Misogyny and Feminism – A View from the Side-lines
Misogyny is a real and present danger. It’s just not where the Twitter-sphere and hopped up PC driven university campuses want it to be or say it is. The fight for equality and fairness is not won, not for women, not for many sectors of society. Look away now if you want an easy Saturday morning read – this is a bit of a rant and may well cause offence. Be warned, this is cross as shit-Swiftie. Cross because this is not a world I want for my children, especially for my girls, who should be free to do what they want, be what they want and go where they want without fear of danger and limitation; shaming, trolling or violence.
Let’s start with some definitions.
Dictionary online says: A misogynist is a person who hates or doesn’t trust women. Misogynist is from Greek misogynḗs, from the prefix miso- “hatred” plus gynḗ “a woman.” The English suffix -ist means “person who does something.”
Wikipedia says: Misogyny (/mɪˈsɒdʒɪni/) is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, hostility, male supremacist ideas, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.
Cambridge English Dictionary says: feminism: what is feminism: the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men
Dictionarycom says: feminism: a movement for granting women political, social, and economic equality with men
Feminism is not about hatred of men and inciting a war between the sexes. Too many women refuse to count themselves as feminists because they do not subscribe to the us v them notion of militant feminism and because they think that because so much has happened in terms of gender equality that the fight is over. But look around you, look at the real misogyny in the world, the causal, the deliberate and the violent misogyny and you must accept that the work of feminism – the heart of feminism, as simply defined above – is far from over. If you want to read some more interesting takes on modern feminism swing by here: http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/all/2015/09/what-does-feminism-mean-today/408616/
It’s pertinent to remember women have only had the right to vote for 100 years or so in the West. That’s not that long ago really and in many parts of our world women’s rights are being eroded on a daily basis. In parts of the world women have no rights at all. How can that be in the 21st century?
Misogyny is tolerated across the planet. We see it every day, just as every day we witness racism and homophobia. Women face varying levels of misogyny on an almost daily basis. There are degrees, of course, but it’s there, all the time and this post only scratches the surface of what women face. I haven’t even gone into the may ways women are treated at work, or casually in their life, but here’s a taster.
Media Misogyny. Watch the commercials closely and you will see that while much has happened in terms of racial representation and in attempting to balance men and women being seen as connected to certain products and pursuits, you’ll still see most women cooking in the kitchen, doing the washing and the hoovering. Yes, there are women changing tires on moving cars and going on adventures, but men drink beer, women do the weekly grocery shop, and babies and their futures are highly gendered – boys go mountain climbing, girls become ballet dancers. Women eat yoghurt. Certainly the gendering stereo-typing of commercials is much-much better than it was, but it is still there. It’s casual and probably not ill-intended but still there.
Don’t forget the sports coverage, mate. How many women’s sports are televised, how many are given many column inches in the papers? How many professional women are paid the same as men? Serena Williams is the best tennis player in the world but does she earn what her male counter-parts do?
Shall we touch on Hollywood? Jennifer Lawrence bravely stepped up to the podium on the wages gap between men and women in Hollywood. She was applauded and lauded for speaking out and then slammed. But why shouldn’t she speak out, why do male actors earn more than female? Why isn’t there an Avengers movie about the Black Widow? Why are so many films made for the male audience? Not much equality there, eh?
Misogyny of Power. So, the Brits had Margaret Thatcher, Germany has Angela Merkel, there have been other female political leaders but still we can count their numbers on our fingers. Julia Gillard was Australia’s first and only female prime minister and it is hard to argue that had she not been a woman she would not have been hounded out of politics in the vile and detestable way that she was by a macho-blokey misogynistic Australian media and culture. Yes, we’re not into tall poppies but we tolerate far more shit from a bloke than a Sheila and it is to our detriment.
In business, in multi-nationals, in the Tech giants, the real power is in the hands of men. And, in religion too – all of the world’s major religious leaders are men. And most of them don’t seem to like women that much either. The Church of England has had massive issues with ordaining women and I won’t even begin on how the Catholic Church has treated women over the years. Not to mention where Islam sits on the fate of women. But more of that later.
The Misogyny of Rape and Rape Culture. Whatever its causes, power or sexual desire, rape is a violent act that is mostly (but not exclusively) committed by men against women. Yes, women can be violent too, and some women do cry ‘wolf’ about rape, but the stats sit on the side of men acting violently against women. What is more disturbing about rape is Rape Culture, the belief that somehow the woman – the victim – is to blame. This idea has been around for a long time and is part of the reason women don’t always report the crime and somehow learn to live with it. Rape is an act of brutality, of violation, both physical and mental. It screws you up, literally. How can you have a successful and loving intimate relationship again, when your most intimate and vulnerable physical space has been violently and deliberately violated?
The power of rape is seen in its use in war, especially recently where Moslem women were raped by invading soldiers, which is bad enough in itself but made worse by the reaction of the returning fathers and husbands, who then rejected their wives (who had somehow allowed this to happen), and abandoned daughters who were no longer virgins and now worthless. Rape is a heinous thing.
Rape Culture is simple: the woman is to blame. Rape Culture reminds us that women are not free, they must behave in certain, socially accepted ways to protect themselves, to avoid attracting the wrong attention. So, women must dress in a non-provocative way, they must not drink to excess, they can’t be out on their own, they can’t flirt a bit too much, they can’t change their minds. (If you want a bit of insight about consent and sex Google the Cup Of Tea analogy) Women have to control their behaviour so as not to inflame or encourage some poor weak man to rape them. Now, the key here is that both sexes lose out. Women are denied the freedoms that men take as writ, and men are painted as being incapable of controlling their baser desires and not being able to understand when women don’t want their attentions. It’s bullshit, isn’t it? I know many men who do not subscribe to this madness either.
Here are some scary stats related to Rape Culture (courtesy Kalavai Venkat at http://indiafacts.org/indias-daughter-and-richard-dawkins-racism/)
*71% of British women and 57% of British men blame the victim of rape.
*Of the younger generation of British, aged 18 to 24, 33% blamed the rape victim if she was provocatively attired.
*A Christian advisory service for women in the USA teaches that a woman who is provocatively attired is as culpable as her rapist.
*An American government agency even advertised that the victim of rape should be blamed if she had consumed alcohol.
The New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne (and in other parts of Europe recently) feed into this culture, this belief that women bring rape, or unwanted physical attention, on themselves. One of the worst aspects of this incident, which was initially hushed up, was that the female mayor of Cologne was happy to blame the women, she was happy to excuse the men, as this type of behaviour was not part of their culture; the poor things were not used to women being out, socializing and enjoying themselves and so saw them as fair game. No. This is shit. This is men violating women and then blaming them for the violation and the misinformed West excusing the behaviour because of culture or religion. This is rape culture at its best, misogyny at its finest. Indeed, not all misogynists are men.
The Misogyny of Islam. Why is this being tolerated? Why is the movement against women within Islam going unchecked? I agree with Richard Dawkins, where are today’s feminists on this issue? I don’t normally wade into contentious issues, as you know, but I do wonder what the world has come to when we let so many people, especially women, be taken hostage by out-dated, dark ages thinking and attitudes; where one sector of the population is completely subjected to the desires and whims of the other.
Whilst I lost my own faith a number of years ago, I generally subscribe to the live and let live, tolerant view of the world. I am of the democratic, liberal (small L), left. I am accepting of others and their beliefs and customs. How other people choose to live is fine by me, as long as they don’t force their views and customs on me. But my mind was changed some years ago watching a documentary about somewhere in the Middle East and the treatment of a young girl of 14, who had gone out with a boy and brought shame on her family. But instead of her family treating her with any kind of kindness, or compassion, dignity or justice she was hung from a crane and left to die. I found it impossible to understand what it was that this girl had done that was so terribly wrong, that resulted in her own family, not only rejecting her, but killing her.
I lost my tolerance for Islam watching that program. My tolerance has turned to horror and disgust, and yes, I am talking essentially about extreme, fundamental Islam. What is the world doing about the subjugation of so many people? What did we do about all those Nigerian girls who were captured by Boko Haram to become sex slaves or worse, whose promising lives were taken away from them? Where was the feminist outrage about that? Where are the accusations of misogyny against Islam for the treatment of women, who are being denied education, health care, freedom of speech, of choice, of equality, the ability to vote; who are owned by fathers, brothers and husbands? Why are we so quiet about this? Why are we not more outraged by this? Why is this abhorrent treatment being ignored, or worse, tacitly supported?
The word Misogyny has become a casualty of the PC madness that infests the modern world. Feminism, as a word, has also been hi-jacked – a word too many women shy away from, because to be a feminist now means to be radical and man-hating and to take offence at the slightest breeze of dissent. And now misogynist is bandied about without any care, losing its currency and value. Stephen Fry is not a misogynist, no more that Germaine Greer or Richard Dawkins. To make jokes about women or call them out on issues is not misogyny. Misogyny means very particular things – quite terrible things that we should be fighting against – and when the Twittersphere and other online publishers make trivial matters into battle issues barely worth 5 minutes of anyone’s time we lose absolute sight of where the battle should be occurring.
Rape Culture and the increasing march of extreme Islam is where the battle front should be for modern feminists, that is where the true misogyny lies – where the real hatred of women is, where women are oppressed, de-humanised, silenced and brutalized. They have no voice and no-one much in the West is speaking out for them either. I can only wonder why and fear for my own daughters in this increasingly anti-female world. (Images courtesy Private Collection)