15 Mar Internalised Misogyny a.k.a ‘Pick Me,’ Syndrome
Internalised Misogyny occurs when women believe sexist rhetoric that is often passed on through culture, social norms, and tradition. My focus will be on internalised misogyny displayed in Nigerian society. I will also discuss how our flawed interpretation of cultural norms, tradition, and religion often hinder our desire to put an end to this horrible trait.
I call internalised misogyny ‘pick me,’ syndrome because women suffering from it often appear oblivious to female struggles or shame opinionated women to appear more desirable to men. Sadly, many women don’t see a problem with this- internalised misogyny across all age groups is usually subconscious and involuntary. Many Nigerian women do not realise they are being misogynistic because they have grown up in a patriarchal society where misogyny is easily passed on and normalised. For instance, it is unfortunate that many Nigerian women cannot imagine a world where men respect them and they are not subject to beating and insults if they fail to abide to the instructions of their husbands or partners. Instead of hoping younger Nigerian women do not experience similar results, victims of such abuse often preach about endurance, patience and submission. Many Nigerians still have the audacity to ask a woman, ‘what did you do?’ when she is subject to domestic abuse. The fact that other women have this mentality, instead of thinking of the man as a temperamental animal who cannot control his anger, illustrates how we often victimise men instead of viewing them as the perpetrators.
Internalised misogyny also hinders female sexual empowerment and general honesty between women. Many of us still feel strange and awkward talking about our sexuality. We are scared of being judged, condemned or blatantly told to suppress our sexual desires by other women. Internalised misogyny breeds hypocrisy because some of these women who are so ‘pure,’ and against female sexual liberation may have often engaged in more sexual activity behind closed doors than they are willing to express to the liberated women they confidently shame. I am not saying there is a duty for women to disclose their sexuality to other women- nobody has to do anything. All I am saying is, shaming other woman and making them regret their decision to share their sexual experiences with you is often something that occurs when you let your misogyny hinder you from giving objective sexual advice. For instance, instead of educating girls on safe sex, many Nigerian women would rather jump straight to how you will get pregnant if you so much as kiss a boy. Such misinformation occurs in many rural parts of the country where young girls do not have widespread access to the internet or books, that can tell them otherwise. These altered facts can also increase unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases because women are not taught frank, practical lessons about sex and sexuality. This just goes to show that internalised misogyny cannot only harm young girls on a social level, but it can harm us on a biological level where female health is jeopardized because women are too afraid to be honest and educate each other from a non-patriarchal standpoint.
Women with internalised misogyny often shy away from female companionship because they ‘get on better with guys,’ or see other women as threats instead of equals. Some women are fine with seeking male companionship or advice to advance in fields pre-dominantly shaped and created by men, yet they are weary of co-existing in such fields with women. There is so much emphasis on being the only female competitor in highly male dominated fields. Some women in such fields want it to stay that way instead of empowering other women to join in- this is seen in rap. I appreciate Nicki Minaj and all she has accomplished but she has never collaborated with a female artist apart from Dej Loaf. She often acts oblivious to new female talent in rap and she does not openly reach out.
To make matters worse, some black women are fine with co-existing with white women and black or white males. Yet the egotistic attitude comes out when a black woman wants the same position or prestige. This goes to show that there is a racial dimension to internalised misogyny. In other scenarios, some black women will criticise fellow black girls but say no words of disappointment to white women for doing the same thing. I think this attributes mainly to the difference in culture. Many (African) black people share similar traditions so there is this notion that black women or girls should ‘know better,’ than their white counterparts. However, this view can often harm black female liberty. For instance, a Nigerian woman could criticise a younger Nigerian lady for ‘failing,’ to keep her virginity before marriage- using cultural, religious and traditional notions of purity as a blanket to hide her internalised misogyny. The same woman might say nothing to a white girl who has also lost her virginity before marriage because there is that cultural disconnect.
Many feminists view culture, tradition and religion as evils that prevent the progression of female empowerment. However, I do believe that if we interpret culture, tradition and religion wisely, they can sometimes aid in the correction of internalised misogyny. People swear it is our culture for women to stay at home and take care of the children, but historically, Yoruba and Igbo traditions insisted that women work with their husbands at the farm, sell things at the market, take care of the children and do domestic work. Our roles are mutli-dimensional and not based solely on taking care of the home- our history shows us this. Similarly, before colonisation, it was part of Igbo culture and common for women to keep their father’s last name after marriage, instead of adopting their spouse’s name. This is an example of how western interference hindered our indigenous understanding of female autonomy. Also, people are so quick to point to how Islam allows polygamy, solely prohibits female sexuality and restricts female economic independence. These are factors that often induce internalised misogyny- women believe their religion tells them to willingly accept these misogynistic things and they also encourage other women to accept these injustices. To me, this is a flawed and ill-informed way of viewing Islam or religion in general and I will explain why. Islam only lets the man re-marry on specific terms, such as the requirement that the man must love all his spouses equally. This is rarely possible in a realistic scenario- women showcasing their internalised misogyny by advising others to stay in polygamous relationships (when and if such women are unhappy in the marriage) are flawed, if they use Islam to justify such advice. Yes, Islam prohibits female sexuality before marriage but this is not from a prejudiced standpoint as male sexuality before marriage is forbidden as well- people just choose to ignore that. When women use the classic ‘he’s a boy,’ answer to validate male promiscuity in light of female slut-shaming, they should remember virginity before marriage applies to both genders if they are interpreting biblical or Islamic principles. Finally, lets face the misinformation about Islam frowning upon female autonomy. Prophet Mohammed’s wife- Khadija, was a trader who thrived in a predominantly male field. She was one of the wealthiest women of her time and she actually employed prophet Mohammed before they got married- why would a religion that prohibits female autonomy showcase such an economically and socially independent woman in the Quran?
As women and young girls, we should correct ourselves when we use culture, tradition and religion to aid our internalised misogyny towards ourselves and other women. It is not good enough to say that such misogyny is subconscious. We need to empower ourselves and deconstruct our minds from internalised misogyny, which hinders our unity and understanding of each other.