How To Intentionally Heal From Internalised Misogyny As A Woman

One of my favourite feminists on the internet is Eniola Hundeyin. I admire her for how she showed me that breaking free from sexist religions, patriarchal norms on marriage and glowing eventually are things that are possible. For example, it is customary for brides in both Igbo and Yoruba customs to kneel before their husbands during the wedding rites. 

However, during her wedding, she did not kneel and she did not change her name. It may look simple but that act of defiance showed me that truly one can do their best to break free from cultural norms even in an institution as sexist as marriage.

In one of her threads which I always come back to, she asked women and young girls to state how “foolish” they were before they discovered feminism. It was an eye opener with women from various countries and backgrounds sharing ideas and beliefs they had overcome. Some women said they had overcome the idea that cooking was for women. Some others unlearned the idea that rape and catcalling was a woman’s fault and a compliment respectively. Yet some others went on to say that they unlearned sexual purity and had gone on to accept their sexualities as bisexual and lesbian women.

When commenting on that thread, Ms. Hundeyin said that even though the patriarchy was strong, our will as feminists was even stronger because when those internalised misogyny were unlearned, we hardly ever looked back.

Now, I believe in criticising ourselves as women so that we move on to the best versions of ourselves. I feel that honest conversations on the reasons behind our behaviours are necessary if as women we are to move past traumatic events and not make those mistakes a second time.

Internalised misogyny is something that all women including the very outspoken feminists will struggle with. It is impossible to live in a very sexist world and not acquire some aspect of the hatred of women and the belief that women are inferior. This can show up in relationships, in interactions with family members and even in the workplace. Internalised misogyny can make women feel that they do not deserve the opportunities given to them especially if they are the only female work members in an office. This too makes them not bold enough to negotiate salaries in a confident manner and instead to accept any money given to them for a job they may even put in more effort in.

How then does one heal from internalised misogyny? The first thing is to believe that you are human and that you deserve the best. Believing that you are human and that your body is yours and yours alone, does a lot in improving your sense of self. 

When you are not living life as though you are borrowing your body from a man or as though you are a property of a man, a part of your mind is liberated and that affects how you carry yourself and the way you speak.

Speaking with Steph, a writer and graphic designer, she explains that unlearning internalised misogyny is a lifelong process that we undergo as women.

In her words: “What I can say is that unlearning internalised misogyny is an ongoing process that takes years to  complete. Even when you become a feminist you have to be conscious of that so that you can catch yourself when you’re doing it and correct it. Like, a whole proud feminist like me was feeling somehow because my mom would sometimes fix only her breakfast and start eating without fixing my dad’s and leave me or someone else to do it. I felt it was kind of selfish, because I grew up used to her doing it for him and most times all of us. (We usually eat together on the table).”

She went on to say: “And here’s the thing, my mom is supposed to eat early for medical reasons. Also, it’s not like my dad can’t mix his own coffee(when he’s angry with us he makes his own breakfast and lunch 😂 and he has lived abroad by himself for years).

So one day I had an epiphany and realised I was being a misogynistic idiot. Because why would I think it selfish that she’s doing only hers sometimes when she has to eat early? If she delays before coming down for breakfast he asks me or our girl to do it for him and doesn’t ask if we’ve done my mom’s too. So yeah. The unlearning never stops.”

The truth is that unlearning internalised misogyny is an act we as women need to undergo no matter how difficult it seems.

When we do it, we are able to have empathy for ourselves and for other women and we are also able to live happier lives free of the encumbrance of the sexist dictates of society.

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