Are you not like other girls? Do you prefer not befriending girls because “they cause too much drama?” Or do you simply pride yourself on being different and not giving in to the lure of traditional femininity?
If so, chances are, you never got over the internalised misogyny that society ingrains into women from the moment they step foot into the world. During early childhood, it manifests itself in the form of hatred for societally sanctioned feminine characteristics, like the colour pink. However, as we grow, it gets uglier, sinking its claws deeper, teaching you that the only way to get to the top, is by stepping on and trampling other women.
In layman terms, internalised misogyny refers to the deep-rooted dislike that we possess against women, leading to mistrust, condescension, and beliefs about their inferiority.
With a large number of contributing factors and causes, Bollywood and media seem to have not only jumped onto the bandwagon, but are also the ones steering it. While the blatant sexism in our media is often addressed, subtle misogyny and reinforcement of age-old stereotypes seem to go unnoticed, hiding under the guise of dramatic storylines and quirky characters.
Indian TV has been running its trope on conniving evil women, hell-bent on breaking up families and antagonising the protagonist, for decades now, without most of its viewers realising the effects. The storyline about the quarrelling wife and mother, is one small example in a vast sea, of how our media outlets intend to portray women- shallow, petty, and constantly competing to win the affections of a man. Even seemingly positive and feel-good shows of the comedic genre constantly reinforce patriarchal norms. A very popular prime time Indian sitcom resorts to representing all women through their stereotypical female characters that are always in dire need of their husbands’ guidance.
When it comes to contributing to perpetuating internal misogyny, Bollywood takes the mantel with its plethora of sexist movies, plots, and characters. While movies like Kabir Singh faced widespread public criticism, numerous other films do not face any scrutiny due to their subtle representation of prejudice. Kartik Aryaan’s work in his movies provides a platform to incels, painting them as pitiful victims to wicked women who are either incapable of being happy, false accusers, or out on a mission to ruin friendships.
He, however, is more so just a player in the game rather than the creator himself. Films like Biwi Number One help spread dislike and distrust towards women by refusing to blame the cheating husband, while family films such as Hum Apke Hain Kaun and Hum Saath Saath Hai, where all actions of the women characters are centred around their family and the hero, only further reinforce gender stereotypes.
While one may argue that these are all works of fiction and art, they have the, perhaps unintended, effect of spreading misogyny in such understated d ways, that the dislike for an entire gender becomes deep-rooted, internalised, and hence, unquestioned, resulting in the lack of realisation about said prejudices and stereotypes.
We must hold the media responsible for their actions, question their intents and biases, and begin to critically examine all that we consume. Monopolising off the subversion of minorities and stirring up spite and dislike for them is something that has gone on for too long in a country that enshrines the values of dignity and equality for all. India’s commercialised entertainment industry and its bling and glamour can only be summed up by “not all that glitters is gold”.