I wouldn’t be where I am today, mentally and spiritually, without Florence Given’s book ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’. Since the moment I turned the very last page, I have been in overdrive to connect and disconnect with my internalised misogyny. I want to tell it to vacate my head, my body, my soul. Finding my footing in feminism is something I am still working on, age 21, and through dismantling my internalised misogyny, I think I am finding my true path. This path of discovering myself as a womxn outside of society’s description is certainly going to be difficult and I have already begun looking at myself in the mirror and calling myself out. Not only is it important to see how society has shaped your ideals but to call yourself out for maintaining those stereotypes or reinforcing them in yourself and other womxn. This blog post is about my relationship with my own internalised misogyny, how I have tackled it head-on and taken a real hard look at myself. All thanks to the guiding influence of a strong woman, Florence Given.
Firstly, I am not the other half. I am whole on my own.
Only recently have I realised that I am not ‘the other half’ as most of my partners have labelled me. I am whole on my own and having a partner does not ‘complete’ me, rather just adds an extra spice to my life. The idea that a womxn is only half comes from the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was created from Adam’s rib and therefore, womxn have been told that they are only ‘half’ of man. Therefore, they are only seen to be ‘completed’ when in a relationship with a man. Yes, this is completely ridiculous, however, I myself have always felt ‘whole’ when with a partner. I have also used the phrase ‘soul-mate’ which also suggests that we are paired with this one individual who will complete us, and again this is ridiculous. I no longer believe in the idea of soul-mates, I am compatible with many individuals and just because I choose one of them to stay with for a period of time, does not mean they are my ‘soul-mate’ just one of the lucky ones! After a rocky breakup recently, I began taking myself out on dates, giving myself the relationship treatment I had been giving to others for years and that is when I discovered that I am whole with or without a partner. Does this mean I do not love my partner with all my heart? Hell no! It just means I know my worth and if they did decide to walk away from this relationship, I wouldn’t be losing a part of me, rather a part of my story. I would be no less without him.
Secondly, I can be ‘me’ in any shape that I choose.
In a patriarchal society, a womxn’s looks are the source of their worth. Florence Given was the first womxn to remind me of my privilege, not only as a white womxn but a skinny white womxn with a decent complexion. Yes, I have tackled my own issues and as a sufferer of BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder), I see my body in reflections of others, my vision of my true self is blurred and even with this disorder, I am still privileged in society’s eyes which I am grateful for yet also, disgusted by. I have been a victim of the “you don’t look well” comment when I’m not wearing makeup, so I no longer wear foundation. I have been the victim of the “you’re wearing the ‘French look’” comment when I forgot to shave, so I stopped shaving, grew out my body hair and only shaved when I wanted to. I have been the victim of having to jump a size in clothes, of losing my hair to stress induced alopecia because of a horrible ex-partner, I have dealt with acne since I was 14 and still am part of the itty-bitty-titty committee. Yes, life is easier when you conform as Florence states however, it’s not worth the razor tax or the stress. Make YOU happy. That’s what I have begun to do. Yes, I still have bad days but hey, I no longer spend nearly 40 pounds on foundation anymore.
‘Re-Brainwash yourself’ as Florence says
This is the moment in which I realised that everything I loved was actually against me and in fact, even I was against me. I believe the patriarchy has heavily influenced us through mass media by feeding us narratives and stereotypes about how we should look, who we choose to love and how to simply exist as a womxn. We have been left out of the conversation for a long time. My favourite chick-flicks told me that I needed a man in order to survive and that beauty was worth more than my intellect. I began to see how my own actions and behaviours were instilling misogyny, from using the term ‘bitch’ to only talking to my female friends about our shared hatred of other girls or our partners, I began to pause before I said anything which is a good reflex in order to rewire your thought patterns however, it can get tiring. Re-brainwashing yourself is hard because it means tearing apart your own identity, re-watching your favourite movies and deciding to leave them in the past for their misogynist jokes, analysing your social media habits, examining your past relationships and realising that it was in fact sexual harassment or assault, not love. Yes, it is a constant battle and I am learning new ways to re-brainwash myself daily. My most recent decision was deciding that I have an issue with my partner asking my dad for permission to marry me one day. It is a constant fight but it’s worth it to diminish my internalised misogyny. One piece at a time like a jigsaw puzzle in reverse.
Hating your partner’s ex and female friends… let’s admit it.
Yes, I will hold my hand up and say I have probably bad mouthed or internally bad mouthed every single one of my partners exes and I mean every partner and every one of their exes. I have also had negative ‘vibes’ towards female friends of my partners. We are told to hate any womxn associated with our partner, we are told to put ourselves in competition with any womxn they have come into contact with. However, when we get down to the crux of this issue, it is simply our own insecurities but this isn’t a bad thing, because we have the capability to change ourselves. As Florence says, we should not waste our time on creating new hatreds for womxn our partners have been with or are friends with. This is just playing into misogyny, pitting womxn against other womxn. I have worked on this by distancing myself from social media, by unfollowing people who will cause me anxiety and not stalking people online. It can be difficult to rewire this behaviour but you are capable of focusing on yourself and your current partner, as well as, discussing their past but not dwelling on it.
I’d like to end on the fact that it is OK to feel this internalised misogyny because our society has instilled it into all of us, so go easy on yourself, and we can do something about it. To work on our internalised misogyny is one of the most rebellious acts that we can perform in retaliation to the patriarchy. When these feelings arise, and they inevitably will, we can acknowledge them, accept them, and talk about it honestly with our friends and family. You can go beyond this and start correcting and educating others about misogyny too. Yes, it will feel uncomfortable and scary. You may feel lost, as I did, but we can do it.
About the Author:
Demi Whitnell is the founder and presenter of Soft Limit, a sex positive podcast and platform which tackles the stigmas that surround sex through her own experiences and educational tools. She discusses all things hush hush which shouldn’t be.. well hush hush! She hosts weekly podcasts on Anchor and Spotify, which also include guests, to daily themed posts and sex toy reviews, Soft Limit provides a mulitude of content for all those on their sexual educational journey.
Podcast: Soft Limit on Anchor and Spotify