Patriarchy is not merely things men do to diminish women. It is more complex. If we are serious about dismantling the present culture we need to look at the ways in which we as women have internalized the thinking and the narrative of this self-legitimate oppressive system. And subsequently change that.
Women having internalized the sexism are subconsciously perpetuating it. And this is pretty much all of us. After all, we have been exposed to lies, stereotypes and myths about women our entire lives. Let me tell you a story:
I have a male dentist. The other day when I came to have my tooth filling changed they told me he is sick, and another female doctor will take care of me today. Enter the room - not just female, but a very good-looking, young, Italian female doctor.
I immediately caught myself questioning her competence and technical skills to fix my tooth. Boom – there it is: internalized sexism. Needless to say she did a great job and was as skilled, professional and efficient as any male doctor.
Another thing happened on my flight back from India. When I heard that they the main pilot was a woman I worried about my safety for a moment. Embarrassing for someone who calls herself a feminist, isn’t it?
Can you imagine how many of such deceiving beliefs are ingrained in us without even realizing it? Even within us who are involved in all things sisterhood and support of women.
Internalized Sexism or internalized patriarchy is a real thing my friends. It is the involuntary belief by girls and women that the lies, stereotypes and myths about girls and women are true. We have been hearing our entire lives that women are weak, passive, manipulative or not good at maths. We judge women in leadership roles as cutthroat, driven, bossy and bitchy, or too pretty. By saying you’re feminist you’re often labeled as a man-hater. How many times have we heard women are their own worst enemies? This one is the hardest for me to hear or see women actually act on. Listen up ladies, doubting and mistrusting other females (also called “horizontal hostility”) means doubting ourselves. This is the way women collude with the perpetuation of sexism.
There is not much talk about this phenomenon. Mostly we blame it on men. I’ve been working in the field of woman empowerment for years now and I am continuously trying to up my game in this field. I have been trained and have been working hard to reprogram my own sexist thoughts. And as you can see, still to this day the patriarchal conditioning comes up. Luckily, I am aware of this now.
There is no quick fix, easy solution to internalized sexism. We have been conditioned by a patriarchal society our entire lives. In order to deprogram our own misogynist thoughts the first step is to become aware of them.
This blog post is an invitation to start recognizing and examining the harmful impact of the sexist messages on our self-image as well as attitudes toward other women.
Below you'll find a brilliant list of questions to ask yourself to help you identify your own internalized sexism. Just by reading it you will become more aware of this rampant problem and start changing the status quo by chaning your own patterns.
It is taken from the website of Cultural Bridges to Justice.
Here’s an “inventory” of some of the potential and logical consequences of internalized sexism, as seen in our attitudes and behaviors.
1) Do I give more credibility to men’s respect, approval, praise or criticism than women’s?
2) When selecting providers of critical services for myself or a loved one (eg. surgeon, legal counsel, etc.) do I feel more confident of men’s or women’s skills?
3) As I board an airplane, or am rolled into an ER, or call for police intervention in a violent situation, if I discover the pilot, or the ER doc, or the responding officer is a woman - what is my first feeling? Do I in any way question her complete competence for my safety?
4) When I dress, how much do I seek men’s approval for what I’m wearing?
5) Do I trust women? How often do I mistrust another woman’s intentions?
6) When I need information about something technical, mechanical, mathematical, car repair, plumbing, computer or science - related, etc. Do I assume I can’t figure it out? Do I usually first ask or hire a man?
7) Do I ever censor my own opinion and or passion when in conversation / discussion / argument with men?
8) Do I ever get embarrassed by other women?
9) Do I ever try to silence other women?
10) Do I compete with other women for the attention / approval of men?
11) Have I put down another woman to other women or men?
12) Do I diet often?
14) Do I wear clothes that restrict my freedom of movement?
16) How often do I feel I should put on make-up before I go out of the house?
17) How often do I reinforce gender stereotypes in the children in my life? Do I buy toys for the children in my life that conform to “traditional” gender roles? Do I encourage, so called, “feminine” behavior or clothing; or try to tone down “tomboy” behavior?
18) How often do I doubt or second guess myself?
19) How much time and energy do I spend reviewing what I said or worry that I said the wrong thing, at the last meeting, or at the party. How often do I feel I said or did something stupid or wrong?
20) Do I ever feel like a “fake;” feel incompetent even though I have more training and/or experience than most of the men in my area?
21) How often do I make myself “smaller?” Take up less physical space (bus, train, airplane, waiting room). Speak more quietly? Make my voice higher? Gesture less largely, less passionately?
22) How often do I DEFER to men? In my work, decisions, food, pleasure, sex, anything?
23) How often do my declarative statements sound like a question?
24) How many times each day do I say “I’m sorry,” or apologize for something?
25) Do I let men interrupt me? Do I let women interrupt me? Who am I more likely to I interrupt or “correct” in public, men or women?
26) When watching someone perform some difficult task with great skill, have I ever said “I could never do that!)
27) Have I ever undermined or sabotaged another woman?
28) Have I protected men from accusations of sexist behavior? or minimized the seriousness of their behavior?
29) Do I hold women to a higher standard than men?
30) How often do I expect perfection from myself, or hold myself to a higher standard than I do other people?
31) Do I ever talk to other women about my disagreement with a particular woman, rather than talk directly with her?
32) Do I hesitate to “make waves” even when my values are compromised?
33) How often do I change plans with women friends to accommodate a man’s schedule?
34) How often am I critical or unsupportive of women’s leadership?
35) Have I ever declared “I’m not a feminist.”
36) When someone pays me a compliment, how often do I protest or minimize the compliment?
37) Have I ever blamed myself for the actions of other people? (Thought I deserved the angry outburst, the insult, or to be lied to, disrespected, coerced, hit, assaulted?)
38) Have I ever blamed a woman for the actions of some man? (Held her responsible for his behavior?)
39) Have I ever said or thought “women are our worst enemy?”
40) How do I usually feel when I look in a mirror?