Misogyny isn't just for men

Do you remember the first time you felt sexism being directed towards you?

I remember once when I was little: I heard the familiar sound of my brothers preparing to play basketball. I dropped my Barbie doll and ran to join in the game. But my mother found me halfway down the stairs and called me to help with some chores.

Of course, I tried to weasel my way out of it by saying I'd call my brothers in to help us out – make it a family affair. She told me to let them be and just help her for a little bit. So I asked, "Why do they get to play while I have to do the chores?"

"Because you are the girl."

Being of (relatively) sound mind and Catholic upbringing, I knew better than to argue with the woman who was my first role model over an issue she spoke so surely about. I accepted this reasoning without question and without knowing the harm her words caused to such an impressionable mind.

Yes, my first experience of sexism wasn't from a man treating me like an object, but from my own mother who was trying to teach me some basic skills I'd need for life.

Unintentional sexism

This makes me wonder how many other people out there were gently – and unintentionally, I'm sure – guided by their loved ones into the culture of sexism, a culture that is so well knitted in with our daily lives that we barely notice it is even there.

A lot of people talk about equality and how misogyny ruins the peace of daily life; but how many of these people also unconsciously subscribe to sexist acts like cat calling, affectionate name-calling, or expecting to be treated differently simply because of their gender?

I'm no different from these people. My poison? I believe that my role as a woman is meant to be a homemaker and mother. I constantly feel the guilt of having a kitchen that I can't scrub spotless, I scold myself for not being a wonderful cook, and I pressure myself to make sure everything in my house is in its proper place at all times.

Perhaps the worst thing is that I do this to myself. I was raised believing that it was only proper for me to clean up after meals and change everyone's sheets. I grew up putting things away as I went through the house and making to-do lists of chores.

These don't seem so bad, of course. What's a few chores here and there, right? That, however, is the trick. Because they seem so harmless, nobody minds that these mundane household chores are still – as they were in old patriarchal society – viewed as 'woman's work.'

Misogyny tree

This home-bred belief opens people up to the concept of gender-specific roles in society. This his and her's segregation is the tiny seed that grows into a great big tree of misogynistic culture – the tree that the community vows never to cut down, thinking it is a pillar of their neighborhood.

This then becomes the jump off point for many other seemingly harmless acts of sexism and misogyny. Cat calls are viewed as compliments, rejections are viewed as flirtatious challenges, and short skirts are viewed as invitations for rape.

Perhaps the worst part of it all is that everyone defends this segregation – women more so than men. We call it being proper and ladylike, those who stray from the "right path" are branded as sluts and attention seekers.

Should anything befall these 'disgraceful' women, they have nobody to blame but themselves. If they get catcalls, we ask what they were doing in that area to begin with. If they get unwanted advances, we ask how they were behaving. If they get raped, we ask what they were wearing.

Take note that this 'we' is a party of mostly women. Women look at these misfits and seem ashamed of them. Women ask such questions almost as if to apologize to the men who were deliberatly brought into a state of uncontrollable sexual frenzy by these little whores.

Double standard?

Isn't it strange, though, that we rarely bother to look at the man and say, "Shame on him for not controlling himself. How dare he not respect a woman's boundaries? Who does he think he is, acting like she owed anything to him?"

Instead women turn against each other as if the victim – yes, that is what they are: the victims – was so much of a threat to us that we had to further shame her in order to please the gender we have long decided was our superior. (READ: This is how we raise our sons)

I'm not saying that men should become public enemy number one. Because despite all women having experienced some form of sexism in their lives, the worst of the damage comes from our 'sisters.' We need to turn the tables. We need to turn this innate hatred we have for each other into support.

Yes, most men can protect us from the minority of men who would hurt us, but only women can protect women from each other. Misogyny is very much a woman's battle – the enemy isn't the big bad wolf, it's the pretty wildflowers that lure you into the forest and get you lost.

Ask why

If we want to end misogyny, we must start by erasing this image of a "proper lady." We have to teach ourselves and the next generation that no matter how a woman acts or what she looks like she shouldn't be stereotyped. Respect and decency should be expected, not asked for.

The rape culture that plagues our society needs to end. As Angelina Jolie said in the recently culminated Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, "Do not go silent. Raise your voices. Use your influence to inspire the next generation of men to honor women." (WATCH: Summit to end sexual violence: Closing plenary)

Perhaps the most important thing we should be teaching the next generation is never to be afraid to ask why. It was my father who taught me this lesson – further proof that sexism is not all it seems.

What is good for our generation may be absurd for theirs. We can only teach them to be open to question and change. We can only teach them to decide for themselves what to keep and what needs to stop.

There is nothing more dangerous than a person who has a biased perception of what is right – a person who does evil in the name of good. - Rappler.com

Nile Villa is a social media producer at Rappler. 

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