Every time I turn around, misogyny is there to rear its ugly head in an effort to make sure that I, as a woman, “know my place” in the patriarchy. We see it everywhere: commercials, TV shows, movies, and print ads. Each are numerous venues where men can announce the, “Penis Driven State of the Union”: “Women are bad, and here’s another reason why.”
Ingesting this in person, from men, is almost unavoidable as a college student attending a massive university. Rarely do I sit down in the middle of the campus center for lunch without hearing one “dudebro” complain to his other dudebros about his girlfriend and how much he’d love it if “She’d just shut up like a good woman should.” Or some other equally and often more derogatory dig at a woman (RA/professor/mother) he’s encountered recently (I wish I was exaggerating).
Stuff like that has turned me into the no-nonsense bitch I am today – a badge I wear with pride. I mean, I get it, not every guy can be “Feminist Ryan Gosling.” I can’t sit around waiting for every man I come into contact with to automatically be a philogynist; it’s unrealistic.
What I will never understand is when that same insensitive, public opinion comes from a woman.
Now, I will admit, I used to be a girl hating girl; a proud admittance of how many guy friends I had because I “didn’t get along well with girls.” I used to be proud that I hated other girls. However, a few hops, jumps and skips into adulthood, college and several retail jobs later, I realized I didn’t get along with people at large. But that’s besides the point.
Seeing other girls now boasting about the same thing makes my skin crawl with my own past mistakes. What’s worse is seeing girls who don’t realize their hate for other girls falls into internalized misogyny and fuels the well-oiled machine that is patriarchy.
A few days ago, I was sitting in class, trying, and failing to pay attention to the discussion. Usually, until my name is called to contribute my two cents to the reading we had to do for the day, I’m distracted and will have yet to participate. Either way, the assignment for the class was to pick an excerpt from the text and comment on its significance to the story, or note themes etc. Pretty standard.
So I randomly chose a passage that I saw as the author subtly addressing a social commentary: blaming a woman for putting herself in a dangerous situation rather than blaming the man for not controlling his aggression. I said my piece, and brought up the beauty of the SlutWalk and “Not Ever” campaigns. Then I readied myself to retreat back into daydreaming, which I’ve mastered over years of uninteresting classes. Little did I know, I had just sparked a debate.
I was now met with a very passionate opposition in the form of one freshman girl who adamantly refuted my claim that if I was walking outside late at night wearing nothing more than a bikini, that I would be “asking to get raped.”
I felt the white noise cloud in my head as I tried to interpret the unfiltered words that tumbled from her mouth. I was asking to get raped because of what I was wearing? said to me by another girl. My mouth dropped; I couldn’t believe it.
My professor watched in stunned silence as this girl and I went back and forth in argument, at which point I (and any other survivor of sexual assault that happened to be in the room) was told that I’d be unequivocally at fault for attack, had I dressed “inappropriately,” walking alone late at night. Lest I forget to mention her own grand admittance to rape “had she seen a man walking outside only in boxers,” at which point I could no longer even bring myself to maintain my end without resorting to shouting. I could not even believe what I was hearing. I left the room at the end of class trembling with rage and nearly ill at the conviction she spoke with.
How could she just speak so freely about something that so greatly affected her? Rape culture in our society teaches girls to not watch for the signs of a potential rapist, but to dress a certain way so as to not “ask for it.” Rape culture blames the girl for what she wore, or how intoxicated she may have been. Rape culture does not teach our boys to not rape.
A prime example? The recent Steubenville rape case, in which major news networks (such as CNN) wept for the two teenage rapists for their “ruined lives,” which gave the public another opportunity to tout, “Boys will be boys!” Not until Time Magazine did anyone reach out to the victim, a 16-year-old girl who’s received death threats for standing up for herself in the face of this awful crime. Why did it take so long for anyone to ask her how she was doing? Because rape culture says she’s at fault for getting drunk and ostracizes her for putting herself in that situation. It says nothing about the two boys not being able to control their urge to rape and take advantage of someone.
Watching this girl in my class carry on made me realize she had fallen face first into a huge vat of internalized misogyny. And it was currently trying its damnedest to pull her down as deep as it could. The terrifying part of it all? The silence of almost every other girl (and boy, for that matter) in the room. It makes me wonder just who else agreed with her.
What she said spoke volumes to everyone in that room. It tore down the progress of any victim who’s likely to have been told the exact same by the general public: it was all your fault. There was nothing uplifting from what she propagated, and she could not have been more wrong. But because it was so ingrained in her spirit, I wanted to weep for anyone who had been told the exact same and had no choice but to listen.
Internalizing misogyny and passionately agreeing with the same ideals that put women down is another victory for the patriarchy. That is another woman that will be ridiculed and not taken seriously for letting her emotions control her actions. Another woman that gets slut shamed for her right to choose and say “yes.” Another woman that gets disrespected, regarded as nothing more than a sexual object. That’s what gets pushed forward when a woman tears down another. And for what? To agree with the “general consensus”? To look cool and agreeable in front of guys? Because if that’s the case, then count me out.