What makes a good feminist?
The answer varies depending upon whom you ask, but I think there's one thing on which we can all agree: Women should be entitled to individual choices, lifestyles and paths. One step further, women should support one another on all of those counts.
It sounds simple enough, but it's mind-blowing how much girl-on-girl hate exists, and often, it's over the pettiest sh*t imaginable.
Sometimes, it feels like we haven't evolved beyond the hallways of middle school, where we'd turn up our noses at a classmate's non-designer jeans or laugh at the "nerdy" kids.
Only now, our judgmental snobbery extends to love lives, social media presences, appearances and how we measure success.
Can we just take a moment to hit the pause button? Why do we care so much about others' personal decisions? Why do we feel the need to jump up on soapboxes and proclaim how another woman should live her life?
Ultimately, this demeanor says more about us, the ones with the raised eyebrows in the air. And, when we examine that, it reveals some ugly insecurities of our own.
So, ladies, let's ban together and support one another instead of spreading hate. Here are five times when we should put the snark aside and simply live and let live:
1. Social Media and Selfies
It's bad enough to see articles written by men, telling us women what we should and should not post on Instagram. When women are making the same comments, directed at other women, it's almost even worse.
There's a common "theory" that says people (women, especially) who post selfies on Instagram suffer from low self-esteem and are desperate for validation through likes and follows.
The problem with this opinion is that it can't be accurate all of the time. We can't seriously think we can make those snap-judgments about total strangers and be right, can we? When did we all get our degrees in psychology?
Furthermore, who even cares? Why get so worked up over a stranger's selfie? Sometimes, a picture is just a picture.
Instead of the eye-rolling and under-the-breath comments of "she's so pathetic," just scroll past the photo. If it bothers you that much, you don't have to see such pictures in your news feed; the "unfollow" button exists for a reason.
Let's stop expending all of this extraneous negative energy on the topic. We have choices that put us above the infectious, catty behavior.
2. Engagement and Marriage
We are all entitled to our feelings on this topic. Some people don't believe in marriage. Some people can only see themselves getting married after a certain age or after a certain number of solo accomplishments. Others view marriage as a goal in and of itself.
There is no right answer here. Whatever feels right for an individual is right for the individual. No one else should have a say in the matter; however, everyone wants to get a word in.
We all know girls who got engaged to their high school sweethearts in their early 20s or prior to that.
Some of these girls might have been posting pictures of their sparkly left hands while the rest of us were scrambling to turn in our finals. She's going wedding dress shopping; we're chugging Red Bulls.
The typical responses — "she's settling," "she'll be divorced by 30," "she's going to regret it" — aren't surprising, but aren't helpful for anyone.
Here's the thing: No outside person can ever know all of the details and private moments that make up a couples' relationship.
We can speculate all we want, but that's just what it is: speculation. We can't be so pompous to think our suspicions constitute truth.
Does someone else's choice to get married at a young age have anything to do with you? Does another woman's decision to never get married affect your life? The answer is obviously no. So, let's move on.
3. Hookups and Sex
This topic can be summed up with an iconic "Mean Girls" quote:
You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.
I work with teenagers and I hear these types insults fly from their mouths without the blink of an eye. I'm sure we can all think of a time in high school or college when we either judged someone else or were judged ourselves, for certain lifestyle choices.
This issue is not new, and it's also not going away anytime soon.
The double standard that allows men to be praised for their sexual escapades while women are shamed will never vanish until women fully stand together on the issue. And, it starts with the elimination of hating on girls who casually date or engage in one-night stands.
This problem is perpetuated with dating "rules" that shame women who sleep with men on the first date, insinuating that there's something women give up, something that should be protected, like a treasure.
This so-called rule completely ignores the possibility that the woman (gasp!) might have a sex drive and might want to sleep with her date. And, if that's the case, she shouldn't be judged by society, nor should she be looked down upon.
Women should be able to say "yes" and "no" to sex and receive the same level of respect for each. One answer is not superior to another.
4. Makeup, Plastic Surgery and General Appearances
There's a wide range of options available to women when it comes to beauty products.
Some ladies spend upward of an hour on their makeup every day; others might skip it entirely. Some women love to peruse Sephora for entire afternoons; others never set foot in the store and don't care to start.
As with the topic of selfies, there's often a stigma attached to women who wear a lot of makeup. Some like to patronize, saying women should be comfortable with their natural selves and shouldn't need makeup to feel beautiful.
But, who says women who wear makeup need it in order to feel beautiful? Perhaps they just enjoy the way their eyes look with a bit more mascara; perhaps they like adding color to their lips with some gloss.
Furthermore, what difference does it make? If one woman wants to don a cat eye every day of the week and another is content with her bare face, isn't that okay?
There's no right or a wrong here, either; every woman is entitled to her own sense of style and that includes makeup choices.
To take this topic one step further, when it comes to plastic surgery, everyone has an opinion. There's an even bigger stigma there, where women who choose to have treatments are labeled as the lowest form of shallow.
They've succumbed to the pressures of society -- how tragic.
This is evident by the explosions of condescending Internet reactions every time a celebrity is suspected to have had plastic surgery.
Again, isn't this an individual decision? Does it matter if a woman chooses to have a procedure done? If she's happy with that choice, who are we to judge her?
We need to take a step back from hating on each other because of our decisions associated with our appearances. It must be exhausting to care so much about others' faces.
5. Personal Goals for Success
One woman's ultimate goal may be another woman's worst nightmare, and vice versa. We all have our individual measures of success and our own dreams up to which we must live. As much as we want to have the best outlook on life, it's impossible to compare our own aspirations to those of others.
There are women who want to climb the career ladder; women whose second job involves networking as much as breathing.
Then, there are women who peacefully close the door on previously-held jobs with the decision to be full-time moms. There are women who travel and women who paint and women who write.
All women who follow their hearts are worthy of praise, no matter where their goals take them.
We've come a long way from the days when expectations of women stopped at cooking and cleaning. We're not all expected to become Betty Draper, and that's obviously a good thing.
But, what if a woman wants to part ways with her nine-to-five in order to spend as much time as possible with her children? What if she wants to explore personal hobbies, and what if she views motherhood as a full-time job? Is she allowed to do that without being subjected to criticism?
The difference between today and the time of the Betty Drapers of the world is that women now have a say in the matter.
Ultimately, it's as simple as this: What makes one woman happy might make another want to pull out her hair, and that's fine. As women, we need to embrace our differences rather than judge each other for them.
Let's stop criticizing each other for our personal choices; instead, let's celebrate uniqueness. Let's encourage each other to be true to ourselves, whatever that may mean.