Two and a Half Women: Unlearning Internalized Misogyny
April 20th, 2018
I grew up in areas that were practically suburbs and as a result, the community and group of friends I had formed for myself was fairly isolated and homogenous. All of my friends growing up were boys slightly younger than me, so at times I felt more like their babysitter than their friend. By constantly spending time with them I started to act like them, to speak like them, to think like them; I became “one of the guys,” so to speak.
When I transferred schools in sixth grade and again in seventh grade, I found myself at a loss for male friends; they were too busy thinking that girls have cooties and playing basketball in the courtyard to want to hang out with me. I suddenly found myself only having female friends and having to reconsider everything I thought I knew about being female, and about being feminine. I always told myself that I wasn’t like other girls, that I wasn’t girly, didn’t wear skirts or dresses and didn’t shy away from dirt and grime. In short, I wasn’t feminine and I was proud of it. I had to ditch this belief in order to cooperate with the girls I became friends with; I slowly unlearned the internalized misogyny that had come with growing up with boys and I learned to embrace the girly, the pink, and the frilly.
I had thought that things traditionally associated with femininity were things that did not align with who I am but this wasn’t due to my identity but how I perceived the qualities that these things contained; I thought they were weak, they were passive, and I wasn’t any of those things. Because of these views, I avoided wearing dresses and placing any attention on my looks for my early teenage years. I dressed in men’s clothing, cut my hair into a pageboy, and shuddered at any of the things my female classmates thought were cool. I thought that every swipe of lipstick, every flutter of a skirt, would take away my status as “one of the guys” and somehow take away my power.
The girls I met at my new schools challenged these ideas; they weren’t weak, they weren’t passive, they weren’t any of things I had originally thought. They all wore skirts and dresses without a second thought but made sure that everyone knew that they weren’t to be toyed with. They showed me that femininity and strength were not mutually exclusive, something I had been grappling with my entire childhood. I eventually left that school and them, but what they taught me stayed with me. I now confidently wear dresses, even at times when they’re not weather appropriate, have entirely makeup videos in my recommended section of Youtube, and am friends with mostly girls. Not only has the way I express myself changed but so has the way I view myself; I now know that I am strong, intelligent, and capable and that I have these qualities not in spite of, but because of my femininity. I try to carry these beliefs with me wherever I can, and pass them onto other girls. I understand that letting go of these things is a process, and it takes time, but I want to be there when other girls start wising up.