Misogyny

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Misogyny (mɪˈsɒdʒɪni) is hatred (or contempt) of women or girls. Misogyny comes from Greek misogunia (μισογυνία) from misos (μῖσος, "hatred") and gynē (γυνή, "woman"). It is parallel to misandry—the hatred of men or boys. Misogyny is also comparable with (but not the same as) misanthropy which is the hatred of humanity in general. The prefix miso-, meaning 'Hatred' or 'To hate' applies in many other words, such as misandry, misocapny, misogamy, misarchy and misoxeny.

Misogyny is sometimes confused with the similar looking word—misogamy (μισογαμία)—which means "hatred of marriage", hence the following error.[1]

Marcus Tullius Cicero reports that Greek philosophers considered misogyny to be caused by gynophobia, a fear of women.[2] In the late 20th century, feminist theorists proposed misogyny as both a cause and result of patriarchal social structures.[3]

Contents

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. 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 this treatment of women to be sexist. 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 phallogocentric and homoerotic at its root. In Politics of Reality, Frye 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.[4]

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 all evil is unleashed into the world — labour (childbirth), sickness, old age, and death.[5]

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.)

Christianity

Katherine M. Rogers in The Troublesome Helpmate alleges Christianity to be misogynistic, listing specific examples from the New Testament letters of the Christian apostle Paul of Tarsus.

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.

[6]

Islam

The fourth chapter (or sura) of the Qur'an is called Women (An-Nisa). The 34th verse is a key verse in feminist criticism of Islam.[7] The first half of the verse reads: "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means."

Taj Hashmi discusses misogyny in relation to Muslim culture, and Bangladesh specifically, in the rather biased 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.

[8]

However, in the Arabic Quranic scripture, qawwamun, which is typically translated as "manage" or "take responsibility for",[9] also means that it is the man's responsibility to take care of the woman, feeding and clothing her and her children, and providing them with a place to live.

In contrast to this somewhat polar view there are instances within the Qu'ran that, for its time of revelation, put it far ahead of many other religions and societies of the same era and for some time after. The Qu'ran explicitly institutes the protection of a woman's inheritance, allows them the right to divorce and fair provision of assets upon divorce in Surat At-Talaq. Also within the Qu'ran the figure of Eve is relieved of the blame for Man's downfall, unlike Christianity, as both Eve and Adam are stated as equally responsible for succumbing to the Devil's influence.

Notes and references

  1. Listed under both misogyny and misogamy by OED1, but cited in full only in the latter.
  2. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones, Book 3, Chapter 11. [A Greek-English Lexicon typo has Book 4]
  3. Kate Millet's Sexual Politics, adapted from her doctoral dissertation is normally cited as the originator; though Katharine M Rogers had also published substantially, regarding her reading of misogyny in literature prior to this.
  4. Frye, Marilyn. The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing, 1983.
  5. Holland, J: "Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice," pp. 12-13. Avalon Publishing Group, 2006.
  6. Rogers, Katherine M. The Troublesome Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in Literature, 1966.
  7. "Verse 34 of Chapter 4 is an oft-cited Verse in the Qur’an used to demonstrate that Islam is structurally patriarchal, and thus Islam internalizes male dominance." Dahlia Eissa, "Constructing the Notion of Male Superiority over Women in Islam: The influence of sex and gender stereotyping in the interpretation of the Qur’an and the implications for a modernist exegesis of rights", Occasional Paper 11 in Occasional Papers (Empowerment International, 1999).
  8. Hashmi, Taj. Popular Islam and Misogyny: A Case Study of Bangladesh. Retrieved August 11, 2008.
  9. Marmaduke Pickthall et al.

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
  • Morgan, Fidelis. A Misogynist's Source Book.
  • 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.
  • Smith, Joan. Misogynies. 1989. Revised 1993.
  • World Health Organization Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women* 2005.

External links

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*Some information provided in whole or in part by http://en.wikipedia.org/

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