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.

 

On November 9th 2016 I woke up in my recurring nightmare

For months leading up to November 8th I pictured how the day might unfold. For some reason, every time I visualized watching the election coverage I visualized being up all night watching an impossibly close race. I imagined hearing the worlds “Donald Trump, the next President of the United States”, and sobbing. For some reason, for the past four months, I could not visualize an election night where Hillary Clinton won the Presidency. In my heart of hearts I didn’t believe that Trump would win, but my gut told a different story. Something in me knew that Donald Trump would win this election.

This nightmare has haunted me for the past four months. When I rushed home to watch the election coverage last night it seemed that my nightmare was beginning to unfold. By 8:30 when I got home, Trump was already leading in the electoral votes. My husband and my friends told me not to worry. It’s early, they said. It will be fine, they said. Hillary can definitely still do this, they said. But the later it got the clearer it became that this nightmare was becoming reality.

The race was a nail biter, just as it had been in my visualizations. My husband and I stayed up as late as we could and eventually decided to just leave the news coverage on in our bedroom as we tried to sleep. When I finally drifted off around 2am the race still hadn’t been called. I woke up for just a moment around 3:45am and in a haze noticed that the coverage still blaring on the television had called the race for Trump. I shook my husband awake and said simply, “They called it for Trump.” He quietly replied, “I know. Go back to sleep.” He rubbed my back and held me close and we restlessly slept for three or four hours.

I awoke before my alarm because my phone was blowing up with text messages from people I love. People expressing their gratitude and love for each other in the face of a hate monger being elected President. I told my friends I loved them. I checked Facebook and Twitter, knowing that this was real, but hoping beyond hope something had changed in the few hours I’d been asleep. But, of course, nothing had changed. Donald Trump was legally elected the President of the country in which I reside.

I am sad. I am angry. But more than anything else, I am scared. A lot of people woke up this morning scared for their lives. There will be a lot of writing done and published about why people are scared for their lives. As a writer, I feel obligated to add to that collective voice. So, let me tell you why I am scared.

First and foremost I am scared because I am a woman. Donald Trump is a sexual predator. He is accused of raping a thirteen year old girl. The woman accusing him recently dropped the lawsuit because she was receiving death threats and was too afraid to appear in court. In addition to this lawsuit, a number of women have come forward accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault. These lawsuits and accusations did not stop him from winning the Presidency. In fact, a large portion of the country who supports Trump believed that these women were being paid by “the establishment” to lie about Trump so he would lose the election.

This blatant disregard for legitimate accusations of sexual assault and the victim blaming, shaming, and disbelief that has followed is clear evidence of the rape culture that pervades this country. Electing a man who has made it clear that he does not understand or care about consent speaks to the fact that this country does not understand or care about consent. As a woman, I find this terrifying.

Electing a man who talks about women the way he does without apology, who then turns around and says he respects women, says that this country does not understand what it means to respect women. He speaks about women in a way that makes it clear that he does not believe they are equal to men. He objectifies women and assesses their value based on their physical appearance and willingness to be subservient to men.

It is impossible to respect women while assessing their worth based on their appearance or sexual appeal. It is impossible to respect women while degrading them and dismissing them. It is impossible to respect women while not supporting their efforts to rise up in the world. As I woman, I am scared to live in a country that is making it clear that I am a second class citizen.

I am also scared of the potential anti-women policy changes that could come out of this Presidency. Though Trump’s stance on abortion has been unclear, Mike Pence’s has not. Pence has repeatedly stated his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade. He has also made it clear that he would work to defund Planned Parenthood. Pence has also been pretty clear about making birth control less accessible for women, and his Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana made it legal for businesses to deny services to customers or employees based on the business owner’s religious beliefs. In his support of this legislation he cited the Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed businesses to deny employees access to birth control on company insurance plans if the business opposed birth control on religious grounds. It is clear that Mike Pence does not want women to have control over their own reproductive systems or their bodies in general.

As a women with a chronic reproductive disease, endometriosis, whose life is only made bearable by having the Mirena IUD, I am scared that birth control may not be covered under my insurance in the future. Getting an IUD inserted without insurance can cost as much as $1,000. When I want to have a child, which I know I do, I will need to pay for the procedure to have the IUD removed. Then I will need to pay again to have the IUD reinserted, because not having the IUD is not an option for me, for multiple reasons. First and foremost, I have found it to be the most effective and convenient form of birth control I’ve ever been on. And since the responsibility of birth control is almost always on women, I’m going to choose the method of birth control that works best for my life.

Secondly, the Mirena IUD is the only form of birth control that hasn’t made me physically or mentally ill. I went on birth control for the first time when I was fourteen because my periods were so awful I missed school and on some occasions even ended up in the hospital. Side note: even though I was in constant pain from my periods for years, I was not diagnosed with endometriosis until I was 27. The medical field’s willingness to dismiss women’s pain and reproductive issues is a whole other story.

I have been on the pill, the patch, the Nuva Ring, and both types of IUD’s in my quest to find birth control that works for me and my body. The first birth control I went on was a high estrogen pill. Within weeks I experienced violent mood swings and became suicidal. As someone who already suffered from clinical depression, these symptoms could not be taken lightly and my birth control was switched. The Nuva Ring contributed to hormonal imbalances so severe that I was chronically ill for two years. On the Paraguard IUD, I spent 14 days every month, yes my period lasted 14 days every month, vomiting and writhing on the floor with abdominal pain so intense that I went to the hospital almost monthly. The Mirena IUD is the first form of birth control that didn’t make sick or suicidal.

Lastly, the Mirena IUD is the only form of birth control that has controlled my endometriosis symptoms. For almost two years I have been able to get through each month without taking time off work. I have been able to get through my period without vomiting. I haven’t been to the hospital because of period cramps. My chronic GI distress, which was misdiagnosed as IBS but which was really a side effect of the endometriosis, has subsided. I am healthy and relatively happy in my body for the first time maybe ever.

In a country run by Donald Trump and Mike Pence, I may not be able to afford the Mirena IUD. My life could return to being a constant battle with a chronic disease. My husband and I may have to change our plans for our future family. We had planned on only having one child, but if I don’t have control over my reproductive system that may have to change. My future and my family’s future is in the hands of two straight, white men who don’t believe I have the right to make decisions about my body.

I am a woman facing a future where my consent does not matter, where my voice does not matter, and where my body does not matter. Of course, I am afraid.

I am also scared because I identify as bisexual. As I have already stated, I am married to a man, so I am a straight passing queer. It has taken me a long time to recognize and claim my identity as a bisexual. When I started dating my husband five years ago after exclusively dating women for a few years I began to think of myself as a “hasbian” a pejorative term used for women who “used to be” lesbians. I began to truly believe that maybe it had just been a phase. Many of the people around me were quick to agree. I’d chosen the straight life, therefore I had probably just been “experimenting”.

It took me years to admit to myself and others that though I love my partner very much and eventually chose to marry him, I am still attracted to women. I started to read articles about bisexual erasure and realized that I had fallen in to erasing my own bisexual identity. And I allowed others to erase my bisexual identity. I allowed my sexual orientation to be defined by who I had married.

Slowly I began to own my bisexual identity, but only in quiet ways. In conversations I say my “ex girlfriend” instead of using gender neutral pronouns or just saying my ex. If it comes up, I talk openly about my experiences dating women. If someone straight up asks about my sexual orientation I say I am bisexual. But I am not loud and out about it. I have hidden in my straight passing status.

Today, as queer people all over the country fear for their lives, it would be much easier for me to continue to hide as a straight passing woman. I know that my straight passing status gives me privileges, even in a country run by Trump and Pence. My life will not be affected in the same ways. My marriage will not be threatened. My ability to adopt children will not be threatened. My ability to have legal parenthood of my partner’s children will not be threatened. My life will not be changed in the same ways. But it would be cowardly of me to address the hatred the LGBTQ community is facing as if it were only affecting my friends. It affects me too because I am a queer woman.

I have purposely not written about LGBTQ issues from a social justice perspective because I have been afraid to own my identity as a bisexual woman. I have been afraid of the judgement I might face from people I know and love. But as a writer I have to start writing about the way LGBTQ people are being treated across the country and the dangers of a Trump Pence presidency to their lives. To my life. And I need to start stepping up in my own queer community and taking action in my backyard. I cannot responsibly do that while erasing my own queer identity.

So, as a bisexual woman, I am afraid. Selfishly, I am a afraid of the judgement I may face for claiming my identity publicly. But I am more afraid of a Presidency that has talked about enacting legislation that will make it legal to discriminate against my queer community. I am more afraid of a country that will take away the legal rights of humans just for loving who they love.

Lastly, as a writer, I am afraid. Trump has been anything but quiet about his contempt for the media. He has repeatedly discussed legislation that would infringe upon the First Amendment. He wants to pass laws that would make it easier to sue publications and journalists for printing opposing viewpoints. Trump has also repeatedly threatened to sue publications and individual journalists, and has endlessly mocked reporters, including a disabled reporter. He does not hide his hate for writers who dare to criticize him and his ideas. Recently, a supporter at a Trump rally donned a shirt that suggested lynching journalists was the answer.

A Presidency where the First Amendment is under siege and journalists may not be protected by law is terrifying for a writer. Especially writers like me, who try their best to point out inequality and social injustice where they see it, which is everywhere with Trump and Pence. I know my voice is not yet large enough to be struck down by Trump and Pence, but I fear that legislation will be passed that will silence my developing voice.

When facing such fear of speaking up it would be much easier to stay quiet. I cannot. I have seen many social media posts about how giving in to anger means that Trump has won in more ways than one. But I am giving in to anger. It is time to be angry. It is time to raise our voices and scream. It is time to gather and loudly express the rage that this election season and result has brought.

The rage of the white lower class voters who have been ignored for so long was heard loud and clear early this morning. Men and women, mostly white, who have been ignored by the political system for years have made their voices heard by electing Donald Trump the next President of the United States. As much as I want to react to them with hatred, I know I need to listen. Their rage has brought this country to the place it is today. Their collective voice, screaming with the rage of being forgotten and ignored has been heard.

It is time for the rest of us to scream back. It is time for women to continue to scream that they will not be ignored. It is time for LGBTQ people to continue to scream that they will not be murdered and ignored. It is time for people of color to continue to scream that they will not be murdered and ignored.

But most importantly, it is time for straight white people, particularly straight white men, to start screaming. It is time for them to stop being complacent. It is time for them to stop thinking or saying “this doesn’t affect me”. It is time for them to join our collective scream of rage. It is time for them to stand up for us and say “we will not let this happen to our country.”

Because the truth is, the people who are most of afraid of a Trump Pence Presidency have been screaming for a long time. They have been silenced for a long time. They will continue to scream just as loudly and louder, but their voices will continue to be silenced. Their voices need to be amplified by those whose voices are given more space, which unfortunately means white men.

It is time for everyone to step up and find out what they can do to support communities of color, LGBTQ communities, and women.

No one should have to feel like I did this morning when I woke up to find out my recurring nightmare had become a reality.