Feminism | Posted by Alexa S on 05/26/2011

The Girls At The Table

Oh, the lunch table

Oh, the lunch table

I am not easily affected by other people’s opinions. Maybe I was at some point, but I rarely value my worth by how others perceive me. So I don’t understand how I can still feel so awfully judged by someone else without her saying a word.

If asked if I were ever explicitly bullied I would probably say no. But when I recently sat at a table among eight of my peers, all girls within a year of my age, many of whom I’ve been acquainted with for years, I positively felt like crap. One of the other girls at this table, one of my close friends, visibly hunched over as we sat down.

My friend and I are intellectual. We have truckloads of aspirations and are not afraid to share our opinions or assert ourselves. Neither of us would have a problem speaking in front of a thousand people- as long as I didn’t know these girls were there, that is.

I can’t place what it is. They say that my voice is cute even when I’m talking about rape as a weapon of war in Sudan. They fake laugh at what I say regardless of its content, because apparently that’s more of a compliment than actually responding to what I say intellectually. They think that it’s strange that I talk to my friends, the rest of our peers, teachers and guys exactly the same way. They are especially shocked by the last one, but I can’t do the coy, flirty thing. Maybe I could if I tried, but I haven’t. Maybe one day I will, but it’s not currently my prerogative.

When I speak, even when I’m just sitting there, they look at me. However though they stare, they never actually make eye contact. If I look back, they just sit even straighter and adjust their clothes.

Around them, I just shrivel up. I feel ugly and fat. I feel like my clothes are wrong. I feel like an immature loser. I am always aware, I suppose, that by cultural standards, they are much prettier than I am. I know that, by all logical measures, they are thinner than I am. I know that I dress unusually in comparison. These things, although I am aware of them and they do not often fill me with glee, seldom negatively affect my thoughts. Usually I am proud of being a “nerd” as I value my intellectualism; it’s what I am most proud of. But for them, being a nerd is bad, and when they’re around, their perspective begins to infiltrate mine. The fact that they consider me to be immature is the most ironic. I’m concerned with global issues and ethics whereas they are constantly preoccupied with typical adolescent drama. But for them, due to the fact that I’m all virginal and whatnot, I’m just a silly little kid and somehow, just… lesser than them.

Strangest of all, I feel jealous, so very jealous. I have never been vapid. I will never be so easy to laugh or cry or forget about intense issues and just go to some party. It is not in my character to just get drunk impulsively or, honestly, do anything impulsively. I will never have that kind of fun. It depresses me a bit, because the satisfaction I achieve, although nice, is very different from their immediate gratification.

Alexa also writes the blog Blossoming Badass

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  • Kristen A @ at 11:36 am, May 26th, 2011

    It’s not easy to be self-aware, I know the exact feeling you’re talking about and I still go through bad days where I wish I wasn’t involved or concerned or even so opinionated. I think it helped me to do something that was kind of impulsive while still having planned ahead for it, like bringing a bit of make up in my bag out on a date just in case it goes that way or budgeting some extra money in case a charity event pops up last minute that I want to attend. Remember, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not being impulsive, as long as it’s not having a negative mental/physical/emotional impact on your life.

    Also don’t let anybody make you feel ugly or that being intellectual is bad, ever. I swear, give it a few years and they’ll be the ones jealous of you. I used to think I wasn’t good/interesting/attractive/whatever enough around “those girls” and now I’m the one with a fabulous gpa, honors distinction, a great job, bright future, wonderful friends and family and heaps of self confidence.

  • Anna @ at 2:21 pm, May 26th, 2011

    I can fully identify with your last point. I too get stressed out sometimes by the fact that I can’t just throw all concerns to the wind and do nothing but have fun and party like so many of my friends. I have done that though, took time off school and just hung out and had fun for like a year. It was a great experience and fun to look back on, but it got old, boring. Every time I think about that kind of carefree lifestyle, I just remember how unfulfilling it was, and how I am far more proud of my life, and excited about my future now. However, as hard as I work to save the world and not dink around, I know that self-care is incredibly necessary. Sometimes that means taking the weekend off and going back to that level of carelessness, and knowing that you will be back fighting the good fight Monday. This is my version of having it all. You should find yours so you can fill your life with as much positivity and enjoyment as possible!

  • Alexa @ at 5:49 pm, May 26th, 2011

    @Kristen & Anna- thanks for commenting!! Yeah, I think the alienation I feel may just be intrinsically adolescent, and probably will pass, and I found your points on varying impulsivity interesting. :)

  • Ali By @ at 11:27 pm, May 26th, 2011

    I know exactly how you feel, and my feelings of childishness are only multiplied by the fact that I am extremely introverted (often mistaken as shy) and I look 3 years younger than my actual age; this often elicits very patronizing attitudes from people. However, I wouldn’t immediately categorize these girls as being immature or ignorant – we have the very same sort of girls at my school, and when given the power of anonymity in Health Class they actually made very interesting points on gender roles and violence against women. In fact, some got so comfortable they felt obliged to speak out against typical gender roles and stereotypes. They had some pretty good points. /nodnod
    They have it in ‘em.

  • Christina @ at 12:15 am, May 27th, 2011

    I felt the exact same way and sometimes still do. But I have found a detachment to those sorts of people. Exactly how Anna said, I find people who live that sort of ‘carefree’ (ignorant) lifestyle extremely unfullfilling. We intellectuals got to stick to together and kick ass but also take a break once in a while so we dont go crazy! :)

  • Quinc @ at 5:16 am, May 27th, 2011

    I suppose there can be a “The grass is greener on the other side of the hill” effect to personalities too. Wondering if somebody else has it better, usually they don’t though. We tend to underestime the severity of problems we don’t actually expierience ourselves, let alone problems that only a completely different kind of person would worry about. It’s not fair to assume they lack self-awareness, but if a person does I would imagine a hell of repeated mistakes.

    This narrative makes me think of “Frenemies” a term usually associated with women. The idea being that female-female friendships are often facades. They act friendly but secretly undermine each other, and make subtle subtle emotional attacks in everday conversation. I doubt this really describes most women, but it seems that most female bullies and those truly obsessed with appearance do this. So unfortunately they might never make you feel unwelcome but you might end up preferring they had. I hope this isn’t that common though.

  • O'Phylia @ at 10:03 am, May 27th, 2011

    It seems like they’re a little bit intimidated to you as well.

  • Angie @ at 1:43 pm, May 27th, 2011

    I found this article very interesting. I am doing a project on Feminism and this website and this specific article was very helpful.

  • Alexa @ at 4:46 pm, May 27th, 2011

    @Christina- I agree :)
    @Quinc- that’s an interesting point. I don’t think that these girls do that, at least to me, because they tend not to talk to me at all. I have seen “frenemy” relationships, though.
    @O’Phylia- I personally don’t see that, at least from my limited perspective, but it could be true ;)
    Thanks for the comments!

  • Sara @ at 8:20 am, May 28th, 2011

    You don’t have to be pretty or conventional to be a mean girl. Looking down on other females just because they happen to be a little more spontaneous than you doesn’t make you a better feminist.

    Posts like these come off as incredibly condescending. And attitudes like this are what makes it so difficult to identify as a feminist. Feminism is about acceptance, exploration, and fighting for the betterment of EVERYONE. So why does it feel so exclusive?

  • Garen @ at 9:48 am, May 28th, 2011

    Don’t worry about it. It sounds like a really trite thing to say, but I promise you that you will come out of this experience and wonder why you were so caught up with it and worried about what they thought.

    However, since you don’t seem to be real friends with them, it could just be that you don’t actually know them. Yes, they might be caught up with ‘typical adolescent drama’, but that happens to everyone once in a while and it’s perfectly valid to be worried about things in your life, I feel, however small or insignificant they might be to others.

    Yes, they’re judging you before they even know you (or perhaps they’re nervous), but perhaps you’re doing the same.

  • Alexa @ at 10:30 am, May 28th, 2011

    @Sara- I’m not trying to say that there is *anything* wrong with their interests or priorities, and certainly not that I’m a better feminist. I wrote this in a time when I felt ostracized, and was wondering why walls must exist between people for no logical reason, especially within the feminist community. Some of these girls could be incredibly awesome feminists, but I probably won’t ever know due to superficial social structure. I wasn’t trying to bash them in the slightest.

  • Cate @ at 10:23 pm, May 31st, 2011

    Alexa, I completely understand how you feel. I also love that I am a nerd, I love my body, and I love myself, but I feel horrible around these girls. I do not think that our jealousy and dislike of them is because they are pretty or because we feel belittled by them, even if this is not what they are intending, I think it is frustration. They, unknowingly and innocently in many cases, have a power over us that we know no one else should have and have otherwise controlled. We are self-actualized (in the words of Meg Cabot), except around these girls, which drives us awesome, free, powerful girls crazy.

  • Renee @ at 1:37 pm, June 1st, 2011

    this seems vey assholey to me at first I sympathized and then I thought you were a jerk it seemed to me like you wee talking crap about your “friends” because they put stock into their physical appearance and are diffeent than you I’ve been thee I have a friend (my best friend) who is a model and I have yet to talk shit about her to me your article makes you look like a crappy friend whose insecure and so you talk about your othe friends

  • Alexa @ at 4:50 pm, June 1st, 2011

    @Renee- I don’t think that there’s *ANYTHING* wrong with putting effort into one’s appearance. I was trying to talk about the walls within feminism and between people created by superficial things like appearance and assumptions. I have friends who put a ton of time and effort into their appearance, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. I value their priorities because I value them as people; their priorities are just different than mine are. I am sorry if I offended you or your best friend; I didn’t intend to offend anyone. Also, I’m not “friends,” to be technical, with the girls I was writing about; I know them, but not well, and we don’t consider each other friends. I really hope that this doesn’t make me seem like a bad friend, because I value my friendships more than anything. Still, I don’t really know where I said that there was anything bad about the other girls’s perceptions and priorities. Our perceptions are different, and that is all.

  • Cate @ at 5:03 pm, June 1st, 2011

    Alexa, in regards to response to Renee, I can see where you’re coming from. I used to be in the group of girls in our school who value their appearance socially and physically a whole lot (which is fine, just not for me), and although I have since made other, better friends who I have more in common with, I am still kind of friends with the other girls. I play with them on sports teams and their stories about crazy parties they went to and how fat they are (not at all in reality, but very from their perspective) make me feel inferior. Obviously they’re not trying to make me feel this way, its just an unfortunate side effect. I feel frustrated that these girl’s stories, which I normally would feel no desire to experience, make me feel like a lifeless loser. I know that it is my prerogative to change my feelings towards these stories, but I feel as if they have this power rather than me. This is especially troubling to me because after soccer practice or whatever I always know that the stories would not even be enjoyable for me, but I cannot stop myself from this desperate desire every time I am around these girls.

  • Jacqueline @ at 11:03 pm, June 1st, 2011

    I believe this article is completely real and that is what fascinates me about it. Anyone can write a piece about everyone living in a perfect world where no one judges anyone, where we all live in peace and no one is jealous or depressed. We must understand that world does not exist. Not all girls that act superior to the “nerds” out there are pretty, skinny or even popular but that does not matter, as they still act superior. This article states nothing personal about the other girls or “friends” it simple explains their external appearance/actions and does not explore their inner thoughts or beliefs. Therefore, I do not see how some consider the fact that you attack these people on a personal level, for I certainly do not. In addition I see that this piece is based solely on your experiences and I have many similar stories to tell. I envy your bravery to post these thoughts where everyone can see. The criticism this article has received I do not agree with, though of course I accept it as all are entitled to their own opinion. Some advice I give to those who do not see the full potential of this article please re-read it and instead think of a personal experience of your own, similar to that of this one, we all have one. Place yourself in this authors position, then maybe one might feel differently about an article that expresses such pure emotion and portrayal of reality.

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