How Internalised Misogyny Breaks Indian Women

Unlearning internalised misogyny is essential in the journey of becoming a better woman. But what is internalised misogyny?

Ritika Joshi
Feb 07, 2021 07:20 IST
misogyny, internalised misogyny

Internalised misogyny is when women subconsciously accept sexist stereotypes and ideas. It is a by-product of years of oppression of women. We are born into a patriarchal society where women are constantly objectified. Being surrounded by people and media that constantly propagate the idea that women are inferior takes a heavy toll. Women began to internalise the hatred and objectification that they see around them. It seeps under the skin and affects how women view themselves and the women around them.


Internalised misogyny leads to slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and reinforcing outdated gender roles.

Women that experience internalised misogyny tend to minimise the value of women. Internalised misogyny alienates women from each other and propagates sexist notions.

Identifying Internalised Misogyny


The first step in unlearning internalised misogyny is understanding what internalised misogyny truly is, and what it entails. It can range from not being friends with other women because they’re “too much drama” to slut-shaming women. Internalised misogyny leads to objectifying yourself and the women around you. If you measure your value or the value of other women on the basis of how men perceive you/other women, then you need to work on your internalised misogyny.

When crimes against women are committed, slut-shaming and victim-blaming often takes place. Questions that transfer the blame to the women are asked, like - 

  • “What was she wearing?”
  • “Why was she out so late?”
  • “Why did she go out alone?”/ “Why did she go out with a boy?”

Instead of holding men accountable all of the blame is placed on women.

Unlearning Internalised Misogyny

Accepting that nobody is immune to the sexism that surrounds us is imperative to unlearning internalised misogyny. Women are not to blame for internalising the hatred and self-loathing that surrounds them. With that in mind, it is still up to women to be critical about when they’re being misogynistic, and do their best to be kinder to themselves and others. Since internalised misogyny causes women to shame, doubt or undervalue themselves and other women, it isn’t always easy to identify.


Depiction in Media

Indian media ignores the multitudes contained within women and reduces them to two broad archetypes, a saint or a villain. The National Commission of Women has stated that “women are either being portrayed as Sita (Ramayana) or as Kaikayee (Ramayana) and there seems to be nothing in between the two extreme characters being shown in soaps”.

The evil mother-in-law characters are prime examples of internalised misogyny. They love their sons and think no woman is good enough for them. After dealing with sexisms for years, they turn their internalised misogyny outwards. While villainous mother-in-law is a bit of a reach in most cases, the internalised misogyny aspect is accurate.


Internalised Misogyny in Indian Culture

Years of patriarchal expectations and being forced to follow outdated gender roles has resulted in women from older generations having internalised misogyny. Their internalised misogyny affects how they treat the women around them like their children and daughter-in-laws. The women around them began to internalising the misogyny surrounding them. It has become a vicious cycle that lasts throughout generations and oppresses women.

The only way to end the cycle is by working on yourself, and then working to improve the lives of women around you. In a country where crimes against women are committed at an alarming rate, it is important that women stick together. The toxic cycle of internalised misogyny leads to preconceived notions of how a woman should exist. No more listening to mothers and grandmothers imply that if you’re worth less if you’re not a perfect cook, perfect cleaner, and perfect dutiful housewife.

Feature Image Credit: ShutterStock

#Indian women and misogyny #internalised sexism #internalised misogyny