I'm Sorry Britney Spears, Tackling My Internalized Misogyny
Updated: Jan 19
I watched Eliza McLamb's Tik Tok last week and her words spoke to me so deeply that I saved it and have been revisiting it everyday, trying to process the emotions it evoked. She says, "Consider this my formal apology to Taylor Swift. I loved you then I hated you, they told me what you did. Said you dated all those boys and got too bitter, wrote some songs about it. They were only mad cause you made a little profit off it. I'm so sorry to Stephanie Meyer and all the teenage girls who fell in love with a vampire. I was you and I hated you, I thought you were so stupid for liking things that I did and wanting to admit it. And I wish I could go back an apologize to all the girls who dated the guys I was too scared to say I liked, I was afraid of you too, it made me mean to you. And most of all I'm sorry to the twelve year old me, for not loving you as much as I loved who I wanted you to be." And after listening to the song over the last week I realize that I owe some apologies as well, and more than that: I need to tackle my internal misogyny that allowed certain judgements to be made.
Me to me
Taylor Swift, Megan Fox, Lindsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Kristen Stewart. I owe all you amazing ladies the largest of apologies. You were all a huge part of my formative years and I'm sorry I turned on you all so easily. I'm sorry for listening to the media, for not being able to stand up and support you despite what people said about me. I'm sorry that I hid you and treated you all as guilty pleasures (which is dumb and I refuse to do it anymore.) But most of all, I'm sorry that I didn't realize how fucked up all this was until recently.
I'm a 90s baby, but since I was born in the late 90s my formative years were in the 2000s. Honestly, the 2000s were kind of a shit show. Media, pop culture, the integration of social medias and youtube, all of this was such a toxic combination and yet no one talked about it. Paris Hilton & Nicole Richie were influencers before influencers were a thing! The party phase of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears is totally why people jumped on Jersey Shore when it came out. The paparazzi and tabloids made us want to see people fail and fall apart. It was never about seeing these celebrities as real people, it was about shitting on women. The way that media put women like Megan Fox and Britney Spears on these pedestals of being sexy and sensuous, sexualizing them even when they weren't being sexual... and then subsequently punishing them when they leaned into their sexuality was horrible and perpetuated the Slut complex that was prevalent in the 2000s.
The worst part of all of it was how I leaned into it. I shamed them in my mind, I stopped liking Kristen Stewart when the cheating scandal happened, I refused to watch anything that Angelina Jolie was in because she "used her sexuality" to steal Brad Pitt. When Taylor Swift came out with her first 2 albums, I was obsessed with her! And then she started dating Taylor Lautner and she was persona non grata for me. Then they broke up and she released Back to December and that was it for me, I immediately stopped stanning her.
But like... come on...
No but really, all of this is super fucked up and not something I'm proud of in anyway but I feel like I had to own up to my part in it because it wasn't just the media who was hating on these women; it bled to the younger generation who were reading the magazines. All of this manifested in a bad case of internalized misogyny.
So what exactly is internalized misogyny? Internalized Misogyny is: "when women subconsciously project sexist ideas onto other women and even onto themselves." A lot of these sexist ideas come from the media and women's constant exposure to sexist and demeaning messaging towards and about women. These messages start to integrate themselves into our minds, this is called "mere exposure effect". The worst part of it is that, fighting internalized misogyny and mere exposure effect is super hard. What happens is that, once we have the idea of something being true (whether we fully believe it or not) we try to find signs of it in everyday life, and then when we do it confirms the idea that we had, even if we had also seen examples in the contrary as well. This is referred to as confirmation bias.
Let's apply this to real life. Let's take Britney Spears for example. We were told by the media that Britney Spears was promiscuous and dumb and irresponsible. While we believe it or not, these ideas were being shoved down our throat in all media formats, this is mere exposure effect. So then we live our life, not having formed a full opinion but hearing the media's voice in the back of our head repeating that she's promiscuous and dumb and irresponsible and then she went and got married and pregnant. Then shortly after giving birth she went "crazy" and shaved her head and attacked a car with an umbrella. And our mind goes, hey wait didn't we hear somewhere that she's promiscuous and dumb and irresponsible, all of these things seem a little promiscuous and dumb and irresponsible so wow that must be true, aka confirmation bias. No matter if we would have been able to rationalize that she's a young Mom who just had her children taken from her, or that she was never given a moment to be alone by the press, or that she was tired of being controlled, or even that she could be suffering from postpartum depression. None of those thoughts would have mattered because they didn't support the theory that the media was perpetuating and reminding us constantly.
Learning all this made me feel immensely better. Knowing that this is a psychological process and that I'm not just a naturally shitty person is a relief. But, that just means that I have to be conscious and critical of my thoughts. It's clear that the media isn't going to stop shitting on women. Yes, it's getting better. However, I don't think it's the media itself that's getting better. It's the people who call out the media, who use their voice to stand up against the sexism. Megan Fox was dragged so hard in the 2000s, when she started to make a comeback and was on New Girl she got so much shit and wasn't taken seriously. (I was guilty of this, I stopped watching New Girl because Megan Fox joined and then this year binged the whole series again and realized that Megan Fox is hilarious and I was judging her for no reason.) Her and Brian Austin Greene split up last year and she started to move on with Machine Gun Kelly and he started to date someone else too. Yet, the media called Megan Fox a slut and obsessed over her relationship with MGK, calling her a bad Mom for going out, and saying she betrayed Greene. Sounds a little familiar right?
Me to the media when they're being sexist
Media isn't going to stop finding ways to tear women down. I wish that they would, and I welcome the day that it does, but until that happens it's on me (& us) to work internally to not perpetuate the misogyny that they create. A great way to do this is to do check-ins with yourself when you feel a negative or sexist thought coming up.
Here are some things you can ask yourself to check in:
"Do I really think this is true or does someone else want me to think this?"
"How would I react in the situation that they're in? Can I empathize with their situation?"
"If my best friend was going through this, how would I treat them? What would I say to them?"
What it really comes down to is having empathy for people. Remembering that celebrities are people too. Finding ways to take them off the pedestal that society has put them in and see them as the humans that they are. I remember the first time I was sexualized without my consent, I was 13 and was catcalled while walking. After that I would get stared at even when with my Dad. I was a child and it always made me feel disgusting, and that's all I can think about when media outlets post about Billie Eilish or Charlie D'amelio's bodies. They're still young, they were kids when they came out on the scene and the media is sexualizing them just like they did with Britney Spears. So much so that they've publicly said that they wear baggy clothes so that people can't comment on their bodies! Despite what I feel or think about these women, I can empathize with them on that feeling and would never want them to feel what I did.
Let's just let them live
Internalized misogyny is a really tough thing to grapple with, it's not an easy thing to fight. But if we don't make a conscious effort to acknowledge it and correct our mistakes we're just going to be creating a society that is toxic for all women. Because this stuff transcends just celebrities, internalized misogyny affects how we see our colleagues, our neighbors, and even our friends. It's something that I'm working on everyday. I'm not perfect and I sometimes find my mind jumping to conclusions but I'm actively working on checking in with myself to correct these judgements. While I do that, my apology to all the women who I judged for no reason stands. I promise to do better.
Now excuse me while I try and learn the Baby One More Time choreography
Until next time!
A Whelmed Christy