Internalized Misogyny: How to Recognize It, Fight It and Win Over It
Internalized misogyny is much deeper and more complicated than blatant sexism. Learning about what it is, how it formed, and how to fight it is crucial today.
We all know what misogyny and sexism look like. At least I hope we all do. It is clear behavior rooted in the belief that women are less than men. But, internalized misogyny can be seen from anyone, even feminists.
I am sure I have even shown signs of internalized misogyny at points in my life. But what is it? Internalized misogyny is involuntarily believing the stereotypes held against women.
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 negatives beliefs still seep in. [Read: How to instantly recognize someone who hates women]
Why is internalized misogyny 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.
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. I catch myself 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 regards to the victim’s future.
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 we as women have nothing to be sorry for, we feel this guilt. We have this responsibility to make men feel like men, but women do not owe men anything. [Read: 9 ways guys manipulate and control their girlfriend]
The effects of internalized misogyny
Internalized misogyny may seem harmless from afar. It, of course, cannot be as bad as outright and blatant sexism, right? Well, maybe, but the effects of internalized misogyny can be long-lasting and consequential for both men and women.
Men who are liberal and seem to understand feminism completely may still show signs of internalized misogyny through their male privilege. When a woman is asked what she does to prevent sexual assault, the list could go on forever, but because a man is a man the thought most likely does not even cross his mind. [Read: 19 inspiring male feminist ideas from around the world]
And yes, men are also assaulted. And yes, it is not directly a man’s fault that he doesn’t carry that burden with him. But internalized misogyny is what leads to it being okay or normal for men not to worry.
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.”
Although changes are being made and women are attacking internalized misogyny at every angle, it is still a deep set problem to deal with. And the best way to deal with something more subtle is to identify it and stop it in its tracks.
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 as men appreciate all women who do and act accordingly.
#1 Appreciating more feminine qualities. Hearing a man complimenting you’re beautiful is always nice. And there is nothing wrong with loving to hear those words. But putting more basis on a compliment about your more traditionally feminine qualities than masculine ones can be problematic.
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: These are compliments that will backfire with women]
#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?
#3 Looking down on traditional gender roles. Traditional gender roles are not evil. 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, have 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 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.
#5 Trying to be cool. Raise your hand if you have tried to be the “cool girl.” *Raises hand*. 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.
#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.
This goes hand in hand with mansplaining. 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. [Read: Mansplaining and the dicks who do it]
#7 Feeling guilty. Ahhhh, feeling guilty. This is probably the one I have dealt with the most in my life. 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 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.
#8 Giving in. This is a difficult one because it requires a lot of strength to fight back at 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.
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 stood closer, but when this becomes a pattern saying something changes the narrative.
#9 Shaming others. Feminism once again is 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 into 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.
But, for those 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. I 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. It is not about growing out your body hair and not wearing dresses. It is about being who you are in every sense and still be 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 career 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.
#12 Wanting to be different than other women. “I’m not like other girls.” This is a statement I embarrassingly said multiple times in my teenage years without realizing how awful and negative the connotation was.
What is wrong with other girls?
#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.
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 Not reporting sexual assault. I myself have been in this situation, so I never ever blame a woman who fears coming forward for fear of retaliation or disbelief. But these fears are brought on by the patriarchy. They are brought on by our sexist culture.
And although I myself am ashamed of that fear and giving into it at times, we are all victims of internalized misogyny in these moments. [Read: What to do if you’re raped on a date]
#15 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.
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.