Internalized Sexism and an Intro to Venceremos
Another non-Christmas post I know I said I would post more about our Christmas but don't worry they are coming too... This is a tribute to a wonderful semester that just ended last week.
In the fall of 2009 I joined a newspaper writing class at the University of Utah. I was still debating on my degree and what I would do with my education after I graduated. That semester was hard, Spring 2010 I didn't come back to Venceremos because I was pregnant, depressed and barely got by on my studies.
Fall 2010 I decided to try again and I plan on contributing for as long as I can.
I've built lasting deep relationships with the Venceremos staff and have improved my skills in writing, speaking and organizing.Venceremos is the Chicana/o Latina/o newspaper at the University of Utah.
See the video at the bottom of the post for more information on Venceremos.
By: Alissa Skinner (my kindred spirit ;-))[Note: Anytime we explore barriers to racial coalitions it's important for white folks--myself included--to remember and realize that their racial identity is not just a skin color, but also a socially constructed, mental mindset that frames our perceptions of reality. This mindset often works as a barrier even when we think it does not. This article is written with the intention of exploring additional barriers in female interactions while acknowledging white privilege is a constant, underlying factor.]
Internalized Sexism: Barriers to Female Coalition
Often a barrier that keeps women from building relationships with each other is internalized sexism. Sexism is a system of thinking that values the male body over the female body—giving more power and privilege to men within society. Many heterosexual women seek romantic male companionship as a means of validation, believing that if they are wanted and valued by men then they have worth and value as a women. This internalized belief, that in order to be valued as a female one must be valued and wanted by a male creates competition among and between women.
The result is that women sometimes turn on each other in order to win or secure the love of a man. Popular media exploits this tension through shows like Real Housewives, Basketball Wives, Teresa, Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, etc. These programs showcase “cat fights” where women are depicted physically assaulting other women, often while the man stands smirking in the background or interrupting as the “peace keeper.”
This scenario is especially heightened when the “cat fights” are between a women of color and a white woman. Female competition across racial lines has been pimped by both men of color and white men who benefit from gender privilege through sexism. While the two women are slugging it out and screaming insults about each other’s sexuality and looks, the system of sexism goes unchecked and the source from which the insults stem remain invisible.
Like the abused repeating patterns of the abuser, women say things to each other those men have said to them to cut them down and reinforce women’s subordinate space. Have you ever seen a scenario where the two women look at each other, shrug, tell the man he's not worth compromising their dignity or their self-respect and walk away? Perhaps in real life--but rarely on TV--because there are no ratings in that.
The message states that if people of color are criminal and whites are professional, then it is only fitting that whites should continue to be the leaders who make laws and run society. But none of these narratives occur naturally. They are not inherently true. They are manipulated to benefit those who are already benefiting and perpetuate the hierarchy of racism and sexism that has always been a part of this country.
As a result, our media too often fails to show real friendships between women of color and white women, creating the “reality” that it doesn't happen, that it can't happen, particularly when it comes down to the battle for male validation. Is this scenario real? Is it true that heterosexual women of color and white women can never really be friends? Can never trust each other? And if they can never really be friends or trust each other when men are in the equation, can they ever form relationships to advance political progress?
While there are many different and complicating factors, perhaps one place to begin may be for women to deconstruct their own internalized sexism. To unlearn the lie believed deep down that they are only worth something if a man says so. This means women in their different intersectionalities of race, class, religion, etc. must define their own worth and own beauty.
For women of color there is the additional challenge of talking back to the Eurocentric-male centered standards that assault bodies and minds of color with racism and colorism. There is no one-way, shade, or shape that defines beauty. If women really believe this truth inside it will break down individual barriers that keep women from loving themselves for themselves.
Personally I feel that every issue of Venceremos is a collective masterpiece. Each student contributes to this publication which for each one of us means something different. It's hard to put into just a couple of words what Venceremos means to those of us who have been a part of it.
Anyone interested in the publication can be a part of it after a meeting with the profesora and advisor for the newspaper: Sonya M. Aleman, Ph.d. Our collective is always looking for new voices and perspectives.