women down in expression of the sexist ideals instilled in them by society. In practical terms this means undermining other women, by means such as slut shaming (shaming a woman for sexuality, especially when a man in the same situation wouldn’t be shamed), insulting the way they present themselves, and undermining a woman’s success, especially when a man succeeding in the same way would have been praised for it. All these examples are fundamentally sexist because they shame a woman for not conforming to the roles imposed on them by those around them.
This is why Girls Support Girls is so important. It advocates the encouragement and support of women by other women. But can it go too far? With any movement that aims to do good, when taken to the extreme, it can quickly become toxic, and as harmful as that which it was trying to counteract.
With the rise of Girls Support Girls comes the risk that some women will shame others for not being unconditionally supportive of their peers, an ironic inversion of the values that Girls Support Girls tries to promote. Extreme feminists may accuse those who offer constructive and reasonable criticism of other women, of opposing the ideals of feminism, failing to support their fellow women, and even sexism. Ironically, this places another boundary between women and equality, limiting their freedom of expression and stopping them speaking their minds.
Overall, Girls Support Girls is a much-needed reminder that in the fight against sexism, women are oftentimes fighting not against a faceless patriarchy, but against the unconscious biases they may well have within themselves. The fight is as much the responsibility of the self for their own actions as holding others accountable, and if every woman supported women like Girls Support Girls asks, feminism could well be closer than ever before to achieving equality.