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18 September 2013 @ 04:14 pm
Internalized Misogyny: a Checklist  

Patriarchy is everywhere. Misogyny is everywhere. There is no real way to escape it. But it’s still useful to point it out when it pops up.

If you are a woman, internalized misogyny means that you yourself have learned to hate what is feminine in others and what is feminine in yourself. You see this kind of thing when people talk about rape, obviously. Blaming the female victim if she was dressed too provocatively, or didn’t follow “rules” like staying with a group or not going out in the dark that men never have to observe, or imagining that she “should have done more” like said no more or fought more. But internalized misogyny happens all the time, in the most innocuous circumstances. I am going to list some here that I myself have fallen prey to.

You might have internalized misogyny if you:

1. Find yourself talking to the guys more often because they seem to be having more “important” and less “trivial” conversations.

2. Think that women really are the ones at fault when there are miscommunications because they need to “speak up” more, or “insist on being heard.”

3. Don’t watch female athletes because they aren’t as “good” as the men.

4. Are hypercritical of female bodies, on everyone from Hilary Clinton to Britney Spears.

5. Have ever used the term “Feminazi.”

6. Think that the standard lists of classic works of literature that include few female authors are sadly still true assessments of real literary value, because women just “haven’t had the opportunities that men have.”

7. Write male characters because they feel “more powerful” and “more interesting.”

8. Think that the topic of female menstruation, childbirth, or breasts is inappropriate for mixed company.

9. Pride yourself on taking less time in the shower than any other woman you know.

10. Refuse to wear makeup because it makes you feel inauthentic.

11. Cringe when you see “pink” things because you just don’t like that color.

12. Wonder why women need to have special shirts at races and why they can’t just wear the unisex like everyone else.

13. Think hair on a female figure (leg hair, underarm hair, facial hair, toe hair) is ugly.

14. Laugh at jokes about dumb blondes.

15. Read novels by women who write about male characters.

16. Wish women on television didn’t have to look so sexy.

17. Ever use the terms “girly” or “like a girl” as an insult.

18. Wish that you had a better body, like so and so.

19. Felt competitive with another woman because she looks better than you do.

20. Think that it’s a real achievement when you “keep up with the guys.”

21. Thought that a female politician should be spending more time with her kids.

22. Asked when a married woman you know is going to start having children.

23. Wondered if women should be doing certain things because they are too dangerous.

24. Wished your boobs and/or hips were smaller.

25. Imagined a world in which men and women were “equals” where equality looks a lot like color-blindness, and means that women are just more like men.

26. Evaluated a woman based on her family and her children, rather than solely based on her professional skills or contributions to society.

Again, let me say that I can make this list so easily because I have done all of these things myself. At a young age, I chose to be a “tomboy” because that got a lot more approval than being girly did. I grew up with 6 brothers, and they tortured me out of showing emotions, in much the same way that boys torture other boys. As a result of that, I interact socially more as a guy than a girl. That means that I treat women the way that men treat them often, rather than as another woman. For a long time, I believed that was because I was being “equalist,” by evaluating everyone on the same terms. But they were male terms.

You might argue that some girls choose certain things, like being a tomboy, or colors other than pink, or not to wear makeup because that is what they *want* to do, not because it is forced on them by some kind of internalized misogyny. You may be right (though I frankly doubt it), but how would we ever know? How can you ever know what choices you would have made if you lived in a world in which there was no misogyny? There is no such world. And as one rather annoying gentleman asked me at a recent panel, why can’t we just have more equality and treat everyone the same, it’s because we live in patriarchy and there just isn’t such a thing.

There is awareness of misogyny. There is criticism of the patriarchy. That’s it. That’s all the utopia I can offer. Maybe I sound German (I certainly had plenty of training in thinking as a German philosopher in college), but as soon as you make a utopia, you will see how quickly it falls apart and reveals its real underpinnings as based in patriarchy. And so we reveal the truth. And we admit we are part of it.

Enlevéenleve on September 19th, 2013 01:17 am (UTC)
I think there are also even subtler ones, especially related to the role that money plays in one's life. For example, feeling like earning money or fulfilling the breadwinner role is important to one's self-respect.

I don't want to say that I think earning money is bad. That's not what I think at all! But I feel like our culture says that to be a real adult you have to assume the roles that men have traditionally assumed, including earning money. Other kinds of value that one might bring to the situation are often overlooked.
Heidi Robbins TigheHeidi Robbins Tighe on September 24th, 2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
I can see a lot of these, but how is reading a book with a male protag which is written by a woman misogynistic? Is it not okay for writers to just write any character that comes to them? Am I misunderstanding what you said?
metteharrisonmetteharrison on September 25th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
Of course, as I said above, this might be an entirely legitimate choice. But so often, I see women writers choosing to write about male protagonists because they feel like male stories are "more interesting." Sometimes it's done unconsciously. Sometimes it is done on purpose, for marketing reasons because we continue to reinforce the idea that boys won't read about girls, but girls will read about boys. Really, it's just because if you write about girls you get into a discussion of whether your female character is "strong" enough and you just skip all of that with a male protag.