Internalized sexism

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Internalized sexism is sexism that occurs on an individual level.[1] Internalized sexism is when an individual enacts sexist actions and attitudes towards themselves and people of their own sex.[2] On a larger scale, internalized sexism falls under the broad topic of internalized oppression, which "consists of oppressive practices that continue to make the rounds even when members of the oppressor group are not present".[2]


Internalized sexism has potential to lead to body issues, lack of self-confidence, competition, and a sense of powerlessness.[1] It is a major setback in resolving issues of sexism as a whole.[3] Ties to psychological distress such as anxious, depressive or somatic symptoms, have been identified as results of internalized sexism.[4] Possible effects can be depression and suicidal impulses[5]

Additionally, studies have found connections between as sexual objectification as a result of internalized sexism and body shame, sexual objectification, and disordered eating.[6] Internalized sexism also plays a role in lowered academic goals[7] and diminished job performance.[1] On a larger scale, the presence of internalized sexism in the world is believed to alienate those affected from each other and thus further promotes continued sexism as a whole.[3]


Internalized heterosexism[edit]

Internalized heterosexism is a manifestation of internalized sexism that primarily affects sexual minority populations (composed of people who identify lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or other), however, it can also affect heterosexual populations by dictating how they interact with and relate to non-heterosexual peoples. This phenomenon manifests when sexual minorities begin to adopt rigid, restrictive heteronormative values into their worldviews. Examples of these heteronormative values are fundamentalist religious doctrines that condemn non-heterosexual orientations and activities, concepts of masculinity and manhood that emphasize restricted emotionality (scholastically referred to as RE), or restrictive affectionate behavior between men (scholastically referred to as RABBM).[5] The internalization of heteronormativity often create Gender Role Conflicts (GRCs) for people whose actions fall outside the parameters of acceptable cultural norms that promote unrealistic and constricting ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman in modern society. One of the most common consequences of internalized heterosexism is intense depression fueled by self-loathing and sexual repression.[5]

Internalized misogyny[edit]

Most dictionaries define misogyny as the hatred of women,[8][9][10] and as "hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women".[11] which can lead to the interpretation that it is a male trait. However, the sociologist Michael Flood at the University of Wollongong notes the following:

Though most common in men, misogyny also exists in and is practiced by women against other women or even themselves. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male-dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. ... Aristotle contended that women exist as natural deformities or imperfect males ... Ever since, women in Western cultures have internalised their role as societal scapegoats, influenced in the twenty-first century by multimedia objectification of women with its culturally sanctioned self-loathing and fixations on plastic surgery, anorexia and bulimia.[12]

Women who experience internalized misogyny may express it through minimizing the value of women, mistrusting women, and believing gender bias in favor of men.[4] Women, after observing societal beliefs which demean the value and skills of women repeatedly, eventually internalize those misogynistic beliefs and apply them to themselves and other women.[13] The implications of internalized misogyny include psychological disorders such as depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and less social support among women.[4]

The actress Anne Hathaway spoke about her own internalized misogyny during a 2017 interview on the American interview show Popcorn with Peter Travers, saying that she feels she may have trusted female directors less than male directors because of gender bias and that she found herself much more critical of scripts directed by women. When speaking about the director Lone Scherfig, whom she worked with on the film One Day, she said, “I’m so scared that I treated her with internalized misogyny."[14]

Internalized misandry[edit]

Misandry is the hatred of, violence against, or discrimination of men and masculinity. Internalized misandry, then, is the act of identifying as a man and discriminating against oneself and one's masculinity. Raewyn Connell notes in her 1987 book Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics, different masculinities retain different authorities across performance so that one version of being a man is valued over another.[15]

Modes of internalization[edit]

Early childhood inculturation[edit]

Just as misogynistic behavior is learned by men[citation needed] from multiple external sources, internalized misogyny is learned by women from those same external forces, in a converse way. Girls most often learn primarily from their mother in the home setting, being that during their early life mothers are more often than not the primary caregiver.[16] Internalized misogyny may be learned by verbal abuse demeaning women on the basis of her gender and from other women on the basis of beauty standards and behavioral practices (like sex, flirting, and interaction with the same sex), etc. Sexist messaging that promotes the idea that women are passive objects unworthy of attention and power are inscribed into children's world-views by cartoons that rarely feature female characters unless they are foils for and love interests of male characters[17] (peer reviewed psychological studies have confirmed this trend and the effects it can have on children's perceptions of the meaning of sex and gender.[18]

Television and cinema[edit]

There is a long-lasting connection between misogyny and mass media. Comedic sitcoms often portray men degrading the value of women and commenting on women's weight and size. This contributes to the internalization of gender size stereotypes, sometimes negatively affecting the mental and physical health of females.[19] One of the primary problems in mass media is the underrepresentation of women in widely consumed productions.[20]

The context of children's entertainment is especially pernicious because young minds are highly impressionable and cartoons have been known to play a pedagogical role in childhood development.[21] The Little Mermaid has been criticized [22] because it tells a story of a young woman (Ariel, the aforementioned mermaid of small stature) who gives up her natural identity as a mermaid in order to meet the preferences of her love interest, a human male.[20]


By constantly creating ads that represent women in positions of bondage, women being sexually harassed, and/or women as sexual objects, advertisers are constantly beaming misogynistic messages into the public consciousness.[23] Multiple campaigns that are critical of sexism in commercials have pointed out that women are represented in much more degrading ways than most men.[24]

Women are not the only folks under assault in the world of advertising. Sexual minorities and non-straight populations are often demonized or marginalized by popular media representations too. In some cases, advertisements have been shown to be overtly homophobic,[25][26] but in more subtle ways, commercials can reinforce heterosexism by promoting hyper-masculine behavior and re-entrenching rigid norms that govern the way gender is performed in the view of the public.[27]

Combating internalized sexism[edit]

While a lot of research has been done on internalized sexism, further research is needed to develop concrete strategies to combat the effects of internalized sexism[28]Present research helps brings to light cultural practices that result in internalized sexism, therefore helping people to understand which practices need to change. For example, observations of conversation made people aware of certain conversational practices that promote internalized sexism.[citation needed] Other way to combat the effects of internalized sexism are promoting collaboration and support between individuals of the same gender, and empowering women and men to accept their bodies.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c David, E.J.R. (2013-12-09). Internalized Oppression: The Psychology of Marginalized Groups. Springer Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0826199256.
  2. ^ a b c Bearman, Steve, Neill Korobov, and Avril Thorne. "The fabric of internalized sexism." Journal of Integrated Social Sciences 1, no. 1 (2009): 10-47.
  3. ^ a b Paludi, M. A. The Psychology of Teen Violence and Victimization, Volume 1. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Szymanski, Gupta, and Carr. 2009. "Internalized Misogyny as a Moderator of the Link between Sexist Events and Women’s Psychological Distress." Sex Roles 16, no. 1-2: 101-109.
  5. ^ a b c Szymanski, Dawn M., and Ayse S. Ikizler. 2013. "Internalized heterosexism as a mediator in the relationship between gender role conflict, heterosexist discrimination, and depression among sexual minority men." Psychology of Men and Masculinity 14, no. 2: 211-219. doi:10.1037/a0027787
  6. ^ Moradi, Dirks, and Matteson. 2005. “Roles of Sexual Objectification Experiences and Internalization of Standards of Beauty in Eating Disorder Symptomatology: A Test and Extension of Objectification Theory.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(3): 420-428.
  7. ^ Montanes, de Lemus, Bohner, Megias, Moya, and Garcia-Retamero. 2012. “Intergenerational Transmission of Benevolent Sexism from Mothers to Daughter and its Relation to Daughter’ Academic Performance and Goals.” Sex Roles 66 (7-8): 468-478.
  8. ^ The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles (Oxford: Clarendon Press (Oxford Univ. Press), [4th] ed. 1993 (ISBN 0-19-861271-0)) (SOED) ("[h]atred of women").
  9. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 1992 (ISBN 0-395-44895-6)) ("[h]atred of women").
  10. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam, 1966) ("a hatred of women").
  11. ^ Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (N.Y.: Random House, 2d ed. 2001 (ISBN 0-375-42566-7)).
  12. ^ Flood, Michael (2007-07-18). "International encyclopedia of men and masculinities". ISBN 978-0-415-33343-6.
  13. ^ Bearman, Steve; Korobov, Neill; Thorne, Avril. 2009. "The fabric of internalized sexism." Journal of Integrated Social Sciences 1, no. 1: 10-47.
  14. ^ Gwilym Mumford, Anne Hathaway: I regret not trusting female directors, The Guardian, 20 April 2017.
  15. ^ Connell, Raewyn. 1987. Gender and power: society, the person, and sexual politics. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
  16. ^ Brogaard, Berit. "12 Ways to Spot a Misogynist: Men who hate women may not consciously realize it. But their actions reveal them," Psychology Today, February 18, 2015.
  17. ^ Gloudeman, Nikki. "Why Children's Cartoons Have a Sexism Problem," Huffington Post, October 6, 2014, Accessed November 7, 2014.
  18. ^ Aubrey and Harrison, Jennider and Kristen. 2004. "The Gender-Role Content of Children's Favorite Television Programs and Its Links to Their Gender-Related Perceptions" Media Psychology 6, no. 2: 111-146.
  19. ^ Fouts, Gregory, and Kimberley Burggraf. 2000. "Television Situation Comedies: Female Weight, Male Negative Comments, and Audience Reactions." Sex Roles 42, no. 9-10: 925-932.
  20. ^ a b Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 1994.
  21. ^ Wojik-Andrews, Ian. Children's FIlms: History, Ideology, Pedagogy, Theory. New York City, NY: Garland Publishing. 2000.
  22. ^ Maio, Kathi (December 1998). ""Disney's Dolls"". New Internationalist.
  23. ^ Leo, Alex. “Five Sexist Trends the Advertising World Just Can't Shake,” Huffington Post, July 10, 2010, accessed November 7, 2014.
  24. ^ Johnson, Margaret. "Sarah Zelinski, Kayla Hatzel and Dylan Lambi-Raine, Students, Challenge Sexist Advertising With Gender Role Reversal," Huffington Post, May 13, 2013, accessed November 7, 2014.
  25. ^ Jennifer Whitehead. "WKD ad is third in three weeks accused of homophobia". Brand Republic. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  26. ^ David Smith in Johannesburg. "Unilever apologises for 'homophobic' Flora advert in South Africa | World news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  27. ^ Huffington Post. "Be A Man: Macho Advertising Promotes Hyper-Masculine Behavior, Study Finds," Huffington Post, May 7, 2013, Accessed November 7, 2014.
  28. ^ Becker, Julia C.; Zawadzki, Matthew J.; Shields, Stephanie A. (2014). "Confronting and Reducing Sexism: A Call for Research on Intervention". Journal of Social Issues. 70 (4): 603–614. doi:10.1111/josi.12081. ISSN 0022-4537.