Women are not the enemy

The effect of internalized misogyny on women and genders studies

Happy Bainbridge is a senior studying sociology, criminal justice with a women and gender studies minor. Bainbridge chose all those fields of study because she thinks they’re essential to accurately understanding all demographics of society. Her goal is to one day work for a nonprofit organization or to continue her education and become a professor.

By Happy Bainbridge

As someone who grew up in a conservative town, feminism offered me an essential outlet into discovering my femininity and place in society. I was known for my feminist views, all of which I was certain of and proud to embrace in the public sphere.

When I came to Ferris State as a freshman, I had my heart set on obtaining a Women and Gender Studies minor to further my knowledge of issues that women face across the globe. As my education began, however, I noticed a pattern of internalized misogyny embedded, not only within my professors, but also within the female students surrounding me.

Internalized misogyny, also referred to as internalized sexism, is the ideology that women subconsciously embrace sexist ideals and ways of acting out of gender. This is most commonly seen in how women treat each other and how male validation still plays a crucial role in behavior and performance.

When I entered the Intro to Women’s Studies class, I was surrounded by women and a handful of men. What I gathered from my time in that class is that feminism has become intricately misconstrued with what it means to be a modern woman in today’s patriarchal society. A majority of the teaching focused on women’s desire for overarching independence. Additionally, it was taught that the enemy was women who did not identify as feminists. Rarely were men addressed as a core issue in the fight for gender equality and instead they were safeguarded with the typical phrase of “feminism benefits men too.”

At its core, yes, feminism does benefit men, however, it can’t do so until it benefits all women. Most importantly, why are we still talking about men? Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of sex and therefore men should never be the focus of the conversation. Men are the reason women cannot walk alone at night or even during the day. Men are the reason that young girls grow up in a society that creates constant competition amongst one another. Men are the reason that those same young girls will grow up to be insecure and sexist adults.

While in the Intro to Women’s Studies class, many of my female peers boasted about never wearing pink and how they provide financial support to their boyfriends who don’t deserve it. These same young women claimed that they will never need or rely on a partner.

I am an ultra-feminine woman in a relationship with a heterosexual man who provides for me, so am I less of a feminist?

Internalized misogyny has taught my fellow classmates that because they rely on only themselves and reject societal expectations, that they are the face of feminism. Ironically, this is the same narrative that my professor was teaching and in return while many students fell deeper into their beliefs, others, such as myself, began to reject feminism.

It took me years to realize that my dismissal of high heels and dresses was actually my desire to “not be like other girls” and how deeply I had embraced the idea that women are lesser than men. I intensely aspired to be respected and listened to in the same way that men were and because of such I was repulsed by anything that would group me with other women. I do not blame myself for feeling this way and I do not blame the women around me who are still stuck in this vicious cycle.

What is most disappointing is Ferris State’s lack of investment in enlightened professors who are knowledgeable and willing to teach both men and women about how profoundly internalized misogyny affects our everyday lives and institutions. There’s no excuse for having educators who lack self-awareness and critical thinking skills in analyzing why they still hate themselves and other women while covering it up with what it means to be a “feminist”.