I find the idea that (feminist) women are supposed to love/forgive/care about all other women completely ridiculous.
Let me explain.
If a woman does something that I find abhorrent, objectionable, or questionable, the only way I (personally) can not blame her (and thus not view her in a bad light as a result) is by shifting the focus from what she did to what made her do it. And if I blame the patriarchy each time, it'll pretty much always be the right answer. That woman planning and executing the murder of her mother in cold blood? The patriarchy somehow put her in a place where she felt she had no other choice. That self-employed bookkeeper didn't accidentally lose you $3000 because she's incompetent, the patriarchy did that -- she wanted to be a firefighter but society denied her that on some bullshit misogynist pretext. That woman who practically rammed her kid's stroller into you to cut in line in the supermarket checkout queue wasn't being rude to you; the patriarchy did that to you through her, because she was in a hurry to make it home before her asshole husband returned from work.
I'm not attempting irony with these, btw, just listing examples of abhorrent/objectionable/questionable [to me], in that order; I'm not trying to say that focusing blame on the culture of oppression in these cases is wrong or laughable. It's not.
It's just not something that I can do, not to the exclusion of all else. I can blame the patriarchy, sure, but I can't not blame the person. It requires me to accept that the men who do things I find abhorrent/objectionable/questionable are acting of their own individual free will, whereas the women never really are.
And if I accept that women do not act out of free will, then I might as well give up on this whole feminist thing, because what's the point? If the culture of oppression is so ingrained that none of us can be personally blamed for our individual actions, doesn't that mean we're fighting a battle that can never be won? Because if my every individual action in any moment can be traced back to my oppressors' will, logically there's absolutely nothing I can possibly do that is coming from me, the person (and not me, a member of an oppressed group of people).
In effect, I feel like I have to accept that women are lesser because our will is always directed by a sexist society, to the point that the only things we can really claim to have any real control over are our bodily functions. I... can't do that; I can't think like that.
So no, I'm not going to say "that woman killed her mother in cold blood, but that's okay; I love her anyway because she's a woman and needs my love". No, I'm not gonna let the accountant walk away from making a costly-to-me mistake because she's a woman and needs a break. And no, I'm not gonna smile sweetly at the woman in the checkout line in a Hallmark moment of understanding of our mutual oppression. To do that I'd have to accept that they are not individuals who can make their own decisions and act on them, and that goes completely against how I see women.
I see women as people who typically have a much harder time at life than men, for various reasons, all of which can be traced back to the male half of our species establishing themselves as dominant throughout history. And I think that's shitty, and I'd like that to change, though I recognise it won't change in my lifetime, nor perhaps in my 7-month-old goddaughter's lifetime. But when I look at her learning to crawl and failing and getting angry and growling as she hilariously attempts to plough the sofa with her tiny, mostly bald head, I refuse to see an inevitable victim and nothing else.
It's not a stretch for me to accept that all women inevitably become victims of discrimination at the societal level, and it's not a stretch to accept that the ways in which we interact with the world around us are inevitably distorted as a result of how pervasive the culture of oppression is. I don't have a problem accepting that there is oppression and that women are all its victims to some degree.
But I will not accept that because we are inevitably victims, that's all we can ever amount to. And I will not accept without question what other women do and say just because they're women. Because to accept the latter, I'd have to accept the former, and I just... refuse.
And by "we all" I don't mean "we all here in North America" -- I wasn't born or raised here, and while I was too young to be a full-fledged member of society back in Soviet Union, Estonia, and Hungary, I was still surrounded by members of those societies and absorbed a lot just by osmosis, both as a kid and as a teen.
There are lots of women from the former Soviet bloc who'll swear up and down that they've certainly never been discriminated against, that they've always got a fair shake right along with the menfolk in all situations. Hell, I was one of them once.
I believed that having equal rights by law (not to mention having rights to a safe abortion) meant that I had equal rights, period, that society considered women equal to men.
But. Please correct me if I'm wrong, for I would love to be wrong about any of these. Here's a list for you:
I do not think there is a place in this world where a woman can habitually dress in skimpy outfits and not be labelled easy; where a woman can be sexually adventurous and not be labelled a whore; where a woman (who doesn't serve a sex-forbidding religion) can be unattached and without children in her 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s and not be considered somehow broken or incomplete by the majority of people around her, including her family.
I do not think there is a place in this world where homemaking (cooking for the family, house cleaning, child-rearing) is not seen as woman's work.
I do not think there is a place in this world where pink, white, and/or canary yellow don't dominate the baby girl sections in department stores or equivalent -- I'm not talking about tiny boutiques but places where most people go to shop.
I do not think there is a place in this world where women need not fear rape.
I do not think there is a place in this world where women are not encouraged to mould their faces and bodies into the shapes desired by men.
I do not think there is a place in the world where girls are not held to a higher standard of cleanliness/neatness than boys simply because of their gender.
...I could go on, but I think that's enough to make a point. (And seriously, if you know of a place on this rock where none of the above apply, please tell me where it is and what their immigration laws are like.)
Spending more time thinking about the unfair treatment of women in society has changed how I think about other women.
I've become much likelier to take the woman's side in an argument between a woman and a man. I do this without first looking at the arguments being made. Once upon a time I would have described this as a step backward for me, since I value logic and reason pretty much above all else. But I can't very well ignore the fact that in a battle of logic/reason, the woman has a disadvantage by default because no matter how logical or rational her words, if she raises her voice even a tiny notch, she's judged more harshly because "oh, look at the hysterical woman who can't control her emotions in a debate of the minds!". So it seems logical for me to listen more closely to the woman, because if she's at such a disadvantage a priori, maybe I am letting my own internalised prejudices affect how I hear what she says.
I have also become much likelier to look for reasons to forgive another woman's actions [unless they're actions borne of privilege she does have (straight, cis, white, able-bodied)]. Before, I would just hold everyone to the same standard of behaviour because it was like, well, I think men and women are equal, and that's all that should matter, right? /o\
Those are two of the main things that I've noticed and actually been able to articulate; there are other little things but I don't think I can verbalise them quite yet. It's a process, and I'm sure that months from now my thinking will have changed in more ways.
But I don't think I'll ever get to a point where I'll look at a woman and see a victim never to be blamed for her missteps. If that's just inherently unfeminist/misogynist, then that's how it is. :\
I like talking this stuff, so if you lot are up for it, by all means, share your opinions and experience, and if you think I'm way off base on something and want to correct me, feel free to. ♥ (Also if what I said offended you, feel free to tell me, but as I was trying my best not to say offensive shit, I probably won't understand why D:)