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 the following: marginalizing femininity, degrading women, objectifying women, subjecting women to violence, and other heinous treatments and crimes. 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.
A Review of Misogyny
While the effects of misogyny are deeply felt, there are varied opinions on the definition of “misogyny.” An article from The New York Times suggests that the term “misogyny” has expanded to include institutions as well as retaining its traditional meaning: “hatred of women.” Those who are misogynistic aim to control women, suppress their opportunities, brainwash them, and inform them as to what behaviors are acceptable or not. Many individuals who are misogynistic 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 and other places where you encounter it.
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. Having allies who understand what you’re going through can make a difference.
Where Does Misogyny Come From?
There are many 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 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. Even positioning a masculine noun before a feminine one as exemplified in the previous sentence is problematic. This written (and verbal) positioning reinforced the superior status of men over the subordinate status of women.
Past gender norms are an antiquated way to think about things, and many in society have moved past such limited perspectives. Some people, though, are nostalgic. They believe that anything, for example, the woman’s movement, threaten their idyllic memories of hearth and home. In addition, there are those who still 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 People Who are Misogynists Hate All Women or Certain Women?
Despite the definition of misogyny, there are ongoing debates regarding whether people who are misogynistic genuinely hate all women or women who do not conform to gendered standards.
Most people who are misogynistic 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 person who believes this will not express anger or hostility toward women who fall into the categories above because they are behaving as they should.
The disposition of an individual who is misogynistic is guaranteed to change toward women who defy their expectations and choose not to conform to their idea of what defines a woman. For instance, people who are misogynists most likely openly express their hatred of women who are outspoken, career oriented, or do not want children. Although there are exceptions, most people who are misogynists follow specific patterns, behaviors, and ways of thinking, especially regarding women.
Signs of an Individual Who is a Misogynist
Considering how egregious the behavior, one might believe that spotting someone who is 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 person who is 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 person who is a misogynist may flirt, offer compliments, and dress well. Eventually, they will reveal themselves. Flirtation becomes aloofness, compliments become insults, and charisma becomes disdain. Not all charming people are misogynists. However, for many who are, they are charismatic at first.
— Declarations of Love/Support for Women in General
Like people who are narcissists, people who are 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. An individual who is misogynistic may claim to be a feminist, frequently discuss how powerful they think women are, or even go as far as saying that women are innately better than men.
In these cases, the individual is making the classic mistake of overcompensating for their shortcomings. Granted, many people do indeed love and respect women, however, over-the-top, “pro-woman” declarations can be indicative of more sinister beliefs.
— Mood Swings
A person with misogyny is not likely to reveal their true colors in the beginning. So, while charm and seeming adoration of women may seem apparent, eventually the facade will fade. One of the first signs of their true colors coming to the surface is mood swings.
The individual 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 toward women can be a red flag.
— Extreme Views and Gender Expectations
Most people with misogyny have stubborn views on gender and how women should behave and conduct themselves. These ideas involve women in subservient positions. Most people who are misogynists believe men should be aggressive and dominant, while women ought to be weak, meek, and submissive.
People who are 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 toward women who behave outside of their gendered role.
— Disregard for the Time and Value of Women
At their core, people who are 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, an individual with misogyny may frequently fail to exhibit punctuality or timeliness for meetings or gatherings with women. Conversely, this same individual will appear on time to meetings with men.
Moreover, when confronted by women about their lack of timeliness, the individual 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 Toward Men
People who are 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, individuals who are misogynistic will despise being bested, outsmarted, or otherwise outperformed by any woman at any time. While they may like to win, their antagonism toward women who best them will become far more significant than toward men who commit the same “offense.”
Because of their lack of respect and care for women, people who are misogynistic are likely to treat women differently than men. If the individual with misogyny is in a position of professional power, this attitude can be even more pronounced. A boss who is misogynistic may give their male employees promotions for specific accomplishments while declining to even acknowledge women for an identical, similar, or even better achievement. An employer who is misogynistic may also let certain grievances slide with men workers, but reprimand or terminate women workers who commit the same grievance.
Can Women Be Misogynists?
Although most misogynists are boys and men, there are some instances of girls and women who are misogynists. A woman who hates other women displays “internalized misogyny.” According to sociologist Michael Flood, internalized misogyny is the existence of misogyny in women. Women who are misogynistic mistreat other women, distrust them, and favor men over women. Women who experience 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 and takes multiple forms, such as patriarchy. 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 into contact with people who are misogynists are likely to have difficult and sometimes dangerous experiences, especially if the contact is ongoing.
Reach Out to a Therapist for Support
If you need support dealing with misogynistic behavior in your life or if you believe you exhibit misogynistic behavior, reach out to an in-person or online therapist. A therapist can offer you emotional support and understanding as you both explore ways to handle misogynistic behavior rather than feeling trapped by it. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is a misogynist, it’s time to take an objective look at that and what you can do to take control of your life again. This might include leaving the relationship. Here, too, a therapist can help you by providing a safe space for you to talk through what’s best for you and what you’re next move will be.
Online therapy, if you’re considering this route, has been shown to be somewhat more effective than face-to-face therapy. A review of current studies on the differences between online therapy and face-to-face therapy and their processes and outcomes indicated that online therapy yielded better results than traditional therapy.
How BetterHelp Can Help
Some people have internalized the message that seeking out help means you are weak. The good news is that finding support shows that you are brave. BetterHelp is there to support you on your journey to feeling more empowered. Our therapists can help you navigate misogyny and teach you skills to effectively deal with issues affecting your life. You can meet with your therapist at a time that works best for you and in the comfort of your own home or even your car. Take a look at some of the counselor reviews below to see how others have been able to find the help they need from BetterHelp therapists.
“Diane supported me through some significant transitions in my life related to my career, sexuality and desire to start a family. She did so with patience, skill and kindness. I feel better able to tackle the next chapter of my life thanks to her guidance. I highly recommend Diane to anyone who needs to feel immediately at ease, empowered and not judged.”
“Mark is an amazing therapist. He listens so well and has such valuable insight on male and female perspectives and issues while also not passing judgment. I have only just begun, but he has already given me so many great takeaways to improve my relationships and situations. I am filled with gratitude, and I would highly recommend him to anyone!!”
Misogyny is a real problem, and it isn’t uniquely American either. Women have the right 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.