Misogyny

Misogyny

[mi-soj-uh-nee, mahy-]
Misogyny is hatred (or contempt) of women. Misogyny is parallel to misandry — the hatred of men. Misogyny is also comparable with misanthropy, which is the hatred of humanity generally. The antonym of misogyny is philogyny, love towards women. Marcus Tullius Cicero reports that Greek philosophers considered misogyny to be caused by gynophobia, a fear of women. In the late 20th century, feminist theorists proposed misogyny as both a cause and result of patriarchal social structures.

Usage

Misogyny is sometimes confused with the similar looking word—misogamy (μισογαμία)—which means "hatred of marriage", hence the following error.

An example of correct use, from the same period is:

  • He ... walked the banks apart, a thing of misogyny, in a suit of flannel. — Herman Charles Merivale, Faucit of Balliol, 1882

A clearer example of the sense, also from the same era but using the related word misogynist, is provided by Thackeray.

In the second act of The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde humorously has Miss Prism referring to Dr Chasuble as a womanthrope, but intending misogynist or misogamist:

  • You should get married. A misanthrope I can understand—a womanthrope, never! — Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

Occasionally writers play on the similarity of sound between misogyny and miscegeny (mixed-race marriage).

  • This psychosocial analysis of the murder of a white civil rights activist by her mulatto lover (Joe Christmas) is replete with themes of fate, free will, sociopathy, family violence, misogyny, miscegeny, and isolation versus community. — Karl Kirkland, 'On the Value of William Faulkner to Graduate Medical Education', 2001

Misogyny in Greek literature

Misogyny comes into English from the ancient Greek word, misogunia (μισογυνία), which survives in two passages. The earlier, longer and more complete passage comes from a stoic philosopher called Antipater of Tarsus in a moral tract known as On Marriage (c. 150 BC). Antipater argues that marriage is the foundation of the state, and considers it to be based on divine (polytheistic) decree. Antipater uses misogunia to describe Euripides' usual writing—tēn en to graphein misogunian (τὴν μισογυνίαν ἐν τῷ γράφειν "the misogyny in the writing"). However, he mentions this by way of contrast. He goes on to quote Euripides at some length, writing in praise of wives. Antipater doesn't tell us what it is about Euripides' writing that he believes is misogynistic, he simply expresses his belief that even a man thought to hate women (namely Euripides) praises wives, so concluding his argument for the importance of marriage. He says, "This thing is truly heroic."

Euripides' reputation as a misogynist is known from another source. Athenaeus, in Deipnosophistae or Banquet of the Learned, has one of the diners quoting Hieronymus of Cardia who confirms the view was widespread, while offering Sophocles' comment on the matter.

Euripides the poet, also, was much addicted to women: at all events Hieronymus in his Historical Commentaries speaks as follows,—"When some one told Sophocles that Euripides was a woman-hater, 'He may be,' said he, 'in his tragedies, but in his bed he is very fond of women.' " — Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, 2nd/3rd century.

The other surviving use of the original Greek word is by Chrysippus, in a fragment from On affections, quoted by Galen in Hippocrates on Affections. Here, misogyny is the first in a short list of three "disaffections"—women (misogunian), wine (misoinian, μισοινίαν) and humanity (misanthrōpian, μισανθρωπίαν). Chrysippus' point is more abstract than Antipater's, and Galen quotes the passage as an example of an opinion contrary to his own. What is clear, however, is that he groups hatred of women with hatred of humanity generally, and even hatred of wine. "It was the prevailing medical opinion of his day that wine strengthens body and soul alike." So, as with his fellow stoic, Antipater, misogyny is viewed negatively, a disease, a dislike of something that is good. It is this issue of conflicted or alternating emotions that was philosophically contentious to the ancient writers. Ricardo Salles suggests the general stoic view was that, "A man may not only alternate between philogyny and misogyny, philanthropy and misanthropy, but be prompted to each by the other.

Misogynist is also found in the Greek—misogunēs (μισογύνης)—in Deipnosophistae (above) and in Plutarch's Parallel Lives, where it is used as the title of Heracles in the history of Phocion. It was also the title of a play by Menander, which we know of from book seven (concerning Alexandria) of Strabo's 17 volume Geography, and quotations of Menander by Clement of Alexandria and Stobaeus that relate to marriage. Menander also wrote a play called Misoumenos (Μισούμενος) or The Man (She) Hated. Another Greek play with a similar name, Misogunos (Μισόγυνος) or Woman-hater, is reported by Cicero (in Latin) and attributed to Atilius. The context is worth quoting in full, because it deals directly with matters already discussed in this article.

It is the same with other diseases; as the desire of glory, a passion for women, to which the Greeks give the name of philogyneia: and thus all other diseases and sicknesses are generated. But those feelings which are the contrary of these are supposed to have fear for their foundation, as a hatred of women, such as is displayed in the Woman-hater of Atilius; or the hatred of the whole human species, as Timon is reported to have done, whom they call the Misanthrope. Of the same kind is inhospitality. And all these diseases proceed from a certain dread of such things as they hate and avoid. — Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones, 1st century BC.
The more common form of this general word for woman hating is misogunaios (μισογύναιος).

  • There are also some persons easily sated with their connection with the same woman, being at once both mad for women and women haters. — Philo, Of Special Laws, 1st Century.
  • Allied with Venus in honourable positions Saturn makes his subjects haters of women, lovers of antiquity, solitary, unpleasant to meet, unambitious, hating the beautiful, ... — Ptolomy, 'Of the Quality of the Soul', 2nd century.
  • I will prove to you that this wonderful teacher, this woman-hater, is not satisfied with ordinary enjoyments during the night. — Alciphron, 'Thais to Euthyedmus', 2nd century.

The word is also found in Vettius Valens' Anthology and Damascius' Principles. In summary, Greek literature considered misogyny to be a disease, an anti-social condition, in that it ran contrary to their perceptions of the value of women as wives, and of the family as the foundation of society. These points are widely noted in the secondary literature.

Misogyny in feminist theory

Traditional feminist theorists propose many different forms of misogyny. In its most overt expression, a misogynist will openly hate all women simply because they are female. Other forms of misogyny may be less overt. Some misogynists may simply be prejudiced against all women, or may hate women who do not fall into one or more acceptable categories. Entire cultures may be said to be misogynist if they treat women in ways that can be seen as harmful. Examples include forcing women to tend to all domestic responsibilities, not allowing women to take jobs outside the home, or beating women. Subscribers to one model, the mother/whore dichotomy, hold that women can only be "mothers" or "whores." Another variant is the virgin/whore dichotomy, in which women who do not adhere to a saintly standard of moral purity (Abrahamic) are considered "whores".

Frequently, the term misogynist is used in a looser sense as a term of derision to describe anyone who holds an unpopular or distasteful view about women as a group. A man who considers himself "a great lover of women," therefore, might somewhat paradoxically be termed a misogynist by those who consider his treatment of women sexist, such as sex-negative feminists. Archetypes of this type of man might be Giacomo Casanova and Don Juan, who were both reputed for their many libertine affairs with women.

Misogyny is a negative attitude towards women as a group, and so need not fully determine a misogynist's attitude towards each individual woman. The fact that someone holds misogynist views may not prevent him or her from having positive relationships with some women. Conversely, simply having negative relationships with some women does not necessarily mean someone holds misogynistic views. The term, like most negative descriptions of attitudes, is used as an epithet and applied to a wide variety of behaviors and attitudes. As with other terms, the more antipathetic one's position is in regards to misogyny, the larger the number of misogynists and the greater variety of attitudes and behaviors who fall into one's perception of "misogynist". This is, of course, the subject of much controversy and debate with opinions ranging widely as to the extent and breadth of misogyny in society.

Feminist theorist Marilyn Frye argues that misogyny is phallocentric and homoerotic at its root. In Politics of Reality, Fyre analyzes the alleged misogyny characteristic of the fiction and Christian apologetics of C.S. Lewis. Frye argues that such misogyny privileges the masculine as a subject of erotic attention. She compares the misogyny characteristic of Lewis' ideal of gender relations to underground male prostitution rings, which share the same quality of men seeking to dominate subjects seen as less likely to take on submissive roles by a patriarchal society, but in both cases doing so as a theatrical mockery of women.

Mythology

J Holland sees evidence of misogyny in the mythology of the ancient world. In Greek mythology, the human race had already existed before the creation of women — a peaceful, autonomous existence as a companion to the gods. When Prometheus decides to steal the secret of fire from the gods, Zeus becomes infuriated and decides to punish humankind with an "evil thing for their delight" — Pandora, the first woman, who carried a jar (usually described — incorrectly — as a box) she was told to never open. Epimetheus (the brother of Prometheus) is overwhelmed by her beauty, disregards Prometheus' warnings about her, and marries her. Pandora cannot resist peeking into the jar, and by opening it unveils all evil into the world — labour, sickness, old age, and death.

J Holland also sees evidence of misogyny in the Christian view on the Fall of Man based on the Book Genesis, which according to Christian interpretation brought tragedy and death into the world by a woman. (See also Original Sin.)

Religion

Katherine M. Rogers in The Troublesome Helpmate argues that the Pauline epistles in the New Testament contain texts that have historically been used by some Christian misogynists.

"The foundations of early Christian misogyny — its guilt about sex, its insistence on female subjection, its dread of female seduction — are all in St. Paul's epistles. They provided a convenient supply of divinely inspired misogynistic texts for any Christian writer who chose to use them; his statements on female subjection were still being quoted in the twentieth century opponents of equality for women.

Taj Hashmi discusses misogyny in relation to Muslim culture, and Bangladesh specifically, in Popular Islam and Misogyny: A Case Study of Bangladesh.

"[T]hanks to the subjective interpretations of the Quran (almost exclusively by men), the preponderance of the misogynic mullahs and the regressive Shariah law in most “Muslim” countries, Islam is synonymously known as a promoter of misogyny in its worst form. Although there is no way of defending the so-called “great” traditions of Islam as libertarian and egalitarian with regard to women, we may draw a line between the Quranic texts and the corpus of avowedly misogynic writing and spoken words by the mullah having very little or no relevance to the Quran.

Misogyny in Philosophy

Arthur Schopenhauer has been accused of misogyny for his essay "On Women" (Über die Weiber), in which he expressed his opposition to what he called "Teutonico-Christian stupidity" on female affairs. He claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey." The essay does give two compliments however: that "women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than men are" and are more sympathetic to the suffering of others. However, the latter was discounted as weakness rather than humanitarian virtue.

Nietzsche is known for arguing that every higher form of civilization implied stricter controls on women (Beyond Good and Evil, 7:238); he frequently insulted women, but is best known for phrases such as "Women are less than shallow," and "Are you going to women? Do not forget the whip! Nietzsche's reputation as a misogynist is disputed by some, pointing out that he also made unflattering statements about men. Nietzsche can easily be interpreted as anti-feminist, believing that women were primarily mothers and opposing the modern notion of women's liberation on the grounds that he considered it a form of slave morality. Whether or not this amounts to misogyny, whether his polemic statements against women are meant to be taken literally, and the exact nature of his opinions of women, are more controversial.

The philosopher Otto Weininger has been accused of misogyny for his 1903 book Sex and Character, in which he characterizes the "woman" part of each individual as being essentially "nothing," and having no real existence, having no effective consciousness or rationality. Weininger says, "No men who really think deeply about women retain a high opinion of them; men either despise women or they have never thought seriously about them." The author August Strindberg praised Weininger for probably having solved the hardest of all problems, the "woman problem."

See also

References

External links

Misogyny and religions

Select bibliography

Dictionary of sociology articles

Core references

Katharine M Rogers

  • Rogers, Katharine M. The Troublesome Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in Literature. 1966.

Other literature

  • Boteach, Shmuley. Hating Women: America's Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex. 2005.
  • Clack, Beverley. Misogyny in the Western Philosophical Tradition.
  • Ellmann, Mary. Thinking About Women. 1968.
  • Ferguson, Frances and R. Howard Bloch. Misogyny, Misandry, and Misanthropy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. ISBN 9780520065444
  • Forward, Susan, and Joan Torres. Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them: When Loving Hurts and You Don't Know Why. Bantam Books, 1986. ISBN 0-553-28037-6
  • Gilmore, David D. Misogyny: the Male Malady. 2001.
  • Haskell, Molly. From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies. 1974. University of Chicago Press, 1987.
  • Holland, Jack. Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice. 2006.
  • Kipnis, Laura. The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability. 2006. ISBN 0-375-42417-2
  • Patai, Daphne, and Noretta Koertge. Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies. 1995. ISBN 0-465-09827-4
  • Penelope, Julia. Speaking Freely: Unlearning the Lies of our Fathers' Tongues. Toronto: Pergamon Press Canada, 1990.
  • Morgan, Fidelis. A Misogynist's Source Book.
  • Smith, Joan. Misogynies. 1989. Revised 1993.
  • World Health Organization Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women* 2005.

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