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“Her makeup looks so bad. Boys don’t like makeup like that.”
“She dresses like a boy, that is so ugly. She needs to start wearing girly clothes.”
“Why doesn’t she shave? Gross.”
“They’re not a real girl, they were born as a boy. We are real girls!”
“Look how fat she is, she needs to work out more.”
“Is she really dressed that slutty? Doesn’t she have any self-respect?”
It’s the new epidemic: girls and women hating on other girls and women. Now, the first thought that comes to mind may be that this is simply human nature to be critical of each other. To an extent it may be true that people in general can be mean spirited at times, which isn’t ever good regardless of the situation. However, I believe this girl-on-girl hate is a particular kind of hate that is the product of sexism and misogyny in our culture. Girl-on-girl hate differs because it exemplifies internalized misogyny.
What is internalized misogyny?
Internalized misogyny is the subconscious presence of hateful sexist and misogynistic language onto oneself or to another girl, rather than from men to women. This is created by stereotypes, learned both consciously and subconsciously, that essentially state unnecessary rules and myths about the way men and women should be, which additionally excludes any genders in between. Think about it this way – we all grew up bombarded with rules about what everyone should or shouldn’t do based on their gender. Without even realizing it, we take many of these imagined social stereotypes as fact, unknowingly limiting and hurting ourselves and others.
What does internalized misogyny look like?
Internalized misogyny is specifically defined as hate from girl to girl, which is where the word “internalizing” comes from. Girls are particularly held to certain gender stereotypes from the day they are born, fueled by an inherently misogynistic and sexist society. So, as men continue to hold women to these rules, women subconsciously internalize these stereotypes and hold themselves and other women to rules in order to comply with these unfair social expectations. If women hear something enough, they start to think it’s true and adhere to these ideas by repeating them to other women. This is when you start to hear statements like the examples above, where women mimic the unreasonable expectations they’ve grown up learning.
Why is internalized misogyny bad?
It’s bad enough that sexism exists, so when all these poisonous stereotypes and skewed social standards are reinforced by girls, it only makes it seem more socially acceptable. Of course, there are sexist stereotypes that hurt all genders, but typically they stem from men wanting to distance themselves from women and put themselves higher up. An example of this is someone saying a boy, transgender man, or gender nonconforming person is not “manly” enough and is acting too much “like a girl”, implying that being “like a girl” is bad. This means the only way to end sexism and misogyny is to crush the idea that girls are inferior in the first place, which we cannot do if girls and women are subconsciously perpetuating this sexism by bringing down fellow women.
How do we stop internalized misogyny?
The answer might be more simple than expected: women simply need to start lifting each other up rather than tearing each other down! Intersectional feminism is all about supporting people of all genders and understanding each unique background and personality. This includes being supportive of other women, even when you might not agree with or understand certain aspects of their personality, appearance or background. By accepting these differences and embracing each other, we are sending the message to the world that we stand in solidarity and do not tolerate sexism and misogyny. Women may not be trying to reinforce these toxic stereotypes, and may be doing so without even thinking about it. If you find yourself unnecessarily bashing other women, or using sexist language towards men that perpetuates misogyny, take a moment to think. The key is to simply catch yourself and ask what might be influencing you to think that way. Take the time to make a change, even if it is a small change within yourself, and spread some love instead. Although it takes time to unlearn such ingrained social stereotypes, thinking about how we communicate with other women will help to build a better community of respect and put us on the path to a more equal society.