When I was fourteen, I received a death threat through a MySpace message from a disgruntled eighth grade girl. This was my first introduction to “girl hate.” The hostility, anxiety, and sheer terror that resulted from this message created an internalized hatred for women within me that would take me years to overcome. My first experience with girl hate was so severe that my bitterness created loathing for particular groups of women. Recently, it has occurred to me that my hatred was dormant within my internal thoughts. With this realization, came an understanding of the cyclical nature of hatred and the severe impacts it has on an individual’s future relationships, actions, and outlook. This photo series “Our Lady of Forgiveness” is the visual depiction of a formal apology for every time I’ve put another female down, as well as a piece to show my forgiveness to those who have inflicted pain on me.
Girl hate stems from fear, internalized competition, and a quest for individuality. Within this voyage for individuality, we distinguish women as either, a “bitch,” “slut,” and “bimbo” or a woman of class known as “the girl next door.” This homogenizing of the female gender into these two groups is misogynistic as well as sexist. Internalized competition is born out of learned behavior from the media and other men and women; it rears its head over love interests, friendships, and beauty standards rooted in jealousy and insecurity. All of these elements lead to negative thoughts, gossip, tearing other girls down and potential violence against others or oneself.
I’ve judged, stereotyped, and hurt women; women I’ve seen walking down the street and ones I had known from childhood. And it is something I regret immensely. I deeply apologize for perpetuating girl hate and wish I could retract all the agony I’ve caused. Girl hate has been a consistent force throughout my life, but has changed in it’s shape and form at different times in my life. It began with superficial comments based on appearance, and grew into romantic ownership complications, and finally manifested into workplace power dynamics. Despite all the hatred I have received, I realize that the only way to escape the ramifications of the cycle is by forgiving those who have caused me harm and changing my mindset moving forward.
“Our Lady of Forgiveness” contains images of girls who empower, comfort, and compliment one another, as well as juxtaposing photos that depict the damaging repercussions of our acerbic words that can result in poisonous thoughts and violent actions. I wanted to express the consequences of talking behind another woman’s back, and how it confirms sexist stereotypes of women as either “bitches” or “goody-goodys.” I purposefully used the female back as a canvas to depict how we absorb each received virulent remark of hatred into our skin. The inspiration for “Our Lady of Forgiveness” is to experience a cathartic release by forgiving those who have given us malice to hold, like a death threat, purposefully vicious comment, or physiological torture. I now can step away from my actions and fully see girl hate for what it is: a system perpetuated by fear, jealousy, internalized misogyny, and the patriarchy. The first step to eliminating girl hate is forgiveness and letting our remorse be seen by those we’ve hurt in return.