"Girl World" is complicated. It’s as real as it is mythical. It stands for all female friendships, relationships, social groups… anything female counts. It’s invented; a fictionalised version of real life. Girl World has its problems. We’re all bitchy and we hate each other. We all speak in riddles or lines from Mean Girls. We never accept outsiders or people who look and dress slightly different. Most importantly, we never realise that this is all total bullshit.
The rules of Girl World are insane. In the end, I don’t think it matters whether it is the media or fashion industry that feeds us these false ideas of what we should look like and how we should act. It’s a mix of the two, we know that. We’re given these commandments and rules in magazines and newspapers, we see them brought to life on the catwalk and in advertisements. We are given the itinerary of what to wear each week, what’s in and what’s out – creating the idea that if we aren’t in the momentary fashionable trends, we should be ousted from the social group.
In the 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada, one of the principles of the Anne Hathaway’s character is to not conform to fashions dictations, she wears what she wants. A couple of scenes later and in an attempt to have her boss and colleagues respect and like her, she changes. It’s an insight, because the book is about real life experiences. We choose to embrace these rules, we follow them and in turn, we make others follow them too.
Women do not dress to impress men. Most men don’t have a clue about fashion trends and this is okay. It’s why they ask us what we think of their outfit with puppy dog eyes, hoping we’re going to congratulate him for realising trainers and good trousers do not match and you can’t wear a tie with an unbuttoned shirt collar. We could probably tell them Kappa tracksuits have made a surprise comeback, throw in a few designers and catwalk shows and they’ve lost interest enough to just agree. I love this about men, I really do. We dress to impress other women, to secure our place amongst the stylist ‘elite’. We think we’re better if we’re wearing a nicer dress, designer shoes or trying to shove our life into a designer handbag that is only big enough for two essentials so we have to pick. I might not have my purse but I can reapply my lipstick whenever I like! We drool over Vogue thinking ‘this will make me a better person’ so we empty our bank accounts to achieve this ridiculous and fabricated ideal of dominance because we’re wearing something we can’t really afford.
Every day is a beauty competition. The phrase ‘the street is your catwalk’ is popular for a reason. Be honest, who hasn’t sat on the tube and looked along the carriage wondering who you’re prettier than? Not the chick in the Louboutin heels but definitely you in the yellow velvet tracksuit. It’s pretty easy to get sucked in and it happens to the majority of us but that doesn’t mean we’re bad people. There’s a sense of pressure on women to always look our best. I don’t know many ladies who have the confidence to go out without makeup on or in an outfit that belongs in the bin but we cling on to it for one weird reason or another. I don’t even own joggers because Lagerfeld bitched about them for Christ sake! I’ve worked next to Bank tube for a while and everyone was dressed impeccably so I convinced myself I needed to up my game. I spent hundreds on dresses, shoes and Chanel. I’ve had my friend check my outfit in the morning and I’ve drowned him with questions like “do I look thin? Do I look stylish? AM I PERFECT YET?!” No one gives a shit to be honest. I’m still good at my job, even when I wore jeans on that rainy day in February.
There are interpretations of Girl World everywhere. Made in Chelsea and Geordie Shore are the worst. It’s stereotyping at its best, or worst depending on your views. Southern girls are all bitchy, two-faced liars. Northern girls are all un-classy, violent, volatile, loud and obnoxious ‘sluts’ who want any man they find. Have you been to the Bigg Market on the weekend? Trust me - you wouldn’t want anyone you came across. Even though the guys sleep with more people, that doesn’t matter because WHAT THE HELL is Charlotte doing?!
We’re all equally as stupid though, obviously. There’s a desperate desire to play up to these stereotypes, to become what the media says, to do as you see. I rarely tell Londoners I’m from Newcastle - I can’t deal with the Geordie Shore jokes. If you idolise someone from these programmes, you need to either read a book or get out the house and find someone truly inspiring. If you watch 90210, I’d bet on you ‘hating’ Adrianna, right? She’s just a character, but she’s a drug addicted, she has family problems, it makes her act out and do bad things. We’re meant to feel sorry for her but we don’t, we don’t like her. She isn’t stick thin or perfect, she isn’t rich and she doesn’t have a house with a pool. She’s troubled, she isn’t like all the other girls and we’re not meant to like that.
Girl World has been polluted with hatred. We have created this pretence of hating every other girl EVER, just because they’re girls. Sorry I was born with a vagina and I didn’t get a say in it but I did wear the same top as you last week, my mistake! I’ve seen countless Facebook status’s and tweets about hating girls, girls that they don’t even know. “I hate 99% of girls” was a most recent one. Really though, do you? You haven’t met 99% of girls and the girls you have met you probably don’t actually hate. People do it because it gives them a sense of power over other girls; it gives the feeling of looking cool (whatever that is) and men prefer women who hate each other because men supposedly hate women too. All you’re doing is alienating yourself; you won’t attain the popularity you crave. There’s enough hatred in the world. Men attack women, women attack men and we attack within our own genders. It’s a painful circle and any break in the cycle is a start. Women don’t have to hate each other; we don’t have to let envy and jealousy turn into hatred. We can have admiration and compassion.
My Nan told me, “If there’s anything worth believing in Katie, it is women’s rights and feminism.” She also said God, but we agreed to settle. There’s a negative vibe around feminism. It isn’t about hating all men, remaining single forever, buying a cat or bird each month. You can still shave, wear makeup and you don’t have to burn your bra – although you can if you want to. It’s about choice, doing what you like without being judged. It’s about equality and respect, not just between women and men but within the genders. It’s about equality of all women and all men. I’m no Gabriel Angel or star in the sky. I’ve wrote articles on bad style, bright hair making you look like a Smarties sweet and people who wear trainers to work. I’ve worked at enough Fashion Week events and I’ve told my sister her dress makes her look like she’s going to burst into the Can-Can. I’ve been to Hell and back as far as morals are concerned but I have at least realised my faults and I’m trying to change. I know what it’s like on both sides, I’ve got my issues with how I look, but I am actually a nice girl despite the comments I might have made. I don’t believe any woman can say she is not a feminist. If you want to be able to walk down the street wearing whatever you wish without getting sexually harassed or worse, if you want to be treated with respect and equality, if you want the same pay as a man doing the same job, then you believe in feminism. But I guess it’s also feminism to choose not to believe in it, it’s a circle.
Girl World doesn’t have to be scary. We don’t have to be full of hatred. We don’t have to pressurise each other into wearing something or looking a certain way. We don’t have to enforce these rules we’re being made to believe. Myra Macdonald is a great educator. From her, I’ve realised that bitching is created to belittle conversations between women – a simple comment or observation is bitchy, the passing on of information is gossip. We can still have a joke between friends, but we don’t have to make sure everyone knows. Hatred is a deep emotion, it’s what we feel about violence or abuse; we hate those things. We do not hate each other. I think realising comments on fashion between friends will never stop doesn’t make us bad people or anti-feminists. It makes us realists. We don’t have to be wrapped in cotton wool, but we don’t have to be full of hatred because someone doesn’t fit into the mould that has been created for us. We’ve witnessed the powerful success that can happen when women help each other and work together.
In 2012 we’ve had Pussy Riot protests, Slut-walks, fighting for our right to control our bodies (anti-abortion V pro-choice) and the woman’s vote dominated a large part of the American election. This year has been great for women. Girl World is powerful, it threatens male dominance. We’re always challenged to prove we are equal, but we succeed every time. Kill the hatred and maybe girls could run the world, to a Beyoncé national anthem.