"Pick Me": From The Viral Trend To The Reporting Of Internalized Misogyny

In recent months, the "Pick Me" trend has gained a lot of visibility on TikTok. In the videos filmed by girls, the song that gave name to the trend is used as a sound backdrop to bring up the issue of internalized misogyny, the secret ingredient for the perpetuation of patriarchy.

First, what is misogyny and what does it mean to be internalized? The term “misogyny” arose in ancient Greece, and literally means hatred of women or the female gender – and everything associated with it. Its internalization, on the other hand, refers to the appropriation of this violent behavior by women. Therefore, in a generalized definition, “internalized misogyny” is the hatred against femininity manifested by women.

women protesting and holding signs Photo by miawicks9 from Pixabay

Misogyny, Its Origins & Meaning

It is not surprising that the culture in which the term originated carries much of its meaning in mythology. In this context, the myth of Medusa is the most cited story when the debate is misogynist women, because it constitutes the narrative of a rape in which the victim is pointed as guilty and transformed into a monster by another woman, represented by the goddess Athena. This story is by far not the only one in which the phenomenon manifests itself, not even in ancient Greece itself: we have a vengeful Aphrodite, Artemis expelling violated nymphs from her personal circle, Helena being used as a prize in the bet between Paris and the Olympian goddesses.

Unfortunately, this stigma is not limited to antiquity, because it was in modern fairy tales that some of the most famous and least problematized phrases were born, such as “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”, followed by a life-and-death persecution of a 14-year-old girl who lives with seven adult men. Don’t get me wrong - I love Disney, but it’s undeniable that it has its dubious scripts.

After that, a second question arises: “Why would women hate women? That sounds as absurd as Wonder Woman turning against the Tribe of Amazons!”

In fact, it seems meaningless if we look at it crudely, but think – speaking now directly to the female audience – how many times have you heard from a woman’s mouth, or even your own, phrases like “I’m not like the other girls”, “I don’t have so many girly friends because girls are unreliable” or “look at her clothes, what she’s insinuating?” Well, know that these maxims are just a few examples of internalized misogyny.

The "Pick Me" Trend

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Another situation in which this phenomenon is shown is when women demean other women by using their insecurities, exalting themselves to the detriment of their own gender in front of the male sex. Typically, the “Pick Me” TikTok videos use these same stigmas and examples as a background to expose a competition, whose core is presented itself in the form of female rivalry – the product of millenniums of subjugation and the construction of stereotypes that today support the undeniably sexist society in which we live.

Seeing now how structural the problem of internalized misogyny is, it is easy to imagine how many artifices have been developed "naturally" for women not to perceive their social ties; or, even, to contribute for the livelihood of this abusive system. One of those tricks is to put women against each other. Think about what that implies, half the world's population in the hands of the other half, too busy hating on each other to realize their own situation.

Now, you must be trying, without success, to remember of sometime that someone told you to hate another girl. That's because, they don't teach to hate your own gender at home or at school: internalized misogyny is something instilled and gradually absorbed as a message, passed by media and the arts until it is reproduced by us, as in the paradox in which life imitates art and vice versa.

Courtesy of Ru's Nudes

In this context, it has become a cliché of the artistic world a feminine figure who despises her own gender and is thus painted as “empowered”. In these productions, the simple fact that a girl acts, dresses like and spends time with boys (besides sharing depreciative opinions about other women), makes them strong, warriors, powerful. This was the case of Arya Stark, one of the fan-favorites in “Game of Thrones”.

However, throughout history there are countless figures who, in order to be able to act freely beyond their gender role, had no other choice but to hide their feminine identities through traditionally male clothing. Which does not make them higher and stronger versions of the “second sex”. Arya herself, in fact, didn’t cross-dress at first because she though it was cool or to feel more powerful, but because she knew that this was the only way to be respected as an individual (or do you think that Joan of Arc would turn into a battalion leader with two braids and corset? The strength already belonged to her; the only thing borrowed was the armor.) 

Internalized Misogyny And Media: A Rooted Relationship

In the end, these super fierce fictional characters that a sexist media idolizes only end up denying their feminine nature because they don’t fit the masculine profile of femininity. Moreover, instead of pouring out their discontent against patriarchy, they turn against other women who, even though sometimes painfully, conformed to social norms. Thus, we expose the reductionist perspective on which they were built and the real substance of misogyny: hatred is against the sex with which we are born, not against the archetype we embody or against our habits. 

Little Women Scene Giphy After understanding this scenario, it can be concluded that girls aren’t born hating each other, the misogyny is something carefully constructed throughout our lives and that, in addition to the media, our social relationships play a fundamental role in this composition.

An example that proves this affirmation is the development of the protagonist of “Mean Girls”, Cady, an ordinary girl who grew up in Africa alongside her zoologist parents – too close to the wild and impossibly far from girly universe. The world was a pacific place until Cady was forced to attend high school in the USA, and the more she was inserted into the hostile adolescent milieu, the more she was corrupted by the stereotyped and cruel lifestyle of The Plastics.

Values ​​that never meant anything to her suddenly boil down to an obsession: among them, the ambition to destroy the life of her newest nemesis, Regina George. The latter, despite being considered one of the greatest and cruelest villains of generation Z, is devoid of originality, having been constructed as a copy of the cliché "Evil Barbie”, with an identical personality to that of Heather Chandler of "The Heathers", Alison DiLaurentis from “Pretty Little Liars”, Blair Waldorf from “Gossip Girl” and so many others. In addition, it is noted that the only common aspects between them are exaggerated cruelty and femininity, as a combo with elements that seem as though they are not sold separately.

Mean Girls phone scene Lorne Michaels Productions The archetype of women who hate women, on the other hand, has a more politized and rooted cause than it appears.

In a society where female inferiority, hate speeches masked as jokes, violence, abuse and objectification are normalized, the creation of an ideal person excludes femininity, making it synonymous with weaknesses inherently antagonistic to masculinity. Following this reasoning, the challenges faced by this population to rise in a world dominated by men were wide open, which would justify an accommodated logic of rivalry that ignores any alternative of union.

It becomes visible that the cycle of support on which patriarchy sustains itself and how revolutionary is the emergence of a youth movement that exposes and questions these behaviors in the media, because it opens space for other girls to see the role they have in their own ties. As in the “Mean Girls” excerpt:  

“You all have to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores!”

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The article above was edited by Isabella Gemignani.

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