3 ways that women can fight internalized misogyny

The United States is an inherently patriarchal society. This means that the power structures in this country are set up to keep men in power and to keep women out of power. Nothing made this more clear then the election last week, when a completely unqualified man beat out an overqualified woman for the most powerful job in the country, maybe even the world. In order to ensure that men stay in power and women stay out of power, patriarchal systems instill a deep sense of misogyny in the people, especially women.

Patriarchal systems used the media to depict women in ways that decreases their value by making their worth tied to their appearance. Double standards in the workplace ensure that when a woman displays what are seen as leadership qualities in men, she is seen as aggressive. These double standards also mean that a woman has to work twice as hard as a man doing the same job and may never see the benefits of that extra work.

This results in few women in leadership roles, which reinforces the idea that men are better in leadership roles. The less we see women in leadership roles, the less likely we are to believe they are competent in leadership roles. The same is true for women in politics. Every action they make is harshly critiqued by their contemporaries and the media, holding them back from achieving leadership positions.

All of this results in a society where we have very few examples of women in leadership roles and women are valued for their appearances and docile personalities rather than their skills and abilities, even if those skills and abilities are equal to or surpass a man’s.

In a society that is so clearly against women, it’s not surprise that women internalize misogyny. Women are indoctrinated to believe that they are worth less than men, so on a subconscious level they begin to believe they are worth less than men. Any intelligent, ass kicking woman knows that this isn’t true, but somehow she can’t shake the lingering feeling that she doesn’t deserve that promotion or that she’s not pretty enough or that no one should take her seriously. This is internalized misogyny.

So how can we ass kicking ladies fight internalized misogyny so we can overthrow the patriarchy? Here are a few of my ideas.

1) Educate yourself about feminism

Oooh, the F word. Feminism has become another dirty F word. How, you may ask? The answer is always the same: patriarchy. The male dominated power systems are, rightfully, threatened by the idea of equality for women, so for years the systems have slandered feminists. Did you know that feminists in the 60’s never actually burned their bras? That story was made up by a male dominated media that wanted to make feminists seem scary and crazy. The media also spends a wild amount of time talking about the ugliness of feminists. In a world where women’s value is linked to their appearance, calling feminists ugly has been a way to discredit feminists and their movement.

In short, the media has made up all sorts of stories about feminists to make them seem like awful people as a way to discourage women from being feminists. Don’t believe the hype. Read some books. Like “The Feminine Mystique“, “The Beauty Myth“, “We Should All be Feminists“, and “The Feminist Utopia Project“. Read articles on sites like Everyday Feminism, Bitch Media, Adios Barbie, and The Body is not an Apology. Listen to podcasts like Call Your Girlfriend, The Guilty Feminist, and The Bodcast. Find out what feminism is really about (hint: it’s just the idea that women are equal to men and should be treated as such). Find out how patriarchal systems have affected your perception of yourself and your daily life.

If you’re not angry enough to shout from the rooftops about the patriarchy after all that, find more resources to educate yourself. Educate yourself until you understand how badly the patriarchy has screwed you and then get ready to fight back.

2) Talk to other feminists on a regular basis

One of the ingenious ways the patriarchy has kept women from overthrowing them is by keeping women apart and at each other’s throats. Women have been taught their whole lives that other women are the competition: for jobs, for success, for men. The patriarchy has taught women to compare themselves to other women constantly and to be jealous of women we judge as better. We’ve also been taught to try to tear down women so that we can succeed as if success is a finite resource that can only be possessed by a few women. Unfortunately, the systems that keep women out of power reinforce the idea that success is finite and only available to certain women. In short, the patriarchy has kept women from connecting in order to ensure we will never band together to overthrow the system.

In the sixties, when the Women’s Liberation Movement really began, women started hosting get togethers at their houses where women got to know each other. These get togethers were also used as a way to educate women about the Movement. Women at these get togethers shared their experiences, which led to the realization that they all faced the same sexism in their homes and offices. When these women realized they were not alone, and became friends, they created a powerful force that allowed the Women’s Liberation Movement to succeed.

So, ladies, you need to get you some awesome girlfriends. I know this can be really uncomfortable at first. Many women, myself included, have been taught to believe that they just can’t be friends with women. Too much cattiness, too much drama, too much trouble. But it’s actually not.

Find a core group of women and start talking to them about the sexism you experience. They’re going to tell you that they’ve experienced the same. Bond over the frustrations of being a woman in this world. Don’t just talk about makeup and clothes and men. Talk about changing the world. Build each other up. Compliment each other on things other than appearance. Tell each other how smart and brave you are. Reflect their value back to them. Start to make them believe that they deserve everything.

3) Work on a self acceptance/self love practice

The words “self acceptance” and “self love” used to make me throw up in my mouth. Every time someone said “love yourself” or “accept yourself exactly the way you are” I wanted to punch them in the mouth.

After entering recovery for an eating disorder and starting to educate myself on feminism, I discovered that my self hatred was a result of internalized misogyny. Women are constantly told by patriarchal systems that they are less than and that they are not worthy or love or acceptance. The media, beauty, and diet industries all profit off telling women that there is something wrong with them and that they need to change. This barrage of negative messaging results in women being literally unable to accept themselves, let alone love themselves.

The patriarchal systems of power are never going to teach women to accept or love themselves, so we have to do it ourselves. How, you ask? Good question. There are plenty of ways to start recognizing your own value and to start working toward self acceptance and self love. You just have to get over the hokeyness of them and do them without judgement. Or with as little judgement as possible.

Try writing affirmations on your mirror like “you are worthy of love” or “this mirror is a lie, your value is not tied to your appearance” or “you are a strong, smart woman”. Whatever it is you want to believe about yourself, write it on your mirror and read it every time you brush your teeth or work on your makeup. While you’re at it, say “I love you just the way you are” to your reflection in the mirror. Start a daily journaling practice and write things that you like about yourself or think that you’re good at. Before bed, write down all the things you did well during the day. Call a friend and ask them to tell you what they love about you.

I know all these things seem stupid and awful, but I’ve done all of them at some point over the past couple of years and my perception of myself has infinitely improved. So suck it up, swallow the mouth vomit, and give these things a try. You won’t be willing to fight for your worth if you don’t believe you have it in the first place.

Women face an uphill battle in patriarchal systems. At every turn they will be pushed back and told to be quiet. Unless women confront their internalized misogyny, they won’t be able to fight back and shout loud for the things they deserve. And trust me, you deserve everything. If no one’s ever told you that before, listen closely: you deserve everything.

Now go forth and educate yourself, find some other bad ass women, and learn to love yourself so we can start another revolution.

 

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So Sad

A lot has happened in the news since I’ve been writing regularly. The Brock Turner rape case. The Orlando shooting. Trump spouting more hate. These are the things I believe that writers should write about. I believe that writers have the power to be activists, to promote change through their writing. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I started this blog. I wanted to promote change, mostly within myself, but maybe within others who were struggling with similar issues. I wanted to identify my own feminism, and help others identify theirs. I wanted to be a voice for the things I believe. I’ve achieved that goal. I have a small, but steady following on this blog, and I now have readers in other places. So, I feel like I should be writing about the sad things taking place in this country. But the truth is, I just can’t.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. I have a thousand things to say. When I heard about the Brock Turner case I exploded with rage. I yelled in my living room for a solid five minutes. I have yelled about it in many other conversations. My heart broke in to a thousand pieces when I heard about Orlando. I cried. A lot. I reached out to my dearest people and told them how much I loved them. I cried some more. I heaved more than one exasperated sigh when Trump took up the cry of hatred against Muslims. I wanted to rage, but I’m all raged out at Trump. I can’t do it anymore. My outrage and outspokenness has done nothing to stop his overtaking of my country.

The truth is that I am too sad to really process any of these things. I am too sad to break them down, analyze them, and come up with some insight. I’m too sad to use my voice for activism on these things right now. I hope that soon I will be able to write about these things. These posts will be overdue and I probably won’t be able to say anything that hasn’t already been said, but I will add my voice to the Internet chorus when I’m ready. But I need more time. I need more time to grieve. I need more time to think. I need more time to process. I need more time to really understand the impact of these events.

Bewilderment at the Plight of Today’s Women

I’m a huge fan of the radio show “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook. I listen to the podcast all the time and I find it very informative. They explore a lot of issues facing America today and their guests are always insightful. Lately, the show has tackled a few different angles on the issues women face. I wrote another post about the episode they did on #MoreThanMean, which focused on online harassment of women. Other episodes have dealt with the wage gap.  Yesterday, I listened to an archived episode with Gloria Steinem about her new documentary series “Woman”. The series focuses on stories of violence against women from across the globe.

One pattern I’ve noticed while listening to these interviews is that Tom Ashbrook seems continually shocked at the state of affairs for women today around the world. He seems completely bewildered by the fact that women are still treated so poorly. When I first heard this I thought it was kind of cute. I thought, “What a sweet guy! He’s so pro-women he doesn’t see how people could treat women these ways.” But as I listened to more women centered episodes and continued to hear this reaction from Mr. Ashbrook it started to rub me the wrong way. It began to seem like Tom Ashbrook was incredibly naive, almost blind to the plight of women.

I began to wonder how many men out there are bewildered when they hear about the struggles women face. How many men out there think, “It’s 2016 for God’s sake! There’s no way women are that bad off anymore!” Maybe they don’t see women being treated poorly in their own environments and they don’t treat women badly themselves, so they don’t think it’s an issue. How many men live in this kind of naivety? Maybe this is a one of the reasons it’s so hard to get men to take women seriously when they talk about feminism.

The only remedy to this kind of naivety is exposure. Men need to see how bad it is for women around the world. Women need to tell men about how their treatment negatively impacts their lives. Women need to tell men how even microaggressions hurt women and they need to stop. Men need to be told that the patterns of oppression everyone engages in daily build up to a toxic environment for women. Men also need to be told exactly how bad it is for some women. Though it may seem inappropriate or excessive to describe some of the violence that occurs, it may lead to a better understanding of the severity of the situation, which may make men take women more seriously. We need to address this naivety head on so that women can get the help they need.

Oppression of Woman Hasn’t Always Been the Norm

I’m taking it easy today after a long, tough hike over Vermont’s highest peak yesterday. I’m sore, sunburned, and tired, so the best place to be is on the couch. I’m not good at downtime. I always feel the need to be productive, so it’s hard for me to spend a day in front of the TV without feeling guilty. Not that I don’t Netflix binge all the damn time, but I usually feel guilt about it later. Today I decided my day of rest and recuperation would be best spent watching all the women centered documentaries I had on “My List” in Netflix. I found some gems, all of which I’ll write about soon, but the one that really caught my attention today was a miniseries called “The Ascent of Woman”.

The premise of the miniseries, narrated by Dr. Amanda Foreman, is that even though systems of oppression have been created to hold women down, they manage to rise up and achieve amazing things generation after generation. The show combines inspiration with a staggering amount of interesting historical information, making it the perfect show for my consumption. It’s like the History Channel when they used to actually have historical programming.

The first episode I watched today, called “Civilisation”, went all the way back to the first recorded societies to see how gender relations functioned at the dawn of time. Dr. Foreman explains that archaeological digs of the Sumerians, the first recorded society, provide ample evidence that there really weren’t gender roles in the earliest societies. Work was divided among all citizens of a settlement. This is evidenced by the way they buried their dead. Graves were adorned with things that were important to the deceased when they were alive. Graves of women were adorned with tools of trade just as often as the graves of men. Evidence indicates that women participated in the economy the same way men did. Evidence also shows that child rearing was a communal activity, including men as equally as women.

Statues of deities from Sumerian communities appear to show that their primary deities were women. Fertility and nature were worshipped and associated with female deities. The most famous carving of a Sumerian deity depicts a voluptuous, naked woman seated on a throne, each foot on a human head, one alive and one a skull, representing her control over life and death. She is surrounded by cats, representing her control over the natural world. She is an all powerful goddess.

Dr. Foreman examines other early cultures and then nomadic cultures, all where women seemed to be treated as equals. This was not isolated to any one geographical area either. Evidence shows that nearly all early and nomadic civilizations had little gender division. Women learned their own trades, owned their own property, controlled their own bodies, and were not considered property of men. This certainly contradicts the idea espoused by the patriarchy that male domination is “the natural order of things”.

So what changed? The Sumerians were conquered by more militaristic societies. Even in ancient times it seems that the military was a male institution. There a ton of theories about why this is the case. A quick Google search produced a plethora of academic papers about the connection between militarism and male dominance. Suffice it to say, they’re connected. So, when an egalitarian society gets conquered by a militaristic society it seems that patriarchy starts to creep in and take control.

The most interesting thing I learned from the documentary was that the first written laws, called the Code of Hammurabi, largely concerned rules about families, households, and relationships between the sexes. The first written laws were already working to establish the patriarchy. Some women’s rights were still protected under these laws: women were allowed to leave their husbands and maintain their dowries, keep their children, and sometimes even maintain property. Marriages were still arranged by families, but it seemed that women had a say in their choice of partner. However, women were no longer allowed to participate in the economy as they had in earlier societies. The Code also established the idea that women were subservient to men once married and could be punished severely for adultery. It also outlined expectations for childbearing, which was considered a woman’s primary function.

It’s very interesting to me that the establishment of the patriarchy seems to go hand in hand with the establishment of codified laws. Earlier societies were small and community based. Violations against the community were handled by the community and laws were not necessary to control the public. Devotion to the community served as social control. As militaristic societies conquered larger and larger populations it became necessary to document laws that all should follow. Since these militaristic societies were dominated by men, they wrote the laws, and women become second class citizens, their status written in stone, literally.

The connection between oppression and codified law has been evident, it seems, since laws were first written. This is not a problem we have solved. Unfortunately, all over the world, the legal system is still used to oppress people and laws are used to make people second class citizens. Laws, by their very nature, allow the dominant systems to control the oppressed. This manifests in discrimination against women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and people of different gender identities.

The systems of oppression that dominate people throughout the world will not be dismantled until we fight the legal structures that keep them in place. That’s why it’s so important to protest laws limiting access to abortion. That’s why we need to have all the bathroom bills that have been passed repealed. That’s why it’s crucial that Religious Freedom Act laws get shut down. That’s why it’s so important that each state pass anti-discrimination laws that include protections for all types of people. Laws are powerful and we need to take them out of the control of the oppressors.

Is Your Body Summer Ready?

Today it’s 75 and sunny in Vermont. Gorgeous. The kind of day when I love to cruise with the windows down and the music up. Days like this mean summer is almost here, which makes me happy, but also fills me with dread. Why? Because this is the time of year the world starts to barrage women with questions about the readiness of their bodies. Headlines inquire, “Are you ready for summer?” “Do you have a bikini body?” “What kind of swimsuit is best for your body type?” The media polices and dictates women’s bodies year round, but it’s never more obvious than when summer is approaching.

The message to women is clear: it’s time to change or hide. Those are your only options. Time to diet and pump up the exercise regimen so you can shed those winter pounds. Or if you’re audacious enough to not change your body you need to cover it up. Which swimsuit will hide that unsightly tummy? Which shorts will control those embarrassing thighs? What cut of t-shirt will conceal those less than toned arms. Cover it all up. Hide it under fabric. Your body doesn’t deserve to be shown.

Larger women are always told to hide themselves away and not just physically. They are taught to be quiet, not disruptive. Their bodies are already disruptive. They are told to be hide in the shadows. Their bodies already take up too much space. They are told to calm down. Their personalities are too large already. They are told to become smaller versions of themselves. Their current size isn’t pleasing to the rest of the world. They should hide their size or change it in order to move through this world more easily.

Having a large body that you refuse to make smaller is a powerful statement. It says to the world that you refuse to be marginalized. It tells the world that your body does not exist for them, so it doesn’t have to conform to their standards. It tells the world that your body is yours to do with what you will.

Not hiding a larger body under layers of fabric is an even more powerful statement. It says that a large body is not shameful. It says that you don’t believe your body parts are flawed. It says that you have nothing about yourself to hide. It says that your body deserves to be shown, deserves to be seen.

For me, body positivity was easier, not easy, but easier, this winter and spring when I was able to hide under bulky sweaters and skinny jeans. It was easier to accept my arms when I didn’t have to see them. It was easier to accept my thighs when they weren’t showing. It was easier to accept my tummy when I didn’t have to think about it showing in a bathing suit. With the warm weather upon me I can’t pretend that I’m not nervous about showing my body.

The difference this summer is that I refuse to make myself physically uncomfortable by hiding my body. When I was larger years ago I refused to wear shorts, even in the hottest summers. I always wore t-shirts and never wore tank tops. I bought all the fatkini swimsuits believing that they were the only ones I could wear. I was often hot, sweaty, and awfully uncomfortable. Today I’m wearing capri yoga pants and layered tank tops. The yoga pants are skintight and my arms are in full view, but I am comfortable. Temperature-wise at least. I’ll work on being emotionally comfortable throughout the summer. But I absolutely refuse to hide all summer just because I’m being told I should.

Is your body summer ready? If you have a body and it’s summer where you live then you’re ready. Go put on some shorts and a tank top and enjoy the sun.

No Justice for Women

Today in news, the criminal justice system proves yet again that they are unwilling to provide justice for women. I’ll start with an update from the Kesha saga. Earlier this week Kesha happily announced that she would be performing for the first time in forever at the Billboard Music Awards. Billboard had announced that Kesha was able to come to an agreement with her producer Dr. Luke which allowed her to perform.

In case you’ve been in a hole for the past year, Kesha has a pending lawsuit against Dr. Luke to try and get out of her contract with him, which is contingent on another lawsuit she’s filed claiming that Dr. Luke raped her. Earlier this year a New York court ruled against Kesha’s contract lawsuit stating that Kesha could work with other producers under the Sony label, therefore Dr. Luke did not have a stranglehold on her career as she claimed.

Back to current events. Two days ago Dr. Luke revoked his permission for Kesha to perform at the Billboard Music Awards. Because she’s bound by her contract to him, the one she tried to get out of by petitioning the legal system which is supposed to provide justice, Kesha legally can’t perform unless Dr. Luke lets her. So her rapist is allowed to dictate whether she’s allowed to pursue her career. Even worse, the New York courts have refused to hear any appeals on her contract lawsuit until the rape lawsuit is resolved in California. That lawsuit has not gone anywhere since it was filed because that court claims the contract lawsuit should be resolved first. So, both courts are stalling and Kesha’s life is being controlled by her rapist. No justice for women.

Meanwhile in Oklahoma, the House of Representatives has passed a law that would effectively outlaw abortion in a really devious way. Basically the law states that abortions can only be performed by physicians licensed in the state of Ohio. On the surface this looks like any of the countless other abortion restriction laws throughout this country, but it gets worse. The law also says that the state medical board can revoke the medical license of any physician who performs an abortion in a situation where the woman’s life wasn’t in danger. So basically, doctors who want to keep their licenses will start to refuse to perform abortions, effectively making abortion illegal in the state of Oklahoma. I know there’s a lot of debate about what constitutes an “undue burden” as outline in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but I’m pretty sure the Oklahoma law constitutes an undue burden, which makes it unconstitutional. Unless the governor vetoes the bill next week, Oklahoma will succeed in passing an unconstitutional anti-abortion law, putting us right back to pre Roe v. Wade when women literally died in alarming numbers from illegal abortion procedures. No justice for women.

Meanwhile in my own home state of Vermont a law was passed stating that sexual assaults can’t be pled down to prohibited acts. This seems like a real win, but after this law was passed instead of having sexual assault pled down to a prohibited act, a recent sexual assault case was pled down to simple assault and disorderly conduct. The perpetrator drugged and raped an acquaintance of his and he was only convicted of simple assault and disorderly conduct; misdemeanors. His punishment was counseling. I’m glad he’s getting mental health services, but he should also be in jail. Rape is not disorderly conduct, it’s a violent violation, and it should be punished as such. No justice for women.

Over and over the criminal justice system proves that they are more willing to support the patriarchy than provide justice for women. This is unacceptable. The court system should be providing real justice for every victim, regardless of gender, race, color, creed, gender identity, or sexual orientation, but this is clearly not the case. We should all talk about this more often and as loudly as we can so the criminal justice system can see how unacceptable we find their actions.

The Challenge Comes to an End

Today is post 30 for my 30 day blogging challenge. I didn’t do 30 in 30 days, but I did complete all 30 posts in 34 days. I never thought I’d make it that far at all. I figured I’d give up around halfway through. I’m not very good at sticking things out, especially if they’re difficult, and this challenge was, but I made it all the way through.

So what have I learned? First blogging every day is really hard. There were days when I just didn’t feel like I had anything to say. There were other days where I was so emotionally drained that sitting down and writing felt like torture. There were other days where sitting down and writing just felt like an annoying chore I wanted to blow off, like cleaning the bathroom. But I wrote anyway. Each day that I just didn’t feel like writing, I did it anyway. I remembered that I had made a commitment to myself, I took out my laptop, and I just wrote. And I am proud of every single piece I wrote for this challenge.

I also learned that it’s not super sustainable for me to write every day. I need to take days off for self care. I need to focus on my wants and needs in order to put out good writing. Instead of powering through on a couple of days, I recognized  and honored my limits. I know that posting every day is not the level of blogging that I can maintain. I’m going to try to stick to a four day a week schedule going forward. I do think that writing on a schedule has helped me a lot, but that schedule needs to be less than daily.

I discovered that I actually have a lot to say. When I started the challenge I didn’t have a list of 30 topics to write about. I had a pretty sizeable list, but it certainly was not 30 topics. I was legitimately concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to write about to fill 30 days. I still have topics left on that list because other topics felt appropriate on certain days. There wasn’t a single day that I felt like I didn’t have something to say, and I have a lot more to say. Having to come up with things to write about every day got me really comfortable with writing about my feminist journey. I’ve had to do a lot more learning and a lot more thinking, and I feel like I really discovered my voice on feminist topics.

I also discovered that I have so much more left to learn. Feminism is so broad. I’ve barely scratched the surface of intersectional feminism, which is what I really want to focus on right now. I want to expand my understanding of the topics I’ve already covered and learn completely new things. After 30 posts in 34 days I’m still passionately learning and writing.

Lastly, and most importantly, I learned that I can be a real writer. From a very young age my writing was praised and many a high school English teacher told me that they hoped I would pursue a career in writing. Life got in the way, as it often does, and writing fell completely off my radar. I kind of assumed that I’d lost my touch, and certainly that I lost my passion. This challenge has reignited my fire for writing. I really love it and I really want to continue.

So where do I go from here? Like I said, I want to stick to a 4 day a week schedule. Probably Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Weekends off and a break in the middle sounds good for me right now. I want to continue cranking out content and building up my portfolio. My original plan for the challenge was to build up a portfolio of my own work and then begin pitching major online publications. I intend to do this. I will be working on a couple of pitches and projects and sending them out by the end of April. Maybe I’ll get to see this dream of being a real writer come true. I’ve struggled in so many ways in my life, but I have always come out the other side and seen my dreams come true, so here’s hoping.

Thanks for coming along on this ride with me. Thank you for reading over and over again. The support I have received has been overwhelming and it’s kept me going. Please stick around and let’s see where this goes together.