What is internalized misogyny? It’s two big words. It’s a lot of things. Internalized misogyny is calling a woman “a bad feminist” because she wants to be a stay-at-home mom. It’s when any person is derided for being “emotional”—because that’s what women are considered to be, and women are bad. It’s when girls insist that they’re “better” than “other” girls who like pink and boys. It’s when a girl is considered “stronger” than another because she kills rather than heals. In order to achieve equality with men, some second-wave feminists claimed that women must make themselves as “masculine” as possible. They needed to invade places society deemed as male, such as the workforce and science labs, wear pants, hide their emotions, and among more radical feminists, exclusively date women. This movement came from good intentions—the feminists of this era were tired of being told they could only be housewives while men earned money. They rejected the notion that they needed to look a certain way to succeed in life. However, this resulted in total demonization of femininity and of women who wanted to express themselves in a feminine way.
In 1968, the group New York Radical Women distributed a brochure called “No More Miss America!” and protested the contest. Part of their demonstration was a “huge Freedom Trash Can (into which we will throw bras, girdles, curlers, false eyelashes, wigs, and representative issues of Cosmopolitan, Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle, etc.—bring any such woman-garbage you have around the house)” (McCann & Kim, Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives, p. 90). Contrary to popular belief, this group never burned bras—but their insistence that women would only become “free” if they rejected beauty products and women’s magazines ignored women who used makeup and other “feminine” products to express themselves. While some women felt empowered by the growing acceptance of female masculinity, the movement made other women feel guilty and alienated because of their femininity (Pilcher and Whelehan, Fifty Key Concepts In Gender Studies, p.69). There is no wrong way to be a woman, man, or anything in between—internalized misogyny is insisting that only “some” of us are right. For a definition with 90% more jargon, internalized misogyny is the involuntary internalization of sexist messages fed to us by our surroundings, authority figures, and the media—for example, assertions that “real women have curves” or “real women don’t wear dresses”. Sexism is perpetuated when people who have internalized these messages reiterate them in their daily lives. Internalized misogyny is a subtle form of oppression, and leads to people hating themselves and one another , as well as women blaming themselves and other women for their own oppression. By directing our hatred at ourselves, internalized misogyny distracts us from addressing and fixing our own sexist cultures.
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