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Internalized Misogyny: How to Recognize It, Fight It and Win Over It

Misogyny is evident in society. But, what about internalized misogyny? Is it possible for women to project misogyny onto themselves and others?

Signs Internalized Misogyny

We all know what misogyny and sexism look like. At least we hope you do. It is clear behavior rooted in the belief that women are less than men. But, internalized misogyny is perhaps all the more damaging, because it comes from the very people that misogyny affects. That’s what makes it so dangerous and damaging – it’s so ingrained.

We all want to live in a world that is equal. However, even at this point, our society is still a long way from being that.

While men may not hold the power they used to in Victorian times and beyond, there is still a huge gap that needs to be bridged. It doesn’t help when you have big businessmen making misogynistic remarks on TV or in the media. They may not be aware that’s what they’re doing, but their words are very clear.

But, have the years of sexism and general misogyny created internalized misogyny among women? And what exactly is this rather complicated-sounding word?

[Read: Misogynist men – 18 ways to instantly spot a women hater]

What is internalized misogyny?

Internalized misogyny is involuntarily believing the stereotypes held against women. It’s a subconscious thing, which is why it’s not only men who show it. Even women can show misogyny occasionally – it could be a quick remark here and there that really opens up a debate on the equality gap between men and women in today’s society.

Of course, this means that the intense amount of sexism in society has made its way into our psyches, and even though we are feminists, some of those negative beliefs still seep in.

It’s worrying, right? [Read: What’s a misogynist? 22 red flags that reveal a disrespectful, sexist man]

For a long time, we all thought that misogyny and general sexism were something that a person chose and believed. But, it seems that society’s views are creating a new type of sexism and we’re not even aware we’re doing it.

To break it down, internalized misogyny occurs when a woman becomes misogynistic herself, without realizing it. It’s a subconscious thing. She may start to believe certain ideas simply because someone has told her that she should. Or, she might start to project those ideas onto others and start judging women unnecessarily.

Misogyny from men is bad enough, but when women start to believe it too and internalize misogyny? Something has to change.

Why is internalized misogny a thing?

From a young age, we have all *or almost all* been raised to believe boys and girls are different. Girls wear pink and boys wear blue. Boys work and women take care of the family. A man is bold, but a woman is bossy.

These things may not have been engrained in us intentionally, but everything from our parents to television, and pop culture continue to remind us. [Read: The opposite of feminist – A new generation of women?]

It is no surprise that even with the feminist movement on the rise, we still fall down this path of internalized misogyny, sometimes even daily. You might catch yourself continuously apologizing to men when it is far from necessary.

Society continues to sympathize with men accused of sexual assault because the allegations have ruined their career, over a woman’s life. Judges are lenient on young men who assault women because they have their whole future ahead of them with zero regard to the victim’s future. These are just a handful of examples in a world full of them.

And even in the world of dating, we tend to apologize for turning down a man’s offer for a date, turning our cheek to a kiss, or refusing to have sex.

Although as women we have nothing to be sorry for, we feel this guilt anyway. It’s been ingrained into our minds, internalized. It’s as though we have a responsibility to make men feel like men, but women do not owe men anything. [Read: 23 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend most girls don’t even notice]

The effects of internalized misogyny

The effects of internalized misogyny can be long-lasting and consequential for both men and women. When something flies under the radar, it becomes a so-called acceptable part of modern society. That’s not a good thing.

The message that men receive at a young age tells them that women owe them something, and the same message is given to women. We are taught gender roles. We are taught to be agreeable, to not fight back, and to be “lady-like.”

It is these dangerous lessons that cause internalized misogyny to occur.

It is at this point that a woman starts to believe these sexist ideas and as such, that becomes her norm. Then, when she sees another woman acting differently from what she believes to be “normal,” she judges her. Her own behavior becomes misogynistic and extremely problematic.

The fact is that internalized misogyny isn’t done purposely. It’s so subconscious and subtle that it’s hard to identify. But, the best way to deal with something subtle is to identify it and stop it in its tracks quickly. [Read: Sex positive feminism – What it is and why we must embrace the movement]

The most obvious yet subtle signs of internalized misogyny

Attacking internalized misogyny head-on not only aids the growth of feminism but also improves everyone’s lives. Women gain self-esteem and live out their fullest potential. Men feel more comfortable and our lives are enriched by equality.

Because internalized misogyny is quite hard to identify in the daily run of life, let’s look at some key signs that as a woman, you may be struggling with this very issue yourself. [Read: Types of feminism – Can’t we all just agree to disagree?]

1. Appreciating more feminine qualities

Hearing a man complimenting your beauty is always nice. And there is nothing wrong with loving to hear those words.

But putting more importance on a compliment about your more traditionally feminine qualities than masculine ones can be problematic. Do you take more pride when you hear a comment about your looks than your brain?

You don’t have to necessarily prefer to hear that you are a good leader or smart or funny over being called pretty, but knowing your worth on both ends of the spectrum removes internalized misogyny from your mind. [Read: The best compliments for girls – 25 genuine lines she’ll love to hear]

2. Trying to be perfect

That balance that so many women strive for is impossible. You want to be smart but not too smart. Funny, but not funnier than him. You want to be a good cook and look cute, but not put too much effort in.

It is a balancing act so many women try to achieve but so unnecessary.

Have you ever seen a man work so hard to be a perfect mix of naughty and nice? Rather than believing that women have to be so-called perfect in the traditional gender role activities, why don’t just focus on what you enjoy and try being good at that? [Read: Why a woman should never dumb it down to impress a guy]

3. Looking down on traditional gender roles

Traditional gender roles are not evil if you choose them willingly. They’re only damaging when they’re forced upon you.

Yet, internalized misogyny can lead to that belief. If feminism is all about equality, then a woman who decides to stay at home with her family rather than work can’t be a feminist, right? WRONG!

Feminism is about appreciating and respecting a woman’s right to CHOOSE what she does with her life whether that be work, having a family, both, or neither. If you look at women who haven’t made the same choices as you as a lesser person, you may be dealing with your own internalized misogyny. [Read: Why you should celebrate being female]

4. Judging other women

Whether you judge a coworker on her shoes, think a woman rocking her natural hair to work is unprofessional, or anything along those lines, you have a touch of internalized misogyny.

Working together as women, no matter how different, is what helps us break this poisonous pattern.

We need to raise one another up, not knock each other down. It’s the only way to fight general misogyny, let alone internalized misogyny that has become so deeply rooted.

5. Trying to be cool

Raise your hand if you have tried to be the “cool girl.” Being easygoing is something women try so hard to do when sometimes it is in our nature to nitpick. We can not say anything when our guy leaves the toilet seat up or forgets to pick up his dirty laundry. But we can become resentful after so long.

This is even more common in the dating world. You meet a guy, you like him, but he isn’t ready for a commitment. Although you might be ready to walk down the aisle tomorrow, you hold your tongue and follow his lead.

Staying silent in these situations only enhances the culture of misogyny. If you want to say something, say it. Don’t believe that you need to stay quiet. [Read: How to stop being strung along by a guy – 15 steps to take a real stand]

6. Interrupting

It is a well-known fact that men interrupt women. In friend groups, in work meetings, even at home. This is brought on by the idea that what a woman has to say can’t possibly be as important as a man’s opinion.

It might even lead to mansplaining, which is one of the most infuriating things a guy can do.

Mansplaining is the annoying phenomenon of a man explaining something to a woman in a patronizing way. But women also tend to interrupt fellow women, because sexism pits us against each other, rather than celebrating our mutual successes. Allow your fellow women to say what they need to say, listen, and be open to learning something new. [Read: Mansplaining and 25 ways to spot a dick when you’re talking to one]

7. Feeling guilty

Ahhhh, feeling guilty. This is probably the one most women have dealt with in their lives.

Feeling guilty for turning down a guy that bought you a drink when a drink does not imply or promise anything to a man.

Feeling guilty for leading on a man and then changing your mind.

These are all rights women have. Men make these choices all the time, but are they made to feel guilty about it?

A man sleeps with a woman but decides not to call her, he moves on. A woman does the same thing and she is judged by society and may even begin to judge herself. Understand that you are free to make any choices you want to make and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

8. Giving in

This is a difficult one because it requires a lot of strength to fight back against sexism.

Sometimes, yes, it is easier to just give in with something small than to fight back and once again allow misogyny to take over and categorize you as whiny or bitchy. [Read: Sense of self – 21 steps to raise it and feel like a million bucks]

But if a man at work asks you to get him coffee over a male coworker, that is not right. Maybe if it happens once it is because you were standing closer to the coffee machine, but when this becomes a pattern, saying something changes the narrative. Don’t just go along with it because that’s what society has told you to do.

9. Shaming others

Feminism is, once again, about respecting women for their choices, no matter what they are. Yet, so many women and men are stuck with this level of internalized misogyny that blames women.

Slut-shaming is a huge example of this. Saying a woman deserves to be treated badly or disrespected because she is open to casual sex is not right. This also leads to to victim blaming. Blaming a victim of sexual assault for dressing too revealing, drinking, walking alone, or anything else rather than actually blaming the attacker is often just straight out sexism and extremely wrong.

But, for those women that don’t realize it, it is internalized. [Read: Harmful words we need to stop using to describe a woman]

10. Thinking makeup or dresses aren’t feminist

We have heard multiple times that wearing makeup, loving makeup, being into fashion, etc. is hypocritical when you call yourself a feminist.

But anyone, whether male or female, that believes that does not truly understand what feminism is.

It is not a movement to make women more powerful than men. Feminism is not about growing out your body hair and not wearing dresses. It is about being who you are in every sense and still being treated equally for that. So looking down on a woman for caring about her appearance is definitely a sign of internalized misogyny.

11. Double standards

Men are often praised for being stay-at-home dads and giving up that traditional breadwinner role, yet women are often criticized for focusing on their careers over family.

If a man is a bachelor into his forties, he is a catch, but a woman who has focused on other aspects of her life is an old maid or spinster.

These double standards are sometimes quite obvious, but even simply asking a woman who is married if she is going to have a child, but not asking her husband, is internalized misogyny. The best answer? Just don’t ask. [Read: 12 double standards in relationships and why they’re toxic AF]

12. Wanting to be different to other women

“I’m not like other girls.” This is a statement many women embarrassingly say multiple times without realizing how awful and negative the connotations are.

What is wrong with other girls? Be yourself and simply own that.

13. Being okay with oppression

Sitting back and not doing anything about the oppression of women is brought on by internalized misogyny. You think that sexism hasn’t affected your life so you do not bother fighting it. You may think your life is easier without the responsibility. Perhaps you think your opinions don’t matter. [Read: Hypergamy – Motivation for perfection or sexist stupidity?]

Only looking at feminism from the perspective of your own life is a form of internalized misogyny. Think about it like this. Maybe you’re white so you don’t care about racism because it doesn’t directly affect you. Doesn’t that seem pretty awful? Well, it is the same thing with sexism.

14. Making excuses for men

A man assaults a woman, and people say he was drunk, he couldn’t help himself. Yet, she was drunk, so she asked for it? A man is disrespectful to a woman, and he had a rough day at work. A woman is rude to a man, and she’s a bitch?

Men get excuses made for them because they are used to getting their way. And this is not the ranting of a feminist, it is the cold hard truth. 

Many of us continue to make excuses for men whether it be our fathers, brothers, boyfriends, or even male celebrities. But those excuses allow us to fall into the world of internalized misogyny once again. [Read: 6 big telltale excuses that get you nowhere]

A problem that we all need to focus on

For sure, there are huge problems in the world today. But, there’s no denying that internalized misogyny is one of them.

For far too long, women have been sent silent messages by society that they are ‘less than’ a man in some way. Whether that’s a belief that has been verbalized by someone close to you, or it’s simply something you have taken on as a belief by other means, it’s time to fight back.

If misogynistic views have seeped into your own mind and you’re projecting them in your own life or onto other women, it’s time to notice it and stop.

Start challenging your thoughts and beliefs and slowly you can rid your own mind of any internalized misogyny that’s inside.

[Read: The keys for how to respect women]

With each moment you appreciate your own self-worth and the equality between women and men, internalized misogyny is one step closer to being vanquished.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...