The lovely Seanan McGuire made several tweets today about something I honestly had never even considered as a problem, but has been twisting my brain around all day since she mentioned it. Basically, her point was that as women we are our own worst enemies, not through any fault of our own, but because of the way our culture raises us. She specifically mentioned something called “Smurfette Syndrome,” the idea that if you’re the only woman in a group, you are automatically the most beautiful and desirable, that really got the old gray matter churning.
If I think back on most of the cartoons and movies of my childhood aimed at girls, there is a recurring of jealousy to many, if not all of the female dominated story lines. Snow White is hunted by her wicked stepmother who wants to be the “fairest of them all,” and can only achieve that goal by killing Snow. Cinderella’s step sisters can’t stand her because she’s so pretty and they’re so plain. There is not a single male-led story I can think of that uses so plainly vain a motivation as a plot device. Boys are out for adventure or treasure, it doesn’t matter what they look like, but for girls the MAIN PLOT has to do with their level of attractiveness and how they are either lauded or maligned for how they look. Antagonists of girl shows and movies are almost always other women who dislike the main character because she’s beautiful.
Holy shit. That’s crazy, right? I mean bat-shit bonkers. We’re being taught we can’t trust each other and it’s so nefarious that I never even noticed it.
Back to “Smurfette Syndrome” for a moment. Why is it that the heroine so rarely has female friends she can depend on? If she does have a bestie who is a woman who she can rely on, it’s almost always someone who is geeky or frumpy—Velma, Willow (in the early Buffy years), etc. Seriously, every “attractive” woman who isn’t the main character in girl-led shows almost immediately hates the main character, usually because she’s afraid the protagonist is after her boyfriend. It’s an instinctive reaction and we all buy into it. The more I think about it, the more I’m weirded out by why this is at all okay.
I’ve never understood slut shaming, or how women can be so cruel to each other for no real reason, but now I have an inkling. I make a solemn pledge, here before the interwebs, that I will call this behavior out when I see it, and that I will not allow women to treat each other like crap on the basis of appearance or what they’re wearing. Slut shaming or calling other women names based on superficial bullshit will be an automatic unfollow on my social media feeds.
Smurfette, you’re fired as a female role model.
Rants and ranties,
PS – I apologize if this post sounds a bit too “conspiracy theory” for some. I know I’m treading close to that line, but I welcome discussion about shows or books that buck this trope and how crazy I sound. Please, change my mind.