One of the many great things about feminism is that it serves so many different purposes, and means something completely unique to everyone it touches. You don’t have to look much past the #INeedFeminismBecause tag on different social media platforms to see the diverse and eclectic needs people have from feminism.
For me personally, the biggest demon I’ve needed feminism to help me overcome is internalized misogyny.
Internalized misogyny is a terrible and normalized part of society that pits women against each other simply by being women.
If you’ve never heard the term, internalized misogyny (sometimes called internalized sexism) is essentially what it sounds like. It is the belief by girls and women that the lies, stereotypes, and myths about girls and women delivered to everyone by an intrinsically sexist society are true. Everyone hears these messages from society throughout their lifetime; all women are stupid, weak, passive, manipulative, emotionally charged, with no capacity for intellectual pursuits or leadership.
A lifetime of hearing these things has two logical consequences. First, men will grow up believing it as fact and will treat women accordingly, protecting their male privilege by perpetuating the negative stereotypes.
The second consequence is that the same messages also stick to women, and we’re taught to act out the stereotypes all while doubting ourselves and other women, which in turn also perpetuates the stereotypes.
Here’s where it gets tricky, though. While there are still an unfortunate number of people who believe the “women are bad at math and are only good for cleaning and cooking and popping out babies and watching Lifetime” lie, those stereotypes are harder and harder to pass as absolute truth as the standard for the modern woman looks more like Olivia Pope and less like June Cleaver.
For me, it was always a much more insidious version of internalized misogyny. It was the mentality that I’d rather hang out with guys because “girls are mean” and that my semi-emo persona and aversion to the color pink somehow made me superior to girls that enjoyed traditionally feminine things. It was buying into the standard that a woman with a healthy sex life is a slut, and wearing revealing clothing is a sign of low self-esteem, and knowing as a certifiable fact that because I didn’t like Taylor Swift’s music it was perfectly fine for me to attack her character and make fun of people who did enjoy her music.
I knew I deserved to be equal to men; I just thought other women didn’t deserve to be equal to me. And that mentality is extraordinarily problematic.
It’s been two years, almost to the day, since I wrote Taylor Swift Doesn’t Like You When You’re 23. I read it now, and realize exactly how much I’ve grown since then.
I want to apologize to Taylor, and not just because her new album is amazing and I’m obsessed with it (yes Bridget, I still have your copy, and you might someday get it back). I want to apologize because I said horrible things about a young woman who lives under a microscope and has every aspect of her life picked apart and made fun of because she’s talented at what she does. No one deserves that, regardless of who they’ve dated or how they choose to express themselves.
I want to apologize to any girl or woman that I’ve ever targeted or affected — knowingly or otherwise — with my internalized misogyny. I am so sorry. You’re all excellent, unique individuals, and you are more than the stereotypes society has pigeonholed you into.
I’m not suggesting we’re all perfect. The possibility is pretty high that at some point in her life a woman will encounter another woman she doesn’t like — that’s fine, just as long as she doesn’t dislike the other woman solely because the other woman wears lots of make-up or is dating the guy she wants to date.
Girls are amazing. They have the potential to do almost anything; think of how much we could do if we spent the energy we use tearing each other down to instead support each other to be our best. Girls supporting girls are unstoppable.
How’s that for a new message?
Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.