Since birth, our society and, unintentionally, people that surround us while we’re growing, transmit us a gender stereotype based on our sex at birth: male infants dressed up in blue, while female infants in pink; male children playing football, while female children taking dance class; a manly beard for men and waxing for women, instead. Anyway, it’s not just about external factors and appearance, like a sport to watch or the exterior aspect to have in order to be socially accepted and identified as “man” or “woman”. The problem is far more rooted and implies a series of behaviours, thoughts and even desires that a human being must have as a male or as a female. When we talk about interiorized male chauvinism we refer to a wide range of duties and attitudes that a woman feels compelled to observe or, simply, mechanically applies as such, carrying out sexist ideology. Female individuals internalize these sexist ideas, expressing them in judging behaviours against other women or in acts of submission towards men. Let’s get a better view of what we are talking about: here, five symptoms to recognize internalized male chauvinism:
1. AUTOSTEREOTYPING. How many times have we heard women complaining about their office or classroom because full of “too many women”? And how many times disarming motivations that generalize over womankind follow such complaints? Undoubtedly, sentences like “I hate working with women, they are mean, deceitful and spend time talking behind their own backs. Men are straight shooters and nicer”, or “I only have male friends: I don’t get along with women, they are too whiny, complicated and never know what they want” will sound familiar to you. Sadly, I guess each one of us heard words like these at least once in life. Such behaviours are still widespread, even among younger girls who consider being “one of the guys” as something to be proud of, because they feel on a privileged level compared to the other girls their age.
2. DISTANCING FROM THE REST OF THE WOMEN: “I AM NOT LIKE THE OTHER GIRLS”. When ladies speak this sentence, they are trying to drive a wedge between themselves and the rest of their kind. Those who say such words are implying that being a woman is a shame, a status that brings with it only negative features. Claiming “not to be like the others” is, once again, a statement of inferiority and subordination to men.
3. SLUT-SHAMING. This term is used to describe the behaviour of those who judge a woman on her way of dressing or living her sexual life. Such tendency doesn’t belong only to men but, too often, also to women. Some of you may have called “slut” or the like girls never seen before that are simply walking down the street with very short shorts or with a particularly plunging neckline. And, all this, knowing nothing about them. Again, when a woman is talking about her sexual life, it takes a second to be judged as “no good” by her interlocutors. What if the one talking about his sexual life was a man? The judgment would be the same? I’d like to recall the case of Tiziana Cantone to remember how slut-shaming can kill, it’s not “just words”. Moreover, do not forget that slut-shaming is the anteroom of rape culture.
4. ATTRIBUTING TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF SEXUAL FAVORS WOMEN ACHIEVEMENTS. When seeing an attractive woman holding a position of power, how many times it is widely thought that there’s something going on? In the popular imagination, a beautiful and powerful woman reaches her position not by merit but having given herself to someone more powerful. This simple but aberrant mechanism is applied small-scale where we work and on a larger scale in public environments, like politics and show business. Quick reminder: a beautiful woman is not a whore.
5. DENIGRATING FEMINISM BELIEVING THAT EQUALITY HAS BEEN ACHIEVED. Frequently, less informed women maintain that feminism is simply a set of ideas for annoying ladies that are exaggerating their condition. These people, in order to please men, dismiss this issue as a “nonsense”, adding that their life is perfect just the way it is, because parity has been achieved. Except that equality is far from being reached. Because when a man and a woman have dinner, it is assumed that he has to pay. Because when a girl is having a job interview, too many times she is asked if she intends to have children. Since when a woman in walking alone at night, she has to run and pray that no one harass her. Many claims against feminism made by women can be traced back to a spasmodic need for attention and validation from the opposite sex, so they can feel to be on the same side or on the same level of a man. Unfortunately, this constant pursuit, aimed to please male gender at all costs, is itself proof that those women do not feel equal to men. Worse, they prove to feel inferior because women.
These above are some of many typical behaviours of interiorized male chauvinism. It’s important to acknowledge them all in order to get the seed of chauvinism out of us and to develop true sisterhood, which seems to be a good starting point for fighting a still-too patriarchal society.
Italian version by Isabella Poretti
Translated by Elisabetta Castellotti