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Women: Let’s Stop Shaming Each Other

What makes a strong woman? There are so many different answers and ways to approach this question, but one simple response is this: a strong woman is a woman who stands for what she believes in. If she believes in dressing modestly, she should be respected and not judged. If a woman posts bikini photos of herself online she should be respected and not judged. Women can think and act for themselves, and if they choose a certain path that doesn’t correspond with cultural norms, the default reaction should not be to say they are suffering from the patriarchy’s crippling influence.

33 year old Yvonne Orji, a practicing Christian, expressed to PEOPLE magazine that she intends to stay a virgin until marriage. Many women online began to shame her for her choice, labellng chastity as a “construct of the patriarchy” and virginity and virtue as oppressive tools used to beat women down. Maybe Yvonne is a Christian who has her own views on sexuality? Maybe Yvonne has a mind of her own, and wants to save herself for her future husband because she views chastity and sex in different ways than other women do? Or just maybe…she is choosing a different and less popular path for her life because she can think for herself, and doesn’t feel obligated to follow the crowd. Just because Yvonne chooses to respect herself and her faith does not mean that she is a “victim of the patriarchy.”

Conversely, there are situations when women who don’t believe in abstinence. Women who post revealing shots of themselves on social media are shamed by other women. Women who post revealing shots of themselves on Instagram are labeled as “loose,” and told that they are only posting photos like that to get attention from men. Many women believe in posting revealing photos to Instagram in order to send a message of liberation, self-love, body positivity, and female empowerment… all not related to men and their influence. Whatever they choose, all power to them – that’s their choice. Their actions shouldn’t be solely be defined as devices used to attract admirers, and they shouldn’t be judged or labeled for them.

Perhaps women are a very diverse group of people who have different outlooks on life, and consequently, make life choices that reflect those perspectives. Perhaps women act of their own accord, and not out of response to the dreaded patriarchy? I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud here.

If women choose to wait to have sex until marriage, then that’s nobody’s business but their own. If women choose to have sex before marriage, then that’s nobody’s business but their own. Women should not be put down or treated differently because of their life decisions.

When women shame each other’s actions and blame other women’s actions on institutions set-up by men, they are only hurting themselves. They are implying that women cannot think for themselves and that their actions are not their own — how does this embrace female-empowerment? The more that women play into this narrative, the more we destroy the progress that we have made. Obviously, we may disagree about the way a woman chooses to live her life…but it’s her life. We can civilly agree to disagree and let her live her life the way she chooses without beating her down for it.

 Furthermore, if women don’t respect one another, how can we expect the same level of respect from men? We need to set the example by refusing to slut-shame, virgin-shame, or shame for any reason. Women respecting and supporting other women only leads to success. Let’s all keep that in mind the next time we’re tempted to label one another. 

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