Word Of The Month: Misogyny (Part I)
This month we are blogging about Misogyny. Dr. Suchitra Dalvie’s Word of the Month column describes the complex history of misogyny.
Misogyny (pronounced mee-saw-gi-nee) (Greek origin) is the hatred or dislike of, or an entrenched prejudice against women and girls. It can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women and sexual objectification of women.
Misogyny features prominently in the mythologies of the ancient world as well as various religions.
According to sociologist Allan G. Johnson, “misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female.” He goes to say that:”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.”
Aristotle has written that women were inferior to men. He says that the courage of a man lies in commanding, a woman’s lies in obeying; that women have fewer teeth than men; that a female is an incomplete male or “as it were, a deformity”: which contributes only matter and not form to the generation of offspring; that in general “a woman is perhaps an inferior being”(Freeland 1994: 145-46) It is speculated that the Greek philosophers considered misogyny to be caused by gynophobia or a fear of women.
In Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice, Jack Holland characterizes the Fall of Man as “a myth that blames woman for the ills and sufferings of mankind.” The Torah has two accounts of the creation of humankind in Genesis. Man and woman are created at the same time according to the first account but the second account has man created first and then woman
created from his rib. Rabbis trying to rectify this literary oversight provided an explanation in an extra biblical account of the creation which stated that before Yahweh created Eve, he created Lilith as Adam’s first wife. Lilith was created from earth like Adam, and often challenges his authority. To make Adam happy, God creates Eve from Adam’s rib, making her his subjugate.
Besides the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib establishing male authority, the Bible further belittles women through Eve’s role in the temptation of Adam and the “fall of man.” After eating fruit from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, Yahweh asks Adam if he had eaten the fruit and Adam replies, “Eve gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’ God then curses Eve, saying ‘I will multiply your labour and sorrow; you will bear children in pain; you will yearn for your husband, and be ruled by him!”
18th and 19th century philosophers were not immune to Misogyny.
Schopenhauer claimed that “woman is by nature meant to obey.”
Nietzsche stated that every higher form of civilization implied stricter controls on women He is known to have said “Women are less than shallow,” and “Are you going to women? Do not forget the whip!”
Hegel has said “Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy and certain forms of artistic production” G.W.F Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, quoted in Alanen, Lilli and Witt, Charlotte, Feminist reflections on the history of philosophy’
Women in power are not immune to this, as the recent attack on Prime Minister Gillard in Australia shows us. But what it also shows us is that it is important to stand up and call it out for what it is, no matter where and when and to whom.
A survey of anti –Hillary Clinton sites on Facebook shows one that is entitled “ Hillary Clinton Stop Running for President and Make me a Sandwich. It has more than 38,000 members. Any of these could be someone who is responsible for appointing people to jobs, in charge of giving a raise or redressal or passing or enforcing policy.
But how does misogyny differ from sexism? And does rape spring from misogyny. Read all this in Part 2 on Monday.