In her first-ever column for ELLE.com, Jaime King proposes a solution to end the girl-on-girl hate.
Jaime King, actress (films such Pearl Harbor and Sin City; TV shows such as Hart of Dixie), model (everything from Abercrombie to Chanel), wife, and mother (baby number two is on the way) has been in the limelight since she was 14. And after two decades in the industry, the 35-year-old hybrid is ready to speak out about the obstacles women face in and out of the industry—from body shaming to online abuse. In Xo, Jaime, a new bi-monthly column for ELLE.com, King will break down how and why these issues should change. In part one of her two-part first column, here, King talks about the lack of women who support other women. She explains her struggle with it, why it’s toxic, and how changing her view of herself led to the friends she has now (a.k.a. the Taylor Swift girl gang):
I don’t know if you remember your first experience, like in school where you were bullied or talked about, but, for me, I was 12 or 13. I was pretty, and I looked a certain way, but I didn’t have the money and I didn’t have the address. I was very creative—and in Omaha, where I grew up, that wasn’t something that was really acceptable. You had to be a cheerleader or a jock at the school that I went to, and I remember the feeling at that point, like, Oh, okay. What do I do? Maybe if I change the way that I am, if I try to be more like my sister…My sister was very popular and she was accepted. I knew if I emulated her then finally people would love me. I started doing my hair and doing my make-up like her. I started stealing her clothes so that I could try and look like her—whatever I could do to get out of feeling like I would never, ever possibly belong. And then, the interesting thing is, it got worse. People said I was a poser, that I was trying to be something that I wasn’t. I didn’t understand. If I’m not acceptable how I am and I’m not acceptable when I fit into what you look like, then how am I ever going to be acceptable to you? It wasn’t the boys who were bullying me; it was the girls. And it’s very similar to the way that it is now. Most of the bullying women suffer in social media or the workplace—the body shaming, the ageism, the talking about the way someone dresses—comes from other women.
We live in a society now where we don’t have to be that way to each other. It’s not like back in the day where we were competing for the hand of the heir of the throne. The experiences I’ve learned by having very strong women around me—women like Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, and Jessica Alba—is that there can be a group of strong, creative women without competition between us. The thing that solidifies us is this idea that, no matter what, we will always support each other. People find that fascinating about our friendships, like it’s some sort of odd thing. And it really shouldn’t be.
Little girls who are 10 or 11, 12 years old—kids like my nieces—are being bullied (and bullying) at a much earlier age. They’re picking it up from the media: Those reality shows that are completely based on women degrading other women, calling each other ‘bitch’ and 'crazy motherfucker.’ And that one word, 'crazy,’ has a very big charge for me—the idea that women are crazy because we are naturally sensitive, intuitive, and emotional. Those are a few of our gifts, right? But people say, Okay, if you really want to make it in the workplace you can’t cry, and if you really want to be CEO, you can’t be emotional. To me, that’s such bullshit. Women are shutting down these natural, beautiful parts and are becoming hardened because of it. They become anxious, depressed, bitter, and resentful, and they start looking at the world through this very cut and dry, black-and-white space. They start taking each other down, bashing each other. How do we find the balance between being sensitive, intuitive, emotional as women but also strong, clear, vibrant, and focused? I think we’re still trying to figure that part out.
When I talked with my sister—my sister and I are very close—she told me that she was miserable in school. She was bullied, and I had no idea because my sister was the head of the drill squad; she was homecoming queen; she was everything that I thought I had to be. I remember my mother distinctly saying to me, God you were so happy. I remember what a happy child you were until you turned about 12, 13. The minute you thought about what other people thought about you was the minute that your life turned into a living hell.
I thought if I went into modeling, I would escape this unending feeling of not belonging. Then I realized that I didn’t feel any different. No matter how successful I was, I still didn’t feel like I fit in. And then I was like, Wait a second. What is this thing? Because clearly it’s not about success. Clearly it’s not about people telling you you’re beautiful or having money and all that stuff. I started to have that awareness that it was a gift that I never fit in. Had I fit in, I don’t know if I would have ever left Omaha. It wasn’t until I really started to understand that who I am is enough that I started to attract people who knew that they were enough. Slowly but surely, I started to develop a really great group of friends that were all uniquely individual—all totally different, and you’d never think that we’d all be together, but we are. It’s because we all had to go about things in a strange and unique way to find out who we were.
Women need each other more than ever. To me, there is nothing more profound than a deep conversation with one of my girlfriends. It’s so reinvigorating and refreshing because we get to be each others’ sounding boards. It’s my experience that men need to be acknowledged, they need to be told that they’re doing well, but women need to be heard. What I’m proposing is that women let go of this idea that there’s only space for one of us.
There’s space for all of us.