March 24

Regulating Women

As a Sociologist with a key interest in gender, you would imagine I am not surprised by internalised misogyny.  Yet it never fails to frustrate, disappoint and sadden me.

This week I have seen a few nasty social media comments and threads regarding the regulation of other women.  Comments on sex work are always full of faux concern served with a hearty helping of judgement and control, ‘they don’t know what they are doing’ ‘no one can choose that’ etc.

As one of my wise students declared, the only way for women to be safe is to not exist. We are public property, fair game to be criticised at every opportunity. We are too much/ too little, too dowdy/too excessive, too naive/ too experienced, too sexual/ too frigid, too thin/ too fat, the list goes on. The media loves to call out women for their excessive behaviour see here, and criticise us for having ‘let ourselves go’ or for ‘loving ourselves’ see here.

Women are a key part of this policing, we police ourselves, and we can police other women. Women are told to ‘cover up’, ‘stop attention seeking’, ‘smile’, ‘wear less make up’, ‘wear more make up’ etc. The students last year on Body Politics did a fantastic job of discussing this through our Barbie Craftivism workshop see here.

As with the debates on sex work, control of other women can take place via the discourse of ‘concern’. Unsolicited comments about a woman’s relationship or marriage are ok because you believe that all age-difference relationships are ‘predatory’.  Telling a sex worker that they don’t understand the implications of their work is ok because you believe that all sex work is inherently exploitative. You tell a woman online to ‘cover up’ because you are believe that woman should dress ‘modestly’. Do you see the problem here? If your feminism shames women, and if you make intrusive and unsolicited comments about their behaviour, dress and relationship status, you might want to google internalised misogyny hun.

When I was first with my husband in 2005, I lost count of the amount of inappropriate and unwanted comments I received from other women (always women!) about the age-difference. These comments were often sexual, always uncomfortable, and mostly creepy. Men would have been called out for them, yet it appears ok to some women to pseudo-psychoanalyse other women. Don’t project your crap onto other people. Hurt people hurt people. I get that. But breaking women’s boundaries in a bid to feed your own insecurities and hurt is never ok. If you have been hurt by a relationship then get help to move forward.

Build other women up. Be the person that younger women can turn to for advice and confide in. Listen to them and don’t write them off as naive/ silly/ inexperienced. The chances are they will have lots of knowledge to share. And if you are a feminist then be there to walk alongside other women not to shame them and rip then apart.

The image above is by one of the students on Body Politics. Annie has produced a great Activist Barbie with a great narrative: that women will always be criticised. There are women’s magazines dedicated to regulating us and pulling our bodies and behaviours apart.

Let’s make a commitment to not being part of misogyny and not harming other women.


Gemma x