How desi women internalise misogyny

It's difficult to change the voice we hear in our head which tells us women are weak, mean and incapable. But this is how change happens, one auraat at a time

By Mishayl Naek

KARACHI: With 2019 doing a bhangra at our doorsteps, woke citizens of the world should know that misogyny is the dislike and deeply rooted prejudice against women. Common acts of misogyny in any culture include unapologetic violence and sexual harassment of women, rewarding women who don’t challenge or question men and a general demeaning of women to remove their ability to change or grow. Misogyny is the army of Patriarchy, ensuring through policing society that women are held down.

Read:Famous women, here’s how feminism affects you

So what is internalised misogyny? If misogyny is the army, then internalised misogyny is like the ISI. It is a covert, psychological manipulation of women that makes them undervalue themselves and to doubt and shame their gender. Even the most stalwart feminist can inadvertently display acts of internalised misogyny. After all, its hard to give a shut up call to that nasty Aunty whispering about how Fair & Lovely will bring you rishtas when society has taught you that just questioning someone is an act of disrespect to the elders. Internalised misogyny has made us believe that as a desi woman, your gender is against you and that larki with the good hair is your competition. Acts of internalised misogyny are so enmeshed in our society that vast majority of us are unable to recognise them.

1. ‘Log Kia Kehn Gay?’

This is perhaps the greatest victory of the misogynistic arm of patriarchy. Teaching women from childhood to be constantly vigilant that their behavior should follow arbitrary social rules that an ever-watchful society has created. Let’s be clear this makes absolute no sense at all because these rules are geared towards a women’s image as prescribed by men. Example:

Society: You should not wear nangay kapray; you are looking baysharam.

You: Would you say this to a man?

Society: No, but…

 Society: You will never find a good rishta as a tayz girl! So many boyfriends? You are asking for it!

You: Would you say this to a man?

Society: No but…

Society: Listen to us! You will never get married. Log kia kehn gay?

You: Would you say this to a man?

Society: No…


Sadly, this is not how this conversation goes. Typically, internalised misogyny forces women to police their choices according to how they will be perceived by possible MiLs, possible Fils and possible husbands and the Patriarchy wins. Challenging a status quo can be very powerful, you can make a difference by just changing the narrative of praising a girl for being brave, smart and kind vs. pretty, polite and privileged. Next time you’re criticising a woman for her life choices, ask yourself, “Would I say this to a man?”

Read: Read:A Karachi woman introspects her feminism through her Tinderactions

2. ‘Girls are Mean’

Ask any desi woman about other desi women and they’ll (most likely) begin a narrative about how we are each other’s worst enemies. This includes putting each other down, never celebrating female victories, sabotaging happiness and putting nazar on everything. My personal theory on this is that Mean Girls are just hungry. There is scientific proof that existing on a diet of chilli chips, Coke Zero and Dunhill Switch cigarettes is going to make you an unbearable person to be around.

Here is the difference between men and women in this regard, when a man is mean to his peers he is socially excluded and told his behavior is socially unacceptable. That guy can chose to change negative behavioral patterns or live a life of misery and loneliness. Women on the other hand are taught that being an asshole is a socially acceptable gender trait and we both adopt and allow negative behavior in each other.

The best way to combat this is by changing yourself. Celebrate female success, be supportive and stop yourself from slut shaming, questioning women in leadership positions and learn to recognise toxic behavior in yourself. Try this, for one week you cannot say anything negative about another woman. Be the change you want to see and you will encourage it in the people around you, regardless of gender.

3. ‘It’s a Man’s world’

Whether consciously or subconsciously we have taught ourselves that there are “things” men are better at and there are social repercussions men are excluded from. How many times have you asked a man to undertake simple tasks like filing your taxes, negotiating with the plumber or claimed you need to speak to your father/husband first? You probably did something like this today, felt you needed help or permission from a man on a very simple task or decision. Our safety, our ability to made life decisions and complete basic tasks are not gendered, they are just made difficult by men. These are conversations that we need to start having with ourselves and start taking responsibility for our own judgment calls.

Read: Read:How to be a good feminist ally

Sometimes we don’t need to make viral worthy placards and march the streets, sometimes women just have to change their own inner monologues. It is difficult to change the voice we hear in our head which tells us women are weak, women are mean and women are incapable. But this is how change happens, one auraat at a time.




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