There are a lot of things that I happily give up my time to think about. There are a lot of people who I think about, a lot of films I consider, music I listen to. Keira Knightly, however, does not often occupy my mind. Indeed, I have a confession. Something of which I am not proud. I was not a Keira Knightly fan. I really, really didn’t like her.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask. Don’t most women hate Keira Knightly? We saw what Tanya Gold said

If you want to befriend a woman, ask her the question, “What do you think of Keira Knightley?” In the resulting torrent of bile and loathing, you will bond. She will say, “I hate Keira Knightley. She’s such a terrible actress. She looks like a stoat. And those teeth! She makes my fists itch!” It is a Pavlovian response. Hatred of Keira is like menstruation; all women share it. At work, we sit in rows doing Keira Knightley impersonations. You stick out your teeth, and make claws with your hands, pretend they are paws, and pretend to dig.

Isn’t that true?? Even if it’s not, what’s the problem with you not liking some actress? Big deal.

Okay so I’m being pretty patronising, I know. But this is something which has really bothered me – so much modern media and so many modern women dislike this woman for no real, legitimate reason, and I have found myself following them purely because…well, actually, for no reason. I just did.

As I said, this wasn’t something I spent time thinking about. It never really bothered me, until now. In the last week I’ve read two interviews with Ms Knightly, one in The Guardian and one in The Big Issue, and it got me thinking. What exactly is it I don’t like about this woman? I honestly cannot answer that question sufficiently. Yes, she can be quite pouty. Yes, sometimes her acting is a bit flat. But that such things can cause so many women to hate her is very saddening. Here is a strong, independent woman. She is clever, sarcastic and loyal (refusing to speak about her friends/family/relationships publicly). She is a good actor, and she is a beautiful woman. She is also very quick witted – her response to women’s unanimous so-called ‘hatred’ of her was praiseworthy:

“Well, I’m doing a good thing for women all over the country, then,” she says. “I think that’s a very positive thing.”

Yet she is faced with the hatred and subsequent abuse from the public. It does make me wonder what it is she’s really doing wrong. Making people jealous, perhaps, with her looks and her wealth and her opportunities to kiss various much-loved actors *coughJohnnyDeppcough*. Or perhaps it’s simply because she’s a woman.

The attitudes towards her are perpetuating the view that strong women are to be feared, despised even. It is because of this widespread acceptance that such women are a threat that it becomes difficult for women to get by as independent and powerful in their own right. It is because of the perpetuation of these beliefs that the women who are in the spotlight so often lose it, some resorting to harming their body in order to satisfy the public’s idea of the ideal woman, some literally losing their grip altogether, like Britney, while the others are forced to accept that they will have to face the irrational judgement of the public in order to do the job that they love. Ms Knightly falls into the latter category, accepting the views of the public as inevitable but simultaneously avoiding it by not reading what is written about her.

But just because she is strong enough to take it does not make it acceptable. We need to stop this, now. I am not saying we cannot dislike other women, far from it. But we mustn’t victimise women, we mustn’t follow the media blindly, we must stop. We must think. We must justify, to ourselves, why we view these women in the way that we do. For how can feminism ever get anywhere when women hate other women just because they are strong? If we can’t get past the hatred of strength that we learn from our backward society, how can we ever progress?

I am ashamed that I accepted dislike of Keira Knightly as a given. I am ashamed that I didn’t stop to ask myself why.

I have learnt my lesson. Please, learn from it too. We need to learn to love women for who they are, regardless of shape, size, age and colour, and one of the first steps to that is surely to address the very opposite – our hatred of our own kind.

And as Inga Muscio says in Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, we learn to hate other women through the unwritten rules of society, but the only way to truly be free of such a hatred is first to understand that much of the hate is our own insecurities projected onto celebrity – and then to acknowledge these ‘weaknesses’ in ourselves, accept them, and love ourselves.

So please, for me, for you, for women everywhere, love yourself and lose the hatred. The world will be brighter, your step will be lighter, and we’ll be ever so slightly closer to truly being free.