You can find the sources for this text on the second page of the post. This is my second text about internalized misogyny. If you missed my last post about what it is and how it works, you can find it here. I’d recommend that you read the first part before this one.
Internalized misogyny is an often subconscious bias that subtly poisons how we perceive ourselves and other women. It feeds us negative assumptions, sexist stereotypes and prejudices that disturb our impressions of who and how females are. That’s why – just like men, enbies and other non-female people – women need to unlearn they’re internalized sexism in order to truly be allies to one another and resist gendered oppressions.
Like other forms of oppression, internalized misogyny is an ongoing process. We constantly produce and reproduce it through social interactions and cultural discourses. Recognizing internalized misogyny when we encounter it might be difficult at first – not only because we are so used to it but also because we have our own preconceived notions of gender norms. Because of that it’s important to be aware of both society’s and our own biases. Understanding it is essential to identifying internalized misogyny and the first step to beat it.
Breaking the patterns of internalized misogyny
The psychologists Amhrein and Bearman have identified six different practices of internalized misogyny. These practices describe ways of behaving, acting and thinking through which internalized oppression shows itself and is reinforced. These practices are: powerlessness, objectification, loss of self, invalidation, derogation and competition between women (If you are not familiar with them yet, you can read more about them in this post).
Once we understand these practices of internalized misogyny, the psychologists argue, we can consider better alternatives and ways of acting outside the oppression. Instead of competing with that co-worker or classmate, we could try to support one another. Instead of looking down on other women (whether they are a traditional stay-at-home mom or a childfree single woman focusing on her career), we could respect and support their life choices whether they match our own values or not.
To combat internalized misogyny and its various practices Amrhein and Bearman have suggested a set of alternative strategies that aim to help women and other people who want to unlearn their internalized sexis, and be an ally to the females in their lives:
1. Reclaiming Power
On one hand, reclaiming power means that women reclaim a sense of their own power and learn to act powerfully on their own behalf. On the other hand, Amrhein and Bearman also see it as a tool for females to act on behalf of the changes they see the world needs. Reclaiming power means obtaining a strong sense of self, becoming more confident and thinking independently.
2. Unconditional Beauty
To move from self-objectification towards self-acceptance means that women need to confront their “inner critic” which consists of all the sexist lies and criticisms they have internalized about their body and appearance. That also means interrupting the critic and finding compassion for oneself and unlearning self-shaming and self-derogation. The goal is to appreciate one’s body for what it is capable of and not only for how it looks.
Additionally, the concept of unconditional beauty describes the process that women learn to see not only the inner beauty but also the individual physical beauty of each person. This concept favours non-evaluative appreciation instead of validating objectification and appreciates beauty in a manner that doesn’t need to meet any societal conditions.
3. Prioritizing Self
Women need to prioritize their own needs and desires in order to combat self-sacrifice. That does not mean that they shouldn’t fulfil any desires of others anymore but rather that women need to find a balance between catering to their own needs and those of others. That includes learning what it is that you need and desire, understanding how you can meet those needs and creating boundaries to avoid sacrificing yourself to meet the needs and desires of others.
4. Validating Women’s Ways
Because of gender roles and gender role conditioning children are taught that there are two different ways of acting, thinking and being. But because we live in a patriarchal society they are not treated equally: Men’s ways are accepted as the norm while women’s ways are invalidated. Due to that some effort is necessary to validate women’s ways.
That does not mean that you need to agree with everything a woman says or does, with all her values and opinions but rather that their importance need to be recognized. As a woman that means trusting your own thinking and learning that your experiences, thoughts and impressions are valid even if they do not match male standards.
5. Interrupting Derogation
Because we have all grown up in a patriarchal society and internalized to at least some extent its sexist norms and expectations, we have all learned to use derogation both towards ourselves and others. To confront this derogation we need to learn which misogynistic criticisms we have internalized.
We need also to start confronting our “inner critic” if they do not help us evaluate ourselves in a healthy way but instead make us feel bad about ourselves. Instead of putting ourselves down we become an ally to ourselves and confront misogyny and derogation in our own minds. Of course we shouldn’t stop there but rather broaden our efforts to stop using misogynistic derogation towards other women and to interrupt both ourselves and others if they do so.
6. Building Solidarity
Internalized misogyny teaches women to see other women as competitors whether it’s for jobs, opportunities or romantic partners. Building solidarity means recognizing how women have been affected and limited by sexism and developing a sense of empathy towards others. Of course we don’t need to befriend or like every woman we meet but rather commit to an attitude of solidarity towards females that values collaboration, mutual support and allyship rather than competition.
What helps me beat internalized misogyny
Psychology aside, one thing that I’d personally recommend to beat your own internalized misogyny is empowering yourself. Often our misogynistic thoughts or behaviour whether they are directed at ourselves or others can stem from our own insecurity. For example, a sense of inferiority can lead us to judge or compete with other women. Treat yourself with kindness and appreciate your own self worth. Empowered women empower women!
Another thing that I think is essential to beat internalized misogyny is recognizing our own bias. For me it took a while to realize that my devaluation of pink and a lot of other “girly stuff” stemmed from internalized misogyny. For some of you it might be the other way around and you catch yourself debasing those women who differ from what is traditionally expected of females. It is important to recognize those biased views that we’ve internalized to unlearn them.
Staying aware of internalized misogyny and spreading awareness about it is also an important step to dismantling it. You can stay aware by learning more about misogyny, feminism and the patriarchy. It might help you understand internalized sexism better and aid you in defeating it.
Although it may feel like it getting rid of our internalized misogyny is not only an internal process that we have to go through by ourselves. It is also something that we can discuss with others and that we can actively practice by interrupting it when we see it. For example, by sharing your experiences with female friends or by stopping someone when they express internalized misogyny through slut shaming or other forms of derogation.
Last but not least, be patient with yourself and others. We had our whole lives to internalize misogyny. We won’t get rid of it over night. So, let’s be kind to ourselves and to the women around us. Let’s treat each other with empathy and solidarity.
It takes time to unlearn all those sexist biases that we hold. It’s okay to make mistakes. What matters is that we try every day to fight internalized misogyny and support those affected by it. Only then, we can become true allies to one another. Only then, we can beat our own internalized misogyny.
And remember: “Every time one of us chooses to be an ally, all of us benefit”
(Amrhein and Bearman 221)
What are your tips for beating internalized misogyny?