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.


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