Let's Talk About Internalized Patriarchy

Leighana Martindale

Internalized sexism is when an individual enacts learned sexist behaviors and attitudes towards themselves and people of their own sex.

We all deal with this. I don’t care how much anyone may think they don’t or how big a feminist or matriarch one is, our societies have been patriarchal societies since before the Romans, so there’s no way we don’t experience this.

Internalized patriarchy can look like so many different things: being a people pleaser, being overly passive, trying to not be a ‘bitch’, jealousy of other women, fighting with other women over trivial matters, and so many other small things we may not recognize this as internalized patriarchy, but it is.

This phenomenon is not solely an issue in North America, but one seen around the globe. And honestly, leaving my happy little bubble of Portland, Oregon where the city thrives on girl power and support, I was suddenly aware of just how toxic and common internalized patriarchy truly is.

Too often women see other women as a threat and/or competition and I don’t understand why. Why do we feel the need to fight each other and demean the other’s existence? Why can’t we just understand that everyone’s life and experience on this planet is different and that we should be uplifting and supporting each other?

When I was in Milano, I wanted to go to a night club to see Jackmaster. I am a big deep house, acid house, techno, etc. fan and in Portland I don’t get much of that, let alone big name DJs ever coming through, so I was very excited! My maps however dropped me at the back of the building and the front was tucked away deep in a parking lot so I was having a hard time finding the entrance. Then I see two beautiful women who are dressed like they may be going to this show walking up, thinking they were going there I asked if they spoke English and could point me toward Amnesia [the club]. One did speak English and told me that she did not know and had never heard of Amnesia. They then continued to walk before turning around and deciding to go another way. After they left I was lucky enough that an employee came outside and pointed me to the right direction. After I walked around the corner and towards the parking lot finally headed in the right direction and close, I see those same two beautiful women walking toward the club too and get straight in line. They then shoot me glares and whisper amongst themselves.

I am not your competition

Unnecessary right? I honestly didn’t and still don’t understand why. I don’t understand why women have to be so cold to other women. I do understand that our society tells us that other women are competition, that we will ‘steal our partners’, ‘take our friends’, etc., etc., bullshit, bullshit. But instead of being cold back, I just continued to smile at the girls throughout the night when I would turn to see them glaring at me because I don’t have any reason to hate random women for no reason.

Part of me even wants to believe there was some misunderstanding and that they couldn’t have been that blatantly cold for no reason. Unfortunately, the reality is that we as women need to do better, we need to treat each other better, and we deserve to grow, collectively. Living in highly competitive environments and already having to bust our asses to even claim a seat at the table is hard enough. So why not stand together and help our sisters also get seats at the table, instead of fighting over the one seat let’s create more! Let’s demand more! Or fuck it, let’s even start our own table and invite all who believe in equality FOR ALL.

You Can Sit With Us

The best part of my experience though, is instead of being angry with those beautiful women, I am inspired to speak out on internalization and to look at myself and see how I also do these things. What types of behaviors do I have that fall under this category and more importantly, how do I create new habits of love and acceptance to stop this internalized sexism?

In today’s world we see so many women tearing each other apart over the tiniest miscommunications and disagreements and we need to stop. Instead of tearing each other apart and driving ourselves crazy, let’s take this anger with the system and use it to change the system! I challenge you this week to channel your frustration. Every time you are angry or disagree with a women and want to act on this anger, that you write your representatives or your senators, that you write a letter to a corrupt corporation. Anger can be used to fuel amazing changes, but only if we use it for good instead of against each other.

I will be accepting this challenge myself and would love to hear your experiences and what good you did by redirecting your anger and frustrations.