Written by Jyotsna Iyer, a second-year undergraduate student.
Internalized misogyny refers to the misogynistic ideals, practices, or beliefs propagated by women themselves. Misogyny, in simple terms, is prejudice against women. Hence, internalized misogyny involves women imposing sexist attitudes that are demeaning and restricting towards women upon themselves as well as other women.
In a society that is gravely patriarchal, the deep-rootedness of misogynistic ideals in the minds of men and women alike is highly prevalent. While misogyny is a force that oppresses all women, most of them are often unable to completely alienate themselves from these ideals. Submitting to this oppressive structure often seems to be much less difficult than eradicating and unlearning all that is misogynistic.
This is how internalized misogyny stems in a patriarchal society. Internalized misogyny can perpetuate in two major ways. First, women accept the patriarchal norms to be right as they are and abide by them. In this case, they also impose these norms on other women and chide those who refuse to abide by these norms often. This could include situations where some mothers tend to teach their daughters to be the ‘ideal woman’ by not speaking up against patriarchy, not engaging in typically ‘masculine’ behavior, and not wearing certain kinds of clothes. Second, women fall prey to the “I’m not like other girls/ women” trope.
In this case, women tend to accept that whatever is typically seen as feminine is inferior. Hence, they feel the need to alienate themselves from other women in order to stand out or be accepted in a patriarchal society. Whichever be the case, internalized misogyny involves women validating patriarchy either in the form of oppressive gender norms or in the form of stereotypes. Internalized misogyny is noticed not only in grown women but in periods as early as childhood. Not wearing a pink dress even though you wanted to, because it’s “too girly” is an instance of internalized misogyny that is a part of the teenage of a lot of girls.
Similarly, being considered “one of the guys” by boys/ men are often considered to be a compliment by a lot of young girls and women. The question here remains if it is right to be in a position where girls have to alienate themselves from ‘other girls’ and push each other down in order to be valued.
The answer is a clear no. Gender is a part of one’s identity, and equal society cannot be achieved if women themselves feel the need to disrespect a part of their own identity. Hence, it is time we think about the subtlest shades of patriarchy that still reside in our minds in the form of internal misogyny and work to root them out.