Thursday, July 11th, 2013 09:02 pm
So: Internalised misogyny exists, and does harm to the woman herself and the women around her. All women have it to some extent and it's something we should be aware of and try to work against.

However. Pretty much every time I've seen fans in female dominated fannish spaces talk about other women's internalised misogyny the argument would have been much better without it.

I am certainly not saying that we shouldn't fight against sexism in fandom! But by framing it terms of internalised misogyny we focus too much on people's motivations (which are unknowable and complex) instead of the harmful effects of their actions.

I do see the value in challenging people to acknowledge their subconscious biases, especially privileged people. In general I think it's usually better to focus on actions instead of motivations when it comes to social justice, but for example agree it's good to force male fans to confront their sexism.

But once we start telling oppressed people how they experience their own oppression in their own heads we're on shakier ground.


Regardless of why it happens, we female fans do certainly hurt each other a lot in ways which perpetuate sexism. (I've focused on female fans because I'm not sure how this all applies to non binary gendered fans. But they do get hurt by sexism too)

Some of these hurtful actions are pretty hard to justify without resorting to sexist arguments: holding female creators and characters to a higher standard than male ones, generalised statements about how women "like that" are sluts, putting male fans on a pedestal, cruelty to real women (as opposed to characters) etc.

Since these actions are, imo, unjustifiable, I think it's fair to ask fandom to stop doing them. And yeah, if you find yourself calling other women sluts all the time or whatever you might want to poke your brain for internalised misogyny. But whether or not you find any you should stop doing it because it hurts other women. And I think we fans who wish to fight sexism in fandom should focus on encouraging other fans not to knowingly hurt each other rather than trying to get everyone to aim for some ideal of unsexist thinking. I don't care if someone has sexist THOUGHTS as long as they're not doing anything sexist AT ME.

Where things get complicated are those actions which have nonsexist or even feminist justifications but still perpetuate sexism in one way or another. I've seen way too many fans jump to accusations of "internalised misogyny" in such cases.

For example, as a woman who identifies with female characters and feels erased by male dominated popular culture, I find it quite hurtful when fandom ignores the female characters I identify with to fawn upon the male characters I feel oppressed by. A lot of fans with similar tastes to me consider the popularity of slash and male characters in general as undeniable proof that fandom is horribly sexist. Yet I have seen enough female fans talk about gaining great personal strength and joy from imagining themselves as powerful male characters to acknowledge that they are not necessarily motivated by sexism alone or at all. And I have seen enough of them acknowledge that sexism may have something to do with their tastes but they can't change them anyway to think that simply saying "Your tastes are motivated by internalised misogyny!" is not very helpful.

It could be argued that telling them to stop their natural fannish self expression (EDIT: without a strong justification) itself perpetuates sexism: Women are constantly told that our opinions are unimportant, that we should set aside our own enjoyment (especially sexual enjoyment!) for the greater good etc and that our desires are dirty and immoral. "I don't suck like all those other women" is the stereotypical example of internalised sexism. Tearing other women down can be a distraction from acknowledging that we are all victims of a larger sexist culture we have little control over.

I'm sure some female fans who focus on male characters or feel alienated by female characters etc are motivated largely by internalised misogyny. But you know what? I'm sure some of the female fans who smugly tear down other women's pleasure are motivated by internalised misogyny too. And in either case it doesn't matter. What matters is trying not to hurt each other.

Not that this is easy: if some fans (like me!) are pained by a lack of love for female characters, and others are pained by not expressing themselves via male characters, and neither group can easily change their needs, what can we do? I'm not sure there is a solution asides from waiting for popular culture as a whole to stop being so sexist *laughs darkly*. But acknowledging each other's different experiences seems like a start.

So, that's my argument for not focussing on internalised sexism when we try to fight sexism amongst women.

I do think that aside from this focus, a lot of fannish criticisms of "internalised misogyny" (EDIT: This link has apparently been affected by tumblr being tumblr) make some good points. Most of the behaviour they hold up for criticism is pretty terrible, and I think a lot of fans could benefit from examining their fannish behaviour for unfair double standards and making more of an effort to celebrate female characters and creators. But there are ways to encourage this without resorting so much to over-generalisation and shaming.

(nb as always I may be slow responding to comments and am paranoid that this is much less clear in real life than it was in my head. Ahhhh I haven't made a serious public meta post in ages I hope it isn't all wrong /o\)

11pm addition (as I find myself awake with a fic idea) that I may try and fix in the morning: I have experienced this from the other direction too, as a fan of romance novels. Yes, maybe I DO enjoy them partly because I've been brainwashed by popular culture to think women can only find happiness with a man etc. But, they make me happy in a way nothing else really does, and they are by and for women and I think that counts for something, and being told I only enjoy them because I SECRETLY HATE MYSELF AND ALL OTHER QUEER WOMEN is actually pretty unpleasant.

Also! I came across a discussion of this post on FFA, personally the only parts I found very interesting were some criticisms of my rhetorical style, but YMMV.
Thursday, July 11th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC)
I... haven't personally seen female-character stans whose pointed criticisms were motivated by smugness and exceptionalism rather than frustration or bitterness over the lack of fannish love for [female character(s)]. Although, like nerdiness, I'm positive that some must have channeled their frustration into smugness as a coping mechanism, and again similarly, it's a harmful one.

I do agree that it's probably more, mmm... the word isn't "practical" or "relevant" but rather a sort of intersection or filtering of the two, if that makes any sense... to emphasize the effects of actions and trends that perpetuate a sexist environment. In this matter, the two parties you list are not equatable.

I am leery, though, of statements like "telling them to stop their natural fannish self expression itself perpetuates sexism". There are so many ways in which a fan's "natural fannish self expression" could actually be totally 1) assholeish or 2) oppressive, even if she is a woman; I am not of the opinion that a (nonfictional) woman choosing to do whatever she wants is inherently antisexist. (It is of course a different story when one considers the different responses to her [action] and men's [similar action], but in at least this particular case, I am skeptical that men are being held to a lower standard.)
Thursday, July 11th, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC)
I liked your post!

I think the topic is incredibly complex (and I'm remembering now a whole lot of tangles around fans of color relating that they had been accused of internalized racism, at times by white fans, during the Racefail 09 debates).

I do think that there is the issue of focusing on intent rather than impact (of actions, behavior) that overlaps with telling somebody else they are operating from internalized misogyny, as opposed to unpacking why certain actions are potentially harmful to other women. It's very clear though from a whole lot of internet conflicts I've seen that people will take a comment about an action or behavior as really being about intent (or why is the "I didn't intend it that way" so often the default?).

I think a lot of the extremely hyperbolic and nasty commentary about "Mary Sues" and knee-jerk dislike of original female characters in fandom is related to misogyny.

I think that growing up in a misogynistic society resulted in me being misogynistic in many ways--and I've been unpacking that for years (born in 1955, so wow, was it bad). I was very much in the "I don't like other girls, I don't like romance stories, I want to do COOL things" for years. So it's particularly ironic that my new favorite genre to love are the paranormal and sf romances--although I am not particularly turned on by most of the heterosexual relationships, especially those with marriage and end of story at the end, I adore the characters and the paranormal and sf worldbuilding and plots. This new love has made me realize that my dislike of a lot of the female characters in mainstream pop culture was not just misogyny, but dislike of a specific type of character's narrative function, if that makes sense.

Mainly, I think I end up with the mode/beam mode--i.e. presuming to lecture other people on their internalized misogyny (or anything else) can be really problematic, the more so in that I keep remembering something I've learned as a creative writing teacher for over twenty years: a lot of the faults that my students see in OTHER students' writing are faults in their own (that they don't see). So I keep extrapolating from that to this issue of identifying faults in others intentions or beliefs. That can overlap to criticizing behavior too--and at that point, I tend to get very conflicted, and just sort of stop.


Thursday, July 11th, 2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
If there are male fans accusing female fans and PWEM of internalized misogyny, that is unambiguously unacceptable.
Friday, July 12th, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
People who experience misogyny, modeled along the lines of PWETM (people who experience transmisogyny). I feel a bit uncertain about my own coinage and probably need a better word/phrase!
Friday, July 12th, 2013 12:18 am (UTC)
This made a lot of sense to me.

Hooray for every and any opportunity to remind us that it's what we do, and not how we think, which is open for analysis in the social justice community.

Sunday, July 14th, 2013 02:53 am (UTC)
"I don't suck like all those other women" is the stereotypical example of internalised sexism.

This.

I feel like a lot of fannish "internalised misogyny" discussions equate all fandoms with certain expressions of Capital-F Fandom and assume that disparate behaviours stem from the same source, which doesn't help. Throwing hateful slurs around != focusing more on male characters !=feeling uncomfortable because of the way [media property x] portrays women and girls. The last angle in particular is one I wish would go away; I'm so tired of seeing it used as an excuse to browbeat female fans while excusing the sexism of male creators and male-dominated industries. (Am thinking of BioWare fandom in particular here, but it's a broad pattern.) I'm also troubled by the way these discussions tend to elevate fictional women above - or at least to the same level as - living ones. The first line of questioning should always be "how does this impact on actual people?"

And! I am one of those "loves all the women, writes/reads all the femslash/female-centric fic, jumps all over canons heavy on female representation" people. I make a virtual business out of reclaiming female characters from the Pit of Bad Writing and Stereotype where necessary. But my preferences were never a conscious political choice, and I don't think pressuring people to self-flagellate over theirs is a good strategy - especially if you've already gone ahead and decided what the real driving force behind them is.
Sunday, July 14th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
Hi, can we link this at metanews?
Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
Sure. What you do with comments on your own blog is entirely up to you :)
Saturday, July 20th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
(Sorry; I know I'm a bit late to this discussion)

So I just read this post, loved it, and agreed with pretty much all of it. I often think that talking about internalised anything can lead to a lot of dead ends, insofar as people who don't care that they're offending other people won't care if they've internalised offensive stuff. And a decent person's response to offending someone is is the same whether internalised [x] is acknowledged or not: make amends, and (try your best to) stop being offensive.

But! That's not why I'm commenting. Thanks to Tumblr's recent 'think of the children!' moral panic, they're censoring certain tags, which means I can't access the link anymore; Tumblr's auto-sort is reacting to the word 'misogyny' & blocking it by default. (Along with words like 'lesbian', 'gay' and so on. But that's another rant. Ugh.) So, just thought you might like to know that there's a broken link there.
Sunday, July 21st, 2013 09:46 am (UTC)
I just checked Tumblr, and I'm still being redirected to their /explore welcome page.

I think you can see the tag if you're logged in to Tumblr, have Safe mode turned off (and for 'Adult'-labelled blogs, I think you also have to be following that Tumblr already), but the page won't show up otherwise. So you and most people who follow your posts can probably see it, if they're currently logged in, but Tumblr's still hiding it from me.

(Still blocking 'lesbian' and redirecting 'bisexual' to 'lgbtq', because everyone knows lesbians are just a fantasy, and it's not as if bi people have an identity of their own or anything. I'm pretty sure they're in breach of UK & European anti-discrimination and human rights laws with that shitty move. Ugh, Tumblr, whyyyyyy?! At this point, I hope Anonymyous DDoS's them until they cry.)
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 01:48 pm (UTC)
Heads up, the link is back. Looking at in a browser instead of a mobile app should fix the problem with all the usual caveats of hard refresh and clear your cache followed by send a bug report if it's not on general your end.
Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 12:09 pm (UTC)
I think you make a valid point to stress that empowering people is more productive than policing them, and I really enjoyed this meta post.