The other day, I was talking to a woman who was rather apprehensive about going to her friend’s bachelorette party. “It’s going to be all girls there” she sighed, “and my friend and I don’t usually hang out with other girls. They’re too catty… you know how it is.” I found it ironic that she was attempting to relate to me, a woman, by talking about how she and her female friend don’t like spending time with other women.
This instance is an example of internalized misogyny, a cultural phenomenon that occurs when a girl or a woman accepts sexist ideals as true. When you see a girl sporting a #MENINIST t-shirt, proudly declaring that she’s “not like the other girls,” or claiming that scantily clad women are asking for sexual harassment, that’s a red flag for internalized misogyny. Girls like that distance themselves from anything feminine and the feminist movement itself. They do this in an effort to become the exception to the misogynistic mindset that all women are inherently less-than. But, their efforts are in vain. No matter how many guy friends a girl has or how many sexist jokes she politely laughs at, patriarchy is a boys only club and she will never be a member. And although not every woman goes to the extreme of donning meninist apparel, internalized misogyny affects us all.
So that begs the question: why are girls so desperate to distance themselves from their sisters? I would argue that it is the inevitable consequence of a patriarchal society that devalues femininity. Everywhere girls look, we see objectification, ridicule, rape, and beatings. Images of male dominance in the media ranges from the Dolce & Gabbana’s gang rape ad, to 50 Shades of Grey, to the countless TV show plots that revolve around overblown girl drama and catfights. Subconsciously, girls begin to internalize these anti-women messages and accept them as true, affecting everything from their career choices to how they form relationships with others. Sexism leaves deep cuts on the disadvantaged party, and some women’s wounds never heal.
Ridding yourself of internalized misogyny is easier said than done. Even the most active feminists are still unlearning sexism, one soul-search at a time. And because it’s such a personal struggle, every feminist woman has a unique tale of reaching self actualization and overcoming internalized misogyny. But, it’s not something we have to do on our own. Part of fighting back against the patriarchal mindset is forming friendships with other women, despite all we’ve been taught about girls being catty, backstabbing, drama queens.
The most important thing you can do to combat your own internalized misogyny is to actively support other girls. Have a generous heart: retweet their selfies, give them compliments, and be their friends. Realize that girl does not equal bad, and that distancing yourself from your sisters achieves nothing and harms everyone. The first step towards a feminist society is for women to view themselves as a force to be reckoned with. That starts with you.