Comment is Free held a little discussion of “what is misogyny?” the other day.
An Australian dictionary has changed its definition of misogyny to reflect the fact that it is now used to mean ‘entrenched prejudice against women’, not just hatred of them. Six feminists tell us what the term means to them.
Ok wait a minute. Is “entrenched prejudice against” really all that different from hatred of? Isn’t entrenched prejudice against one way of saying “hatred”? It’s not clear to me that the two are completely different.
I’ve been seeing people trying to claim that misogyny is hatred of all women, so that being married to a woman demonstrates freedom from misogyny. That’s not right. It’s never meant that as far as I can remember (and that’s well into the 14th century). One, married people can hate their spouses, but two, misogyny can encompass men who have one or a few exceptions.
Misogyny is contempt, dismissal, hostility, disregard. It’s not just shouting “I hate all women!”
Naomi Wolf said sexism is not misogyny and we need both words. But.
Julia Gillard used “misogyny’ perfectly accurately. She said that Tony Abbott described abortion as “the easy way out” and cited his political campaign against Gillard involving posters asking voters to “ditch the witch”. The latter, especially, is a time-honoured tradition of true misogyny – stirring up atavistic hatred of the feminine – that goes back to witch-hunts against powerful women in the New World. Her critics, for their part, are asking us to water down our awareness of real woman-hating and accept it as normal in political discourse.
“Misogyny” often surfaces in political struggles over women’s role, and you can tell because the control of women becomes personalised, intrusive and often sexualised. Misogyny has the amygdala involved – the part of the brain involved in processing emotional responses – there is contempt and violence in it. A public figure who tolerates the systemic under-prosecuting of rape is guilty of serious and unforgivable sexism; making rape jokes or explaining away the damage of rape in public as Congressman Todd Akin did recently in the US, or legislating, as over a dozen US states are now doing, transvaginal probes that are medically unnecessary, simply to sexually punish women for choosing abortion – well, that is misogyny.
Martin Pribble wrote a piece on the subject.
“Misogynist” is a term which is thrown about these days as a synonym for “sexist” or “social conservative” in many cases, and I must say, often I have found it to be used almost too freely when describing people, policy or situations…
The new “misogyny” is any act or attitude that doesn’t take into account women in their lives, in society and in cultures. The usage of the word has become so common in its new guise that it has taken on this meaning, while the linguistic pedants are waving their hands about claiming the destruction of the English language. If the new meaning has done anything, it has taken a once powerful and very succinct word and expanded the meaning to include any act against the well-being of women. It has lessened the power of the word, for what word do we now use for the real “hatred of women”, and not the ingrained sexist attitudes that pervade modern society?
I don’t think I’ve heard (or read) the word used that way. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard (and read) it used to name hatred, hostility, contempt toward women as a class. I certainly don’t think it should be used to mean “social conservative” – that would be very confusing. Maybe this is some special Australian thing that I’m not aware of.