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Internalized Misogyny is a Weapon for Oppression

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

By Tamun Hanjra


Image retrieved from Feminism India


As a womxn in today’s society, there seems to be a revolution rising from within. Womxn are exhausted from being paid less for doing the same job, being treated as objects for sexual pleasure: being treated as inferior. This uprising has been building up through many waves of feminism. However, the feminism of today has taken on a negative reputation and is painted as something unnecessary by misogynists. Misogyny- a word comprising the Greek root word that means “women” and the suffix “miso-” that means hatred- is so widespread in our society that some people will deny its very existence. A common misconception is that only men can be misogynists. However, that could not be further from the truth; one of the most dangerous forms of misogyny is that of internalized misogyny in many womxn. 


Margaret Atwood, in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, highlights a series of different feminist issues in a variety of ways. One of her most hard-hitting points is how easy it can be to oppress an entire group of people by pitting them against one another. In The Handmaid’s Tale, there is a hierarchy created of womxn in society. Womxn of certain statuses have different societal roles, one of which is to serve solely as producers of offspring for their masters and their wives. This hierarchy creates an environment in which some feel as if they are superior to others. This superiority complex, like other power dynamics, can lead to the abuse of power. 


The abuse of power has been researched and established through a variety of social and psychological experiments. The Stanford Prison Experiment is a prime example of how putting two groups in different positions of power can lead to the powerful engaging in abusive and malicious behavior that degrades the individuals in the lower power level. 


These concepts can easily be seen in the real world when it comes to the blatant oppression of womxn. The concept of being a “pick me, choose me” girl is one that is very thought provoking. Although there is not much evidence on the actual existence of this phenomenon, it is still something that can be observed in anecdotal evidence. The idea that only a certain number of womxn can be in positions of power and that each of them are competing against one another creates an environment of toxicity and competitiveness. This environment promotes hostility and aggressiveness, and forces womxn to choose between stepping over other womxn to get to where they want or remaining complacent with where they are. This is one way in which internalized misogyny manifests itself: enabling womxn to think they have to bring other womxn down to lift themselves up. 


The most traditional sense of internalized misogyny, however, can be seen in the enforcement of gendered roles and stereotypes. The idea that womxn should not enter the workforce and should instead remain stay-at-home mothers that take care of the household tasks is an outdated idea that is enforced in a variety of different ways. One of these tactics is through mothers shaming other mothers that choose to enter the workforce. The idea that a womxn is the only one responsible for taking care of household chores and the children is an idea deeply ingrained in misogyny and sexism. For womxn to gain equality and equal rights, they must unlearn their internalized misogyny and embrace the idea that individual success does not come at the expense of their fellow womxn.


Written by Tamun Hanjra

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