10/12/2012 03:32 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2012

Ladies, Stop Calling Each Other Lesbians


I was enjoying a lovely stroll to Starbucks today when my morning was promptly ruined by the stupidity of a conversation between two ladies behind me.

"She told me I looked pretty," sneered one girl, between smacks on her gum. "I mean, she said it at least two times."

"What? Ohmagod," the other responded, her nails tapping away on her phone. "She's like, lesbian or something."

"Yeah, seriously. She's like obsessed with me."


I'm not even sure where to start on this one, but I'll begin by saying that the parallel between this conversation and the one famously ranted by Regina George is strong enough that it doesn't warrant comment, other than pointing out that these girls not noticing it says a lot about them in the first place. Either they're too thick to spot it, or they've never even seen Mean Girls. I'm not sure which one is the bigger sin, but either way they are no friends of mine.

I am doing my best not to stereotype these girls or put them in a box of my own understanding, which I know cannot completely capture them. I know they both have stories, both have feelings, and both believe they have a reason to mindlessly label a fellow female who was trying to be kind to them. But that's why I'm so disappointed. Because that other girl has feelings and a story, too. All she was trying to do was breach the gap that we as young women have forged between each other, and say something nice, for once, to a fellow member of the most hateful demographic out there. Look what she got for it. Her words were twisted and used against her in an attempt to ostracize through a label that isn't even a real insult. The real problem isn't calling someone a lesbian, though that demonstrates some real ignorance. The real problem is taking an effort to show kindness and turning it into something pointless and hateful.

All you have to do is sit by and watch for two minutes, and you'll see how horrible young women are to each other just by nature. I always think back to when my dad pointed it out to me in an airport, noticing the way other teenage girls and I would look each other up and down whenever we walked by like we were sizing each other up and instantly comparing ourselves in our own minds. All it took was one mention of it and now it's burned into my brain, because it's so obviously true and so horrendously sad. I mean everyone knows teenage girls are essentially an insecure demographic. It's kind of our thing. There are campaigns upon campaigns trying to teach us how to love ourselves, but they never seem to really hit home. Why? Because we're teaching this to each other. We are teaching each other to think we're ugly, unimportant, and outcast. We can't deal with it ourselves so we turn it around and project onto other girls exactly like us, unable to see that we're doing to each other what we are afraid of someone doing to us. We're causing our own downfall.

It's no wonder we get more vicious by the second. Who would want to try and break this cycle when it's such a dangerous game? Luckily there are people like the "lesbian" in question who have the courage to do the impossible and be nice. People who can shake off the fear that they'll be judged and dare to spread some love and validation to those of us who clearly need it. They say that a little love can go a long way, and this poor girl probably knew that and was trying to change the game. But nope, no game changing here, things are as vicious as ever, and now you're a lesbian. It's not even a real insult, but they somehow used it to hurt you and you don't even know. I am so sorry.

The lesbian-labelers can't be entirely blamed. They're a symptom of the bigger disease. But they're certainly not helping. I honestly don't know what they hoped to gain by attempting to ostracize someone who was brave enough to try and make things better, but I know they didn't get it. Nothing came out of that stupid, stupid, stupid conversation except the reinforcement to each other and to me that being kind isn't safe. How do you expect to ever live in an accepting environment or honestly connect to other women if this is the message you're spreading? Is this the statement you want to make? Because you may not know it, but people are listening to you. I listened to you, and now the Internet is listening to you. But I refuse to let you plant that idea in my mind and instead I am choosing to speak on behalf of your friend who clearly has a "big fat lesbian crush on you," to quote that movie you've never seen. I'm passing her words on because they speak louder than your hate and fear.

We're causing this epidemic of insecurity, self-hate, and fear of compassion among ourselves, so we're the only ones that can be and must be brave enough to stop it. We have to choose to speak wisely and with love, because we really, really never know who's listening.

By Kathryn Wingfield, University of Oklahoma, FSU