There’s a common misconception that only men can be misogynistic while women cannot. The truth is, we can all be a little bit misogynistic at times.
Internalised misogyny can be easily defined as women unconsciously or subconsciously projecting their sexist thoughts or ideas onto other women or even themselves.
But it mainly refers to the by-products of a deeply internalised patriarchal view that causes women to judge other women for not conforming to societal ideals.
Lovin Malta had an in-depth discussion with Marceline Naudi on the topic, who is a social worker by profession and a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Gender Studies at the University of Malta.
Naudi started out by explaining the phenomenon that within every society, there is what is known as a “dominant discourse”, which represents different ideas and values which are accepted by the majority of members of society.
This dominant discourse is propagated by the most powerful individuals of society, as they are the ones who have the most influence over matters.
These different attitudes, ideas, values, and behaviours are constantly around us, weaved into our daily lives and experiences. While it is not obligatory to abide by these values and ideas, they’re very hard to go against as these messages are constantly around us within society.
“This dominant discourse is propagated through various sources in our daily lives, generally from the internet, social media, magazines, parliament, and church, among many others,” Naudi explained.
These sources continue to keep sending insidious messages, and these messages tell us “what it means to be a good woman”.
When a woman does not abide by the dominant discourse and the implications of these messages, she is automatically regarded as “not a good woman” because she does not fit into society’s expectations.
One of the main influences over the formation of these views and ideas is the fact that “the patriarchal society which we live in is indeed misogynistic”.
This is where internalised misogyny comes in, as women use this same criterion that society generally uses to judge themselves and others and assess how others view them.
“First, we judge and assess ourselves, then we have a look around us and judge others, then we ponder on how others around us are assessing us,” she said.
“It’s not surprising at all that women absorb these said messages and end up using them to test themselves, their worth, and whether they classify as a ‘good woman’.”
These societal ideals are inescapable. You’ll find them at school, in the workplace, and in a multitude of other places, as we are constantly receiving these messages.
“Even if the mother does her best not to enforce gender roles stereotypes onto her children, it is all around us, and we are constantly taking on these messages,” Naudi said.
Another aspect of internalised misogyny is ‘lookism’, which can be defined as “prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s appearance.”
Lookism presents various idealisations of how a woman should look like, how she should keep her hair, what she should wear, what her weight is, how much make-up she wears, and so on and so forth.
These societal notions of beauty are again communicated through the same sources mentioned earlier and are taken on, even unconsciously, during daily life.
While internalised misogyny is inescapable, to say the least, it helps for a woman to be mindful of these deeply internalised notions and expectations and strive not to hold herself or other women accountable to these ideals.
A woman must not accept, but instead, she should challenge these ideals, and at the core of everything, remain true to herself and her own principles.