Hibben: Recognize Your Own Internalized Misogyny


By Aya Hibben, Opinion Writer


Most women experience everyday sexism and misogyny. It affects our lives growing up, from the toys we buy to “how to be ladylike” lessons. As adults, we are criticized for our behavior, our decision to have or not to have children and our choices in partners. Something truly unexpected, however, is the effect of repetitive misogyny in our viewpoints of the world and other women.

The term “internalized misogyny describes the sexist way women learn to view both themselves and other women. It’s a subconscious way of degrading yourself and other women based on sexist ideas of how women should act, dress or speak.

Recognizing our own internalized misogyny is essential to equality. Women must continue to support and empower each other which is impossible without empowering ourselves first.

What Does Internalized Misogyny Look Like?

In popular culture, “pick me” girls sabotage other girls’ interests, or brag about how much they are “not like other girls.” Carrie Underwood’s pop hit “Before He Cheats,” says “He’s probably buying her some fruity little drink cause she can’t shoot a whiskey.” Even one of my favorite artists, Taylor Swift, used similar lines in “Better Than Revenge” and “You Belong with Me.” “She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts” and “she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress” both call out another girl for being too sexual or girly.

However, some examples are more internal. My own inner monologue commenting on how “slutty” my clothes are one day, or how I’m speaking too much in discussion is internalized misogyny. As a child, I often felt frustrated when I wasn’t “tough” enough, preferring a spa night to camping in the muddy, mosquito-filled woods. I forced myself to hide my interest in politics to avoid emasculating men.

In a 2020 study, women reported that internalized misogyny had negatively affected their socialization, physical and mental health and experiences at work and school. Internalized misogyny in women is connected to increased belief in the rape myth, and women who accept these gender roles were found to place less blame on perpetrators of rape. It’s been linked to unhealthy body image and disordered eating.

Demonizing Internalized Misogyny

It’s important to remember, however, that internalized misogyny is not reflective of who you are as a person. Even as a feminist, I have difficulty avoiding this involuntary phenomenon.

Misogyny surrounds us 24/7. It’s a constant presence in the media, not only in advertisements objectifying perfect female bodies but also in the high numbers of women who experience harassment online. Sexism exists in the workplace, in universities and at home. It isn’t surprising that women’s thoughts are affected by these pressures, so it is normal to experience internalized misogyny.

Addressing and Erasing

Noticing how it makes you feel when another woman puts you down, or comments on how you’re so “high-maintenance” can help you understand the effect of internalized misogyny. Pay attention to comments other women may make like “I prefer my guy friends because girls are too much drama.” These comments are used to separate yourself from negative stereotypes associated with women and bring down other women. Instead, we should be working against the same patriarchal systems that tear us down.

Rewiring your brain to not silently comment on how you and other women are acting is difficult. My best advice is to address those thoughts when they happen and correct yourself. Your clothes aren’t “slutty,” they’re clothes. Red nail polish does not mean you look like a sex worker, and it’s perfectly okay to prefer fruity drinks over beer. You do not need to be masculine to be a strong, confident woman.

Even if you aren’t a woman, it is likely you have internalized sexist views about women. If a peer says a sexist microaggression, notice and call it out. If you find yourself demonizing the color pink, challenge yourself to unpack why you could hate a color. Refuse to make femininity the enemy, and embrace the strengths and passions of different women in your life.

Without acknowledging and combating our own internalized misogyny, it is difficult to tear down the misogyny that is perpetrated by men. Internalized misogyny not only allows misogynistic behavior by men to be accepted but also increases the strain women face from everyday sexism. As women, we must work together to address our own involuntary acceptance of sexism to grasp a better view of what our world should look like. At the end of the day, let’s be proud to be like other girls.


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