Insecurity, Identity, and Intersectionality

Recently I’ve been feeling out of sorts. My life has been going quite well for me and perhaps I’m just waiting for the bottom to drop out. I have been fortunate to continue working at my job through the pandemic and just celebrated my anniversary there (a benchmark that is rare for me) with talks of making my position remote. This is great news for me because I’m now engaged and my fiance has applied for a job in Hawaii. We hope for children soon, too.

I’m truly thrilled for the next chapters of my life… but with all this excitement, and the holidays in full swing, I’ve been noticing that I’m much more irritable, frustrated, and generally angry and not sure how to let it out.

Screaming into the void helps but my throat needs a rest

Mostly, I was content to bottle up the feelings of unease and just keep swimming along in the Great Abyss of Fucking Awful that is 2020, along with everyone else and their declining morale in hopes that maybe it was just how the world is right now and maybe we are all trying to just ride it out. I’ve been drinking more and eating too much. I did quit vaping though. Lately, my irritability can’t just be explained away by my nicotine withdrawals, lack of social interaction, work stress, or my inability to plan more than a few weeks at a time, and I think it’s because I’m feeling insecure.

insecurity: noun
  1) uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence.
  2) the state of being open to danger or threat; lack of protection.

Am I insecure about life in general due to the pandemic? Sure, it’s serious and I do what I can to protect myself. But what I’m feeling seems familiar, like when I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy with my ex-husband while still in our honeymoon period. The conclusion I had made about myself, when our marriage ended after only 18 months, was that I hadn’t kept clear and firm boundaries and altered my natural behavior to appease his insecurities. This led me to resent him, but not wanting to be a bad wife I internalized my resentment and eventually couldn’t stand to look at myself (*trigger warning: in 2013, I attempted suicide and was hospitalized for a week, diagnosed then Bipolar II, we both had a hand in making each other miserable). Loving against your truth takes a grand toll in little time and is doomed to fail. I chalked this failure up to my inability to stay true to myself and have been doing my best to operate within my truth ever since.

So, why is it back? Why do I keep going back to feeling like I don’t deserve anything good? I haven’t exactly word vomited my entire life to my betrothed yet so maybe I think he doesn’t know enough to know that he’s making a mistake. I can’t control what he decides and I’ve shared what’s been relevant so that’s just my crazy talking. This is depression for me; feeling worthless despite the contrary. This relationship is so vastly different and I feel comfortable expressing my true feelings with him, but I worry that taking on so many new roles might cause a regression. So, the crazy spiral begins with thinking I’m making a mistake with someone who is actually good for me. Am I living against my truth somehow and if so, what even is my truth?

What’s another 7 years of bad luck?

My identity has always felt very complicated and contradictory. The fractures of my identity have attributed to such severe bouts of depression and anxiety. How do I believe in myself when my Self makes little sense to me?

In trying to understand why I feel so utterly different all the time, I have found solace in knowing others have similar emotional dysfunction due to C-PTSD but the worthlessness hasn’t really abated. Trying to understand loving myself still feels like a big hill to climb but cleaning up the toxic mess of internalized hate takes priority.

While internet diving into the topic of self loathing I found this: 12 Ways to Spot a Female Misogynist

• The Misogynistic She-Devil

1. The She-Devil sees herself as superior to other women, and at least on a level with, if not above, the top alpha males she encounters. In her view, other women are manipulative, dishonest, irrational, incompetent or unintelligent, but somehow she is exempted. She might possess some stereotypical feminine virtues like beauty and slenderness. But she perceives herself as instantiating the stereotypical masculine virtues of intelligence, the strength of character and rationality, and her behavior is more manly than that of her male coworkers, classmates or friends. Don’t be surprised if she can outdrink all of them.

2. She is in constant competition with other women and would rather kick a woman off the career ladder or out of school than help her progress. But she masterfully escapes detection and punishment for her bad behavior. As you wait for the elevator with your box of memorabilia and your withering office plant, your rival is one step further up the career ladder, her triumphant laughter hanging in the air.

Vivienne Parry, a British science journalist and broadcaster, describes her mother as a misogynist of this type. When Parry revealed to her mother that she wanted to study science at the university, her mother responded: “Whatever for?” Parry was taken aback. But it made her wonder: “Why was my mother so against helping anyone of her own gender climb to the same heights as she did? Why was she so loath to laud female achievement—even when the female forging ahead was her own daughter?” When looking at the past through her contemporary lens, the answer to her question turned out to be terrifyingly simple, she writes: “I fear my mother was a misogynist.”

• The Misogynistic Puritan

1. The Puritan takes the ideal woman to be domestic, subservient, nurturing, kind, mild-tempered, alluring, youthful, and sexually pure prior to marriage. She has adopted this feminine ideal from her misogynistic husband, family or acquaintances.

2. She takes herself to be pretty darn close to the feminine ideal. She is subservient, always standing behind her man as a solid pillar of support.

3. She hates women who deviate from the feminine ideal and takes it to be her life’s mission to find ways to discipline them and ultimately get them on the “right track”.

Michelle Duggar, a submissive and holier-than-thou housewife and reality television star, seems to exhibit some of this behavior, advocating for complete female submission. In a blog post for newlyweds, she shares advice on how women can keep their husbands happy:
“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, “Yes, sweetie I am here for you,” no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels.”

Yikes, I kind of identify with these. The first bullet from She-Devil sounds so much like me it was jarring. The Puritan seems to be how I think I must behave as a wife. Wait, how can I be both? I don’t really like the idea of having internal sexism to correct, but if I have misguided assumptions due to indoctrination and it causes feelings of worthlessness, it’s important to flesh out.

Indoctrination vs education?

Internalized Sexism takes the form of sexist behaviors and attitudes enacted by women toward themselves or other women and girls. On a larger scale, internalized sexism falls under the broad topic of internalized oppression, which “consists of oppressive practices that continue to make the rounds even when members of the oppressor group are not present”.

• Internalized sexism has potential to lead to body issues, lack of self-confidence, competition, and a sense of powerlessness. It is a major setback in resolving issues of sexism as a whole. Ties to psychological distress such as anxious, depressive or somatic symptoms, have been identified as results of internalized sexism. Possible effects can be depression and suicidal impulses.

Modes of Internalization
Early Childhood Inculturation
• Just as misogyny can be acquired through multiple external sources, internalized misogyny can be learned from those same external forces, in a converse way. Internalized sexism may be promoted through the demeaning of men and women on the basis of their gender in relation to societal and behavioral standards. These same societal and behavioral standards are also thought to be spread through exposure in the media, which reflects the standards of the society that it serves to inform and entertain.

Television and Cinema
• There is a long-lasting connection between misogyny and mass media. Comedic sitcoms often portray men degrading the value of women and commenting on women’s weight and size. This contributes to the internalization of gender size stereotypes, sometimes negatively affecting the mental and physical health of females. One of the primary problems in mass media is the under-representation of women in widely consumed productions.
• The context of children’s entertainment is especially pernicious because young minds are highly impressionable and cartoons have been known to play a pedagogical role in childhood development. The Little Mermaid has been criticized because it tells a story of a young woman (Ariel, the aforementioned mermaid of small stature) who gives up her natural identity as a mermaid in order to meet the preferences of her love interest, a human male.

Let’s go ahead and ruin my entire childhood

Fun fact: I was obsessed with the Little Mermaid. Now I feel my identifying with Ariel as chilling, especially considering how I also felt I needed to give up being Asian to be American when I was younger as well as feeling marriage somehow equates to loss of autonomy now.

In her study The Psychology of Racism, Robin Nicole Johnson emphasizes that Internalized Racism involves both “conscious and unconscious acceptance of a racial hierarchy in which whites are consistently ranked above people of color.”

My intersectionality of being mixed race contends with my identity model, possibly due to me ignoring the significance of both my heritages. For much of my life, I felt my mother’s Korean side was only important to inform others what sort of mixed abomination I might happen to be. Not having been raised by her or knowing her peoples’ traditions, I wasn’t really a Korean girl.

My father’s American heritage was ever present because I grew up here in the States, but I also have such deep seeded anger at my father for reasons beyond numeration that identifying as white was something I rebelled against as well. That didn’t really stop other half Asian kids from calling me Twinkie or Banana (usually derogatory for “yellow on the outside, white on the inside”) because I didn’t speak Korean or know how to eat the cuisine.

And let’s not forget yet another intersectional aspect, sexuality. I’ve lived my life out loud for some time but my strong feelings towards bisexual erasure and persecution within the Gay Community may stem from internalized heterosexism.

Internalized Heterosexism is generally defined as the internalization of assumptions, negative attitudes and stigma regarding homosexuality. Internalized heterosexism is a manifestation of internalized sexism that primarily affects LGBTQ+ however, it can also affect heterosexual populations by dictating how they interact with and relate to non-heterosexual peoples. One of the most common consequences of internalized heterosexism is intense depression fueled by self-loathing and sexual repression.

So, the thing about all of this internalized stuff, is that it’s not tangible. It’s all just false perception manifesting into behavior, and certainly not belief.

I don’t believe I am better than all other women but I do tend to feel superior, especially in regard to intelligence. I don’t believe that men are better than women but perhaps I believe women are stronger than men. I don’t question my sexuality because I’m in a committed relationship but I question how welcome I feel in some communities due to my partnership. I don’t believe Americans are any better or worse than other Peoples but I’m still proud to be from here. I don’t believe my whiteness matters to anyone either and hope color stops mattering, altogether.

So how do I correct my behavior so that it is more in line with my beliefs? I’ve been isolating a lot more, lost contact with some friends and family and have been finding myself slipping more and more into self destructive patterns again.

Most of the papers related to internalized -isms point to exposure and empowerment for rehabilitation. I guess that would mean I should find more like-minded and culturally displaced folks like myself, dropping the misconceptions that I’m unwelcome and connecting with communities that will be comfortable with who I am. I guess I should also cultivate deeper friendships with others, but that’s proving difficult with COVID concerns. And online hangouts are such a poor substitute for reality.

I believe I’m not worthless. I will keep pursuing happiness. I’ll be glad when I’m able to stop rifling through my past in search of answers but lessons instead.

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