A Pro-feminist's
Response
 

May
Defining misogyny


In a comment on a post, Jeff JP (who remains convinced that I am sonehow filled with self-loathing) does manage to ask a good question that deserves a thoughtful response. I wrote:

It wasn't until I started to do men's work with other pro-feminist men that I began to feel sufficiently empowered to start calling guys on their (sometimes) unintentional miosgyny.

Jeff JP replied:

Thanks for proving that "misogyny" is one of those words--just like "patriarchy"--that feminists have abused and misused so extensively that it's nearly devoid of meaning. I just checked several current dictionaries of Standard English, and they define "misogyny" as "hatred of women." Please explain how "hatred" can be unintentional.

On reflection, I should have used the word "unthinking" instead of "unintentional"; a small distinction that seems to capture my point a bit better.

I'd suggest that the parallel to "misogyny" is "bigotry." When it comes to racial issues, are there not many different types of bigots? Not every bigot wanders around in a white sheet, aware of and proud of their race hatreds. Some bigots deny that they are bigots: "Oh, some of my best friends are black, but in general..." Hatred is a powerful word, and it would be too simplistic to believe that it always manifests itself in violent, obvious ways.

To hate someone, feminists suggest, is to see them as less than fully human. Hatred is far more than an emotion of intense, conscious dislike. Hatred is the absence of compassion, the absence of imagination, the absence of a recognition of a common humanity. Rape is a profound expression of hatred, because it is misogyny expressed in brutal physical terms. But just as misogyny has defining actions (rape and assault), it also has defining language. The language of misogyny can range from vicious verbal abuse that reduces a woman to an object (c*nt, the primary example in American English) to blanket statements about women's abilities (women can't drive as well as men.)

Much of the misogyny of the men's rights movement is directed towards feminists. Just as racists in the Old South divided blacks into "good negroes" and "uppity troublemakers", so misogynists create a dichotomy of "good women" (submissive, eager to please, able to "take a joke", uncritical of bad male behavior) and "feminazis" (women who demand accountability from men and who ask to be taken seriously as human beings.) To say one likes individual women, therefore, is no defense against the charge of misogyny. Plenty of racists like individual members of other ethnic groups. To be hostile to the movement that seeks to liberate women is enough, in my book, to merit the charge of misogyny.

Misogyny is also institutionalized in our society. Perhaps it is my Christian faith informing my feminism, but I am convinced that pornography is the representative art form of a woman-hating culture. In porn, women exist to fulfill men's desires -- they have no real agency of their own. To see anyone as existing only to serve you and to fulfill you is, feminists have argued, a practical form of hatred. Relatively few men who use porn are conscious of hating women. But regular use of porn inevitably desensitizes the viewer to the humanity and dignity of all of the women with whom he interacts. It defies all we know about human psychology to say that a fellow can go from masturbating to images on his TV or computer screen into interactions with real women without objectifiying them.

Let's be clear here. Most folks, if they are really honest about it, go through periods of their lives where they experience (with varying degrees of intensity) authentic dislike for the other sex. Many will go through periods where they also dislike their own. ( Self-loathing among young women is famous -- if I had a dollar for every young woman I've worked with who's said "All my good friends are guys" or "Girls are too competitive, I don't like them" I'd have enough money to pay for a sweet honeymoon!) Most of us take our own personal negative experiences and, at least for a while, allow them to make us fundamentally suspicious of (and perhaps openly hostile to) the other sex. This is one form of genuine misogyny -- or, yes, misandry.

We are eager to evade personal responsibility. An anti-Semite can comfort herself by saying, "Oh, I don't hate Jews -- Hitler hated Jews. I just think that they have too much influence in our culture." A racist can say: "Oh, I don't agree with the Klan. But if my daughter brought home a black man, well, I'd be pretty unhappy about that." Surely we'd all agree that these are examples of bigotry? Similarly, a man can say "I don't hate women. I love women. But I think that feminists are out to control and manipulate us."

That's misogyny too, Jeff.

Source: The assorted musings of Hugo Schwyzer: a progressive, consistent-life ethic Anabaptist/Episcopalian Democrat (but with a sense of humor), a community college history and gender studies professor, an avid marathoner, aspiring ultra-runner, die-hard political junkie, and proud father of a small chinchilla.

©2005, Hugo Schwyzer

*    *    *

Women really must have equal pay for equal work, equilaity in work at home, and reproductive choices. Men must press for these things also. They must cease to see them as "women's issues" and learn that they are everyone's issues. - essential to survival on planet Earth. - Erica Jong

The assorted musings of Hugo Schwyzer: a progressive, consistent-life ethic Anabaptist/Episcopalian Democrat (but with a sense of humor), a community college history and gender studies professor, an avid marathoner, aspiring ultra-runner, die-hard political junkie, and proud father of a small chinchilla. hugoboy.typepad.com



Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
Menstuff® Directory
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of The National Men's Resource Center™
©1996-2017 The National Men's Resource Center