I remember getting mad when I heard about Brody Dalle (then Brody Armstrong) breaking up with Tim Armstrong. I remember reading interviews with Tim where he talked about how sad he was and I remember listening to Tropical London which was apparently about their divorce and hearing how she had broken up with him over the phone when she was in Melbourne and he was in New York and thinking stuff like ‘what a bitch’ and ‘he’s so sad, he must have loved her so much, how could she do that to him?’ and all sorts of similar shit. Even later when I read some MySpace blog post of an interview with Brody about how he was controlling and abusive and read her side of the story, I still though ‘that bitch’. I was really into Rancid but the stupid thing is, I was way more into The Distillers. Brody was my main inspiration when I finally shaved my hair into a mohawk, I listened to The Distillers self titled album at least a thousand times, I scoured the internet for every interview with her I could ever find, I downloaded mp3s from her first band, Sourpuss, I was obsessed. And yet I still took his side (as much as you can take sides in a divorce involving two people you have never met) and thought she was mean and broke his heart. Looking back now it seems silly enough to get emotionally involved in the marriages and personal lives of musicians (although as a teenage fan it’s not that uncommon), but to just automatically think the man is a tortured genius who has had his heart broken by some horrible woman? That is a pretty good example of internalised misogyny.
(Me circa 2002. Thanks for the hair inspo Brody, sorry for being the worst)
I was the kind of teenage girl who was ‘one of the guys’. I had three or four girl friends but the rest of my high school friend group was made up of boys. I was the kind of teenage girl who would talk shit about anything ‘prissy’ or ‘girly’. I was the kind of teenage girl who would automatically hate any girl who came into the group who I didn’t already know. At the time I could think up a million reasons why I didn’t like so and so (annoying laugh, ugly shoes, likes Avril Lavigne, your typical Mean Girls crap) but as a somewhat grown up lady looking back, it’s fairly obvious to me that I felt threatened by any girl who could possibly take the attention away from me. Being one of a very few girls who was accepted as ‘one of the guys’ was a huge part of my identity for a long time and if your group ends up with an equal number of girls and boys, well you’re nothing special are you? Being one of the guys meant doing beer bongs, letting people push you in a shopping kart into bushes (CKY and Jackass were at their peak during my mid-teen years), laughing at various sexist/racist/homophobic jokes lest you be seen as a ‘typical girl who can’t take joke’ and occasionally being reminded that you were not actually one of the guys when one of your guy friends would make a pass at you. I had been calling myself a feminist since I was 15 years old because I loved Kathleen Hannah and Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl but it’s easy to call yourself a feminist when you’re talking about celebrities, it’s quite another to actually stop hating on or being jealous of the girls in your high school.
(Different hair colours in 2002/2003. Such a ~special snowflake~)
When I look back at my teen years and even my very early 20s, I think about all of the girls and women I was a flat-out bitch to and I feel awful about it. I remember feeling jealous and threatened and expressing that by just being a completely horrible little brat. Whispering nasty things to my guy friends about the girls who were trying to talk to them at a party, laughing when guys would tell me in graphic and extremely demeaning tones about their latest conquests, agreeing with disgustingly sexist statements about how women were bitchy or annoying or not as good as men at various things. I know we all did some silly things as kids in order to fit in but I took it way above and beyond being, to borrow a phrase from Ariel Levy, a female chauvinist pig.
Around age 22 I finally chilled out a bit and made friends with a few girls who I had met through my group of guy friends and realised what I’d been missing out on. I always had two very close girlfriends, one I’ve known since 1990 and the other since 2002, but this was my first time making adult girl friends. Being friends with other ladies is the best. Ladies in general are the fucking best! There’s no competition (or at least there shouldn’t be!) about who is better at being ‘one of the guys’ because you know what’s way more fun – being one of the ladies! Not for the typical feminine stuff like shopping or talking about lipstick (which, don’t get me wrong, I completely love doing) but for every conversation you will ever have I think there is a female perspective that is often under-represented and I personally find that perspective much, much more interesting than the usually over-represented opinions of white males (I especially find this when talking about music). My friendships with other women are challenging, loving, and interesting in ways that my friendships with boys and men have never been. I still have and value my friendships with men but for me, after not having them for so long, my female friendships are incredibly important to me.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that any dislike I may have for any woman is based in jealously, I have definitely met women who have done shitty things to me or who have glaring personally flaws that bother me. I don’t think that all ‘girl hate’ is jealousy based internalised misogyny. However I do think that an important part of trying to overcome interalised misogyny is to really ask why you don’t like that certain woman. If you can come up with a valid reason (and it’s a reason that you would also dislike a man for) cool, I’m sure it’s a specific case and she’s done something crappy to you. But if you honestly can’t come up with a reason beyond something like ‘she wears too much make-up’ I think it’s worth looking deeper into your feelings because it’s quite possible you are engaging in interalised misogyny. Overcoming internalised misogyny doesn’t mean you have to love and be best friends with every single woman you ever meet. I’m sure you have legitimate reasons for not liking specific women for specific reasons, not every single woman is awesome all the time and never does shitty things. The idea of overcoming internalised misogyny is to not hate all women for these out-dated bullshit stereotypes or to make sexist anti-woman statements about them (us) all being superficial or bitchy or dumb. It’s also about not comparing men to women in negative ways, as though being compared to or being a woman is somehow a bad or lesser thing to be (‘he throws like a girl’ etc).
Hating the girl your boyfriend cheated on you with but leaving your boyfriend blameless is internalised misogyny (hate them both! Unless the girl didn’t know your boyfriend was in a relationship, in that case hang out with her and hate him together). Saying that your friends are mostly men because ‘women are so bitchy’ is internalised misogyny. Wanting to live with men instead of women because ‘women are so dramatic’ is internalised misogyny. Saying that a man who is taking a long time to get dressed or chatting on the phone all night is “worse than a woman” is internalised misogyny. The whole ‘she’s a slut, he’s a stud’ crap is internalised misogyny (it’s also slut-shaming and super dumb).
I know that I’m not completely there yet, I still catch myself occasionally thinking horribly misogynistic things but I’m doing my best and I think it’s important for other women to do the same, to really think about our reactions to each other, and try to change this kind of toxic thinking/behaviour. I’ll leave you with this Madeleine Albright quote – “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”