On Internalised Misogyny and Why You May Not be as Progressive as You Think

We’ve heard that black people can’t be racist and that women can’t be misogynistic but are these statements really true? Is it possible that a person who has been oppressed all their life would turn around and become the oppressor?

Well, not exactly, but there are instances where our learned biases come to fore, and we can be said to exhibit the same traits we despise in our oppressors. Can never be you right? You know your place is not the kitchen and you’re building a good career. You won’t let anyone come between you and your goals. You know you’re not a lesser human just because of your genitalia. You’re progressive; you believe women have the same rights and capabilities as men and should be allowed to pursue their lives as such.

However, are you really progressive? Do you still believe these things alone at night or when you’re in certain situations?

internalised misogyny

Misogyny is a body of customs that promote the hatred, distrust, and subordination of women, and is often perpetrated by men against women. It is the societal belief that women are less human than men and exist to please and serve them. It is the bedrock of patriarchal societies and the “mother dough” of all norms that promote the smallness and invisibility of women over their autonomy. Essentially, it’s why we needed activism to be able to get an education.

So, can women be misogynistic? Yes, they can. It’s called Internalised Misogyny, and it’s a bigger issue than you might think. Internalised misogyny is a by-product of years of oppression suffered by women. It is the subtle and innate belief in the inferiority of women for no other reason than because it’s what we’ve heard all our lives.

It is gradually and subconsciously believing that women live or should live for the pleasure and satisfaction of men and are subordinate to them. It’s expecting more from women that you would expect from men in the same situation.

Internalised misogyny also manifests in our dealings with ourselves. You can find it in that crushing guilt you have for being human and having a voice. It’s hating all things feminine and wanting to fit in with the boys at all costs.

It’s wanting that promotion but thinking your male colleague is a better pick for it even though you’re more qualified. It’s in believing you’re not beautiful until you have the body on the magazine covers. It’s in muting yourself so the men around you can get what they want.

Misogynistic norms are all around us posing as gender norms and profound discoveries of the shortcoming of women. It is everywhere you go; on your TV screen, in the restaurant, at your place of work, in church, on the road, in schools, and on Social Media. It’s easy to forget that they’re just biases and believe them and sometimes, they seep into our subconscious and we act on them without realising.

Internalised misogyny is the proverbial beast in a kitten costume; you don’t realise how evil it is until its sitting pretty on the posh pillow you spent a small fortune on sipping fragrant milk. It’s not easy to shake off norms you’ve grown up with, I know with all of my “wokeness” I still turn my nose up at a woman driving – in my defence, how long does it take to park Carol? – and question the actions of women when I would take them as gospel if it were a different gender acting.

What matters is that I’m actively trying to correct these biases and get equally angered at irrational behaviour because boys will be well behaved or catch these hands. And Carol, take as long as you need; horizontal parking is hard, and you’re trying your best.

As a wise movie character once said, “it’s not your first thought that counts because it’s often a reflection of the biases you’ve inherited, it’s what you do after that first thought that matters”. You’re unlearning all the misogyny one step at a time, and that’s what counts.

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