Have you ever debated about feminism with your female friends and one of them blurts out 'what about men's rights?!'
That, my friend, is what we call 'internalised misogyny' aka 'internalised sexism'.
What is internalised misogyny?
'Misogyny' is the hatred, dislike or mistrust of women. Although this is often seen as a male trait, it is also practiced amongst women.
Internalised misogyny is when a woman observes gender stereotypes and is influenced by the patriarchy, therefore inflicting sexist attitudes and behaviours towards themselves and other women. The problem with internalised misogyny is that it encourages further sexism and minimises the value of women
From a young age, many of us have been taught behaviours and actions of gender stereotypes, and it can take years to unlearn everything. So, unfortunately internalised misogyny is more common than you think.
Here are some of the most common comments and questions from those who internalise sexism and how we would respond to them:
1. Why is it called 'feminism' if it's about gender equality?
News flash, a man coined the term 'feminism'. Charles Fourier, a French philosopher invented the word which meant 'advocacy of women's rights'.
During the women's Suffrage movement, women were fighting for the right to vote, and that's when the term 'feminism' became more popular. Over time, the goals of feminism have changed, but the word has stayed the same.
But, the main question is why does the word 'feminist' offend people? Is someone so influenced by the patriarchy that any word related to women is worse than words related to men or gender neutrality? Giving 'feminism' another name would be denying the fact that women have been excluded from society for centuries.
It's the meaning of the word that is important. Call 'feminism' whatever you like, the movement will still have the same meaning.
2. He's a man, he wouldn't understand...
Stop making excuses for men, stop putting them on a pedestal. Excusing men for their sexist comments or ridiculing the feminist movement lets them think that it's 'okay' to disrespect women.
Also, feminism benefits men too, so really they're shooting themselves in the foot when they reject feminism.
3. All my female friends turned out fine so we don't need feminism...
People who make comments like this are focusing on the privileged bubble that they live in.
Right now, there is a 10 year old girl who has just started her period and her parents are preparing to marry her off.
Right now, a young girl has missed 5 days of school because she can't afford sanitary products.
Right now, a young girl is a victim of an honour killing.
Right now, a working woman has been fired after telling her boss she's pregnant (yes, this still happens).
To some people, these examples may be far fetched, but they're actually happening on a daily basis. These girls and women need privileged people to speak up and give them a voice.
These issues might not affect you directly, but the reason these awful events are happening is because women are seen as less important, which affects all women.
4. But some women are happy being housewives...
Feminism is about choice. Some women are happy staying at home looking after their children, whilst some women are happy working. Being a housewife doesn't make a person any less of a feminist than a working woman.
5. If feminism is about gender equality, why does it always focus on women?
The definition of feminism is 'the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes', so yes, it is most definitely about gender equality.
A big part of feminism is indeed about empowering women, because for centuries women have been suppressed and have had to fight for their rights. They fought for the right to vote, the right for an education, the right to abortions, the right to work etc., and whilst we have come so far, there are so many places in the world where women STILL don't have basic rights, simply because they are seen as inferior.
Truth is, women still aren't given equal opportunities, and that needs to change.
6. What about men's rights?
First of all, men haven't had to fight for the basic rights women have had to.
Secondly, this isn't a competition of which gender has the most or least rights.
Thirdly, feminism does include men's rights. Feminism recognises issues such as 'toxic masculinity' as a huge problem. It prevents men from showing their emotions, often leading to suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK, and it's a feminist issue.
7. But there are so many other problems in the world like climate change, poverty etc.
Yes, there are, but one issue might be important to you because you can relate to it more or it directly affects you. You don't have to change the world, but you can make a difference.
8. She's such a slut...
A lot of us are guilty for calling a woman a 'slut' for sleeping with a guy on her first date or having a one night stand. But, if a guy does the same thing, he's a 'lad' or a 'legend'.
Just like men, women are allowed to express themselves sexually. Women have needs too, and the last thing they need is other women judging them for it.
Next time you observe internalised misogynystic behaviour from a female friend, gently point out their internalised sexism and remind them that not only are they devaluing other women, but they're also devaluing themselves.