You know that trope about the expansion of or meaning-shift in the word “misogyny”? The one that says it’s being used to mean the same thing as sexism? I don’t use it that way, but I’ve found an example that, I think, does.
It’s a petition to the White House asking the Obama administration to
Stop using the “wives, mothers, & daughters” rhetorical frame that defines women by their relationships to other people.
The petition is hopeless of course, but it’s a good point. But I think the word “misogyny” doesn’t belong.
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said: “We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence.”
This “our wives, mothers, and daughters” phrase is one he routinely employs, but it is counterproductive to the women’s equality the President is ostensibly supporting.
Defining women by their relationships to other people is reductive, misogynist, and alienating to women who do not define ourselves exclusively by our relationships to others. Further, by referring to “our” wives et al, the President appears to be talking to The Men of America about Their Women, rather than talking to men AND women.
I too hate the “our” usage, but every time I flinch when I hear it, I also realize why he does it and that it’s not going to change. It’s framing. It’s prodding the audience to remember that we’re all in this together. It’s not possible to do that without also seeming to be assuming that “we” are not women, that “we” are only related to women as opposed to being women, so that women are again – probably accidentally – shoved off into some other realm, in the very act of reminding everyone that women are right here. That’s language for you; it mends one thing only to break something else.
But in any case, “misogynist” is the wrong word there. There’s not the faintest whiff of hostility in the phrasing of what Obama said. The word should be “sexist.” Sexism can include hostility but it doesn’t have to; misogyny is hostility [to women].