It's widely known that misogyny has existed for thousands of years. And although women are the ones that really suffer the most from this prejudice, men hurt from it too. Because, when one group is treated badly, everyone is at a disadvantage. So how do we stop these harmful behaviors from impacting the next generation — particularly young girls? Well talking about it is a start. But also implementing the ways to raise your daughter without internalized misogyny can be a huge step in the right direction.
You may be asking yourself what is internalized misogyny. Well, according to Everyday Feminism, it is the involuntary internalization by women of the sexist messages that are present in their societies and culture. Both men and women can perpetuate misogyny because, in many cases, they're groomed to by their upbringing, culture, or society in general.
I have two daughters and, even though I'm a feminist, I am constantly re-examining my behaviors to check for sexist bias or unconscious misogyny. I wholeheartedly believe in equality (in every form), and I denounce discrimination, and violence against all humans. If I'm being completely honest though, sometimes I notice sexist thoughts and behaviors crop up in me without me even realizing it.
As a mom though, I recognize I have a duty to the two girls I'm raising to end this relentless and harmful way of thinking. Here are seven ways to get started in stopping the cycle of misogyny.
1. Keep Your Body Image Hang Ups In Check
If you say "I'm so fat," in front of your daughter or pull your facial skin back to see what you'd look without wrinkles, you are giving her an unhealthy view of herself.
As explained in the aforementioned Everyday Feminism article, patriarchal society sends women the message of what "beauty" looks like through images and media. Women often attempt to mimic these looks for themselves, thereby trying to conform to society's view of pretty. For example, thinness is desired over other body types. If you stop perpetuating these unrealistic beauty norms in front of your daughters, you're effectively preventing internalized misogyny.
2. Celebrate Your So-Called Feminine AND Masculine Qualities
Labeling character traits "feminine" and "masculine" is actually cultural expectations of that gender, as explained on the Planned Parenthood website. Additionally, there are societal expectations for femininity and masculinity that have been ingrained in us for thousands of years.
When you glorify feminine traits over other traits, you're conforming to our culture's expectations of femininity. And when you celebrate your masculine traits, you're separating yourself from women and trying to act like you're above them or superior. Celebrating all aspects of yourself, in equal measure, will help your daughter break out of those harmful and reductive gender expectations.
3. Watch How You Talk About Other Women
Bullying has come center stage in the last few years, and for good reason - it's dangerous. According to the Stop Bullying website, bullying is attacking someone physically or verbally. If you are constantly attacking the way a woman talks (policing tone, volume, grammar and profanity), what she wears, and how she carries herself, you are tearing down other women and perpetuating misogyny. You are essentially bullying women, and that's not cool for your daughter to see. You should be an ally that lifts others up.
4. Don't Apologize Unless It's Necessary
In a March 2014 blog for The Huffington Post, Ani Vrabel explained the problem with women apologizing for every little thing, is that for certain situations that aren't causing actual harm to another being, we don't need to be sorry.
"At some point, I began using 'sorry' as a synonym for 'excuse me,'" she wrote. "It came to mean, 'I didn’t see you there and you startled me!' and 'I have a question' and 'I'm carrying so many things that I'm taking up more space on the subway than usual.'"
The more you apologize for things you have no business being sorry for (ahem existing), the more your daughters internalize misogyny.
5. Monitor The Music They Listen To
There are many ways that women are objectified: advertising images, magazine covers, television, movies and music. According to a PBS article, the most infamous way women are objectified, is in rap music. The videos and lyrics of many rap songs are deeply sexist and misogynistic. Monitoring the messages in the lyrics will be key towards not having your daughter internalize the misogyny.
6. Check The Computer Games They Play
Recently, it's been brought to light that many video games are anti-women and have been for awhile. In a 2012 research article published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, experts suggested that the violence against women and objectification of women in video games shaped attitudes about women. If your daughter is exposed to this negative imagery, or even anti-women language, the effects of this misogyny could end up being deeply rooted.
7. Be Mindful About How Your Partner Treats You
If your partner or spouse is misogynistic, that could be problematic for your daughter because it's widely known that kids internalize their environments. In a 2013 Mic article entitled, characteristics of a misogynist were listed as someone who, "believes in the traditional stereotype role modeling and roles, is a habitual liar; he twists facts to make it look as if he were the victim, has extreme mood swings (extreme high to low), and takes no responsibility for anything; blames others/things/circumstances for his behavior."
You don't have to be a perfect feminist or a perfect anything to raise your daughter without internalized misogyny. That's the cornerstone of feminism and equality — no one is perfect. It's imperative that parents embrace and celebrate so-called imperfections, and just try to be model human beings for their kids.