What Amber Rose's Silly Statement About Women From Her Home Town Says About Our Society
The Debrief: When we put other women down, we all lose
Amber Rose has the unique ability of so many contemporary feminists to make feminist pronouncements in one breath and then put other women down in the other. She’s found herself in hot social media water after appearing on an American podcast, Drink Champs, and saying that women in her home town in South Philadelphia weren’t ‘traditionally attractive’ before describing herself as being so ‘blessed with beauty’ that some people didn’t believe she was from the same place as her much uglier contemporaries.
Her exact words were ‘I don’t know how I could say this without sounding fucked up, but a lot of the time people where I’m from aren’t traditionally attractive people’. Amber, word to the wise, there is no way of saying that without sounding a bit ‘fucked up’.
Why? Hold tight and let me explain. Rose has since apologised to the world via TMZ saying that what she was really saying is that even she had an ‘I’m ugly’ mentality growing up and her words were actually intended as a comment on ‘society’s standards of beauty’. Whether or not this was, in fact, what she meant, her statement was very ‘fucked up’. This is not because Rose may or may not be a bit of a mean girl nor is it because she may or may not have ranked her own attractiveness in relation to other women and put them down in the process.
No, no. It’s because no matter how much we have progressed, we still live in a world where women’s worth is more often than not judged in relation to their physical appearance. We live in a world where women, from a very young age, are taught to view one another as competition ‘not for jobs or accomplishments’ as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie puts it ‘but for the attention of men’. What Rose said will always sound ‘fucked up’ because it is; her words, whether they were a momentary slip of the tongue or a genuine example of not saying what you mean, spoke to a wider problem when it comes to how woman are taught to relate, or rather not relate, to one another.
Is it possible because women are taught, as girls, that they ought not be openly bossy or competitive while boys are encouraged to be both, healthy competition and confidence manifests in other ways? Instead of openly and fairly challenging one another, we then exhibit micro aggressions – making jokes, digs or mean spirited remarks at the expense of other women to bolster ourselves?
After all, whatever Rose really meant, her comments smack of insecurity as opposed to confidence. I hear women, of all ages, do this all.the.time.
But, make no mistake, women face a cruel double bind: we are damned if we do criticise one another and damned if we don’t. A culture of vapid positivity in which women can’t fairly and constructively criticise each other or give honest feedback is hopeless. Equally, one in which self-proclaimed feminists body shame or put down other women reinforces what we’ve been told since day dot: women are bitches who will stab each other in the back with a stiletto to get a man/job/modelling contract. It’s the age-old caricature of women as ‘bitches’ who cattily compare, compete and undermine one another. It discourages women from trusting in and relying on other women and instils a constant need to prove that we are, somehow, better than others which, I think we can all agree, is not just corrosive but exhausting.
There’s a reason why Taylor Swift has made having BFFs and a girl squad of mates around her a very important part of her brand. It shouldn’t be, but it is remarkable when a woman in the public eye has female friends and praises them. Whether or not Swift does this in real life, we can only guess based on Katy Perry’s testimony but, either way, it’s bloody good marketing on her part. Being a 'bitch' doesn't sell pop music.
We shouldn’t mindlessly engage in shallow sisterly praise of one another or be afraid to call other women out when they are wrong, and we certainly shouldn’t be called bitches if we do. However, there’s no doubt that when we put each other down, for no legitimate reason other than to raise ourselves up – we all lose by reinforcing the stereotypes that were created by a system that is geared against us. If there was room for us all at the top, nobody would feel compelled to climb over anyone else to get there. And that is why what Amber Rose said sounds so ‘fucked up’.
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