Siri, What is Internalized Misogyny?

One of the best decisions I ever made was to start following black women on Twitter. Couldn’t recommend it more.

I was reminded of this excellent life choice when I read this interview of British singer Lily Allen wherein she talks about not being able to bond with women and not liking being a woman growing up.

“The way [my father] spoke about women with his friends was quite derogatory so I tried to avoid being a woman,” Allen said. “I didn’t really bond with women and I felt jealous of women. Then, when I had my two girls I was like, ‘OK, I guess you’re going to have to start liking women now, Lily.’ But it’s been a complete blessing.”

It was a black woman, Ayesha A. Siddiqi, (who I’ve followed on Twitter for a while), who first described Allen’s obvious jealousy of women in Lily Allen’s Anti Black Feminism. The whole thing is worth a read because it applies not just to Allen but to every white woman who contrasts her “brains” to black and brown womens’ “bodies” as if the two can’t be appreciated at the same time in the same woman and every woman must choose which to display.

It also points to the classist and racist tones in so much white “anti-consumerism.” See The Sum of Small Things for more on how yoga retreats and organic food has replaced so-called conspicuous consumption among striving upper-class families.

Siddiqi points out that Allen is clearly mad that she and all women must, much more than men, fit within narrow beauty standards in order to earn anyone’s time or attention.

Siddiqi quotes Allen: “I used to pride myself on being strong-minded and not being some stupid girl obsessed with the way I look,” Allen wrote. “I felt like it didn’t matter if I was a bit chubby ‘cos I’m not a model, I’m a singer. I’m afraid I am not strong and have fallen victim to the evil machine. I write to you in a sea of tears from my hotel bed in Seattle. I have spent the past hour researching gastric bypass surgery and laser liposuction.”

Allen is right. She’s a singer, and it shouldn’t matter how fat she is. It also shouldn’t matter how fat political commentators are. But when’s the last time you saw a fat or ugly female pundit? A male one? There are way more ugly males than females in so many roles, from actors to politicians, because men are presumed to be worth listening to — even if they’re not good-looking — and the same isn’t true for women.

We live in a society that tells us that women have to be fuckable to be worth listening to, but if we’re too overtly sexual, if we own our sex appeal, are aware of it, are proud of it, and get off on it, then I’m just so sorry but I can’t take you seriously. No one can wear a thong on an album cover and have anything interesting to say.

Women must forever walk the tightrope between unfuckable/invisible and too-fuckable/dismissed.

In a sane world, Allen would look at the situation and call it what it is: a sexist double standard. Instead, Allen seeks to separate women into brains and bodies, singing, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you/‘Cause I’ve got a brain.” As if the two were mutually exclusive. They’re not. -a fat-assed nerd.

You kind of have to hand it to misogyny. It’s clever as fuck. Instead of women coming together against sexist double standards, jealousy causes us to blame other women.

It makes women blame other women for “using their looks” to sell their ideology instead of blaming the system that requires that women be attractive in order to be listened to.

Misogyny has otherwise sane women saying, essentially, that if only those women wouldn’t show their cleavage/shake their asses/get lip injections then I wouldn’t have to do the same to get on TV to talk about Russiagate. I hate to break it to you prudes, but the anti- lip-injection union will always have scabs.

Internalized misogyny is being so jealous of women who you think are winning the game that you forget to ask yourself whether the game might be rigged.

Internalized misogyny is proudly saying, “I’m not like other girls.” It’s being a Cool Girl. It’s openly supporting male hegemony because the men in charge prefer women to be agreeable.  It’s blaming the equal division of household labor (which is itself a myth) for the destruction of the family unit — while being an unwed mother. It’s scapegoating women for the decreasing economic value of brute strength which is in fact an inevitable result of technological innovation. It’s blaming women for the inevitable decline in the economic status of low-skill, low-education, low-intelligence, low-agreeableness men instead of the men in charge of the system that devalued their labor and outsourced and automated their jobs without providing them a safety net.

Internalized misogyny is a subconscious coping strategy for gaining the approval of those in charge of a fundamentally sexist society.

Internalized misogyny is the natural consequence of being told from the time we’re young that women are either sexual or serious and not only do we have to choose which we’ll be, but the women who choose sexual are ruining things for the smart ones. But it shouldn’t take giving birth to female children to start to interrogate our internalized misogyny. To start, I recommend following black women on Twitter.

5 Comments

  1. david

    But this is the entire story:
    ““The way [my father] spoke about women with his friends was quite derogatory so I tried to avoid being a woman,” Allen said.”

  2. Lucas

    “Allen is right. She’s a singer, and it shouldn’t matter how fat she is. It also shouldn’t matter how fat political commentators are. But when’s the last time you saw a fat or ugly female pundit? A male one? There are way more ugly males than females in so many roles, from actors to politicians, because men are presumed to be worth listening to — even if they’re not good-looking — and the same isn’t true for women.”

    This is a catch-22 argument for less attractive women and myself to make to others. The more people there are that listen to this argument from a less attractive woman as true the more false the argument becomes. The less people there are that listen to this argument as true from a less attractive woman then the more likely it is that I among others will not accept this argument as true.

      • Lucas

        No, I am saying that as soon as more people listen and share this argument the more false it becomes (which includes you too). The less that people listen to this argument the less likely it is that I and others will accept the argument as true.

        • Lucas

          “This is a catch-22 argument for less attractive women and myself to make to others.”

          I’ll admit I didn’t write this part correctly. The quoted argument in your article is a catch 22 argument for anyone to make, period.

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