The Real Culprit of Misogyny: Women That Degrade Other Women
By Nivedita Shrestha
“I’m not like the other girls.” We all know that one girl who likes to say this to define herself. Some girls also like to point out how they don’t like to befriend girls because they think that “girls start drama.” Chances are you are one of those girls yourself. This act of women degrading women using various excuses is termed as internalized misogyny, and those who partake in it are internalized misogynists.
Internalized misogyny is a grave obstacle in overcoming misogyny in general, and the biggest problem is that we as women don’t know whether we’re holding any part in it. We think we are gracing the beacon of light to guide the female kind by shaming girls wearing short skirts and deriding feminine things as ‘girly stuff.’ Some women call themselves ‘tomboys’ and boldly express how they get along better with men, because “women are silly and petty.” These are expressions of internalized misogyny. If that’s what you feel about your own gender, you’ll be doomed to feel inferior no matter what you achieve in life.
The very fact that you, as a woman, think differently than how a socially stereotyped woman is supposed to think is proof that our gender ‘norms’ have done us wrong. Women are not all alike. Some of us like football, some like religion, some are emotional, some have boyfriends, some have girlfriends, some like wearing lipstick, some sleep with multiple men, some don’t want kids, and some sell their bodies for money. It’s all a matter of choice. If you see someone forced to do any of those things, then you have all the right to raise your voice against it; but if she is doing those things with her own will, then it is none of anyone else’s business to be commenting on her choices. Claiming that you don’t act like a woman doesn’t make you a special snowflake, it makes you a perpetrator of misogyny.
In under-developed countries like Nepal, internalized misogyny has an entirely different form. I’ve seen an old woman tell a lady that she is too stuck-up because she never got a proper ‘beating’ from her husband. It saddens me to think that her daughter-in-law probably gets hit by her son because she brought him up that way. Stories of mother-in-laws burning their daughter-in-laws alive for dowry and mothers sending their daughters to live in sheds while they’re on their period are common where I come from. And when anyone raises a finger against these inhumane things, people take shelter on culture and how important it is to preserve it. They tend to forget that we made our culture, our culture did not make us.
We live in a culture that produces girls’ tops with narrower shoulder straps than boys’ tops, and girls’ shorts that expose more leg than boys’ shorts. We then turn around and shame girls for wearing the clothes sold to them. We live in a culture that tells boys it’s okay to shed clothing in heat to be comfortable, but tells girls that their comfort is secondary to how others perceive them. The message we are getting isn’t just that revealing clothes are wrong. It’s that our female bodies are wrong. That by having breasts and hips and legs and showing them, we are less.
And there are the other girls; the type of girls who use their insecurities to knock other people down via social networking, who think short shorts have a fundamental bearing on one’s personality, who think popularity and love of music are mutually exclusive, who believe in false dichotomy that women can either be intelligent and interesting, or pretty and vapid. They are girls who missed the memo that inferring stupidity, vanity and shallowness on others does not make one smart, interesting or deep, and that you don’t need to degrade other women to validate yourself.
When you say you are not like other girls, it means you have perceived a set of rules – how to dress, how to act, how to become a woman – which you do not believe apply to you. But these rules are arbitrary. They are socially determined. They should not apply to anyone and the ‘other girls’ are not alike. Be angry, be funny, be intelligent. Do not set yourself apart. Be like the other girls, but also celebrate your diversity, because no two people in the world are alike.