What is misogyny? The term is usually confused with sexism, but the definition is similar. Signs of misogynistic behavior help us differentiate between the two.
Let’s start with the definition of what misogyny is. Misogyny is the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women according to Google.
Misogynistic behavior can be exhibited in different forms. Social marginalization, gender discrimination, hostility and emotionally charged violence, androcentrism, objectifying women are all signs of misogynistic behavior.
These are all ways of degrading and belittling women to establish patriarchy and male privilege.
We can find out about what misogyny is in religious sacred texts and mythologies. We can even describe some of the greatest Western philosophers and thinkers as misogynistic.
What is misogyny and misogynistic behavior?
How is it different from the definition of sexism and what are the signs?
Some dictionaries have changed the definition of sexism and misogyny which caused a great deal of confusion over the terms.
But what is misogyny and what is sexism?
- Sexism is gender neutral, whereas misogyny isn’t. All genders are affected by sexism, but only women are affected by misogynists. Sexism is discrimination based on sex, misogyny is pure hatred against women.
For eg., there is a female candidate for a job and she’s perfect. She has all the qualifications and the experience and is a great fit for the job. But, the employer says: “She’s wonderful, but I’m afraid her hormones and emotional state might slow us down. Instead of being a CEO, she can have a lower position so she can also decorate the office.”
- A misogynist, on the other hand, would say: “This fucking bitch thinks she can work here? Slut.”
Since sexism applies to men too, a sexist woman would say: “My coworker takes care of children, but I wouldn’t trust a man “who likes kids”, if you know what I mean. But I’d ask for his help if I’m having trouble with electricity.”
The opposite of misogyny is misandry. The definition of the word is hatred and dislike of men. All misogynists are sexist, but not all sexists are misogynists.
To make it even simpler, sexism is when we say that women are more emotional than men. Saying we want to kill women because “screw them, that’s why” is misogyny.
There is more than one definition of what is misogyny
Each represents a different sign of misogynistic behavior.
Sociologist Allan G. Johnson clarifies on what misogyny is saying:
Misogyny is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies.
Sociologist Michael Flood made observations of what misogyny is and noted that women also exhibit signs of misogynistic behavior:
Though most common in men, misogyny also exists in and is practised by women against other women or even themselves. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male-dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. Aristotle contended that women exist as natural deformities or imperfect males. Ever since, women in Western cultures have internalized their role as societal scapegoats, influenced in the twenty-first century by multimedia objectification of women with its culturally sanctioned self-loathing and fixations on plastic surgery, anorexia and bulimia.
The 27th Prime Minister of Australia took shots at then-opposition leader Tony Abbott and called out for his misogynistic behavior. After this took place, the Macquarie Dictionary expanded the definition of misogyny. It added that it’s not only hatred of women, but also entrenched prejudices against women.
How can we detect signs of misogynist behavior now that we’ve learned the definition of what is misogyny?
There are many characteristics and traits of a misogynist. Some signs of a misogynist include:
- Is extremely possessive. They always want to know where you are, who you’re with.
- Uses your secrets against you not only during arguments, but in general.
- Is awfully jealous of both your male and female friends.
- Has a poor relationship with either or both of their parents. Comes from a dysfunctional family.
- Is very defensive and cannot stand criticism.
- Makes threats.
- Takes shots at your insecurities and makes fun of them.
- Embarrasses you in public.
- Is in constant need of attention, but provides none.
- Is self-centered.
- Believes in traditional gender roles.
- Is impatient.
- Has wild mood swings.
- Is competitive, even in ordinary situations.
- Likes to sexually control others.
- Victimizes themselves.
- Isolates you from your circle so you’re fully devoted to them.
- Becomes violent when they don’t get their way.
- Takes no responsibility for their actions.
- Is never satisfied.
- Withholds sex from their partner, but demands it when they need it.
Misogynists usually have a double personality. At a glance, they seem fun, charming and exciting. A woman’s guard is usually down in the beginning, they’re open to new people.
A misogynist targets them and during the course of their relationship, they begin exhibiting mood swings. One minute they’re irresistible, another minute they’re rude, and repeat.
We also observe the definition of what is misogyny and note signs of misogynistic behavior in religion
Author of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice, Jack Holland wrote that Greek mythology is full of misogynistic behavior. Greek poet Hesiod explains that humanity lived in an independent peaceful environment with gods until women were created.
Titan and trickster figure Prometheus is said to be the creator of man. He was credited as a champion of mankind. He steals the secret of fire from the gods that established civilization.
When Zeus finds out, he becomes furious and punishes humans with an “evil thing for their delight”, which is Pandora.
Pandora was the first woman who carried a jar (usually mistaken with a box) and was told to never open it. Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus falls in love with her and marries her, defying his brother’s warnings.
Pandora eventually stops resisting and look into the jar. Once she opens it, she unleashes labour, sickness, old age and death into the world.
Signs of misogynistic behavior in Christianity are also found.
Author of The Troublesome Helpmate, Katharine M. Rogers brings specific examples of misogyny in the Pauline epistles:
The foundations of early Christian misogyny, its guilt about sex, its insistence on female subjection, its dread of female seduction, are all in St. Paul’s epistles.
Author of Feminist Literary Studies: An Introduction, K. K. Ruthven notes:
The legacy of Christian misogyny was consolidated by the so-called ‘Fathers’ of the Church, like Tertullian, who thought a woman was not only ‘the gateway of the devil’ but also ‘a temple built over a sewer’.
Writer Richard Hove argues about misogynistic behavior in Christianity saying that one’s sex does not affect salvation, but he does not deny that sexism is found in the holy book:
There remains a pattern in which the wife is to emulate the church’s submission to Christ (Eph 5:21-33) and the husband is to emulate Christ’s love for the church.
As for misogyny in Islam, author of Popular Islam and Misogyny: A Case Study of Bangladesh, Taj Hashmi writes:
Thanks to the subjective interpretations of the Quran (almost exclusively by men), the preponderance of the misogynic mullahs and the regressive Shariah law in most “Muslim” countries, Islam is synonymously known as a promoter of misogyny in its worst form. Although there is no way of defending the so-called “great” traditions of Islam as libertarian and egalitarian with regard to women, we may draw a line between the Quranic texts and the corpus of avowedly misogynic writing and spoken words by the mullah having very little or no relevance to the Quran.
Philosophers also help us learn the definition of what is misogyny by presenting signs of misogynistic behavior themselves.
Aristotle spoke of women as the weaker sex. He noted:
The male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau openly expressed his opinion against equal rights saying:
Always justify the burdens you impose upon girls but impose them anyway. They must be thwarted from an early age. They must be exercised to constraint, so that it costs them nothing to stifle all their fantasies to submit them to the will of others.
Beloved naturalist, geologist and biologist, Charles Darwin was another misogynist. He noted:
Women’s brains are analogous to those of animals, which had overdeveloped sense organs to the detriment of the brain.
Signs of misogynistic behavior were greatly shown in his attitude towards women.He spoke of marriage saying:
How should I manage all my business if obligated to go everyday walking with my wife. Ehau!
Arthur Schopenhauer is another philosopher known for his misogynistic views. According to him, women are meant to obey by nature, because they’re “childish, frivolous and short-sighted”.
He also claimed that women have no real beauty:
It is only a man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual impulse that could give the name of the fair sex to that under-sized, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped, and short-legged race; for the whole beauty of the sex is bound up with this impulse. Instead of calling them beautiful there would be more warrant for describing women as the unaesthetic sex.
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