It’s official. I cannot stand the way the society we live in is marching down a “Big Brother”-oriented road.

It is easy enough to blame the rules of corporate America, who have decided it’s no longer enough for someone to give you a suitable reference or vouch for your character and talents to acquire a job, an apartment, a loan, a car, or anything else you might want in order to live like a grown adult. That’s quite a change since 1950, when a willingness to go to work every day, not live in your parents’ basement, and to engage in personal hygiene was all it took to find a place of employment, or a new place to live.

Now, you need to not only be a person, but have a stellar “I’m A Person!” Resume. Credit check, background check, medical history, assurances that you’re not only going to be a good tenant or employee, but that you’re never going to embarrass anyone or cost anyone a dime with problems like getting sick, (which are just annoying to everyone; if something is wrong with you, keep quiet and deal with it on your own time. Why should I care about your problems?) or having made poor life choices (for which you deserve to be homeless and branded, obviously. If you want to exist in society, learn to conform and make sure you have the same moral compass as everyone else.)

We live in a “right to know” state, where everyone feels entitled to know everything about everyone at all times. Remember that time you were arrested for joyriding in your neighbour’s car when you were 18? No? You forgot, because you’re now 48 and a responsible adult?


Well, *I* deserved to know. I can’t look at you the same way ever again, knowing you’re that kind of person. And I feel so betrayed that you didn’t tell me. I should have been smart enough to internet search every aspect of your life so you wouldn’t hurt me by never telling me how much you suck as a human being.

Facetiousness, of course, but it is the mentality behind the world we’ve created for ourselves. The “information age” has turned every person out there into the morality police. How dare you put that photo up of you drinking at a bar? It embarrasses the company that what you do on your personal time is so offensive. And what would your mother think? If you’re going to do things like that, make sure nobody knows, because everyone will judge you…and that could destroy your life. That’s the worst thing that could happen to you, showing the world that you’re a real person. We don’t want real people. We want cooperative drones who think, look, and behave properly, and don’t need a sense of privacy. After all, if you want privacy, you must be doing something wrong.

The key to success in life is passing the “judgment of others test”, over and over again. And, if you don’t, you’re not the kind of person we need around.

The government and big business may have started us down the road of “you’re not a person, you’re an image”, but we’ve certainly perpetuated it. People post every movement of every day on social media, and if you’re not on social media, because you’d like to protect your privacy and your reputation, that, too is a red flag. People run background checks on everyone. It’s not as if the world has gotten so dangerous that people need to do this; in fact, the same safety measures that kept you from getting murdered in the past still apply. However, now, if you want a date with someone, it’s not enough to bring her flowers and meet her at a nice restaurant. You should also assume you will be Googled, and somewhere before the 3rd date, you’ll have to pass the requisite background and credit check. After all, how do I know you if I don’t know everything about you?

You can, of course, use social media and the power of information to destroy your enemies. You can find anything and everything with a paper trail to dig up and put out there for the entire world to see, and you’re not slandering anyone or trying to destroy anyone’s life. You’re just engaging in the freedom of information we all deserve.

Because we are all meant to be so perfect that it is up to us to expose those who aren’t, and judge them as they deserve. We are the morality police.

I have had an incident with someone out there I met in an IRC chatroom in 1998. We were not friends. The only thing I know anything about him was because he began a relentless campaign to stalk me. He went from chatting to me like we were friends, to sending me threats that he would harm himself—or me—because of me. When it got too upsetting, I asked more than one ex-boyfriend to intervene. He promised to stop. But then I’d find he was posting things about me on the internet; true, untrue, things that were out of context. When I moved to Atlanta, I didn’t broadcast my forwarding address to the world. But there was a card waiting for me when I arrived.

At some point, I told him to never contact me again. He became obsessed with the fact that I’d misrepresented myself on the Internet, because I’m not English (I was living in the UK when I met him), because I’m not an actress (just because I’m working in a different field now does not mean I was not once an actress), because I changed my name (you know, like half of Hollywood and New York celebrities), because I have a past that doesn’t conform with his expectations of being a good person. He’s done everything he can to make sure that any sense of stability I acquire, he can tear apart easily. Anything good I do, he can point out, “Too bad you’re a horrible human being and I can prove it”. For years, I’d block him on AIM, and he’d just create new identities to torment me. I’ve had to block him from communicating with me in every way possible. Yet, somehow, the guys I’m dating always end up getting anonymous notes, the details of my past are “outed” to every potential friend and acquaintance, and this guy has made it a personal mission to get me as close to being suicidal as possible. Even then, on my memorial page, he’d probably say “Why are you crying over this girl? Don’t you know what she’s like?”

I’ve attempted to reason with him. I’ve pointed out, ““If you don’t like me, just stay out of my life. My life is not your business. It never was. We never had any sort of relationship. I talked to the wrong guy in a chat room 15 years ago. That’s it. We never have to communicate, ever again.”

That, of course, is not good enough. We live in a “right to know” world, and he feels that because he didn’t have the luxury of knowing everything about me and my life when we met, anyone I cross paths with should know what kind of person I am. You shouldn’t hire me. You shouldn’t be my friend. You shouldn’t like me as a person. You shouldn’t be attracted to me. You shouldn’t applaud anything I do. You should do what you’re meant to do, in this day and age: judge me as harshly as possible.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve atoned for my mistakes. Mistakes have consequences; my life hasn’t been an exception. It doesn’t matter that I’m more empathetic and understanding of others because I myself am far from a perfect person. It doesn’t matter that karma has attacked me ten-fold, and I’m not quite the selfish bitch I was at 18,or even 21, or 25. It doesn’t matter that my mistakes have turned me into the person I am today, and my journey has given me a perspective on the world most people don’t have.

No, what matters is that you look at my past, and judge me…because the world is full of two kinds of people, obviously, good and bad. That can be easily determined with a background check, credit score, and internet search.

Every time this happens, I cry. I feel violated. I feel like I will never be allowed to live a normal live. And then, in true victim mentality, I remind myself that I deserve all of this and I am to blame for those who want to destroy me. If I hadn’t been a bad person, if I had behaved like everyone else, if I hadn’t had anything to make amends for in the first place, if I just kept a low-profile and lived a quiet life, this wouldn’t be necessary.

As many of you know, I have a friend who holds a position at Twitter. He is well-respected and rather high up in the chain of command there. The last time this person attacked me, and I cried because I felt so helpless and violated, I contacted my friend at Twitter. My friend knows of the existence of this person in my life, and promised he’d help get the post removed.

He then contacted me to say that the final word was that Twitter couldn’t just remove things because they were defamatory or revealed information about someone. I could block the person who was talking about me, but there’s no tool available to keep him from referring to me by name, linking to me, or anything else. He agreed that everyone didn’t deserve to know all the details about my life, and that I deserved a modicum of privacy and respect, but “it’s the Internet age. Nobody gets that. If every post on here that tore someone down was removed, half of Twitter would disappear. And people would go elsewhere to go off about how much they hate other people.”

He then told me a story about how he was personally victimized by Twitter and “reputational harm”, at the hands of someone he used to work with. These tweets were picked up by a writer and spun into a story. The story got around pretty quickly. He’d love to sue, but his lawyer has told him he doesn’t have grounds. Free speech, no invasion of privacy, and a “right to know” world.

It’s the society we’ve created. Anyone can say anything about you, and even if part of it’s true, you deserve any public judgment or reputational harm that comes your way. And, really, there’s nothing you can do about it. Learn to be tougher.

That’s why I was absolutely appalled to read in the New York Times about this app. Yes, we all want to know that a certain person is not a serial killer and isn’t abusive. Yes, I can joke with the world about how my taste in men once got so bad that I dated a guy dubbed “The Worst Guy In Atlanta” by a local publication.

But this, this takes invading privacy and finding ways to do harm to someone you may have negative, bitter feelings toward and putting it out there in public to a whole new level.

Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing is private anymore, not even in the bedroom. And although I live much of my life online, there are ways in which I am certainly a very private person. This road we’re traveling down, the one paved with judgment and the right to condemn, rate, and malign others under the guise of “freedom of information” and “I deserve to know.”, it’s a dangerous one. It’s harmful. It does so much more harm than good.

A few years ago, I joked that I was going to develop a social networking tool based on all the people with whom I’ve ever hooked up, dated, had a relationship, etc. I would then send it to my friends, who could build their “tree”. You’d eventually see that your friend actually dated the guy you slept with once, and bond over it. This tool, of course, could be equally useful to men and women.

It was a sarcastic, joking idea…because it could never be implemented. First of all, it’s kind of appalling to erase all shreds of privacy in the world. Secondly, people lie. People get hurt and want to get even. People just want to hurt others because they don’t like them. “Apps” that are used to rate things and discuss people can be used maliciously, very easily. How many restaurants have suffered because someone didn’t like the owner and got all their friends to trash the restaurant on Yelp?

If anything, the Internet seems to prove that people are, at heart, judgmental and have no qualms about seeking revenge. And if there’s a tool that enables that, it will be used to cause harm to another person. And since society has agreed the only thing that matters is how someone looks on paper, the Internet is a great equalizer. We’re all equally defenceless against someone who’d like to destroy us.

Unless, of course, you’ve never hurt anyone, done anything wrong, and are perfect in every way. After all, that’s what you should be, and since you have nothing to hide, sleep easy.

The truth of the matter is, unless someone is an important part of your life, most of another person’s life isn’t something you have a “right to know”. If someone wants you to know something about them, they will tell you. Yes, you deserve to know your potential nanny doesn’t have a history of abusing children. Yes, you deserve to know before you give a loan to someone whether or not they are likely to pay you back. Yes, if inviting someone into your life may put you in physical danger, you deserve to know.

When it comes to who is gay, who’s been arrested, who is bad in bed, who isn’t liked by others, who has left a mysterious past behind them, who has colourful stories that might shock you, who has a bitter ex, who voted fow whom in the last election, who left their previous apartment a mess…well, frankly, you don’t deserve to know. That’s the whole point of getting to know someone; the more they trust you, the more they open up. Demanding that everyone deserves to know everything about everyone else without bothering with the trouble of establishing trust doesn’t just leave people feeling violated, it *is* a violation…and we are all potential victims. Twice, I had someone I thought was a friend print out entries in a “friends only” journal and share them with the entire world. These were grown women, not high school girls.

You think you won’t be violated that way because you know who your friends are? You don’t. And you don’t know who your enemies are, either, and what “app” is being developed that can really ruin your life, your business, or your all-precious “reputation”, until it’s too late. I hope the world thinks about that the next time it wants to use the Internet to take someone down, or to Google someone before even getting to know them.

9 times out of 10, what you think you deserve to know, you don’t. Three decades ago, it wouldn’t have occurred to you that you did.

And yet, we wonder why things aren’t so great. People don’t have jobs, corporations interfere in the private lives of citizens and make outrageous demands, we can’t get loans for college or mortgages to buy a home, less adults own property than ever, we’re fighting over the right to access care when we get sick, the economy sucks, and people are finding themselves either single or divorced in their 30′s,40′s, and 50′s. Nobody can ever meet the right person, even though we know almost everything about each other, thanks to “freedom of information”. So much of what ails us, we’ve created ourselves. Before we continue down this road of hypocrisy, every person should look at his or her own life, and ask: How’s this new society working for me?

When I was 19, I was in a fairly well-known musical called The Fantasticks. I’m not sure why, but the other day, I began blogging about this musical–specifically, the people I worked with, and how it affected me sense of self. It was the first time I realised the way I saw myself–both positive and negative—was not how others saw me. I only saw all the ways in which I wasn’t good enough, the ways in which other people around me were better than me. Granted, the entertainment industry is not the best place for teenagers and 20-somethings with this issue, which is almost everyone. However, there are few aspects of life that are much better. Somehow, however unique and wonderful we are, most of us end up with a sense that our adult selves are somehow never enough.

In any case, I may or may not post my theatre-related reflection another day, but in The Fantasticks, there is one female character. She is a 16 year-old girl who is the epitome of your average girl-next-door, but her spirit is rebellious. She wants pretty much every life experience there is. She delivers a brief monologue before her well-known song, in which the final line is
“Please, God, please…don’t let me be normal.”

It is not a mystery why I played this role, as it was perfectly written for a high-spirited, rebellious girl who just wanted to live an extraordinary life and be someone special. People found me endearing as this character, despite my lack of inexperienced-girl-next-door stage presence, because I really only had to be myself. I happened to find myself landing the job over some far more experienced, talented, and prettier young women, and I never knew why. I know now, and the answer is simple: authenticity is charming. In the eyes of much of the world, it is more charming than perfection. It’s a very difficult thing for someone who has a mental list of imperfections streaming at all times to make peace with, but that summer of my life was the first time I learned people would still see you, still love you, still appreciate you—even if you couldn’t be perfect.

That brings me around to the point of this post, which (no,really! Seriously!) is not about me. I love this blog, and its tagline, “Ideas For A World Out Of Balance”. I especially enjoyed a recent post,
Lies We Tell Ourselves To Be Liked
. The daily struggle so many of us engage in–to be liked, to be successful, to be accepted, to be like everyone else, to be respected, to have money, to be found attractive, to make others jealous, to climb ladders that don’t exist and think that ‘sameness’ means ‘respectability’– it all comes at a very great cost.

When I look at many of my friends, I can separate them into two different groups: one full of free-spirits who have always elected to take the “road less traveled”, and another full of those who took the “right path” and did what was expected in order to be an acceptable, respectable, and above all, successful, person in today’s society.

The irony is, I see both groups of people in my age range (mostly Gen Y-ers, but a few late Gen X-ers, as well), struggling with the same problems. The first type of person has gone through life valuing authenticity over everything else, only to end up oblivious to the fact that wearing a mask called “non-conformist” is no less authentic or free than making any other choice. The second type of person has been willing to compromise personal authenticity and freedom in order to make the choice that will be rewarded through money, status, and recognition.

Neither group seems happier than the other. Everyone’s problems sound alike. And, no matter what, few people get to be who they really want to be or live as they really want to live.

I have a few close friends who have been in my life a long time, and by and large, they are quite unlike me. Over the years, it has hurt me to see these people give away pieces of themselves. They abandon idealism for a paycheck and a corner office. They abandon romanticism for someone who is a “really suitable partner” instead of a soulmate. They abandon hobbies, dreams, visions of who they once wanted to be, because there is little time left in the grown-up world for passion. They do not post what they’d like to post about the reality of their lives on social media because they are afraid of what their bosses will see, how future employers will judge them, how their peers will judge them. They spend a lot of time living a carefully-crafted presentation called “What My 30-Year-Old Self Is Supposed To Be”.

And it hurts me to see that so many are dreadfully, and painfully unhappy. The corporate ladder-climbers feel like they’ve compromised their happiness, and aren’t nearly as successful as doing such a thing promised. The free-spirited artistic types wonder if there will ever be any value, appreciation, or stability in what they do. Those who have married and had children secretly miss being free. Those who are single and without children secretly wonder what’s wrong with them. But, when you get them all together in a group, everyone is happy, glowing, charming, the picture of “What Our Generation Is Supposed To Be”.

It is painful to me when I see someone I love change abruptly, because while people do change, a very abrupt transition usually signifies the point where someone has relinquished a bit of their uniqueness and has figured out that it’s just so much easier to do what’s expected, what everyone else is doing. There is comfort in feeling “normal”.

What people seem not to see is that giving up what would really make you feel happy and fulfilled in life for what the world tells you creates happiness and fulfillment is just another version of lies we tell ourselves to be liked, to be successful, to erase doubt and confusion. And years later, we are shocked to realise that we are not happy, not fulfilled, doubt and confusion still reign.

In some ways, I see so many people (myself included) living as prisoners of their own lives, but we are the ones who create our prisons, our limitations. We do not see ourselves the way others see us. We do not live freely. We do not create and work freely. We do not love freely. And, for all our technology and social media, we do not represent ourselves honestly.

The more people I sit and talk to in a very open, one-on-one fashion, the more I see this is a generational epidemic. We do not value our own authenticity. We do not value our own emotion. We are willing to compromise things that should never be compromised, because we are taught that colouring inside the lines and making ourselves monochrome is the only shot at success. And when we are old enough to know that success and fulfillment and happiness are different and distinct things, we often think it is far too late to do things differently. It is too late to change course, to threaten any sense of stability, to break someone’s heart, to shock the world, to reveal who we really are, what we want, what we dream of, and reveal the loving, idealistic child that lurks inside that only wants to be told he or she is accepted, loved, and good enough.

It is never too late to stop compromising. It is never too late to strip away all the carefully-crafted lies. It is never too late to post that horrible photo of you on Facebook, because nobody is beautiful all the time, and why should we spend so much time forced to pretend everyone is? All it does is create pressure to keep up, and the same feelings of inferiority almost all of us had at teenagers, looking at the perfect lives of those around us.

We lied a lot then, and we lie a lot now, and it’s not only accepted, but encouraged. If you don’t play along, you may never be liked. You may never be loved. You may never get a good job. You may always be perceived as weird, or a troublemaker, or less than respectable. You may risk being alone. You may risk not having all the material things everyone else has.

Or, you may realise you’re the happiest person you know.

I’m, of course, as hypocritical as everyone else because I’m not the happiest person I know, and I don’t always have the courage to be whoever I want to be. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of rejection. I am afraid I will always be the person who isn’t taken seriously, who isn’t special, who isn’t good enough.

And I wonder, what happened to the 19 year-old girl who felt liberated by understanding that strangers loved her because she wasn’t afraid to be herself in a world that largely is? Is authenticity something we have to sacrifice in order to grow up? Do we need to keep our mouths shut and our images perfectly maintained to be liked, to have someone fall in love with us, to be successful, to be respected? Or do we just need the courage to start being human beings?

When do we stop compromising the things that matter the most, in order to be “normal”?

“Please, God, please…don’t let me be normal.”

Today, a friend posted an article about the pervasiveness of the “fake geek girl” in our society. It was an interesting read. It’s now hot for girls who aren’t into a subculture that’s considered “geeky” to dress the part and show up at conventions and events, because they’re either looking to meet that type of guy, or they realise it’s a great way to get attention and fulfill the ultimate fantasy of many a geeky guy. It’s a lie, of course, and a game, and I don’t defend it.

Yet, I see why it’s necessary,or why some girls feel pressured to fake it in order to feel accepted by their friends, their significant others, or the group of people around them. It’s not any different than the pressure for women to adhere to the mainstream ideal of attractiveness when going out to a popular club, even if that’s not really representative of who that girl is.

I’ve always been an intelligent, outgoing, unconventional girl who happens to date guys who are the opposite of me (personality-wise, not intelligence-wise). The introverted ones who you won’t meet at bars, and if you see at a party, are afraid to talk to you. Some of them have gone on to become hugely successful. Some are the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. Some are the most memorable and affecting love affairs I’ve had in my life. Some are people I bond with in a way I’ve never bonded with anyone else. I’ve had to work to get to know many of these more introverted, driven people who tend to be both less emotional and less expressive than myself. But it largely works. I know many “geeky guys” who have changed me for the better and helped me grow, and I hope the reverse is true as well. Many of my friends don’t get it. They ask why I date “geeks” instead of more traditional types. They tell me someone isn’t good enough for me based on how they dress, or how they act at parties. I’ve been called a gold-digger (I’m not). I see the judgment from mainstream society, and it annoys me.

What annoys me even more is the sense of non-acceptance from the “geek” community. My boyfriend runs a Meetup for people who like sci-fi. I’ve encountered everything from being ignored and ostracized to having groups of girls make up mean nicknames for me and gossip behind my back. I will literally sit there and NOBODY talks to me, despite the fact that I make friends everywhere I go. Everywhere but hanging out with this group of people.

I’m not a fake geek girl. I don’t play video games, watch sci-fi, and haven’t read a comic book. I’m a writer with a degree in musical theatre. I’ve spent my whole life on stage. I’m not dumb, not an airhead, I just don’t like video games. I don’t like being made to feel I should apologize for being a high-school cheerleader because I’m with a group that got picked on by that crowd when we were all much younger. I was never the girl who did that, although maybe I didn’t stand up for the underdog or talk to the outcasts as much as I should have back then. I’d like to think we’ve all grown tremendously since then.

Yet, when I go to these Meetups, I feel like I’m back in high school. Only this time, I’m not invited to sit at the “cool table”. It feels crappy to wonder why you’re invisible.

The irony is, I have a higher IQ than most of the self-proclaimed “smart kids” who won’t talk to me because I mix up Star Wars and Star Trek. If they wanted to talk to me about books or politics or philosophy or psychology or religion or almost anything else, they’d discover that. I can understand the pressure to be a “fake geek girl”, because if you’re a girl who isn’t into that subculture, and you happen to date guys who are..well, you’re judged. A lot.

I don’t have interest in being someone I’m not. I’m not putting on an exploitative costume or wearing fake glasses or toning down my makeup or replacing my girly-girl fashion style with a witty T-shirt so people will think I’m smart, or so geeky guys or intelligent guys will like me. They already do, with my quirky artist/life-loving manic pixie/insecure, misanthropic extroverted personality. Yet, it sucks not to fit in because a group of people who know all about being judged and not fitting in do the same to you.

I don’t judge the people who are judging me. I accept people as they are. I’m not a mainstream person. I belong to my own set of subcultures, and so I’m interested in accepting others. But it seems as if those who have most often been judged are the most likely to judge….leading a less individualistic person to wonder if it’s just easier to fake it.

I’m not defending the idea of the “fake geek girl”. I get that some girls pretend to be part of a subculture to attract a certain kind of guy, whether it’s geeks or hipsters or musicians or anything else. I’ve already written about that in the past, so it doesn’t bear repeating. It’s uncool, and it doesn’t work. However, I see why some girls who aren’t “geek girls” feel pressured to fake it in order to be accepted, much as with any group out there in mainstream culture. If you don’t, you risk being judged, or seen as less than you are, or worse yet, people never get to know the real you.

I’ve known many of these people for over four years, and not one of them knows the real me.

It is ironic—or not—that a person can feel as much pressure to belong to a subculture to avoid judgment, as to conform to mainstream ideals to find a place to fit in.

The problem isn’t the “fake geek girl”. It’s that we live in a society that requires women to always fall neatly in boxes, usually boxes somehow related to the men with whom they associate, and to dress and act and behave in a way that’s rewarded by both men and women. If you conform, girls like you, guys are attracted to you, and your self-esteem is regularly reinforced. If you don’t, you risk judgment and ostracism and wonder what’s wrong with you. Girls are intimidated because you stand out, and good or bad, that draws the attention other girls want for themselves. Guys are intimidated because you make it clear you’re playing by your own rules, not the standard ones in effect. Mainstream or subculture, women are still put in boxes that define the way in which they’re meant to be pleasing to others. Not that men aren’t, of course, but I maintain women have it a bit harder on that front.

The problem is we live in a world that encourages and rewards the “fake geek girl”, just as it does the “fake Barbie doll girl”. It also demeans intelligent men, sending out the message that all guys would choose the fantasy over the reality, and they would not. The phenomenon of the “fake geek girl” is just another way women have found to manipulate, or to be manipulated, even those who head into things with good intentions. Rather than her intelligence being accepted and encouraged by a community of peers, she’s being rewarded for her sexuality, for her willingness to please, to conform, to be another person’s ideal.

Why can’t we all just be as we are—flawed, interesting, diverse, fucked-up, fun-loving human beings? And why, if you happen to be female, does your sexuality come before all of that?

That’s why I’m not a fake anything, and I don’t belong anywhere in our society. I’m proud of my sexuality, but I own it…not the culture I live in, or the guys who want to buy me drinks, or someone who cares more about how I look in a Star Wars costume than my actual ability to converse and share ideas. Yet, this takes either internal strength or the ability to be an hard-headed human being who won’t compromise ideals to be liked, no matter how much harder that makes things.

I’ve yet to determine which category defines me. Perhaps neither.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m one of those girls who has always struggled to maintain female friendships. In fact, my life is experience with people has always been along the lines of “Women are nice to your face and tear you apart behind your back, and men just pretend to be your friend when they’re interested in sleeping with you”. A jaded perspective, perhaps, but up until about the age of 26, it was one that was absolutely true. Years of trying to bond with other women–from sleepovers in elementary school to being part of the theatre world throughout my life to joining a sorority in college—have always failed me, and I’m not sure why. I’m unconventional, and some people judge that. I’m strong-willed, opinionated, and a little charismatic, and some people are intimidated by that. If I have a problem with you, I will tell you to your face, not gossip behind your back, and some people consider that “confrontational”. It’s always seemed to me there’s no way to win when it comes to making strong female friendships, and some of the most damaging things that have happened in my life have been at the hands of other women. Even as a grown woman, I still find it amusing when other grown women form cliques, talk about me behind my back, give me nicknames, and refuse to address their problems with me directly.

The funny thing is, I’m actually a big fan of strong, intelligent, confident, outspoken women. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to develop a very small circle of female friendships that have been a part of my life for years, and value them immensely (the number of close male friends in my life still outnumbers the girls about 5:1, and, yes, some of those friendships are quite platonic. Well, a couple, anyway.) I’m the first person to stand up for a girl who is being unfairly judged because she has a personality that’s “different”, or breaks the cardinal rule of life and stands out from the crowd, or wears her heart on her sleeve. It disheartens me that many of these same women I’ve defended have gone on to judge me, to choose not to be my friend, but it is what it is.

My close female friends are all very different from one another. They don’t even all get along with one another. However, they have a few traits in common: they are highly intelligent, accept me for who I am and how I see the world (even when they don’t agree), don’t judge me for my mistakes throughout my journey, and are not intimidated by me one bit. It has been really, really tough for me to find women like this throughout my life, but I’m glad I have.

I’m not a supporter of women tearing down other women, because life isn’t a contest where there’s only room for one queen bee. I’m not a supporter of the female mentality learned in adolescence (see: “Mean Girls”) carrying over to adulthood, but you only need to look at your local suburban PTA to see that it does.

So, I have to say that I was very, very hurt and disappointed to see that friend and fellow blogger Gala Darling was met with negativity and criticism upon starting her new job as a beauty and style editor on the website xoJane. I thought her first article for the site was honestly written, soul revealing, and an extremely personal way to present yourself the first day on the job. Yet, she sparked such controversy and downright hurtful negativity, that the article received almost 650 comments in two days.

For some reason, Gala is a very controversial lady. Maybe it’s because she has an unconventional past, and isn’t ashamed to be open about it. She shares what she thinks will help other girls in their journey, and keeps things private that really aren’t anyone else’s business. This is pretty much the mantra of how I live my life, but I learned the hard way—as has Gala—that it doesn’t work. There’s always someone out there, some petty and insecure human being, who judges you and thinks everything about you is their business. There’s always someone out there who feels better watching you be torn down, especially if you’ve been vulnerable enough to come out and admit to being an emotional person, someone who’s battled demons in the past. There are always people who feel wronged by you that can’t forgive, can’t let go. There are always people who judge you to the point of not being able to speak to you or acknowledge you cordially, even though perhaps you never did anything to them.

If you’re a female, 9 times out of 10, these people are other women.

Gala makes it her personal mission to promote issues like body-acceptance, anti-bullying, equal rights, living life unconventionally, and all those other wonderful Burning Man messages she’s wrapped up in a philosophy she calls “radical self-love”. I’m not a big fan of the whole self-help genre, but she’s sending out a valuable message to a society full of girls who need to hear it.

It doesn’t matter what road someone took to get to where they are, what choices they made, what they sacrificed along the way, what advantages they had, what challenges they faced, or whether or not you can relate to their journey. What matters is that someone is willing to be open and vulnerable and share that journey because it may help others. It sucks that consistently, strong, independent, unconventional women are torn down for their willingness to do this. All it does is create a culture where people are more and more reticent to take chances, be real, put themselves out there.

I admire authenticity. I too have traveled a difficult, unconventional road. I’ve made mistakes, hurt others, changed how I saw the world along my journey, took chances others wouldn’t, and did so knowing I’d probably be judged…and didn’t care. The older I get, the more willing I am to own up to all the pieces of my journey, to speak openly about my views on life, and if it shocks people or causes them to judge me…well, it hurts, but so what?

I only wish the kind of strength necessary to be an outspoken, authentic, open-minded, emotionally-aware female in today’s society was more appreciated, rather than labeled: “bitch”, “phony”, “psycho”, “obnoxious”,”slut”,”stupid”. Every strong woman seems to be judged with one or more of these words, and it’s usually other women doing the judging.

I was once told that it doesn’t matter whether what people have to say about you, whether it’s good or bad, what matters is that you’re relevant enough to keep them talking. Controversy is a compliment. And, in less than a week, Gala has boosted the readership and commentary of xoJane tremendously. She’s doing her job.

I’d also be remiss in not mentioning another strong, outspoken, divisive woman of whom I’m a huge fan. Aubrey O’Day has been lighting up cyberspace with her cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”, changing the lyrics to address her failed relationship with a married man. It’s an interesting cover, and given Aubrey’s past, shows that she’s got some balls in order to put it out there. I highly recommend checking it out on YouTube. (I only hope she got the proper rights, and isn’t going to be facing a lawsuit from Gotye’s people soon.)

As long as there are strong, unconventional women speaking their minds and making the choices you either wouldn’t, or wish you could, there will be haters. I only hope the haters don’t keep future generations of strong, unconventional women from emerging. (The Guy I Am Currently Dating told me an unfortunate story about a 14 year-old who had dramatic plastic surgery done because she got teased at school. Now she looks like a plastic Barbie doll. At 30, she will need even more cosmetic surgery.)

Women (and girls) really need to stop the habit of tearing each other down, especially through passive-aggressive means. Isn’t life hard enough to not attempt to show empathy for someone else’s journey, and maybe even look at the world through another point of view for a moment?