We’re Fighting To Break External Stereotypes, But What About The Sexism Within?

internalised sexism, PCOS and mental health
Internalised sexism is something that often goes overlooked by women preoccupied with bringing down the culture of patriarchy that thrives around them. What we thus miss is the redressal of a significant part of the damage gender imbalance has caused – that which impacts each of us most closely.

How sexist am I being? Is it my fault for being this way? What constitutes internalised misogyny? Is it contributing to the toxicity I’m trying to combat? Are my thoughts as revolutionary in private as they are in public? How must I recognise the blindspots and amend them?

In fighting the big fight, we forget to address these questions; questions that are so central to our very identity and integrity as people trying to rid the world of its stereotypes to make living more equal. Can our engagement and discourse with patriarchal surroundings proceed authentically without conversation on the internalised sexism we carry?

Why It Will Take Longer To Break Internalised Sexism Than The External One

It’s a strange loop situation. Even as women move, surge, resist forward against all that holds them back in society from walking in step with men, what pulls them back hardest is their own indoctrination this system has fed them for years.

Girls grow up hearing not to sit too relaxed, not show a lot of skin, not laugh too loud, be contained in their views, aim for certain ‘feminine’ aspirations, always have marriage on the cards, that motherhood is an obvious checkpoint – because there are some things women just have to do because they’re not men.

And as we turn from girls to women with this conditioning ringing in our ears, we – in more ways than is visible or cognisable – absorb it into our sensibilities and behaviours. How can we not, when everyone around us seems to be parroting the same beliefs back to us?

This is how the world works.‘ ‘Don’t be radical, it will get you nowhere.‘ ‘The real world is unjust, get used to it.‘ And so we do.

Don’t all of us find ourselves questioning the direction of our own lives when friends get married? Or perhaps fallibly judging another woman for how short her skirt is? Or self-doubting our worth when a good opportunity comes to us?

Turn The Gaze Within: The Fight Starts There 

The most quotable examples are our own mothers who, under years of living within patriarchal parameters, are immune or worse, blind to the oppression. When they give your brother an extra roti for his hungry stomach and give you extra besan for your tanned face – it may come from a place of love but is it not also an imbalanced, gendered perspective?

Besides external projections, women subject themselves to the harshest form of sexism.

A recent viral photo showed a woman cooking in the kitchen on oxygen support. Though the authenticity of the photo stands challenged, it exhibits the reality of many homes. Where women deny themselves dignity, rest, respect, choices to preserve those of their family, simply because that’s what they know love and womanhood to be. It’s what they have been told.

woman does kitchen work on oxygen support

Credit: YouTube

Vidya Balan, too, in a recent interview said, “Sexism is not only about how men treat women; it is as much a mindset that women have, as a result of their deep-rooted conditioning. I have faced sexism from men, women and myself.”

Who is to blame? The women? The men? Or the systemic culture of subjugation that tells us we’re not enough as we are?

Shedding years and histories of sexism and resultant internalised sexism will be a long, arduous process. But on the road to equality for women, it is non-negotiable. Only by unlearning and re-learning our worth, our identities, our value in the world can we journey to true emancipation.

Views expressed are the author’s own.