Sometimes I wonder how quick someone could go from saying “you’re different from other women” to “you’re just like other women” while in reality you don’t even change anything of yourself, not even one bit from the last time he said it as a way to compliment you.
Wait, is that even a legit compliment? And I’m still confused with why being told “you’re just like other women” is threatening and heart-wrenching for some of us women?
Years ago when someone told me I was different or better than other women, I used to put a smile, I felt superior, and I took that as a compliment. I was so excited about this validation, so ready to succumb to the internalized sexism that made me compare myself to other women in the first place. But that was before I realized that the person who told me this was basically holding the stereotypes of how women should/shouldn’t be and things they believe women could/couldn’t be. It made me feel as though I was in the middle of competition with other women to win man’s approval. “kamu beda ya, anteng, engga kayak cewek lain yang cerewet dan bikin pusing” “kamu terbuka banget ya pola pikirnya, ga jaim, ga malu ngomongin hal kaya gini, gak kayak perempuan lain yang sok-sok polos padahal kelakuannya ancur”. I do love compliments. I admit it. I don’t want to be naive, though. But keep in mind that you don’t have to disparage other women just to make me feel better than them.
“Different from other women” creates entitlement for women to judge other women’s decisions. It means he doesn’t see her as an individual person but rather as a representative of her gender, who must somehow prove that she is above all the stereotypes he buys into. It is used as a way for all genders to make themselves feel like they are above all others, and that women must compete with each other for male attention and approval. Well, I know this is a tricky situation, so context very matters and well plays into this a lot.
It’s not just about gender, though. “you’re so funny” is a compliment, but when you’re saying it out of surprise because a woman could be so funny, you’re just saying you think women aren’t funny. “you’re so beautiful” is a compliment, until you’re saying it to a lesbian because you’re surprised to find out that a lesbian could be so pretty. Saying “you’re so handsome” alone is a compliment, but saying “you’re too handsome to be a gay” is not a compliment. It’s pretty much dismissing their entire group. It’s pretty much saying that gay are supposed to be everything but handsome. It’s fine for you to think someone is great in a special way, as long as it doesn’t entail dismissing the value of an entire identity of group that they belong to. Next time you think “wow, you’re so [insert nice things here] for a [insert marginalized identity here]” – keep it to yourself.
Back then, when someone told me “you’re so different”, I had this weird yet familiar fear that as soon as I showed vulnerability or break out of the norm, you’d devalue me like all the other women out there you’ve dismissed as “the same”. But then I thought, apa makna kata “perempuan lain” dalam kalimat “kamu beda dari perempuan lain” ataupun dalam kalimat “kamu sama aja kaya perempuan lain” sehingga itu jadi pujian ataupun celaan/hinaan? Kalau kamu percaya bahwa disebut “kamu tuh sama aja kaya perempuan lain” adalah sebuah hinaan, berarti secara tidak langsung kamu juga mengiyakan penilaian buruk laki-laki tentang wanita. Ladies and gentlement ini udah tahun 2017, women should have each other’s back instead of compete with one another just for the sake of men’s approval. Oh god, we’re great with or without anyone’s approval.
All I know to be true is that other women are some of the bravest, most inspiring, amazing, and stunning people I know, and I want to be like them. Don’t compliment me by demeaning other woman, and I don’t mind to be like other women. I’m happy and even very proud of that. I’m proud of whatever makes me, me. Even if means I’m not different from other woman. I’m proud of how full of anxiety, insecurity, awkward, loud, ugly, beautiful, funny, boring, smart, confident, open-minded, sok polos, shy, depressed, multi-dimensional, and just-like-other-women I am.