As feminists, when we stand together to challenge the misogyny embedded in our culture we have learned to expect to face the patriarchs, the MRAs and the violence and ignorance of men. However sometimes we find ourselves confronted on such issues by other women who will side with the sexism of men. Women who will vehemently uphold, for example, rape myths, to the detriment of every female victim of rape and actually – all women.
In a culture of misogyny in which they too are intrinsically and literally greatly harmed, this can be shocking to us all.
Women of course can and do internalise the misogyny inherent in the world.
Firstly, females are socialised from birth to act in accordance with their subjugation according to the hierarchy of gender. ‘Femininity’, so the dictionary tells us, is simply ‘the quality of being female; womanliness’, yet gender roles still teach us that ‘good little girls’ = quiet, polite, obedient and dutiful care givers.
In opposition boys can be and will be…..well ‘boys’ – a back slapping, lauded term often applied to loud, anti-social, violent displays of masculinity.
Such socialisation, in turn, enables an incredibly easy route to social and cultural subjugation of women, including potential and actual female victim-hood at the whims of individual men and men as a class. Our own everyday experience as women tells us we are lesser than men.
Secondly, we are also surrounded by a culture which not only bombards us with the ideals of a gendered hierarchy but also enacts such oppression. From the law to the media and advertising, the narrative and reality of misogyny is constant…..
…..and so misogyny is normalised.
And as ‘good, little girls’ it is not our place to upset the status quo…. we must in fact …..comply.
In turn, women’s self-hate is perpetuated in a woman hating culture.
Misogyny plays a central role in patriarchy. It enables the violence of men to woman. It is the basis of the idea of the superiority of one sex over another.
Misogyny is especially powerful at teaching women to hate their own femaleness and to support the much more applauded values of masculinity.
bell hooks describes internalized sexism as “the enemy within” and explains that women have been socialised by the patriarchy to “judge [themselves and each] other without compassion and punish one another harshly.”
The more women internalise misogynistic imagery and viewpoints, the more we are embedded in patriarchal structures, the harder it is to challenge male privilege and patriarchy as a destructive system. Misogyny also teaches women to appease men as an act of survival.
If we don’t comply and are not obeying the rules of the ‘good girl’ however, as feminists we are often faced with anything from non-acceptance, to harassment and male violence.
We are often labelled as trouble makers (even ‘mobs’!). So why do such judgments sometimes come from other women, women our campaigns are designed to support and protect?
This is a complex issue and depends very much on the circumstances.
However, for women seeking status, working in male dominated industries for example, putting other women down can be an act of self-enhancement, within the limited confines of female ‘control’. To actually achieve a form of ‘acceptance’ in a patriarchal world, it may be perceived as ‘a wise move’ to comply with the ideals of those who wield the power. This may be pivotal in terms of many forms of social acceptance and career ‘success’- from promotion to economic gain for women.
But the question is when women attack and judge other women, who are challenging misogyny, rape culture and male violence etc…
– who actually gains from this?
Partly from my zine ‘Women-Hating Culture’