Monthly Archives: November 2008

Internalized Sexism

     Every woman has been put down endless times in her life.  Every woman has doubted herself in some way.  These experiences have been shared by many millions of women.  Part of the oppression is that we are told that these experiences are not really hurtful and that if we think they are, then that is just further proof of what is wrong with us. These are some experiences women have gone through:



Doubting their own ability or worth


Feeling let down or put down by their mother


Being abused and perhaps molested and then expected to be pleasant or a good sport about it


Having permission not to achieve in just the places they needed encouragement to keep trying


Being locked out of jobs, educational opportunities, social networks of influence at work and in politics, at church and in other organizations


Feeling “not beautiful enough” or “not feminine enough.”

     The following is a list of outward behaviors which have been compiled over time to reflect some of the ways that women have internalized the oppression that they have experienced in their lives.  Please keep in mind that these are generalizations, and are not intended to be directed towards all women:


  1. Women tend to devalue their own work. If they are parents, creating a nurturing environment, or caring for a child is often not even thought of as work at all, when in fact it is, in essence,  the most important job there is in a society.   Clerical work, scientific work, or teaching are also seen as less valuable than other kinds of work.

  2. Women feel and act competitive with each other.  This can take at least two forms. Sometimes women are openly competitive and sometimes women withdraw from competition altogether.  Both approaches are often based on feeling inadequate.

  3. Women tend to criticize other women.  Often women actually feel critical and at other times they feel like they are just trying to be helpful. Criticism is worse than useless.

  4. Women often settle for less than they really want.

  5. Women forget their own achievements.  They forget how brave they actually are, how good they are, how strong they are, how intelligent and capable they are, how hardworking and faithful they are.

  6. Women act as if they think that men are the standard for what it means to be a genuine, grown-up human being.

  7. Women tend to focus a good deal of attention on male people.  Women give up a date they had with a woman friend at the chance to go out with a man. Women feel guilty leaving the family on the weekend, or they save prime time for men and fit each other into the leftover time slots.

  8. Women seem to have difficulty rejoicing in one another’s successes and achievements.

  9. Women deny that sexism is real.

  10. Women seldom feel as though they are female enough or that they are adequate enough.

  11. Women tend to feel that they don’t have much to say. If a man is speaking or an articulate woman is speaking, women will tend to withdraw their thoughts and become quiet.  Women give up.

  12. Women sometimes act afraid of physical and emotional closeness with other women.





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