While many people are unsure as to what internalized misogyny is, I can confidently say that everyone has experienced it at some point in life.
Internalized misogyny is when someone takes in the sexist, patriarchal messages that are constantly around u, and involuntarily uses those messages against themself and/or others. Internalized misogyny is not usually as upfront as plain, old external sexism; it takes more insidious forms, such as thinking that a woman is only a stay-at-home mom because that’s the duty she felt she should take on, not because she’s her own person and might love being at home with her kids. It’s tearing down oneself or others for their personal choices, because of patriarchal messages telling us that those choices are not okay.
I spent most of my life entrenched in internalized misogyny (before I even learned what it was), and I know many other people who have too. So how are you supposed to rid yourself of this feeling, especially when it’s so pervasive? Keep reading to find suggestions.
1. Be Aware
Everyone always says the first step to fixing something is realizing what it is that needs fixing, and it’s true! Start observing your feelings and behavior towards yourself and others; if you catch yourself shaming someone for, say, sleeping with more people than you think they should, stop and ask yourself why you care so much about their sex life. Is it because you’re genuinely concerned they may be engaging in risky behavior, or is it because you’ve been taught your whole life that female sexuality is something that should be kept secret?
If you find yourself feeling bad about wearing too much makeup, think about why that might be an issue. Is it because you saw your reflection in natural light and are wishing you had blended out your contour more, or is it because we’ve been taught that boys find a cakeface deceiving? Just observing your own behavior really can make a world of a difference.
2. Talk About It
Ask your friends and family members if they know what internalized misogyny is, and have an honest conversation about the roles it plays in each of your lives. This is sort of part of the previous step, but talking to others about your feelings of internalized misogyny can help both of you hold each other accountable and observe each other’s behavior.
It can be hard internalizing your own thoughts on internalized misogyny; talking it out with someone else can make the issue much clearer.
3. Forgive Yourself (and Others)
Realize that while you are in the process of cleansing yourself of internalized sexism, these antiquated beliefs are deeply rooted in people’s psyches for their entire lives, and eliminating them won’t always be easy. It’s hard to assert yourself against the very system designed to push you down, especially when there are consequences to not bowing to that system.
Even as I’m writing this article, I still sometimes struggle with internalized misogyny. However, implementing the steps above has really helped me become more mindful of my behaviors and thoughts. Slowly eliminating internalized sexism has helped me realize the power of choice—both my own and the choices of others—and has boosted my self-esteem immensely.
What are your thoughts on internalized misogyny? Have you made a conscious effort to stop yourself from it before? If so, did it boost your confidence too? Let me know in the comments below.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.