I’m a self-identified xennial, but in spite of being a bit of a late bloomer, I still consider myself fairly savvy where social media trends are concerned. I can meme like a pro, and I speak gifs like they’re my native language. Every once in a a while, however, a “thing” comes around that has me metaphorically standing on my lawn, shaking my fist. Currently? It is this weird passion for pettiness sweeping my social media landscape.
There are over a thousand results for “petty” when you search Giphy. I get it! We all have little things that annoy us in big ways, and I’m not beneath pointing that out using a Petty Betty shout-out.
I’m not talking the occasional indulgent walk around the pettyhood here. Everybody loves a good moment of unnecessary ire, but I’m seeing, like, ticker-tape parades for it. Women high-fiving each other over it. Long conversations of mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the pettiest of them all? Pettiness is, at the heart of it, embracing our inner asshole. Which, I’m all for that as long as we recognize it for what it is, but what I’m seeing goes beyond a mere moment of acceptance and ventures into some weirder territory. It’s not just poking fun at our inexplicable moments of irritation, it’s celebrating it.
It’s especially troublesome to me to see it coming from so many women. Pettiness is part of a group of longstanding stereotypes we keep trying to overcome – along with how we’re weak, nagging, backstabbing, game-playing bitches who can’t be trusted. I get wanting to reclaim words with negative connotations for ourselves, but not at the expense of, you know, actually being a petty bitch.
There’s a lot of truth to the idea that we are our own worst enemies. Have you ever heard of the crab mentality? If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, and one begins to climb its way out, the others will pull it back down before it can escape. I think about that a lot when contemplating how we interact with each other as women.
Why wouldn’t you want a fellow crab to find freedom?
Not to out myself as a flaming feminist or anything, but I think this, like so many other things, has its origins in the patriarchy. From our first breaths, we’re conditioned to fight like we’re Katniss fucking Everdeen for whatever scraps of validation our male-centered society decides to toss our way. Along with our mama’s milk, we grow fat on her knowledge of the myriad ways in which the world can be unkind to little girls, to young women, to mothers and women who choose not to be mothers, to grandmothers, to eccentric old cat ladies. It’s not that we’re inherently more catty than men are, it’s that being a bitch is often viewed as our only means for getting ahead, for grabbing the same kind of success our male counterparts enjoy without struggle. When you don’t have it easy, it’s easy to become a part of the system holding you down.
To back off from the deeper stuff and dive back into pop culture, you don’t have to be a Regina George to Regina George somebody. It can come in many forms, and pettiness is a driving force in most of them. I can accept that my brain is sometimes going to automatically go to a shitty “you can’t sit with us” place, but that’s when I need to summon my inner Ms. Norbury the most, not ignore her.
It goes beyond those words of wisdom, though. Most of us aren’t calling each other sluts and whores, but we’ve all been that asshole crab pulling another crab back down into the bucket. So what if we just…stopped? What if instead we offered our shoulders for a sister to stand on? What if we cheered her on as she cleared the top instead of grabbing at her feet to pull them out from under her? What if we quit looking for reasons to be offended and aggrieved by each other, and instead found the kind of common ground that helps us grow as human beings?
What if we just let our BEC enjoy her damn crackers?
I’m not perfect, you guys. Believe me, I’ve accumulated enough material for a Burn Book or ten over the years. But I’m trying to do better. I’m trying to be better. I’m trying to embody all the qualities I want to see in my daughter as she grows and finds her own friendships. I don’t want her to see me being petty and think that’s something she should aspire to. I want her to see me being kind, and fair, and giving. I want her to see me investing in strong female friendships. I want her to see that those strong female friendships are possible, and not some kind of rainbow unicorn that only exists in myth. I want her to grow up and be the crab that holds the other crabs up, helping them over the side, even if it means she’s the last one in the bucket. Especially if it means she’s the last one in the bucket.
And a lot of that means setting my own silly shit to the side, for the sake of showing her a better version of myself that’s worthy of inspiring her. I’m okay with that. I’ll fake it til I make it if I have to. Here’s to being the crabs we wish to see in the world, for our daughters, for our sisters, and for ourselves. ♥