In a 2016 edition of American Psychologist, an article titled “Barriers to Women Engaging in Collective Action” was published by Helena R. M. Radke and Matthew J. Hornsey of The University of Queensland and Fiona Kate Barlow of Griffith University. In the piece, they discuss the concept of internalized sexism: “The fact that some women internalize sexism presents a problem, as it is substantially more difficult to identify and confront prejudice when the perpetrator is themselves a member of the group facing discrimination.”
The concept of internalized misogyny is something discussed often in feminist spaces. It’s defined by Cultural Bridges of Justice as “the involuntary belief by girls and women that the lies, stereotypes and myths about girls and women that are delivered to everyone in a sexist society are true.”
And indeed, we find these messages everywhere. One huge example is in popular music. I’m a millennial — so for a lot of 2000s, I was in middle school and high school. This age, adolescence, is incredibly important for development. The messages I can recall taking in from popular music were often about being in competition with other girls, and most of the time, this competition centered around guys.
Here are 10 songs by female artists from the 2000s which condone girl-on-girl hatred.
“He Loves U Not” by Dream (2001)
This song is a classic example of female competition over men. With lyrics like, “You're the kind of girl that is always up for do or dare/Only want him just because he's there,” there definitely seems to be a lot of assumption-making about another woman in this song.
“First” by Lindsay Lohan (2004)
Similar to “He Loves U Not,” this song also demonstrates competition between women over guys. “Don't wanna be like every girl who's tried to get you/I wanna be the one who's never sorry that she met you,” Lohan sings, distancing herself from other women and putting herself on a pedestal.
“Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani (2004)
This super catchy song describes a physical confrontation between Stefani and another woman. “So I'm gonna fight, gonna give it my all/Gonna make you fall, gonna sock it to you/That's right I'm the last one standing, another one bites the dust,” the song goes. And let’s not forget that in this portion of Stefani’s career, she had four Japanese women follow her around like accessories. Talk about problematic.
“Don’t Cha” by The Pussycat Dolls (2005)
“Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?/Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?/Don't cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me?/Don't cha wish your girlfriend was fun like me?” Needless to say, the purpose of this song is to put down another woman… and again, for a man.
“Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood (2005)
While this song is mostly about getting revenge on a cheating partner, the opening line goes, “Right now he's probably slow dancing with a bleached-blond tramp,” which seems like a pretty targeted judgment about a hypothetical woman.
“Stupid Girls” by P!nk (2006)
This is one of the few songs depicting internalized misogyny that doesn’t center around a man, and which might be the most blatant display of girl-on-girl hatred. “Maybe if I act like that, that guy will call me back/Porno Paparazzi girl, I don't wanna be a stupid girl,” P!nk sings. Plus the video shamelessly makes fun of other women in the public eye, including Gwen Stefani, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan.
“Jealousy” by Paris Hilton (2006)
This song describes the end of a friendship (possibly with Nicole Richie) by insisting this ex-friend is simply jealous of Hilton. “And now I'm like the devil/Well if I am, then what does that make you?/You sold yourself your own fame/You'd still never walk a day in my shoes,” Hilton sings.
“Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne (2007)
How can we forget the opening lyrics which go, “Hey, hey, you, you/I don’t like your girlfriend”? In this plea to a romantic interest, Lavigne unapologetically bashes his current girlfriend, saying, “In a second you’ll be wrapped around my finger/cause I can, cause I can do it better/There’s no other/So when's it gonna sink in?/She’s so stupid/What the hell were you thinking?!” For some reason, Lavigne and so many artists seem to think being mean to fellow women will get guys to like them. If that’s not indicative of patriarchy, I don’t know what is.
“Misery Business” by Paramore (2007)
It kinda pains me to be putting Hayley Williams on this list, because I’ve adored her for years. But “Misery Business” is a song that needs to be mentioned here. Like other songs on this list, this one is also about being in competition with another woman over a man. “Second chances, they don’t ever matter/People never change/Once a whore, you’re nothing more/Sorry that’ll never change,” Williams famously sings. Yet, unlike other artists on this list, Williams apologized for the problematic nature of this song in a 2015 blog post. “Misery Business is not a set of lyrics that I relate to as a 26-year-old woman,” she writes. “I haven’t related to it in a very long time. Those words were written when I was 17… admittedly, from a very narrow-minded perspective. It wasn’t really meant to be this big philosophical statement about anything. It was quite literally a page in my diary about a singular moment I experienced as a high schooler.”
I, for one, totally relate to this explanation because as a high schooler, I listened to this song while thinking about the guys I liked and their old flames. Now, as an adult and a self-actualized feminist, I realize these are not words to live by. Williams, too, identifies as a feminist and is a former BUST cover gal.
“You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift (2008)
“But she wears short skirts/I wear T-shirts/She's cheer captain/And I'm on the bleachers,” Swift sings in her popular song about… you guessed it… competing with a woman over a guy. Since this song was released, Swift has described herself as a feminist… yet her feminism tends to be very problematic, as proven in her music time and time again (2010’s “Better Than Revenge,” allegedly written about Camilla Belle and 2014’s “Bad Blood,” which is supposedly about Katy Perry being a couple examples). For a self-proclaimed feminist, she sure hates on other women pretty often. Not to mention she’s in no way intersectional in her feminist beliefs. Some criticisms of her have been her lack of inclusion of women of different body types in her “girl squad,” objectifying black women and using them as props in her videos, and shooting a music video in Africa without including any people of color. A more in-depth analysis of T-Swift’s iffy feminism can be read on Everyday Feminism.
In the last 10 or so years, we’ve definitely made some progress!
Top photo: You Belong With Me
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Rafaella is a graduate of The New School, where she majored in journalism and minored in gender studies. She's passionate about feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, combatting online harassment, and ending herpes stigma. Visit her website: ellagunz.com