Growing up, I’ve often battled with internalised misogyny. Society teaches us to think a certain way; a woman in leadership is bossy whereas her male counterpart is ‘a good leader’, a woman discussing someone who’s upset her is bitching, whereas a man is having a conversation, a woman who has a sex is a slut, but a man is just a guy. Growing up, we’re taught to shame women for the same things men are celebrated for. What on earth is that all about?
It’s because we live in a patriarchal society, and everything we do is diminished. We’re mocked for what we like, and we’re scorned when we mirror the behaviours we see in men. Simply because we don’t uphold the gross idea that we must be submissive, timid and gentle. I’ve been on both ends. I’ve scorned and I’ve been scorned. Growing up as female, you get used to it. You get sucked into the toxic misogyny of the world. You see a girl in Ugg boots, drinking a Pumpkin Spiced Latte and you’re taught to immediately think of her as a ‘basic bitch’.
But yes: I found myself following these rules. In my early secondary years, my closest friends were female, but when I got on better with the guys in my classes, I thought, “well, yeah, because girls are more drama”. Instead, I felt more comfortable talking to the guys in my class because I had an older brother I was close to, or maybe I was intimidated by the girls in my classes. Back when ‘popularity’ was a thing, the girls in my classes were at the top of the hierarchies, where I simply didn’t belong. To me, the guys seemed more approachable. It was never a thing of drama.
As I got older, I had an even mix of girl friends and boy friends. I’d spend more time with the guys than the girls because of the way timetables worked and circles formed. The fact that I spoke more with lads in my Sixth Form classes was simply because I shared common interests with them. It’s the way it naturally fell. By that time, I’d been outwardly labelling myself as a feminist for a few years, and I’d come to recognise some of the signs of internalised misogyny. I stopped viewing it as me ‘avoiding drama’ and realised that it was just a natural flow.
When I came to university, the best thing happened. I joined Feminist Book Club just before Covid hit, and I joined a group chat they had. I met so many amazing women, and I realised what I’d missed out on all those years. I joined the committee and met two of my closest friends there. I still see the graduates all the time, and I talk to them almost daily. They’re all so wonderfully different. And guess what? I’ve never felt more supported and loved than I do when I have so many incredible women around me, and not only from the club. Women from my course, my flatmate, friends I made in first year. All women and all so wonderful.
I still occasionally find myself falling into the traps of internalised misogyny, and likely will for a few years. But when that happens, it’s important to take a step back, evaluate why they’re my gut reactions and change my attitude. Internalised misogyny isn’t going to go away immediately, not until society has changed. But understanding why your instinct is to slut shame, or belittle a strong woman, is the first step in changing the world.