What Katie Said

The War on Other Women

I was standing at Clapham Junction Station on Sunday waiting for my train when I felt someone’s eyes literally burning into the back of my head. I turned around to find a girl, no – a young woman about my age (twenty three) looking at me like I had murdered her mother, her father, her siblings, her grandma, her grandma’s dog, her grandma’s dog’s puppies, and her grandma’s dogs puppies’ puppies (too far?). Seriously, this girl was looking at me like DIRT. I’d never met her. I hadn’t even seen her before I had caught her looking at me. As far as I am aware, there was no reason for her to look at me like that at all. I caught her eye and as I did she gave me the dehumanising up and down look girls give you when they want you to feel self-conscious, and of course – I did. I am only human. I immediately started over-analysing what I was wearing, whether my legs looked fat, or my skirt was too floral, but then I thought – WHAT THE HELL?

The truth was that is wasn’t the first time I had been looked at like that by another woman and it definitely wouldn’t be the last because that’s apparently what women do to other women, and most of the time for no apparent reason. It sounds petty, and very high school drama, but we all know it still happens, and without a doubt we have all been given that horrid up and down look by our friends, our work colleagues, strangers, older women, young women…the list goes on.

I am simply just fed up with women waging war on other women. We all know that we are guilty of it. I am not going to deny that I haven’t caught myself looking at another girl in what may be perceived as a “bitchy look”. I didn’t intend on it being a “bitchy look” in anyway. I’ll be honest and say that if I did find myself taking notice of another girl’s appearance, it’s usually because I am feeling self-conscious. If I am accidentally giving the “stink eye” to a girl with amazingly beautiful long tanned legs it’s because I wish they were MY legs.

I know most women will not be as willing to admit this as me. Most women claim they don’t have a “bitchy” bone in their body (it’s usually these women who are the first to stab the knife in once your back is turned). BUT I know I am not alone. I have seen friends of mine who I know constantly worry about their weight, look the rest of us up and down OR stare at a part of their body and then a part of yours. COMPARING. This is normal in a way we live in a society where we are constantly reevaluating ourselves against others. That’s an issue, of course, but the issue I want to address is that these insecurities we are all harbouring are impacting our relationships and the the way we interact with other women.

There is absolutely no need to rip a girl to shreds with your eyes because you are envious or insecure. Even if you aren’t intending to look at her in that way, you need to be careful on how your actions may be interpreted. That’s the problem really – most women don’t even realise they are doing it (and if they do – then that’s a whole different issue) and definitely wouldn’t admit to doing it.

No one. No human has the right to make another human feel rubbish. AND – women? SERIOUSLY. We have bigger battles to fight than waging war on other women.

I am not saying I have the solution or I even understand the reasons why women turn against other women. I am sure that there are plenty of feminists out there who will blame men, but I don’t think there’s any solution in blaming men. I think this is a problem we need to take ownership of ourselves (even if you won’t admit to yourself that you do it). We need to be more conscious with how our actions (and looks) impact others. If you see a friend looking at another friend or even a random stranger – tell her she looks beautiful. If you catch yourself looking at another girl’s arms because they are slim and perfect and you think yours are fat – tell yourself you are beautiful (or go to the gym), and if you catch the eye of another girl giving you ‘evils’ – SMILE – and remind yourself that she’s probably fighting a battle you know nothing about.

When discussing this blog post with my male and female friends, I was told that this ‘women versus other women’ thing is an age old issue that probably will be never be resolved. I really hope that isn’t true. I really hope that one day if I have a daughter she can grow up in a world where women don’t feed off each others insecurities.

We need to stop waging war on other women.

What Katie Did

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” – Abraham Lincoln

The Spirit of London

As some of you may know, I have been working and volunteering with Plan UK as a youth board member and campaigning for girls’ rights and education since I was 11 years old. During this time I have taken part and led many campaigns and projects to raise awareness about Plan’s work. I have also worked in India, Vietnam and Cambodia on youth empowerment programmes and teaching mostly English, Drama and Dance. Specifically, I have worked in Thailand on the Thai-Burmese border with young women who had been rescued from trafficking to help them establish their own youth panel to raise awareness about the dangers of trafficking in their home towns. I won’t bore you with the details now because it’s not really my experience nor achievements I want to talk about.

However, for this post to make sense I need to tell you that I have been shortlisted for The Spirit of London National Campaigner Award for the work I have briefly discussed above. I must be honest with you: this nomination came as a complete and utter shock. I had never heard of the Spirit of London, never mind the award and I never thought that I deserved to be nominated for anything of the kind nor anybody would think to nominate me.

When I first heard about the nomination and that I’d be shortlisted to the final 3, I had no idea who had nominated me. Furthermore, The Spirit of London team kept me in suspense for another week and a half before they told me.

As my parents and housemates will tell you, I was in complete and utter despair. I was convinced they’d contacted the wrong Katie Washington or that somebody had been mistaken something I’d done and nominated me for finding the cure for cancer or something. My despair heightened when I saw how amazing the other two finalists in my category were.Jonjo Heurman is only 10 years old and has raised almost 90K for The Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK through sponsored walks and Jack Negus, who at 17, is already a social entrepreneur and has raised thousands of pounds for Little Hearts Matter. I just didn’t know what I’d done to deserve it.

Jonjo (centre), Jack (right), and I at the Spirit of London Awards

Finally, I was informed that I was nominated by a lady called Vanessa Cole from Save the Children (thankfully for all the right reasons – no cure for cancer!). However, this just confused me further as I have never met or worked with a Vanessa Cole nor have I worked with Save the Children. I emailed Save the Children UK and asked if I could be put in touch with Vanessa and they responded and said that there was no Vanessa Cole who worked for them so I emailed Save the Children International and they also said there was no Vanessa Cole who worked for them so the mystery continued. I still have no idea who Vanessa Cole is. All I want to do is thank her for the nomination and for taking notice of my work. So Vanessa Cole – if you are out there (or you know a Vanessa Cole) – please make yourself known?

Anyway – slight tangent. My point is – I was nominated for this amazing award by a complete stranger. She documented things I’d done in the nomination that I don’t always tell people (I’m not very good with self-promotion) and I am just completely overwhelmed that this kind-hearted stranger would sit down and put the time and effort into nominating me. (Thank you, Vanessa Cole!)

However, the aim of this blog post is not for me to harp on being all self-deprecating. My point is: I didn’t realise people noticed!

I have never and will never do what I do for recognition or for praise or to better my C.V or get into university. I do what I do because I feel I have an obligation to do to. I want to help people.

I wanted to write this blog post because:

1. I know I am not unique. I know that there are 1000’s of other young people, some of who I have met and worked with, who have also been campaigning and working endlessly for a cause or for an organisation for many years and have not been recognised. I am sure, like me, they do not really want to be recognised and are happy doing what they are doing because they feel it in their hearts that is the right thing to do. But people do notice and people do appreciate it so keep it up

2. I wanted to emphasise that you do not always have to do a big thing to make a difference or to help others. I have not raised 90K for charity (Don’t worry I still think you’re amazing, Jonjo!) nor have I saved somebody’s life or changed government policy but I have been doing lots of little things for over 10 years of my life and somebody noticed and thought I was worthy of an award. So, what I am saying is – don’t think what you are doing isn’t good enough or isn’t making a big enough change. As long as you are making a little change then you are already helping make people’s lives better and one day that little change will grow into a bigger change and you will see the difference you have made.

Now that really didn’t mean to end up sounding like a motivational speech and don’t worry I won’t go on for much longer but before I go I want to tell you all to book tickets to The Spirit of London Awards at the O2 Arena. There is an amazing line up of Labyrinth, Maverick Sabre, Stooshe, McFly, Angel, Diversity and Yolanda Brown. And of course an evening meeting 30 amazingly inspirational young people from across London. You can buy tickets here.

Over and Out!