I’m guessing we’ve all seen the TV show plots where two pretty best friends get in a fight over the same man (who is painfully average in every way possible by the way), then turn on each other, competing in looks, personality, and success on who gets to win him over. At the end of every hot and flaming garbage show or movie that depicts heavy internalized sexism, the guy ends up losing both, but the girls rekindle their friendship, and all is well and dandy in La La Land.
We’ve all seen that type of annoying sexism in movies, right? Unless you were deliberately looking for shit films to watch in the company of friends and many alcohol bottles, you were maybe thirteen years old, thinking you have to be on top to capture anyone’s attention or win, whatever the hell that means to prepubescent teens.
Many of the things we’ve seen as teenagers online, or on-screen have sculpted the way we view womanhood, the women in our lives, or even femininity itself. Imagine this, you meet a girl who is pretty, outspoken, smart with words, clever with comebacks. Has a stable career and is unbothered by “the standard”. She doesn’t really fit into any box or label, she’s just, well, who she is.
And she doesn’t care if that dress she wore for New Year’s Eve was too revealing, or that pantsuit for the office Christmas party was not enough. She steps out to the grocery store, looking like a homeless man with no worry in regards to her looks, and what folks might say. She’s always been a natural, but all you do is try, try and try. (Yeah, that’s a Taylor Swift lyric, but it’s pretty fitting if you ask me).
How can someone so effortlessly be so perfect?
Are you going to praise that girl, or tear her down in your head? Maybe in your circumstance, it’s a different girl altogether, but one that is in some way, much “better” than you. Are you inspired, or threatened? If it’s the latter, boy do I have bad news for you. You might just be suffering from what we like to call, Internalised sexism. And with men being sexist to our gender as it is, we really don’t need women adding to that fire.
But it’s what we’re taught to do, very passively if I may add.
What is Internalized Misogyny?
Sexism, loosely defined, is a belief or a whole system that reinforces the concept that the male sex is inherently and naturally superior to the female sex.
Yes, there is sexism towards men as well, however, it is much more prominent against women due to the short time in history that we’ve been looked at as equals. It’s much more prominent in society to have stereotypes for women while tearing down those who don’t quite fit any, nor seek to.
And to make things worse, there are a lot of women who hold these same views as well. It’s usually a bias towards men expressed through undervaluing women, questioning them, and believing men are more capable overall. And any shitty action movie will show you that exact same thing.
Passive Internalized Misogyny and Sexism in Hollywood
I know what you’re going to say, “how the hell could we learn this subtle sexism and where?”
Well, let me present to you:
Exhibit A: Sexism in the music industry, folks.
I like a good Taylor Swift song in all honesty. She’s a great lyricist and her most recent work is quite mature and pleasant to listen to. In these past few years, I couldn’t help but notice how she was treated by some of her peers, as well as her old record label.
If you’re unfamiliar with the drama, Swift’s old record label sold her masters (her old work, all of her albums), to Scooter Braun, a music manager quite known for shady business deals and money-grabbing antics. Furious with the news, Taylor took it to social media that she was never even offered the chance to buy the masters herself, which consisted of songs she had written all by herself since she was 15 years old.
Celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato (managed by Scooter Braun by the way), have jumped into Braun’s defense, completely tearing down any alliance or decency towards miss Swift. To make matters worse, Demi Lovato is known for throwing her distaste for Swift, very publicly, loudly, and distastefully.
A few years before, she had called out Taylor Swift for “not promoting healthy and realistic body standards”, all based on the fact that Swift is naturally very tall and skinny.
Now I understand the issues plus-sized or curvy women face, both in the industry and beyond, however, how is tearing down a woman going to resolve that? How is your internalized sexism going to help beat…internalized sexism?
Instead of accepting ourselves for what we can’t change and embracing the change where we can, we, as women, bash other women who seemingly fit this standard. Vey misogynistic and not at all cool guys. And to make things worse, celebs and others of a similar caliber keep getting shoved down our throats. All across social media, all the time.
So don’t talk to me about not being able to passively learn internalized sexism towards other women, when it’s the kids who absorb this when they’re the most impressionable.
Internalized Oppression in the Workspace
If you’ve ever worked in an office, preferably with an equal team, gender-wise; you may have noticed that for certain tasks, women get treated a bit differently than men.
I’m no raging feminist, however, I have definitely felt overlooked based on the fact that I am, well, a woman. They would rely on the creative field and proofs on me, the copywriting, or whatever else they deemed as “girly”. But whenever numbers, contracts, and sales got thrown into the mix, you simply wouldn’t be a part of that Zoom meeting.
Now those would fuel even more sexist events in an office. Because they would simply assume I, or any other woman, wouldn’t be interested nor good at certain tasks.
Our behaviors or how we act on a break would fuel this fire too. We didn’t talk about work outside of work, and that was a problem for some reason. We wouldn’t yell, and when we did get aggressive with words, we would be called dramatic instead of dominant or forward-thinking. These stereotypes would break us, and it didn’t feel good. Because no matter what you did or didn’t do, one thing stayed the same: We have vaginas and like to do makeup, therefore, we are not as good at “serious tasks” as Mark or John.
Additionally, I’ve also seen other women side with men on this, in hopes to get “bonus points” of some sort. And since we are the same gender, it’s sad to see that in real life, or right in front of you. But to be quite frank with you, I believe they didn’t even notice the harm. It was ambivalent sexism at its finest.
And to be even more direct, it would cause genuine psychological distress to some of my coworkers, because they never felt seen, or good enough.
How Do We Beat Internalized Misogyny Amongst Other Women?
Whenever I would ask my mom if a dress or top looked good on me, she would simply reply with “It’s you, and yes you look good”. And that stuck with me since I was younger. If you pay really close attention, you can potentially find a million things about yourself, your body, or behaviors that don’t fit in with the given standard for women.
But we are so focused on being just like *a random girl’s name* and being less *than what we are now*, that we completely fail to see and chair all the amazing things about ourselves. And believe me, there is much more than your internalized sexism would allow you to see. Instead of saying “F*ck her”, try seeking inspo in other women whose antics or looks you find appealing.
It’s really important to call yourself out on the things you keep doing in other women whose antics or looks you find appealing.
It’s really important to call yourself out on the things you keep doing wrong. It’s harmful to your fellow sisters, as well as to yourself.
Sex roles or gender norms are nothing to run away from. Many people fit these like a glove and there is nothing wrong with that, truly. The problem arises when we, especially us women, bash other women for fitting the standard too much or are too little. Throughout history, there were too few equal rights and freedom for women, so why are we contributing to those harmful gender stereotypes and internalized misogyny today?
Great food for thought, isn’t it.