Do you ever catch yourself saying “I’m not like other girls”? Do you use phrases like “Real men,” or “Real women”? Do you find yourself saying “Men are just like that,” or “That’s just how women are.” Ever said that you prefer having male friends because women stir drama? Ever thought that being a “guys’ girl” is a compliment? Do you judge women as better or worse based solely on their appearance? Do you “slut shame” women for the same behaviors you find completely acceptable from men? As women, most and more of these statements have ran through our minds and we’ve probably said them out loud.
If you were raised as a girl, you definitely have some internalized misogyny. But what is internalized misogyny? Internalized misogyny is when women subconsciously project sexist ideas onto other women and even onto themselves. The complexities of it are astounding, and when being examined for the first time, they can feel overwhelming. This article merely scratches the surface but I hope it serves as an awakening or reminder that will help set the course for further conversation and self-examination.
We often see women being degraded subtly in our everyday lives, especially in the media. This sets an unhealthy precedent and makes it all the more difficult to see ourselves tearing one another down. As independent as we think we may be, we have many preconceived notions about how a woman should exist that stem from societal expectations and gender norms. It is important to be conscious of this, and to be conscious of your thoughts and ideas not only about other women but also in regards to yourself.
My Own Misogyny
I remember this one time I was with my girl friend at a male friend’s house and he had a portrait of a man playing a saxophone. I started telling this guy how I love jazz and who my favorite jazz artist is – he wasn’t even bothered to want to know the details but I just continued blabbering on and on. Then my girlfriend texted me, “You’re really giving off pick me vibes.” That’s when I realized I was trying too hard to come off as “different” than my girlfriend. Subconsciously, I was competing with my friend for this man’s validation. Sometimes misogynistic beliefs are so deeply ingrained that we don’t see them for what they are. If it wasn’t for my friend, I probably would have never critically explored my internalized misogyny.
As feminists, we confidently believe that we view everyone equally, but internalized misogyny sits somewhere in most of us and it can be difficult to identify — It’s only reasonable considering we’ve been raised in a society that perpetuates sexist beliefs. Nevertheless, feminism is about actively confronting your biases to make room for inclusive, accepting, and diverse perspectives on womanhood.
After that day, I had to evaluate and confront my own misogyny. I explored why I like the things I do and why I don’t. I started seeing misogyny in almost everything around me. The stories we tell, the way we say things, and to whom we say them. I was able to think critically, and above all, I learned to acknowledge the sex (not gender) of an individual.
While the enemy of feminism is the patriarchy, patriarchal ideologies are deeply rooted in people of all identities.
How Can Internalized Misogyny Manifest?
As women there is so much “interpretation” about the message we’re conveying through the clothes we wear. Will we be taken seriously? Will we send the wrong message? Will we be sexy and attract a partner? How will other women see me? Internalized misogyny has made women believe that showing too much skin means you are a slut — check out this twitter thread by Prof. Uju Anya. Reclaiming fashion depends upon the mutual realization that wearing a tight dress doesn’t make you a whore, neither does being covered and “decent” make you a prude. There is no reason that frilly dresses and skirts should be inferior to pantsuits, they’re all powerful because the women in them are powerful.
Another odd concept is the association of colours with the gender binary. The belief that a colour can hold connotations regarding one’s sexuality, gender presentation, and even attributes of personality is based in highly patriarchal notions. For instance, the colour pink is associated with femininity — fun fact: There was a time in history where pink was considered a masculine colour. As it grew in popularity, pink acquired connotations of being “too girly” or “too feminine.” Therefore, girls who resent being labeled as weak or fragile, opt not to wear pink as a sign of rebellion. Pink is considered for “girly-girls” and black for “strong girls”. While there isn’t anything wrong in not favouring a colour, it is necessary to consider the internalized coded definitions of gender that may have put you off bright colours.
In the words of Prof. Uju Anya, “No matter what or how much women gain from bargaining with patriarchy, we can never beat a system thriving on our oppression and exploitation…” The very idea that women can unconditionally support each other’s success and exist as mutually empowered individuals upsets the patriarchal hegemony of society — hence the ” Divide and Conquer” tactic. As a result, we are brought up to feel like the world is against us, that women are “catty” and they “stir drama”, when in reality, there is enough space for us to feel whole without tearing each other apart.
We need creative solutions to transforming internalized misogyny. Self-awareness of what you’ve internalized is a starting point. Empathy towards other women is another. This is about undoing centuries of oppressive dialogue. It isn’t about ignoring the facts, but instead facing them. And it needs to start with the way we treat women — including ourselves. Remember – empowered women, empower women!