Dear 8th Grade Girl From The Bus,
I’m not sure if you remember me, but I remember you. I was riding home from class, reading a biography of Margaret Fuller, discussing it was a young man sitting across from me when you plopped down in the seat next to me and said, “Did you know that Courtney Love hired a hit man to kill Kurt Cobain?”
Now, you didn’t know this at the time, but I really like Courtney Love. I think she’d kind of a badass. But I merely dismissed your statement and tried to ignore you and your classmates the rest of the ride. While there are many things I wanted to say to you that day, like “stop reaching across me,” or “calm the fuck down,” there is one thing I really wished I had said, one thing I’d tell you if I ever ran into you again: Someday, you will like Courtney Love.
See, I know the phase you’re going through. I’ve been there. You are a Smart Girl, maybe even a Smart Cool Girl. That’s what you want to be, and how you want others to see you, at least. You’re friend group is equal parts girls and boys and most of the girls are other Smart Cool Girls. And you notice that not all girls are treated the same. There are the Other Girls, those who aren’t necessarily know for being Smart or Cool, and you want to separate yourself from them. The best way you see how to do this is how you treat boys. They are your Friends, people you prove your Coolness or Smarts against, but that’s it. And, as you slowly learn about Cool People of the Past (because, trust me, learning about past subcultures is a great way to learn to be Cool, especially if you’re kind of a nerd, like me), you’ll learn about the Crazy Girlfriends. Courtney Love, Yoko Ono, women that kept Men from Greatness. You and your friends will demonize these women and you will decide that you will never become one of Those Women.
Oh, and your friends’ girlfriends will often be Those Women, at least in your eyes, and especially if your friends are in a band.
But something will happen Little One. You’ll get hungry. You will become starved for women; women voices, women narratives, even just women’s presence. You will start noticing how sexist Those Who Used To Be Cool often were, and it will grow annoying. Maybe it will be Jack Kerouac who tips the scales for you. For me it was Hemingway. And then the day will come where you find media for Smart Girls, girls like you. Then, one day, down the road, you’ll wonder why exactly you were so opposed to Courtney Love all those years ago. She acts like a rock star and people freak out because it’s a woman doing it instead of a man? Plus, she’s a legitimate musician, and has a great style. And really, it’s silly to think that Yoko Ono was the one factor that broke up The Beatles. Did John Lennon have no agency? Would the band have continued on forever if the two never got together? Plus, Yoko Ono’s art is pretty interesting. And she did break a lot of ground for women and artists…and next thing you know a teenager is trying to tell you how Courtney killed Kurt. (I kid.)
Because here’s something you might not have fully realized about Those Women, the ones who kept Men From Greatness: we all have the potential to become one of Those Women, simply because we are women. Society has always used women as scapegoats. Eve got Man kicked out of paradise, after all. Pandora ruined a peaceful existence for mankind when she got curious and opened that box. Woman keeping Man from Greatness (all thanks to her pesky curiosity) was used to explain why humans suffer by both the Greeks and western religion (Judaism/Christianity/Islam). Those Women, and despising them, is written into our culture. And there is no reason for you to play along.
We live in a sexist society and, I’m sorry to say, no matter how much of a Cool Smart Girl you are, there is still the possibility someone will label you a Dumb Bitch. Don’t feed into it. Fighting with and despising other girls is just a way to keep you from working together, from being able to be seen as the Awesome Unique You and more than just Some Girl. Remember that the Crazy Girlfriend is more than just a girlfriend, she is a full, developed person. Don’t buy into the bullshit and don’t be afraid to call it out.
Well, it’s been a while since that day on the bus. You’ll be starting high school soon. Hopefully, this is the time when you’ll find your Smart Girl Media, maybe Jezebel or Feministing. I started with Bust, which I’d suggest, along with Bitch. Venus also used to be cool. But I know it’ll happen one day, Little One. The day will come when you like Courtney Love.
Just embrace it.