Misogyny isn’t something I thought about very much until last week, when two female acquaintances shared their stories with me.
One said that shortly after she became a twenty-year-old bride, her new husband’s black socks came out of the laundry pilled because she had washed them along with a load of towels. To teach her a lesson, he shoved a sock into her mouth.
The second woman told me that when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few years ago, her husband abandoned her.
Misogyny stalks females at an everyday, personal level—often with violent outcome: bullying school-age girls to the point of suicide, rape on college campuses, domestic violence.
For example, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the US alone, according to a 2015 report from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The word misogyny came into use in the mid-seventeenth century. It is an elision of the Greek words, misos “hatred” and gunē “woman.”
According to Berit Brogaard, DMSci., PhD, most misogynists are unaware. She describes misogyny as typically an unconscious hatred that men form early in life, often as a result of a trauma involving a female figure they trusted—such as an abusive or negligent mother, sister, teacher or girlfriend.
A misogynist is not simply a person who hates women,” Dr. Brogaard says, but also a person who does, or would, hate women who are not subordinate, women with power and status, women who make their own decisions.
“To change that, we’ve got to stand up and say we’re not taking this anymore,” Gretchen Carlson told the Women in the World Summit that ended yesterday in New York City.
You’ll remember that former Fox News personality Carlson was fired by chairman Roger Ailes. As a result of Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit, Ailes resigned—but walked away with a $40 million severance package.
“I’ve heard from thousands of women from all across our great country and from all over the world. It’s pervasive,” Carlson said.
Jia Tolentino writes in the March 31 issue of The New Yorker about Vice President Pence’s practice of never dining alone with a woman other than his wife. Tolentino notes that Pence also requires that any aide who has to work late with him be male.
“It seems well nigh impossible to view a group of people as fully human if you refuse, categorically, to have them as friends. If we are framed as temptresses, our only power is sex,” she says.
Also on the Women in the World program was 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is writing a book in which she weighs the reasons why 53 percent of white women voted for her opponent.
“It is fair to say misogyny played a role. Why and what the underlining reasons were, I am trying to parse out for myself,” she said. “It feels new and painful every time it happens to you.”
Here’s Mel Konner, MD, PhD:
Call it sexism, male chauvinism, or any other name, it adds up to the same thing: ideologies and methods for controlling, restricting, suppressing, denigrating, and when necessary physically harming women so that men can be in charge of their reproductive capacities, limit them mainly to reproductive and other subservient roles, and avoid competing with them in an open market of human effort, talent, and skill.
Finally, consider this. The celebrated “Fearless Girl” statue in Manhattan’s Financial District was conceived by an advertising agency whose twenty-eight-person management team includes only five women.
(Photo by Federica Valabrega)