Just Because the Misogyny Has Been Internalized Does Not Make It Okay

Internalized misogyny is one of the biggest barriers that feminism is still trying to overcome.  It is hard to galvanize a movement when people don’t even see the problems with the way they are treated, because they are taught from a young age that they SHOULD be treated that way.  In East Africa, for example, many men AND WOMEN believe (honestly believe) that it is a sign of affection for a man to beat his wife/girlfriend.  This is a perfect example of internalized misogyny, and it’s a major problem, because unless women are able to stand up and say that they are being mistreated, they are never going to be able to demand change.  Much of this problem, however, comes from the way that people are socialized.  Problematic socialization is what results in issues like street harassment and violent forms of hypermasculinity as well-~-and it’s the exact reason why feminists DON’T hate men: we hate the Patriarchy, the system which teaches both men AND women to behave in a way which is harmful.

It’s not just internalized misogyny in general that I am angry about though-~-it’s the way it’s fed to girls from such a young age that they have no real CHOICE but to internalize it unless someone is telling them otherwise.  One amazing example of this is the problem of premature sexualization, as discussed by Peggy Orenstein in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, where she talks about how we teach girls to divorce themselves from their sexualities at a young age.  Orenstein also points out a lot of problems with the very institution I am about to spend the rest of this post talking about: Disney.

The title that was given to the above image is “How Women Think”.  Here are a few BETTER titles that I came up with:

  1. How MEN Think
  2. How MISOGYNISTS Think
  3. How Disney Internalizes Misogyny In Young Girls
  4. Really Bad Messages Disney Sends
  5. How Women SHOULD NOT Think
  6. Ideas Feminists Are Fighting Against
  7. How Women Are TAUGHT To Think

I think that (3) and (7) are probably the biggest two on that list, because looking at that picture, I would never want any daughter, sister, cousin, friend or female human being in general to internalize THOSE messages.  But my question is this: is that REALLY how women think?

It isn’t really fair to say that all women think like that.  There are a lot of women who are fighting those very messages, and a lot of women who live lives that directly contradict those messages.  But the reality is that THESE are the messages that we give young girls, at an age when gender is easiest to internalize-~-messages about how they need saving, about how they should change to fit the desires of a man, about how having a man is the most important thing…and NONE of this is necessarily true.

What’s worse, though, is that this picture ignores whatever good characteristics these characters actually have: Jasmine actually stands up for her ability to choose her own husband instead of having her father choose for her, and threatens to get rid of Jafar because he’s a jerk as soon as she has the power to do so; Belle displays incredible loyalty to her father (who, I will admit, is a man, but she doesn’t do this BECAUSE he is a man, she does it because he is family) in agreeing to stay with the Beast and she doesn’t fall for him until they take the time to get to know each other and he realizes he HAS to change…plus, she refuses to date Gaston just because he’s handsome and popular because he has literally nothing else to offer.  (Admittedly, I have nothing to say in defense of The Little Mermaid and am struggling to come up with really good feminist qualities for Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella).  Notably, Disney characters such as Pocahontas-~-who defies her father to do what she believes is right-~-and Mulan, who manages to save the entire country of China in her title movie, are absent from this image.

Unfortunately, it IS hard to take in the positive messages buried in some of these stories because the truth is, Disney Princesses (with few exceptions) rely on men to rescue them and make their problems go away.  And this picture DOES capture the negative messages spot-on.  The problem is that when we teach girls that this is what femininity is, we allow them to internalize misogynistic messages that hurt them later in life.  It starts when they are very young, when the idea of gender is most easily influenced, and unless parents and other members of society actively fight against this kind of socialization, we are never going to be able to overcome, not the external voices telling us that we can’t or shouldn’t do things, but the little voices inside of us telling us that maybe those other voices are right.

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~ by Randi Saunders on March 25, 2012.

13 Responses to “Just Because the Misogyny Has Been Internalized Does Not Make It Okay”

  1. Most of the crime problem in western society comes from children of single parents. A small segment of them because of the absence of any positive male role models and the often mixed moral teachings gravitate to criminals. I remember one statistic I saw that 7/10 people in prison are from single parents.

    They’re not being socialized to be violent by a patriarchy, they lack much strong guidance because their mom is off finding a new boyfriend and so they move to any source of moral guidance they can find.

    With the princess complex,

    http://boards.askmen.com/showthread.php?86302-Princess-Complex-curable-or-not

    Most men hate that sort of attitude, that men should do everything for women and save them from all their worries. Whatever reason Walt Disney had for pushing that viewpoint, it hit fertile ground among narcissistic women. While it is messed up, I wouldn’t call it misogynistic, or how men think. It gives a massive advantage to the woman, who gets to expect men serve her. Only works for beautiful women, as with the princesses.

    • I wouldn’t say that it has to do with a lack of male role models, although I’m willing to concede that it is PART of the problem. I’ve actually been studying criminology though, email me if you want to talk about that more, I don’t want to get into all of that right here.

      I’m not saying that the patriarchy leads all men to be violent; I’m saying that it promotes in some ways hypermasculinity that men feel the need to validate through various things, be they drinking or violence or what have you. This obviously is not all men, just like all women do not fall victim to hyperfemininity, but it is a sociological pattern that many have observed (see “Why Can’t Ken and GI Joe Be Friends for more about this actually).

      Many men MAY hate that attitude, but I’m not talking about men’s attitudes so much as I’m worried about what women think and are taught to think of themselves. Do you really think it is advantageous for a woman to be taught that all she needs is to be beautiful and a man will take care of her? Do you really think it is advantageous for a woman to be taught that her only worth is in her ability to attract a guy? I’ll just go ahead and say it: it doesn’t. It leaves women emotionally vulnerable and allows them to become dependent on men, which in turn puts them at risk for things like abusive relationships.

      I think the truth is that everyone wants to be loved and admired like a princess, but when we teach girls that admiration should be based on BEAUTY and not things like brains or athleticism or creativity, we have a real problem, and that’s kind of what I was getting at with this post.

  2. So you’re saying that fathers promote gender stereotyped behaviours, like playing with masculine toys, and this means they feel a need to validate their behaviour by beating people up or drinking?

    The sorts of ultramasculine behaviours that can lead to violence are rarely taught by fathers though. From my knowledge of criminals, they normally see status as more important than life, and are willing to start a fight to save face. That sort of value is not one promoted by children’s toys or fathers much. It is promoted by rap artists. It is promoted by criminals.

    Fathers are much more likely to teach their children self respect and pride in themselves, which counteracts the insecurity that says if a woman disrespects you, hit her. Their gender stereotypes are more likely to be things like never hit a woman, save the woman as the prince, learn useful skills to be a better man.

    If society taught men to be violent you’d expect most men to be violent, and regularly. As it is, domestic violence is fairly uncommon. I think it’s more likely that men are slipping through the cracks than being socialized to be violent.

    “Do you really think it is advantageous for a woman to be taught that all she needs is to be beautiful and a man will take care of her?”

    Beauty is widely recognised as a powerful and potent aspect. If she’s beautiful she may well get a great result, if she’s ugly she won’t. It won’t be as good for the man, who will be subject to her manipulation.

    “It leaves women emotionally vulnerable and allows them to become dependent on men, which in turn puts them at risk for things like abusive relationships. ”

    You seem to be putting the blame for princess fantasies on men, as though men made it so that women would have princess fantasies so they could control them.

    Do you really think most men, even abusive partners, want women who constantly bother them and other men for help because they can’t do anything as they are princesses? There’s a reason high maintenance is not seen as a compliment. The princess complex is a messed up idea that benefits beautiful narcissistic women.

    “admiration should be based on BEAUTY and not things like brains or athleticism or creativity”

    I agree, though admiration can be based on beauty too. I disagree on who benefits from the idea. If you want to stop the idea you have to stop the people who benefit from it.

    • Okay, you can’t generalize “fathers” in this situation. Some fathers are going to teach boys to be respectful but some are going to demonstrate negative behaviors, because some MEN are going to be good role models and some are going to exhibit negative behaviors. Unless you are willing to defend the claim that no fathers are ever abusive husbands or parents, then you’re standing on pretty shaky ground saying that Fathers as a group only teach positive behavior.

      The sort of ultramasculine behaviors I am talking about do not come from any one singular source. Society doesn’t necessarily teach men to be violent, but it teaches a mindset that has been proven to manifest itself in violence in many cases.

      STOP CONFLATING THE IDEA OF MEN AS INDIVIDUALS WITH THE PATRIARCHY. This is my #1 problem with this subject: I NEVER said that individual men did this. I said that there is a system in place that teaches women that their value should be based on how they are perceived by men, and I can show you source after source that talks about how we teach girls this through things like movies and toys and how the princess fantasy is a part of that. (Incidentally, Walt Disney was a man, just as a point of fact here). I think it’s really interesting that you automatically jump to women using their beauty to be manipulative, and that this thus disadvantages men. And I never said that most men want women who can’t do anything, but there’s a difference between skills and ambition. What I am talking about is NOT skills, it’s self-esteem and ambition, the knowledge that you are worth something divorced from what a man thinks you are worth.

      And of course admiration can be based on other things, but if you read Orenstein’s book, she highlights the fact that when we praise little girls we praise them for being pretty and when we praise little boys, we praise them for being smart or good at sports, and there’s the problem: we teach girls that “pretty” is the most important of all of these things, and we shouldn’t. Even if you want to argue that it’s problematic for me, fine, it’s problematic for both genders. The fact is that in some ways the patriarchy does hurt men as well as women, and if you want to make a case that this is one of those ways, I’d be completely open to hearing it.

      • On fathers teaching their children good or bad things- this goes back to the single parenthood thing. Most crime is committed by children of single parents, so I doubt that most fathers are teaching their children to be criminals. They generally love their children and have no desire to teach them wildly counterproductive ideas. While there are some really bad fathers they’re quite rare.

        “Society doesn’t necessarily teach men to be violent, but it teaches a mindset that has been proven to manifest itself in violence in many cases.”

        Proven by who to manifest in violence? And what precisely is society teaching that manifests in violence?

        “STOP CONFLATING THE IDEA OF MEN AS INDIVIDUALS WITH THE PATRIARCHY. This is my #1 problem with this subject: I NEVER said that individual men did this.”

        I’m not saying that you are saying individual men are doing it. I’m disagreeing with you about whether the invidual men who are doing it are being violent and encouraging violence.

        “I said that there is a system in place that teaches women that their value should be based on how they are perceived by men, and I can show you source after source that talks about how we teach girls this through things like movies and toys and how the princess fantasy is a part of that.”

        Yes, there is. I’m saying that it probably doesn’t lead to violence. It just leads to a lot of problems for less attractive women and men.

        “(Incidentally, Walt Disney was a man, just as a point of fact here).”

        They thought snow white would be a bomb initially. Then millions of americans turned out to watch it. The film worked because it embodied a very popular fantasy among women. There will always be men and women who make disempowering films and books. As long as women keep showing up in droves for them they’ll keep teaching young people those messages.

        Twilight, the modern version, that was made by a woman. A man who stalks her and acts violent towards her saves her from all her worries (school, jobs, etc) and introduces her to an exciting life of fantasy and lust.

        “I think it’s really interesting that you automatically jump to women using their beauty to be manipulative, and that this thus disadvantages men.”

        That is what the princess fantasy is. To get a guy to give you everything with your beauty and amazingness. It’s not a patriarchy thing. It’s a beautiful women get what they want from men.

        “the knowledge that you are worth something divorced from what a man thinks you are worth.”

        A princess knows she’s valuable to all men, not just one. That gives her lots of self esteem.

        I think the problem is more with the unrealistic expectations of what a princess has to be like. Thin, perfect hair, no blemishes. You can be quite happy when your self esteem is dependent on the approval of others if they do think you’re worthy. It’s pretty heady to know that anyone you meet wants to be with you. It’s harder when your body is utterly different from what you continually see on tv and men don’t come save you as tv has told you they should.

        The problem isn’t dependence. If you’re a guy who’s good at sports you’re dependent on your team mates, your coach, the crowd’s approval. If you’re a smart guy you’re dependent on your teacher to like you enough to grade you well and your boss to give you a good job. The problem is the massive gap between what women expect and what they get, and that they often prefer the fantasy to reality, as going to any romcom shows you.

      • Okay, I really don’t know how we got onto the subject of fathers and crime since that is NOT what this post was about but since we are apparently still on this subject, let’s talk about criminality shall we?

        Single parent households don’t exclusively mean single mothers. But Hayley is right, even if fathers have left this in turn DOES send a message about men’s behavior-~-and NOT a positive one. But single parent households, even if they do account for more crime, account for more crime for several reasons: 1) parents, regardless of gender, may struggle to give adequate attention to youth because they are working, or working multiple jobs; 2) they are more likely to live in transitional neighborhoods which in turn create environments which are conducive to criminality. In fact, the single motherhood argument is predicated on a racist structural functionalist theory that says that “Black family structure” leads to crime; it’s absurd and is part of why I’m not really a structural functionalist. I’m sure Hayley will have more to add here.

        Okay, there’s a reason why feminists have condemned Twilight. Because there are SO many problems with that fantasy. And you say that a lot of women have the princess fantasy-~-where did they get it? It was taught to them, through fairy tales, through media…it is NOT an innate thing. Gender is learned. Mindsets like this are learned. And the problem is that women DO keep showing up, because they have internalized this fantasy, this message…WHICH WAS MY ENTIRE ORIGINAL POINT.

        The mere fact that you chose to argue that she is valuable to ALL men and this is where her self esteem comes from proves my point as well: her self esteem comes from perceived value to men. It doesn’t matter if it is one man or many. The fact is, her self esteem doesn’t come from a sense that she in and of herself is valuable, it is dependent on men. And that, right there, is the problem.

        And there’s a difference between being dependent on a team or needing someone to give you a job and relying on another person to validate you AND to provide for you. That’s like comparing apples to oranges, and I’m really unsure as to why you think they are the same. At the end of the day, a guy who is smart KNOWS he is smart; he is CAPABLE of getting a job even if it takes him several tries. But a girl who thinks that all she has is beauty and a man’s love, when that goes away, has nothing.
        And then we end up like Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire

  3. Also, going back to the beginning of what you said…I never said that. I never said ANYTHING negative about fathers at all, actually. What I said was that promoting a rigid gender binary was problematic and that it often resulted in hypermasculine or hyperfeminine behavior and that both of these behaviors have problems. I agree that pop culture (you mentioned rap) is a problem, but this is PART of that self-same problem.

  4. – Lack of a male presence in the home =/= no socialization of masculinity. In fact, it would very much inform one’s understanding of masculinity.

    – Are you equating violence to a source of moral guidance? I’m really confused, because I see no logic in that. I’m not offended because you’re expressing a defense of masculinity (I’m all for men’s rights and examining issues of masculinity), I’m offended because you don’t make sense.
    – Walt Disney didn’t “push a viewpoint,” he had very little to do with the creation of the Disney princesses, most of whom were introduced long after Disney’s death. This isn’t the sign of one man perpetuating a narrative, this is an example of how these culture ideas are so prevalent.
    Kind of like you using the term ‘most men.’
    – I agree that this is not how most men actively think – internalized misogyny affects most people who grow up in Western culture. The danger is how subtly it is.
    -“Only works for beautiful women, as with the princesses.” HAHAHA, you’re trolling right?

    -“If society taught men to be violent you’d expect most men to be violent, and regularly. As it is, domestic violence is fairly uncommon. I think it’s more likely that men are slipping through the cracks than being socialized to be violent.” Society does not teaching most men to be violent – people are way too complicated to be distilled down to their gender. Rather, there exists a rampant cultural narrative of male violence. This leads to a certain type of hypermasculinity in a certain fragment of the male population that leads to one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime (and if you think that is ‘uncommon’ and not unusual, that makes me very sad. that number should be zero.) . (SOURCE: http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet(National).pdf)

    In conclusion, you really need to be much more openminded and do your research. Randi was not, as you clearly believe she was, railing against men. In fact, it is you who is making the blanket, unnuanced statements about gender. The patriarchy’s got you, buddy. And that makes me really sad.

  5. […] just said this in the comments from our last post, but I’ll just say it again here: THERE ARE ABUSIVE FATHERS OUT THERE.  Now, I’m not […]

  6. Men are attracted to beautiful women…… thats it. The only reason a man would marry a woman who’s rating is 5 is because 6 is too much hardwork, 7 is out of his league and 10s actively despise him….. And that man doesn’t have to look ugly for low confidence….he may look like brad pitt and yet settle like Kathy Bates like feminists cuz he lacks confidence…..
    Or he could look like Jack Nicholson and bed 18 year old russian gymnasts…..
    Kathy Bates no matter how confident or rich or famous can never get a confident man to bed. She can get losers to bed……… a confident or famous man can get russian gymnasts to bed….. he could get Kathy Bates to bed if he wanted to …. but he won’t. Cuz she’s ugly
    Kathy Batest – leftover under confident men
    Jack Nichols – Hottest women on this planet….. sometimes hot+smart combo

    • So I let the comment go up because it’s not hate speech and it is therefore against Radical Idea policies to NOT let it be posted…but I just have no idea where you are going with this.

  7. […] Just Because the Misogyny Has Been Internalized Does Not Make It Okay […]

  8. Great, clear article. I was just thinking today that many women don’t even know what they are missing because they actually think misogyny is okay.

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