A few months ago, I was lying in bed with a male Columbia student who decided that post-sex was an appropriate time to talk to me about the other girls he was dating. I wasn’t planning on being offended by what he was going to say. The two of us were “just casual,” after all. But he decided to talk about these girls in ways that made me incredibly upset. One girl, who, he told me, was “the kind of girl I want to marry,” had long, straight hair, was very pretty, and hadn’t had sex with him yet. I couldn’t help but wonder: Why wasn’t I the marrying type? Was it because I wasn’t pretty or because my hair would never be long or straight or because I’d put out too early?
All of the sadness associated with being called ugly in the sixth grade flooded back. I was angry, not just at the man I was lying in bed with but at this young woman I had never met. No wonder women feel the need to compete with one another since we—not just men, not just women, but society as a whole—divide women into categories: pretty and ugly, sluts and “the marrying type.” I had been categorized and, rather than questioning the nature of this categorization, I channeled my anger into hatred of other women.
Double standards, man.