Category Archives: Internalized Misogyny

Posts about how girls and women internalize misogynistic messages from society

You Say ‘Feminist’ Like it’s a Bad Thing

It’s something that everyone who’s even passingly interested in not treating women like crap has heard once or twice. “What are you, some kind of feminist?” “Ugh, stop being so feminist about this.” “Oh great, here come the feminists, time to stop having fun.” Because wanting equal rights for women is such an obnoxious and horrible thing, I guess!

There’s a definite stigma against feminists in our current society, which likes to portray us as ball-busting man-haters and/or hairy lesbians. (I mean, personally I am a hairy lesbian, but that has very little to do with my feminism.) Because the only reason you could want positive change for women is because you hate men? After all, it’s not like feminism is about equality or anything, because then it would be called equalism! And it would talk about men’s issues all the time, as is proper. Feminism must be about female superiority or something.

(Obviously this article isn’t trying to change anyone’s mind about feminism, because let’s face it: if your mind is already made up about how awful feminists are, reading feminist articles is probably not going to help. Actually, if you’ve already made up your mind about how awful feminists are, why are you reading feminist articles in the first place?)

There also seems to be this conception of feminism being unnecessary in modern society. Oh sure, historical feminists were important and all, getting women the vote and getting us out of the home and into the office. But things are equal now, so what on earth do you have to whine about? I had a roommate in college who told me, with a sneer, of an acquaintance: “And she’s a feminist.” I looked at her sort of blankly. “So what?” “You know it’s because of feminists we have to write he or she?”

God, what horror. (Did I mention this roommate was majoring in biochemistry and had no interest in marriage or children? But feminism wouldn’t have anything to do with that!)

Feminists these days complain about such stupid things, like shows about colorful ponies! Aren’t there bigger things to worry about, like actual sexism? Because what we’re exposed to as children can’t possibly have an affect on our perceptions of masculinity versus femininity, or what it’s acceptable to do and be as a woman. And obviously caring about some minor things means you have absolutely no care left to spare on major things. (Because choosing to write an article about a specific facet of society while not simultaneously writing about every other facet of society means you clearly don’t care about the big picture.)

In my ideal world, everyone would be a feminist, because I think it’s pretty cool that women someday achieve equal standing with men; that one day women won’t be forced into rigid boxes of societal acceptability, and that likewise, men aren’t forced into other boxes (while avoiding the feminine boxes as their life depended on it– because sometimes it does). But I guess that just makes me a lesbian.

Homophobia’s a Bitch

I’m sure a good number of you have seen Rick Perry’s recent campaign video, “Strong” (if you haven’t, the link is here— go ahead and downvote it and/or flag it for hateful language). There’s certainly something wrong with this country when a person can run for president on a platform of “Christians are more oppressed than gays.”

Being a queer American and a Christian— and realizing I’m considerably more oppressed for the former than the latter— I went to Governor Perry’s facebook page to let him know what I thought of his recent video. While I was there, I checked out what some of the other commenters were saying. Several of them, like me, expressed distaste at his campaign choices, or posted pictures of gay men kissing, or pointed out that his jacket is oddly reminiscent of the one worn by the cowboys in Brokeback Mountain. A few were expressing their support for Perry and reminding him not to let the godless heathens and queers get him down. But in one of the comments, I noticed something odd.

“Why don’t you come to [city redacted] so we can teach you the manners that your whore of a mother obviously didn’t bother to.”

Wait a second. What? What does Perry’s mother— especially her promiscuity, or lack thereof— have to do with his campaign video? She didn’t make it. And even if she had, it wouldn’t make her a whore, or appropriate to call her one. I replied to the commenter, politely, that calling out homophobia with misogyny is no more acceptable than homophobia itself.

Her response to me was that my comment was “well put”… as she continued to completely disregard my point and place all the blame for Perry’s disgraceful campaign squarely on his mother’s shoulders for not aborting him when she (didn’t) have the chance. As if she should have known what he would be doing sixtyish years down the line and aborted a presumably wanted child for that reason? (And if we are blaming his parents for his upbringing or his existence in the first place, why does his father get no mention? He ought to be equally as responsible in that process as the mother, oughtn’t he?)

The (lack of) logic displayed here is disgusting, but unfortunately, not uncommon. How many times have people been called “r*tarded” for engaging in homophobia, or “f*ggots” for being racist? How many times has the c-word been used against female politicians for espousing unpopular opinions?

Slurs are slurs are slurs, even when slung about for the “noble” cause of calling out bigots for their bigotry. It isn’t okay. It doesn’t make you look good. In fact, it makes you look about as bigoted and narrow-minded as the people you’re attempting to call out.

It’s always good to call people out on their hateful rhetoric, but please. Take a minute to think about the language you’re using before you do.

But for a Boy to Look Like a Girl is Degrading

When I was young, I asked my mother a question. “If a tomboy is a girl who acts like a boy, what’s the word for a boy who acts like a girl?” She thought about it for a moment, and then replied, “A fairy. But that’s not a good thing to be. You shouldn’t call someone that.”

“But why?” I wanted to know. “Why is it a bad thing?”

So, in all my childlike wisdom, I decided that, since my brother’s name is Thomas, the male equivalent of a tomboy would naturally be a melissagirl. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

So why, then, is tomboy a natural, accepted, even encouraged thing for a girl to be, and melissagirl isn’t even in our lexicon? Feminism has come far enough that it’s fine and wonderful for women to dress in men’s clothes, to wear pants and play sports, to shun makeup and fancy dresses. Which is a good thing! A girl should be able to express herself any way she chooses. But it’s still not acceptable for a man to dress in women’s clothes, or wear makeup, or play with dolls and stuffed toys. His sexuality is questioned, and he gets called derogatory names, merely for expressing himself the way he chooses. Why? Because in our society, it’s okay to want to be a man. It’s not okay to want to be a woman.

The same thing is true even for women. It’s not okay to take interest in stereotypically feminine things, because femininity is inherently inferior to masculinity.

In most shows aimed at tween or teenage girls, the main character is at least a little bit of a tomboy. Usually down-to-earth, doesn’t obsess over makeup and clothes, maybe she’s into sports. If anything, she’s a little bit boy-crazy. On the other side, her “rival” is the stereotypical girl, vapid and shallow, always out to make herself look good and the main character look pathetic. She’ll sometimes have sidekicks, brainless airheads who only know how to be pretty. The message is clear: girls, you don’t want to be like this.

I’m glad that in this day and age, it’s acceptable for girls to like sports, and mud, and frogs, and typically “boyish” things. A girl should be allowed to like whatever she wants. But why then are more traditionally feminine interests portrayed so negatively? If a girl likes to wear dresses and look pretty, to wear makeup and accessorize, she’s categorized as either a brainless girl who will coast through life on her looks, or an evil, conniving villain who wants to tear everyone else down. Why can’t a girl just be a girl, in any way she happens to enjoy?

I Heard She’s Had Like, Three Abortions

Who hasn’t heard that rumor, or something like it, during their tenure at high school? Usually leveled against one of the ‘popular’ girls, the cheerleaders, the ones that are rumored to be sleeping with the entire football team, and probably many other boys besides. Right? Teenage girls can be cruel.

In high school— and who am I kidding, far beyond high school— basically everything is a competition. Not only in the academic sense, competing with your peers for honors and elusive college spots, but everything else besides. Popularity and coolness, making and keeping friends, getting a boyfriend, extracurricular activities, etc. And girls are taught, over and over again, that they can’t possibly hope to compete with the boys, so their only option is to turn on each other. Tear other girls down in order to elevate your own status. It’s hardly an isolated phenomenon. If you’d asked high school me, an unmotivated girl with a small, but close circle of friends, who had no interest in being popular OR getting a boyfriend, I still would have told you that the ‘popular’ clique were bitches, they were probably sleeping with all these different guys, a couple of them had probably had abortions. Quelle horreur.

What was my motivation to say things like that? It didn’t really affect me in any way. It wasn’t even really true. Plenty of those self-same girls had been perfectly nice to me in isolated incidences. They’d really saved my butt once or twice. But if teen movies taught me anything, it was that popular girls were bitches and sluts, and I, however consciously or subconsciously, latched onto that even as I scoffed that real high schools are nothing like the ones in the movies. And on the flip side, the girls who do have status will often use that influence to tear down other girls; the poor ones, the desperate ones, those who aren’t doing well in school, or who have never had a boyfriend— or the ones who they suspect might be horning in on “their” man. It’s a vicious circle, and nobody wins.

The fact of the matter is, even if what I believed about those girls were true— that they slept around, or even had abortions— it was no one’s business but their own. A woman’s worth is not determined by the number of people she’s had sex with, or at what age, whether she’s taking birth control, or not, or what she chooses to do in her free time. Every woman has worth, whether she’s a teen mom or a Rhodes scholar working on a double PhD. Popular culture likes to insist that there’s an upper limit on the number of men a woman can sleep with before she becomes a worthless, valueless whore, and of course, even a single abortion means you’re an irresponsible skank that’s going to hell for murdering your baby. (My opinion: if you’re responsible enough to realize that a child isn’t in your plan right now (or ever), and to reduce the number of unwanted children on this planet, more power to you!)

Society teaches women that we need to tear each other down to elevate ourselves, but nothing could be further from the truth. YOU determine your own self-worth, and by elevating others, you elevate yourself as well.