Pink was always my favorite color. That is up until the age of 13. As a teenager, I began to hate what it stood for – the scores of Disney princesses, delicate Barbie dolls and classic garden fairies. What I had joyfully indulged in as a child suddenly seemed gross. Eighth grade drove me to different color schemes to forgo the concepts I correlated with pink: innocence, weakness and feebleness.
Now, nearly five years later, I realize my issue was not with the color pink. I was, in fact, contending with myself. Innocence, weakness and feebleness are traits society has always associated with women. Historically, gender constructs have continuously tied femininity to both abstract and physical things, like dolls, flowers, makeup and pastels. To remove myself from those ideas and their more ominous connotations, I repudiated pink.
My self-contention throughout my late middle and early high school years is a primary example of internalized misogyny and how it impacts the growth and development of young women. According to a Bustle article written by Suzanne Weiss, “internalized misogyny does not refer outright to a belief in the inferiority of women. It refers to the byproducts of this societal view that cause women to shame, doubt and undervalue themselves and others of their gender.”
Internalized sexism often produces a superiority complex. “I’m not like other girls” – is the classic cinema line women are force-fed from a young age. Often, women value themselves higher for rejecting whatever “feminine” traits they may possess. The bookworm in every coming-of-age romance prides herself on refuting makeup, shopping, pink – shallow endeavors, seemingly foolish pursuits. It chastises “girly” endeavors as a sign of both stupidity and superficiality.
This brand of innate misogyny is sneaky and often taught by the media we consume. Today we doubt our favorite colors and pastimes; tomorrow we push that societally ingrained concept of inferiority on other women who overtly display their femininity without shame. Think Cher from Clueless or Elle Woods from Legally Blonde: both characters were consistently viewed as brainless bobbleheads by their male counterparts in their respective movies and by female audiences alike.
Why is being unlike “other girls” a desirable self-description? Why is this statement so often declared with pride? Because we distance ourselves from the ideas of femininity to appeal to our male peers. This perpetuates a cycle of women hating on women, with internalized misogyny manifesting in the destruction of other women’s self-esteem and other types of harassment. Women who perpetuate misogyny do so at the expense of their sex for the sake of men. After all, according to Cornell philosophy professor Kate Manne, “misogyny is the law enforcement branch of the patriarchy.”
Being “one of the guys” is appealing to some girls because it is an innate manner of gaining favor. But it is pertinent for women to unlearn the behaviors imposed upon us. In a climate as polarized as the one we currently exist within, women must stick together to dismantle not just internalized misogyny but the toxicity that arises from it. Our self-worth is more than embracing a color or refuting it. I’m not saying you are required to like pink or wear makeup, but simply don’t think less of others who do.
After all, princesses draped in pastels are pretty impressive.
Photo provided by feminismindia.com