TW: sexism, trans*-badness, admitting to being not so good
i think i first identified as a misogynist when i was 16. i had been raised a tomboy & thought ultrafeminine cisgirls were simply ignorant.
i used to say things like “i hate girls who play into negative stereotypes” – namely girly girls who wore makeup or girly (read: revealing &/or tight &/or frilly &/or conventionally ‘feminine’) clothes, were socially submissive (read: shy/quiet), were afraid to burp or discuss ‘gross’ stuff; girls who weren’t into getting their hands dirty & instead opted for dressing up, spending time at ‘classy’ places, perfectly posture, the list goes on & on.
i used to lecture my sister about putting on makeup & shaving her legs/underarms, arguing it was superficial, vacuous, a waste of time & worst of all, pandering to sexist standards of beauty. when she rebutted by saying ‘but i want to/it makes me feel confident’, i told her she was living in denial.
i used to openly admit i thought less of these girls & wimmin based simply on their femininity. i used to say ‘i am misogynistic’. that’s not to say i boasted about it – i acknowledged something was wrong with me, but nonetheless i justified myself, i apologised for myself, & i continued feeling/thinking this way.
around the same time, i also discovered androgyny, initially through Antony & the Johnsons and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. this was my first real interaction with sex &/or gender diversity, & i was completely enthralled. here i was, a very masculine female-bodied persyn with no real language for my self-identification besides the inaccurate ‘dyke’ & over-simplistic ‘tomboy’; neither captured my true spirit, & androgyny was a way toward taking a critical look at my own gender identity & politics. so for a while, i militantly ‘queered’ everything & everyone around me, most especially when it came to gender expression. in my naïvete i thought gender should be protested & wholeheartedly thrown into the dumpster labelled “useless social constructs”.
this only fuelled my misogyny, as it turned out. it was easy to reject both hyper-masculinity & -femininity; however, as a masculine persyn, i seemed to subconsciously (or semi-consciously) reject femininity a whole lot more, or in a completely different way. perhaps i wanted to rebel against the gender imposed on me. perhaps i truly didn’t understand why anyone would want to be feminine, would want to go out of their way to strive for that ideal. perhaps i felt pressure to fit in with my (often sexist) cis-masculine counterparts, be ‘one of the boys’. for whatever reason, i was waging a war against gender, but subconsciously wimmin were at the top of my hit list.
i suppose it doesn’t need to be said that i was, in fact, striving for the masculine ideal – tough, loud, educated (yeah, this is an historically male thing), charismatic, self-sufficient, & generally dominant – things that i had been my whole life, but that i had to ‘prove’ or strengthen. for years i battled with my own gender expression, slowly realising i was genderqueer, leaning towards the transmasc spectrum of things. i moved from my one-horse town to the big smoke, met ‘the queer community’, & began truly exploring the wonderful landscape that is sex &/or gender diversity.
then one day, two years ago, i had a moment of self-doubt: what if i wasn’t genderqueer; what if my own characteristics were simply a different type of womyn? a womyn that spoke up, sat with their knees apart, wasn’t afraid to get dirty, had fistfights, & assumed power poses? what if i was being naïve for thinking i had to be on the masculine spectrum because of these behaviours? what if i was ‘a bad feminist’ by not identifying as a strong cis-womyn?
through this intensely confusing process, i was able to reach a conclusion about my feelings towards femininity – i had internalised a lifetime of misogyny.
i had been told day after day that wimmin were ‘biologically’ lesser, that they are not as smart, not as cunning, not as physically strong, they can’t defend themselves. i was a ‘bitch’ or a ‘dyke’ because i displayed traditionally masculine qualities. or, i was treated with more respect because i was masculine. regardless of my own gender journey, the misogyny directed at me became manifested at misogyny directed at others.
once i realised this, my whole perspective shifted, & i have spent the time since then becoming a more & more adamant feminist. the last time i remember feeling misogynistic was towards Skyler White of Breaking Bad. when i recently read the actor Anna Gunn’s thoughts on the reception to her character, i had a big of a ‘wow’ moment – i had internalised this so much i barely knew i was doing it.
i apologised to my sister about my extreme stance on makeup – she was right all along. i apologised to a few of my cis-wimmin friends; i started taking them more seriously. in general i started making a very conscious effort to be a better feminist; accepting of all forms of gender expression.
unfortunately, i can see that many of my wimmin friends & colleagues have internalised misogyny as well. sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is quite obvious. some public figures seem to be fighting the good fight, but on closer inspection are falling into the same traps themselves. for example, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake does not pass the Bechdel test of having:
a) two females,
b) with names,
c) who talk to each other,
d) about something other than a man.
i don’t blame any of us. internalised prejudice is not a new phenomenon for any persyns facing ongoing discrimination, & i forgive all wimmin for internalising what was drummed into them their whole lives, & in the lives of their forebears.
in the end, i realised that by definition i could not be both a female-bodied persyn & be a misogynist, because all misogyny was borne of non-wimmin, i had simply learned to accept it.
after i realised i had internalised misogyny to a fairly concerning degree, i began to realise something even more sinister. my entire conscious life i thought that, because i was arguably of the ‘boy’s club’ in my own circles, i had escaped the majority of misogyny. sexism was reserved for those wimmin who ‘look’ weak, who are short &/or skinny, those who are hyperfeminine, who wear short skirts & high & had high-pitched voices – it was they, not i, that felt misogyny in full force. of course i got made fun of for not being the womyn i ‘should’ be, & many, many people (wimmin included) taunted me for not shaving, for having a moustache, for sitting like a man, for walking like a man, for eating like a man, for drinking like a man, for wearing men’s clothes, for engaging in men’s recreation, for generally “failing” to be a womyn. but i always felt almost immune to the more dangerous forms of misogyny. i had no fears walking home alone at night, i didn’t feel the ‘male gaze’ on me whilst wearing revealing clothes in public, & i didn’t feel as though new straight male acquaintances would pressure me into anything. i was sure the world read me as “dyke weirdo” & left it at yelling “do ya like taco?!” out car windows. homophobia for me, but no misogyny.
when i began investigating these feelings, i realised that my form of misogyny had internalised itself in a very personally concerning way. number one, i had believed that only feminine cis-wimmin were targets for assault, because [open sarcastices] straight men exclusively went for feminine wimmin ([close sarcastices], not to mention that assault has everything to do with power & nothing to do with physical attraction).
but secondly, & perhaps worst of all, i had selectively forgotten uncountable incidents directed towards me as a womyn. i had forgotten that i have been followed by men at least 4 times in recent memory, with 2 of those ending in a chase where i had to seek instant refuge. i had forgotten that i have had countless men stare at me from their car windows, explicitly looking me up & down (& even licking their lips, or blowing a kiss, or yelling something gross). i had forgotten being solicited for paid sex by strangers twice (in places i was not obviously working, of course). i forgot experiencing dozens upon dozens of 100% non-consensual intimate behaviours with my partners, close friends or their friends. i forgot people treating me at work as lesser. i forgot friends treating me as ‘hysterical’ instead of acknowledging my distress.
slowly, as i put the entire story, i feel more & more strongly that feminism is so very real & necessary today.
for anyone who has ever experienced misogyny from me, i sincerely apologise. (hi me, i’m sorry too). if you think i’m wrong, pleaseplease comment below or write me.
i thought i was a feminist, but i was a jerk. if you want to wear pink & giggle & blush around boys, if you want to sit politely & speak softly, if you like spending three hours in front of the mirror every morning adorning yourself with hundreds of dollars of cosmetics – i fully support you. i respect you. i see you. i hear you. i’m sorry i was a bad feminist. i am really working on it.
wimmin are awesome no matter what, & while encourage every single persyn in the world to critically assess why they think/behave the way they do, i want everyone to feel okay being whoever they truly are! if that means hot pink boob tubes,
then helllll yes.
love & rage,