November 02, 2012

Internalized Misogyny: "I'm Not Like Most Girls!"

   

So, when I was seventeen, I went to a party. Also in attendance was a boy that I liked (who actually liked me back!), so needless to say, we spent a bit of that little get-together flirting with each other. Nothing major: brief brushes of my skin on his, maybe a couple hugs that went on a few seconds too long to be considered merely "friendly"; all in all it was pretty innocent. Anyone who was keeping an eye on us would have probably noticed, but I figured that everyone else was probably too busy doing their own socializing and didn't care what I was up to. 

I was wrong. It didn't even take a full 24 hours for it to get back to me that one of the other girls at this party was having an absolute fit about what a "total slut" I was. I was a "slut", a "whore", a "skank", and I was probably riddled with STDs to boot. She also made a point to talk about how stupid and annoying I was. Here's the real kicker: I'd never talked to this girl. Never in my life. She'd graduated from my high school a couple years ahead of me, so the only time I'd ever been in any sort of close quarters with her was at this party. The only logical conclusion? A boy had been paying special attention to me, and she was mad as hell about it. Naturally, at seventeen, my first reaction was to be outraged, to be hurt, to have angry tears, to rant about what a "crazy bitch" this girl was, and to revel in any nasty things anyone told me about her. 

Then, I grew up a little bit. I grew up and I started actually thinking about this all-too-common phenomenon: girl-hate. It's so rampant that it's contributed to the stereotype that all girls are catty and horrible and some of us have started insisting that we're "not like other girls" to separate ourselves from all these generalizations, saying that we'd rather hang out with boys, because "boys have less drama". Here's the thing, though: homogenizing the entire female gender down to one or two negative stereotypes is sexist. When girls perpetuate it, it's called "internalized misogyny". And sadly, I've found that girls are guilty of perpetuating misogyny almost as often as men are. 

If we, as a society, would stop conditioning girls and women to feel like we have to constantly compete with each other, girl-hate would pretty much stop. If we, as a society, would stop trying to tell girls and women that the most important thing is male attention, we’d stop feeling threatened by other girls and how they look and we’d stop ripping our fellow ladies to shreds over their appearances. Society has told us that male attention is the ultimate prize and that every other girl in the room is competing for it. It's made us feel that we've "won" if a man thinks we're attractive, so we get angry if another girl in the room might take that away from us. This is about the time we start sizing other ladies up: deciding that she has the better body, but your face is nicer and hopefully that makes up for it. This is about the time you start comparing your hair and your clothes to hers, start looking for every flaw you can possibly find in this human being just because she's there

We feel that we've "won" if a man thinks we're special. This is part of what contributes to that god-awful "special snowflake" complex that leads many girls to attempt to separate themselves from the rest because they have to be better: if unique and special is what gets attention, then I have to be the most unique and special! Cue loads of posts online by girls who think they're better than other girls because they like staying at home and using the internet more than they like going out and partying. This is the attitude that leads to rubbish like this:

NEWS FLASH: You don't have to constantly compare yourself to every other girl around you!
It leads to women tearing each other down instead of building each other up. It leads us to judge a person's worth by the most trivial of actions and appearances rather than looking at their full depth.

revised version by popcornmassacre@tumblr 
This is behavior that's been programmed into women by society our entire lives, so it won't be easy to un-learn. I've internalized much of this myself. Us girls, we're victims -- victims of a society that constantly tells us we're too fat (but we can't be too skinny, either), too ugly (but don't wear too much make-up or you'll look "fake"), that your clothes have to be amazing (but caring about fashion is petty and shallow), that you can't be a doormat (but if you're too assertive, you're a total bitch); a society that screams at us from every billboard and magazine cover: YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. And because we perceive each other as threats, we rip each other to shreds.

But I think recognizing this behavior is the first step to overcoming it. I think that once you've become aware that you're only mentally sizing a girl up because she's pretty and confident, you can stop yourself in your tracks. You can take control and not let this nonsense get the better of you. Imagine a world where girl-girl relationships were better, where women could work together for the betterment of their gender instead of hating each other. Imagine walking into a room and not caring who has a nicer butt than you! Viva la revolucion!

Once I embraced the idea that other women are not my natural enemies, my relationships with them improved drastically and so did my confidence in myself. I could focus on my own personal growth rather than stunting that of others. It's a perspective that has lead to me making wonderful, supportive friends who feel the same way. And friends are good, because no one wants to smash the patriarchy alone.

38 comments:

  1. This post is amazing. Very enlightening. I would hope one day women would turn to one another with love instead of tearing each other apart with this horrid habits.

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    1. I certainly hope so too -- and I think recognizing that we do it is the first step to making it stop. Thank you for the feedback!

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  2. just tweeted this. well done. - @juniperidot

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  3. I just had this posted on my FB page by a friend. I almost didn't bother reading the article after being blasted by the text on that poster. Why on earth would you preface an essay on female solidarity with *that*?

    The reason my friend gave me the link was, I posted some goofy shit from Boing Boing about how I'm not any good at the "girl" things I'm "supposed" to enjoy. Yes, my friends love spa days and I politely decline. Yes, I actually think nail polish looks kind of cute, but I've *never* been able to apply it. Ditto makeup. (My son rocks at applying both -- on himself, not me.) And no, I don't run around trashing women who like or excel at the so-called feminine arts.

    So: telling women to stop acting like "precious fucking snowflakes" is a feminist gesture? Okay. Thanks.

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    1. If you read the article, or even just that poster which you seem to have misinterpreted, that point is that all women are different and unique, but comparing yourself to women to feel superior is what gives you the "god-awful" (because it is what hurts yourself and others) special snowflake syndrome. Okay? Thanks.

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  4. (mildly) I don't wanna "smash the patriarchy." Or the matriarchy. I like men. And women. Both equally, and everyone who's in between.

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    1. Patriarchy =/= men. The patriarchy is a collection of beliefs, values, and pressures that influence women AND men and try to control the "appropriate" ways to act, react, think, and believe. The only thing inherently 'male' about the patriarchy is that the term derives from men having more power and control than women, which again, is NOT their fault (unless they recognise it and try to enforce the patriarchy anyway).

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    2. In order to have equality, the patriarchy which undermines women's rights, and wellbeing much be dismantled. Yes we are equal in law, but that needs to be reflected in culture through awareness and the debunking of stereotypes and generalizations

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  5. Society must be some horrible, wicked place, full of hate and anger and evil, where nothing good ever happens to be this oppressive, and stifling, and disabling to women. Despite being absolute models of perfection, society attacks them at every opportunity. Forever the victim. Forever getting the raw deal. Forever getting less than they deserve from others. What an awful place society is. Why would anyone want to live in such a place? Go off into the wilderness, and make a cabin for yourself. Live there in peace and harmony with nature, without all that evil misogyny lurking around every corner, keeping you down, withering your spirit, diminishing your life, robbing you of opportunity and equal pay*, telling you how to dress or how to act. Yes, just go off into the mountains and be responsible and accountable only to yourself. You are familiar with the words "responsibility" and "accountability" right? No? Oh right, society never told you about those things. It was too busy oppressing you to teach you that EVERYONE, regardless of gender. has to live by boundaries of societal expectations, mutual responsibility to each other, and how to conduct oneself as a cohabitant of civil society and practice good taste. Keep on being an insufferable, whiny, privileged member of the first world while chronically playing the victim card.

    *: Studies show (on average) women have shorter work weeks, more sick days per year, less dangerous jobs, jobs with less severe working conditions, and jobs which don't require them to be away for extended periods from family or those they love. Years of experience on the job also have something to do with compensation. The 77 cents on the dollar figure bandied about doesn't take any of those other factors into account, so not only is it not true, it is intellectually dishonest for feminists to continue citing that misleading figure.

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    1. The words "good taste", "civil" and "cohabitant" in this comment bug me just as much as "insufferable", "whiny" and "victim card". The whole point of this post is to point out that we are just making the problem worse, and that the only way of overcoming all the issues you just raised in your comment is through awareness. Where to start.
      Society is a horrible place for both men and women. We place expectations on everyone that are simply way out of reach. This might seem like a given, but people are unaware and still internalize them. The purpose of pointing these out is to empower, not to 'play the victim card'. Knowledge = power. If we understand that these expectations are unreasonable, we can begin to stand up against them. This applies to men, women, trans* folk and any type of social, cultural and biological groups you can imagine. Society is fucking cruel. We need to work on fixing that. You got butthurt because it got pointed out - does it feel threatening to you that people want to improve the world that we live in? If so, I'm really sorry to hear that your mind is so full of blind spots.
      Next I want to address your point about the days of holidays, sick days, traveling conditions etc. - this is a fair one. However, saying "studies show" is not strong enough evidence, and as much as I'd like to believe you I'd also love to see a source. Assuming that you can provide me with this source, let's go on to discussing the issue. These reduced responsibilities and sacrifices come from reduced expectations about the capabilities of women. They are directly linked to the 77 cents on the dollar figure because that is what a work hour of a woman is assumed to be worth, compared to that of a man. Those 77 cents define that a woman is simply unable to practice a more physically or emotionally taxing job, is unable to travel away from her family due to her role as the primary child-rearer, and I'm going to assume that the sick days are due to the fact that women have to bear children (trust me, it's not as fun and easy as it looks. Serious side effects make women UNABLE to work after certain stages of pregnancy, and right after birth). I, personally, believe that this is still unfair, as equal work opportunities should come with both the advantages and disadvantages. However, justifying this reduced payroll with the alleged 'benefits' that come with it is detrimental, as these benefits stem from less than pleasant issues that are rooted in discrimination (apart from pregnancy of course).
      Finally, yes, we are responsible for our own actions, which is exactly why the author wrote this post and why it is so compelling. We cannot reduce our responsibility of our own actions by claiming that we are different, special, or victims. Women hating on each other is a perfect example of how we are taught from a young age to do exactly the opposite. We are taught to do things that are fucked up and irrational. Women put each other down because they feel put down themselves - it makes no sense. The whole point of this post is to point that out so that anyone who reads this and is willing to change can learn to do so. You got upset over this, which is completely self-contradictory. Please think this over. Acting 'civil' and cohabiting is all about learning to treat others with respect, not conforming to roles that are forced upon us. This applies to our whole population.

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    2. The article wasn't whiny. It was addressing the author's and other women's (if they so chose) personal internalized misogyny. The author says at the end of the article that she began to think about women and herself in a different way, and it lead her to better relationships and a more confident attitude. You're a crazy crackpot lol.

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  6. I would argue that it is quite natural for women to covet male attention. It is normal to dislike something which could potentially inhibit your chances for reproduction.Both men and women deal with personal insecurities and planting blame on anyone but oneself is childish.Its not men vs. women, or woman vs. woman, its individual vs. everyone else.

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    1. It isn't natural for women to covet male attention lol, and there are many different types of sexuality you're forgetting with that statement. What is natural is the human need for social interaction, community and friendship which experts say is the main contributor to well-being and happiness. And calling anything "childish" is kind of dumb. It implies that acting like a child is shameful, and this is how society silences children and makes them less than human leading to child abuses. Also, in my experience many people that use this term were told this by their parents. Were you? And it isn't individual vs. anyone else lol Jesus you have lots of psychological problems, its individual in regards to everyone else. Keeping a strong sense of self while co-inhabiting with fellow humans.

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  7. yeah but im not like most girls

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  8. Also, it is not society's fault that women are competitive against each other. Women have evolved to be competitive since the beginning of time. Society merely reflects that.

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  9. Women have an in-group preference for other women about four and a half times greater than men have for an in-group preference of men. In other words: women love women simply for being women four and a half times more than men love men for being men.

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  12. I for one, do not believe "anonymous" is female. Clearly "anonymous" profits from the oppression of women and girls in ways that women and girls can not under patriarchy and that's why he continues to perpetuate it even when the disadvantages to women and girls inherent in it's perpetuation are pointed out.

    This is what you're tearing each other down over heterosexual females,
    take a good look at "anonymous" here, and it will all become clear.

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  13. This post is very wise, thank you so much for you insight.

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  14. I really enjoyed reading your article. I'm seeing the ways that I have unconsciously torn other women down to make myself feel better. Thank you for your insight - I hope to use what I've learned here next time I start engaging in these patterns of behavior.

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  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUyHptG9xc8

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  17. So even when women are the ones judging other women, it's still men's fault? LOL... Wow...

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  18. Every feminist is a special snowflake.

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  21. Thankfully, being asexual kept me from getting competitive for guys, but here the sad thing. My mom thinks women should never be in management, due to our catty fights, but it's the system that makes us like that to begin with.

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