Why were we taught from a young age that misogyny and hate were signs of male attraction and desire? Why are we taught as a society that men can be mean because they are probably “joking” or just “like you”? And most of all, why do we still think this is okay?

Feminism and women’s rights are often displayed in the media by female employees and activists proving they are worth more than the sexist stereotype perpetrated on women for centuries. What about where male superiority originates from? Where do they learn and realize their behavior is acceptable?

I had been brainwashed as a child thinking that when a boy tugged on my hair on the playground it meant they had a crush on me. Yes, it was most likely a harmless action. But throughout my adolescent life, I had carried that mindset with me whenever I was disrespected or mistreated by a male. Not always did I assume it was a crush, but I associated poor male behavior with immaturity and ignorance. And yes, that is most likely driving them to act the perpetual way they can act, but that is no excuse. It took me a while to realize that the people I was constantly surrounding myself with were part of the problem.

I noticed that anytime something offensive or sexist would come out of a boy’s mouth and I would speak up about it, I was instantly told to calm down or was laughed at. Although I may seem strong, this certainly affected me. I think it was the fact that no other female would ever have my back or stand up for me when I would constantly find myself being looked down upon. It was always a group of boys against me, laughing and joking around while I was always left wondering what I had done to earn this blatant hatred and disrespect. I was told by friends that “I can’t react or else it just encourages them and they will keep doing it.” Was I supposed to sit and be quiet while I was constantly objectified and received sexist remarks?

Today we wonder how a grown man can possibly act so appalling towards a woman given the growth and fight women have had for equality. The way they grew up, always being excused from their actions, and even sometimes being encouraged to act the way they did leads to the blatant disrespect men show towards females. According to Atavist, not being held accountable in the younger stages of their lives correlates directly to men’s current behavior. From the moment a boy is born, they are taught that their sex is superior. As a child, males are constantly using the female gender as an insult. Have you ever used the phrase “You throw like a girl?” This normalized metaphor is a prime example of men’s superiority complex over women.

The president of our country, Donald Trump, is notorious for his misogyny. He has openly discussed his idealistic standards of women, women’s incompetence, his optional need for consent for sexual activity and so much more. Not to mention the number of rape allegations he possesses, the fact that he was voted for and elected as president is eye-opening to the overall sexism our country has. If the so-called “leader” of our country is a misogynist, why wouldn’t toxic masculinity be seen as a favorable quality to have?

There is no exception to letting this behavior go unnoticed. Simply speaking up and holding others accountable for their internalized misogyny can help lead to a better understanding of this issue. We cannot let public figures continue to have influence over people while being coherently sexist.

Vote, use your voice. Support and learn from politicians like U.S representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a woman who is constantly dealing with and fighting against gender inequality. If females do not speak up, men will continue to have this theoretical power over us. It is one thing to tell people you are a feminist, but let’s also erase the stigma that girls shouldn’t speak up and replace it with female empowerment and action.