An Overview Of Misogyny
Updated November 19, 2019
Reviewer Patricia Corlew , LMFT, LPC,
Misogyny is defined as the "dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women." According to The Economist, misogyny is becoming increasingly more prevalent, often manifesting as marginalizing femininity, degrading women, objectifying women, subjecting women to violence, and other heinous treatments. There are many thoughts and beliefs about the causes of misogyny, and the subject has been the focus of numerous studies.
Before we can understand how to combat this dangerous mindset, we need to understand where it originated.
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A Review of Misogyny
While the effects of misogyny are deeply felt, there are varied opinions on the intentions of misogynists. An article from Psychology Today suggests that misogynists aim to control women, suppress their opportunities, brainwash them, and inform them as to what behaviors are acceptable or not. Many misogynistic individuals have no qualms about resorting to threats or violence as a means of achieving these objectives. If you're a woman who is worried about being treated unfairly in the workplace or elsewhere, then please know that you're not alone. This is a serious issue and you might need help dealing with the realities of misogyny in the workplace.
A recent study shows that 87% of women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. This might be a grim reality, but the courageous women who have spoken out are changing society. There are those who will help you, and having allies who understand what you're going through can make a difference.
Where Does Misogyny Come From?
There are many different sources of misogyny. Misogynistic behavior is often learned from a young age, and attitudes may be influenced by how women are portrayed in the media. Women are often portrayed in popular culture as being weaker than men or needing to be protected. Women are also sexualized in entertainment media. Young boys or girls seeing women being portrayed in television shows or video games in these ways leads them to form certain biases.
Even some women develop misogynistic tendencies by seeing women hate other women on television. Depictions of girl-on-girl hate in the media can warp a young girl's thoughts about other women. If you've ever seen a television show, movie, or video game portray women as "catty" or willing to stab one another in the back, then you'll be able to understand how this happens. The media isn't entirely to blame for misogyny, though. Many people even become misogynistic due to wanting to adhere to traditional gender norms.
In the past, gender norms were more widely accepted than they are now. A man was thought to be the breadwinner of the household and a woman's place was in the home. This is an antiquated way to think about things and many in society have moved past such limited perspectives. There are still those who think men are superior to women and believe that feminist movements have harmed society. Viewpoints like this seek to put people in a box and limit what they're supposed to be capable of. Thankfully, many in society understand that people are capable of great things no matter their gender identity.
Misogyny can also be a learned behavior passed down from father to son. People can also think in misogynistic ways due to having bad experiences with women in the past. Someone could be allowing an experience of being hurt by a woman to cloud their judgment. Whatever the source, it's unacceptable.
Do Misogynists Hate All Women or Certain Women?
Despite the definition of misogyny, there are ongoing debates regarding whether misogynists genuinely hate all women or merely women who do not conform to specific standards and behave as they believe women should. Further reports from Psychology Today suggest that a true misogynist has disdain for women who defy their "rules."
Most misogynists believe women have a specific "place" in society-working in the home as a housewife, having babies, cooking, cleaning, and sticking to their "role." In most cases, a misogynist will not express anger or hostility towards women who fall into the categories above, since they are behaving as the misogynist believes they should.
The disposition of a misogynistic individual is guaranteed to change towards women who defy their expectations and choose not to conform to their idea of what defines a woman. For instance, misogynists are most likely to openly express their hatred of women who are outspoken, career oriented, or averse to having children. There are exceptions, but in virtually every case, misogynists follow specific patterns, behaviors, and ways of thinking, especially regarding women.
Signs of a Misogynistic Individual
Considering how egregious the behavior, one might believe that spotting a misogynist is easy. However, detecting misogyny is not always as easy as one might think. Thankfully, there are some telltale signs.
Notable Charm…at First
Contrary to popular belief, a misogynist will often exude charm during initial interactions. In most cases, they are counting on a woman to lower her guard. To facilitate this, a misogynist may flirt, offer compliments, and dress well. However, eventually a misogynist will reveal himself. Flirtation becomes aloofness, compliments become insults, and charisma becomes disdain. Not all charming males are misogynists. However, many misogynistic men are charismatic at first.
Declarations of Love/Support for Women in General
Like narcissistic people, misogynists often attempt to hide their true nature, at least in the beginning. Sometimes this manifests as charm or charisma, other times it could manifest as false vocalizations in support of women. A misogynist may claim to be a feminist, frequently discuss how powerful he thinks women are, or even go as far as saying that women are innately better than men.
In these cases, the misogynist is making the classic mistake of overcompensating for their shortcomings. Granted, many men do indeed love and respect women, however, over-the-top, 'pro-woman' declarations can be indicative of more sinister beliefs.
A misogynistic person is not likely to reveal his true colors in the beginning. So, while charm and seeming adoration of women may seem apparent, eventually the facades will fade. One of the first signs of a misogynist's true colors coming to the surface is mood swings.
A misogynist may be sensitive and caring in one moment, only to turn cold and indifferent in the next. There can be other reasons for mood swings, such as mental illness. However, rapid and drastic signs of behavior and emotions towards women can be a red flag.
Extreme Views and Gender Expectations
Most misogynists have stubborn views on gender and how women should behave and conduct themselves. These ideas involve women in subservient positions. Most misogynists believe men should be aggressive and dominant, while women ought to be weak, meek, and submissive.
Misogynists become angry when women defy their expectations or conduct themselves in ways that defy antiquated notions of gender. Individuals with misogynistic views may even go so far as to act out violently towards women who fail to behave as misogynists desire.
Disregard for the Time and Value of Women
At their core, misogynists view men as superior to women. This, therefore, leads to the belief that the time of women is not as important, critical, or valuable as the time of men. Therefore, a misogynist may frequently fail to exhibit punctuality or timeliness for meetings or gatherings with women. Conversely, the same misogynist will appear on time to meetings with men.
Moreover, when confronted by women about their lack of timeliness, misogynists may either brush it off, feign regret, or even lash out. Virtually everyone is late on occasion. However, if an individual frequently lacks punctuality when women are involved, it may be indicative of misogyny. The likelihood increases even more if other signs of misogyny are apparent as well.
Extreme Competitiveness and Preferential Treatment towards Men
Misogynists are inherently egotistical. Due to their disdain for women, they may be extremely competitive and show men certain levels of respect that will not be extended to women. For instance, misogynistic individuals will despise being bested, outsmarted, or otherwise outperformed by any woman at any time. While they may like to win, their antagonism towards women who best them will become far more significant than towards men who commit the same "offense."
Due to a misogynist's lack of respect and care for women, they are likely to treat women differently than men. If a misogynist is in a position of professional power, this attitude can be even more pronounced. A misogynistic boss may give their male employees promotions for specific accomplishments while declining to even acknowledge women for an identical, similar, or even better achievement. A misogynistic employer may also let certain grievances slide with male workers, but reprimand or terminate female workers who commit the same grievance.
Can Women Be Misogynists?
Although most misogynists are male, there are some instances of female misogynists. A woman who hates other women displays "internalized misogyny." According to sociologist Michael Flood, internalized misogyny is the existence of misogyny in women. Misogynistic women mistreat other women, distrust them, and favor men over women. Women who suffer from internalized misogyny also tend to have ailments such as eating disorders, depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation. Think of your high school days-did you ever hear a girl say that girls are too much drama? This negative perception of women is a form of internalized misogyny. In fact, media portrayals of women (e.g., that women love drama) are a main contributor to internalized misogyny.
Misogyny is Unacceptable
Misogyny is a dark and insidious force. Someone who outwardly hates women is a truly disturbed individual and is also out of touch with the current direction society needs to move toward. There are theories regarding what causes misogyny. Some researchers have cited experience with abusive or neglectful female figures, while others believe that exposure to situations where women face mistreatment can breed misogynistic leanings. Despite the origins of misogyny, women who come in to contact with misogynists are unlikely to have pleasant experiences, especially if the contact is ongoing.
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Misogyny is a real problem, and it isn't uniquely American either. Women deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and equality. It might be tough to have to face the realities of misogyny today, but you can always reach out for help so that you can keep moving toward the promise of tomorrow. Everything we're able to do today is because we're standing on the shoulders of brave women and men who have come before us. Take the first step.