It’s not the first time I’ve praised another woman’s posterior. It’s not the first time I’ve complimented curves, admired abs or lauded legs. And yet every time I do, there is a moment of unsure hesitation, a moment of why on Earth is another woman telling me my ass looks good?
The truth is I do it because these are women who are working hard to stay fit and strong. I do it because their asses do indeed look great. I do it because while a compliment from a man may be appreciated, it often contains an element of sexuality that makes you doubt its root or its sincerity. But mostly I do it because women don’t compliment each other enough. Not really. Not meaningfully.
A compliment about your body from another woman, a compliment from someone who’s not interested in getting into bed with you or seeing you naked or has any other ulterior motive–that compliment is worth its weight in kettle bells. And we don’t do it nearly enough.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we value looks and booty shape over accomplishments and brains. I’m not suggesting we overlook achievements in favor of abs. I’m merely saying that we don’t compliment each other enough on any level. And we should.
Maybe it is nature or nurture or years of screwed up media exposure. Maybe it is too many years of being relegated to the level of passive bystander while men use our bodies as some twisted battlefield. Perhaps is a lethal cocktail of all the above; yet whatever it is women seem to spend a lot of time sizing up other woman as potential competition, as the enemy.
I see it in grade school where girls include or exclude other girls on the basis of looks. I see it in middle school where the rumor mill really gets going. I see it in high school, when fragile egos are forever scarred by catty scratches. I see it in adult women, who shame and mock other women; behind their backs, anonymously online, over coffee or wine. I’m not throwing stones, I’m guilty of it myself. Most of us are.
If there is a cabal of men out there plotting to keep women under the thumb of oppression, many times they can sit back with a bowl of chips and a beer and watch as we knock each other down with more viciousness than they could ever muster.
We are too programmed, too brainwashed, too encouraged to view other women as potential ‘other women’.
In all likelihood we are hormonally and biologically hardwired to protect our investment in our partners. To make sure they stick around long enough to club a few mammoths and drag them back to the cave to compliment the nuts and berries. But I like to think we’ve come far enough, evolved enough, to be able to look at another female not as a rival, but as a partner.
A strong woman shouldn’t feel strong because she takes other women down or steps on them to get to a higher vantage point. A strong woman is one who recognizes she doesn’t need to compare herself to other women in order to feel validated.
We measure ourselves up to one another–literally and figuratively. We size up the competition and in the time it takes to plié squat, we’ve calculated the threat level. Inwardly we size up women who aren’t in shape. Silently we criticize women who are. We shame those with less than perfect bodies, we mock those with the bodies we envy.
If we’re being honest, how many of us see a woman with pretty face or an athlete’s body or one who simply has an ass that looks good in a pair of jeans…how many of us willingly, without grudge or jealousy, compliment her?
I’m not recommending we all sit around in a chalked up pentacle, douse ourselves in diluted ketchup representing menstrual blood and try to harness a pool of positive ovarian energy.* I am saying we need to consciously think about how we think about other women.
Telling someone their ass looks great while they are hula-hooping in a sweaty hall with twenty other red-faced women isn’t going to change the world. But it can’t hurt. So if there’s a woman in your life who you admire, whether it is for her triumphant triceps or her boardroom balls, tell her. Tell her in person, tell her in a phone call or an email. Hell, forward this along and tell her that her ass looks really great.
Oh, and in haven’t told you recently, darling: you look marvelous.
*a description from an old satire I’ve recently unearthed