What is Misogyny and How do we fight it?
What is Misogyny?
Misogyny is hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women. It is a form of sexism that is used to keep women at a lower social status than men, thus maintaining the societal roles of patriarchy. Misogyny has been widely practiced for thousands of years. It is reflected in art, literature, human societal structure, historical events, mythology, philosophy, and religion worldwide. It is in movies. It is in books. It is in popular culture and politics. Misogyny is omnipresent and presents itself in all forms.
In the most extreme examples, it is violence against women. It is rape. It is female genital mutilation. It is femicide. It is child marriage and the grooming of girls. It is men killing, beating, and inflicting harm against women. It is also condoning that behavior. It is giving people who commit violent acts against women a pass, not rendering guilt, or condoning that behavior. It is “boys will just be boys” and excusing their sexism towards women and girls.
Misogyny exists in society. It exists in the home, in the schoolyard, in the workplace, it exists everywhere a woman or girl goes. Misogyny exists not only in the real world, having real consequences. Misogyny also exists in the mind, as a belief, and this has drastic detrimental real-world consequences. Misogyny is asking “why isn’t SHE leaving that ABUSIVE relationship?” As if the action required is that of the female, and not asking “Why is HE beating her?”
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As a man, learning about misogyny is an evolutionary process. It is a process I sometimes wish had a finish line. That at some point in my life, I can claim “I have crossed the line and no longer act in misogynists ways.” As a proud feminist, I want to tell you, confidently, that I am there. As a person knowing I always have more to learn, more de-programming to complete, I am not there yet.
Misogyny is claiming girls mature faster then boys, without recognizing the bullying, sexism, conflict, violence, and societal abuse young girls face at a young age, forcing them to “mature” faster. Young girls are forced to deal with so much young boys will never have to, because of misogyny.
That’s the unfortunate thing about misogyny – it is a virus. Although major strides have been taken to better the working and social lives of women, deep rooted within us all, whether we like it or not, is a seed of misogyny, a seed spreading the virus that is the patriarchy. I couldn’t be a feminist and deny this. If I did, I would be denying the very reality of the stark realities women around the world face.
I should admit, I recently did one of the very things I just stated as a prime example of misogyny. When I was made aware a friend of mine was being abused, I couldn’t understand why she would stay in that relationship. I wanted to understand how I could help her, how I can help any woman, or person, in that situation. I failed to understand how these beliefs and questions were misogynistic.
So I researched. I sought out experiences from women, without assuming it was incumbent on them to teach me. Or tell me. Or show me. Unfortunately, with a quick google search, you can learn a lot, without pressuring women to teach you. It took me finding one article, beautifully written, including tragic accounts, from a woman who has spent her life working with abused women. Murdered women. Victims of misogyny. She starts out by stating:
“If I’m to be honest, I’ve spent the last 36 years apologizing to women.
I apologize when their batterers are released with a slap on the wrist, freed to wreak more havoc in their lives.
I apologize when their rapists are not charged.
I apologize when they are imprisoned for defending themselves against domestic terrorism.
I apologize when they are forced to hand over their children to men who have brutalized them—because the courts don’t think how a man treats the mother of his kids has any bearing on his parenting.
I apologize when their children are murdered on access visits.
And when they themselves are murdered, I apologize to their families. As I do today.”Donna Johnson
This story had an impact on me. It was tragic. I felt the pain, in my bones. I cringed; I cried; I was angry. It was a transformative story that made me rethink my own actions and behaviors and forced me to examine social norms. At PMC, we believe in the power of transformative stories.
I apologize to all women for asking the question I asked. I also apologized to the person I asked it to. I also know apologies aren’t enough. This should be the one and only time I apologize for the type of misogyny I exhibited, because I am resolved to not repeat it again. I do not want to be apologizing to women my entire life for the violence, sexism, and misogyny they must endure. I want it to end. People across the world want it to end.
Understanding all of that, I also understand misogyny won’t cease to exist because I want it to— inside of me, externally, through society, institutions, social norms, religion, and public policy. That takes work. Defeating misogyny takes actions. It takes awareness and knowing the ways in which the virus of misogyny has infected us. All of us. It is pervasive through the world in which we all live.
The First Step In Fighting Misogyny
Acknowledge it exists. Confront it in your own life. Become aware of how it manifests in the lives of people across the world. Challenge it. Challenge yourself to understand how your own thoughts and actions affect women in your own life. How they affect women who are complete strangers. Challenge others when they exhibit misogyny. Create a ripple in the oceans that will turn into a tidal wave. Create a tsunami the world can not ignore. Rise above, cause the tides to rise, creating a cascading effect that will result in waves around the world crashing down on misogyny. Do the same thing in your mind because misogyny is flowing through all of us. Put a dam on the source, otherwise it will flow down river, causing damage to all it touches.
Wanting to rid yourself of any virus is never enough. You must fight the virus. We must fight misogyny. We must rise above misogyny.
Fighting Misogyny Around The World
Still I Rise
BY MAYA ANGELOU
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.