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6.7.17

What my male friendships have taught me about my own internalised misogyny



Just because you are a woman does not mean that you are immune to the perils of misogyny. Women are incredibly critical of one another and frequently compete for attention and status, the byproduct of which causes women to shame, doubt and undervalue the achievements of members of their own sex 

Frequently in past male friendship dynamics I have found myself highlighting my behaviour and my mindset as exceptional to my gender. I have sneered at the inherently "female" qualities of others that I recognised and sought to belittle them so as to raise my own status with that male. I would even go as far as to agree with and join in with comments which undermined my own gender. I wanted so badly to be liked, I wanted to be "The Cool Girl" and I was prepared to throw my morals under a bus to get there by resenting and ridiculing the women my male friends identified as targets. "You wouldn't catch me doing that" "It's pathetic when girls do that" "Urghhh women!" 
I had it bad.   

Maybe I'm being a little bit too harsh on twenty-one year old Milly here, I wasn't as politically and socially aware as I have worked to become now. I wasn't as well read, I hadn't done my research. I just wanted to have a pint with my male friends without putting myself in the firing line of either their sexual advances or their ridicule. Truthfully  I was terrified that their beam of misogyny would shine in my direction and decided that deflecting it with sarcasm and scathing, catty comments was my best means of avoiding this. Looking back I can recognise a defence mechanism when I see one, self-deprecation at it's very best. You say the bad thing first so they can't say it and hurt you 

These days I'm not as insecure, I don't feel the need to belittle or devalue anything that anyone of my gender does. Of course I still experience jealousy and self-doubt, I find myself comparing and contrasting anothers highs to my own lows like we all do. However a greater consciousness has led to a greater understanding and respect of the differences we all have as women. I've gone from a very weak link in the chain to a strong one, one that wants to pull my fellow women together and not apart. This greater awareness has also led me to remove male friends from my life who display misogynistic tendencies, or at the very least to ensure that I pull them up on it when I hear them pass comment. It recently led me to throw an entire salad at one of them in a busy restaurant. 
I regret nothing. 


The truth is that if we don't tell the men in our life about the very real struggles that we face as women then how will they ever learn and how will they grow with us? In the same way that is harder for a rich person to empathise with the struggles of a poor person, it is precisely WHY we must to push ourselves and others to have compassion for those who are affected by issues they don't directly  face themselves. We sit across the table from our male friends and family as the very real human face of the issues that they may brush off as irrelevant or ridiculous when they appear in the news or on social media. We are the friends that are being spoken down to in the workplace and being pushed aside for promotion. We are the daughters being groped in busy nightclubs and walking to our cars in the dark with our keys through our fingers. We are the sisters, leaving the house hoping that our outfit doesn't signal a consent that we do not grant. If you cannot speak to the men in your life about these things then why are they in your life at all? 

Overall saying  "I'm not like most girls," may sound flippant but it is actually a very real judgement on your fellow women. It is a statement which implies that there is something wrong with "girls," a group that actually includes your best friends, your mum, your sister. Women should no longer have to play it "cool" when they are attacked with words any more than they should have to play dead when they are attacked physically. Your perceptions of gender roles can shape the world around you more drastically than you think and I for one am glad that I don't care about being the "cool girl" anymore. I am happy that I no longer contribute to the pervasive "them and us" culture of men and women. I now stand for and with my fellow women not against them and "us" is everyone 

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