When we discuss Sexism and Misogyny in the Gambia, we approached the subjects from the perspecti ve of the opposite’s sex’s attitude towards women. We speak of how men have always had power, privilege and access while women have little or no noticeable access or power. While this is true, it is also very important to discuss, as women, the sexist behaviors and attitudes we portray to ourselves and other women, and why. Thus, it is important that we (women and women’s rights organizations) recognize and acknowledge, as well take action to stop internalize sexism and misogyny.
Internalized sexism/misogyny is when women and girls involuntarily belief the misconceptions, myths, lies and stereotypes about women and girls that society tells everyone in the society to be true.
It is very important to note that this is as a result of the way that women and girls are socialized . From birth boys and girls are exposed to the sexist and misogynistic messages that society tells everyone. They are told that women and girls are too weak, sensitive, and manipulative. Women are taught to be submissive, silent, and to see themselves as inferior.
These messages are not only limited to what is said verbally to women and girls, but it also includes the nonverbal messages that we are exposed to. The advertisements on the media, the movies we watch, the music we listen to and our traditions and culture all have a role to play e.g. In the Gambia, in certain tribes when a woman is greeting a man or giving water to a man she should kneel, the justification given for this is that; it is a sign of “respect”.
However, it goes deeper than that, this small act of kneeling while giving water or greeting a man is another way of telling women and girls to be submissive. Thus, nonverbal messages such as this also play a great role in how we perceive things. Furthermore, it is important to note that, even though generally all women and girls in the society are exposed to these messages, the way we react to them may differ. However, the fact remains, we are all affected by these messages regardless of how we react to them.
Women spend their entire lives hearing that, they should spend their lives in-services to men. Our society tells girls that they should learn how to cook, so that, their husbands would never go hungry. They should learn how to do laundry so that their husbands would always look neat. Our society tells little girls that the most important thing they could ever possible be is a “wife” so, if they do not get married they are “worthless”. As a result, some girls grow up aspiring for marriage only, because they believe that a wife is all they should be.
According to the 2010 Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 75 percent of women belief that it is justifiable for their husbands to beat them for one of many reasons, such as: neglecting their children (54.2%), going out without taking permission (53%), argue with their husbands (33.3%). Approximately 60% believe that their husbands have a right to beat them up if they refuse to have sex with them. While 14 percent of women belief that it is right for their husbands to beat them if they burn food.
This data clearly reflects our society and how violence against women, is used as a tool for male domination. The use of violence is paramount in a patriarchal society, to maintain order and keep everyone in their place. Women are socialized to behave a certain way, and if they don’t, their husbands have a right to “discipline them” by hitting them, the same way fathers beat up their children, if they do not behave as expected. This is the message that is preached to girls as they grow in to women (in different forms). The system needs women and girls to belief that they are deserving of the “punishment” they receive from fathers and husbands, when they fall short of what is expected from them.
Girls are told to behave and do as they are told, so that they would not be beaten up; the same way women are told to do as they are told and behave as expected, so that they may not unearth the wrath of their husbands. This is just one example of internalized misogyny in the Gambia, violence is supposed to keep women in check, so we are told to be “good” and behave as expected or get punished. The data is evidence that a good number of women belief this.
As a result of being exposed to a lifetime of sexist/ misogynistic information boys and men take on their roles in the patriarchal society and protect their privilege at all cost, while women and girls belief the sexist and misogynistic information they have been exposed to and take on their prescribed roles in a patriarchal society.
Effects of Internalized sexism and misogyny
Internalized sexism/ misogyny can affect the way women view themselves and other women. It can be manifested by women miss trusting other women, doubting themselves and other women, demeaning themselves and other women. For the patriarchy to continue we must all belief the messages that we are told, so that it may be passed on from generation to generation. The greater effect of internalized sexism/ misogyny is ensuring the patriarchy lives on. If women belief that they are inferior and naturally manipulative, thus, making their oppression justified, it ensures that the same messages are passed on from mother to daughter and the cycle continues.
How to fight internalized sexism/ internalized misogyny
In other to combat internalized sexism/ internalized misogyny, the first step would be to accept that it exists. It may be easier to approach the subject from the perspective of how women have always been oppressed (rightfully so), but it is also very important for us (women) to recognize and accept that we also have a part to play in breaking the cycle and changing the status quo.
We (women and Women’s Rights Organizations) should include internalized sexism and misogyny in our advocacy, and come up with ways to identify and curb internalized sexism and misogyny.
Finally, we should change the way we raise children (both boys and girls). Boys internalize too. We all internalize, that is how the system thrives. We must continue to have the difficult conversations, even when it makes us feel uncomfortable. We must take extra effort to recognize and unlearn the sexist and misogynistic messages that we have been exposed to our entire lives.