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My Journey Through Internalised Misogyny

15/02/2017 08:28 SAST | Updated 15/02/2017 08:33 SAST
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Young African pensive woman

Looking back on my beliefs as a child/early teen, I see a lot of internalised misogyny. For anyone who is unaware, this is defined as an ''involuntary internalisation by a woman of sexist messages that are present in their societies and culture.'' In simpler terms, a woman can be surrounded by sexist messages in the society that she is living in and can then internalise these views and take them on as her own through socialisation.

This misogyny may be mistaken as manifesting itself into actions that are very severe, however it can be done in very subtle and passive ways. Shooting down another woman's outfit in public maybe, shaming a woman for the sexual choices she makes with her own body, claiming that a female celebrity is too feminine or not enough. Whatever it is, we've all fallen victims to this curse. You see, growing up as a woman in the last 18 years, I've been taught that as a woman I should find fault with myself and other women at all times. From the magazines we read as children that forced diet fads to the culture of teenage girls on social media pitting female celebrities against each other at any given opportunity. Internalised misogyny is a big problem and the notion of women loving themselves and each other is seemingly too much for some people.

Many women have been so impacted by the patriarchal conventions that exist in our society, that they have been led to believe that they should belittle themselves and their fellow women, because some men do. As a child and early teen I had an intense hatred for Natalie Portman and I know what you're thinking, that's totally random. But she was presented in television and film as the girlfriend or love interest of the men I had crushes on, and so my internalised misogyny flew in and saved the day by suggesting that the only way to deal with this was to hate her. I never even looked her up or watched an interview of hers to determine whether she was a good person outside of her film and TV roles. Instead I just let myself believe that I didn't like her. Which is beyond idiotic. I know this now, and I can safely say I think she's a fantastic woman, great actress and has a track record of being an amazing feminist.

But it's so interesting to consider what led me to believe she wasn't any of these things. I guess you could say I grew up as a tom boy and so another example of this misogyny was me shaming other girls who portrayed seemingly feminine attributes, for example girls that wore lots of makeup or listened to boy bands, I had a problem with. I had been taught that by seeing myself as a tom boyish girl, that I was any better than them. The thing is, regardless of how much makeup you choose to wear or what music you choose to listen to, I am no better or worse than you. We need to start ignoring the things that society taught us from a young age and start understanding that we live in a sexist world full of men shaming women at every turn, we don't need women joining in on that too.

The amazing thing about growing up through all of that misogyny is coming out the other end and realising that it's all completely ridiculous. I started questioning every judgement I made. After making a comment about a half-naked female singer on TV, I would then ask myself, who taught you that that's wrong? And why is it wrong? Why is it wrong to be comfortable enough in your own body that you decide to wear whatever you want? Or I would see a woman in a supermarket with a lot of makeup on and after making that judgement in my head I would ask myself why I feel like that. Why do I feel as if my bare face is superior to her full one. The point I'm trying to make is that all women at one point in their lives have fallen victims to internalised misogyny, but if you can realise that it's wrong the next step is training yourself to be more understanding and supportive towards your fellow women. It's hard enough being a woman without the other women in your life passing judgement.

Oh and remember that you're only human if you have made these comments or judgements in the past, but these are not reflections of how good a person you are. If you can realise these comments were wrong and you wish to right those wrongs now, you are a good person I promise.