Misogyny is hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women. It is a form of sexism that is used to keep women at a lower social status than men, thus maintaining the social roles of patriarchy. Misogyny has been widely practiced for thousands of years. It is reflected in art, literature, human societal structure, historical events, mythology, philosophy, and religion worldwide.
An example of misogyny is violence against women, which includes domestic violence and, in its most extreme forms, misogynist terrorism and femicide. Misogyny also often operates through sexual harassment, coercion, and psychological techniques aimed at controlling women, and by legally or socially excluding women from full citizenship. In some cases, misogyny rewards women for accepting an inferior status. In this article, we shall discuss what misogyny is.
Misogyny involves punishing women for challenging male dominance. It may be rooted in hatred for women, but it is not the same as sexism.
Misogyny is often conflated with sexism, or the hatred of and discrimination against women. It is a term often used to describe extreme acts of violence against women.
Words often evolve as culture shifts, though. That was the case in 2012 with Julia Gillard’s speech in Parliament while serving as the Prime Minister of Australia, when she called out the Leader of the Opposition’s behavior as misogynistic.
Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary even expanded its definition of misogyny to refer to an entrenched prejudice against women following this event.
A 2015 study analyzed 216 articles that were published in the Australian print media in the week following Gillard’s speech to explore how this accusation of misogyny was dismissed, minimized, and undermined, and found that “these predominant constructions not only serve to maintain and justify gender inequalities but also function to reproduce and perpetuate them.”
As this incident and the subsequent research demonstrates, misogyny devastatingly places women in an ideological dilemma: Women face challenges when making attempts to address misogyny but also deal with obstacles by ignoring misogyny, as doing so can allow misogynistic views and behavior to be perpetuated.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Recognize Misogyny
- 2 The Logic of Misogyny
- 3 Causes of Misogyny
- 4 Impact of Misogyny
- 5 Online Misogyny in the Headlines
- 6 Types of Misogyny
- 7 Tips to Deal With Misogyny
How to Recognize Misogyny
Sometimes misogyny is overt and obvious, but it can also be covert and insidious. Some signs of misogynistic behavior and attitudes include:
- Expressing hatred for women
- Catcalling or harassing women
- Favoring men at the expense of women
- Strong belief in rigid, traditional gender roles
- No respect or regard for women’s time and effort
- Ignoring or speaking over women
- Rejecting women’s ideas
- Stealing ideas from women but refusing to credit them
- Frequently interrupting women when they are speaking
- Blaming women for conflict and expecting women to maintain social harmony
- Punishing women for calling out discrimination and sexism
The above are examples of misogyny, but it is important to remember that this is just a small sample of how these attitudes are expressed. While such behaviors are often displayed by men, internalized misogyny also often leads other women to participate in these behaviors as well.
The Logic of Misogyny
In her book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, Kate Manne outlines how misogyny operates to reinforce male dominance through references to the violence of Elliot Rodger in California in May 2014 and Purvi Patel’s sentencing of 20 years in 2015 for feticide in Indiana.
Such examples demonstrate why folx who do not conform to societal gender hierarchies are at particular risk of harm from misogyny, given how their existence disrupts patriarchal systems.
Sexism vs. Misogyny
Manne differentiates between sexism and misogyny, explaining that “sexism is taken to be the branch of patriarchal ideology that justifies and rationalizes a patriarchal social order, while misogyny is the system that polices and enforces its governing norms and expectations.”
In other words, sexism justifies the patriarchal order, whereas misogyny involves the norms and expectations that help enforce it.
Women deal with the harms of misogyny perpetrated by men. After confronting these oppressive attitudes and actions, women may, in turn, internalize these beliefs.
This means that men are not the only ones to perpetuate misogynistic beliefs. Women who help reinforce the status quo are rewarded, while women who challenge or threaten it are punished.
This internalization can then contribute to their own policing of themselves and other marginalized genders to avoid becoming the victims of misogynistic violence from men.
Causes of Misogyny
Misogyny is an attitude that develops due to experiences, upbringing, social influences, and cultural norms. Some factors that contribute to causing misogyny include:
- Experiences: Observing misogynistic behavior during childhood, benefits from such beliefs, having misogynistic role models, and holding other beliefs aligned with misogyny can all play a part.
- Upbringing: Growing up in a household and being exposed to forms of misogyny is often a critical factor in the development of such attitudes. Researchers have also shown that childhood exposure to domestic violence and emotional abuse is associated with sexism, misogyny, and violence toward women.
- Cultural factors: Cultural attitudes about women can also play a role. Religious attitudes, which may suggest that women are inferior, subservient, or sinful, can contribute to contempt and mistreatment.
Impact of Misogyny
Evidence suggests that misogyny can have a serious impact on mental health and well-being. One study found that women who experienced sex discrimination had:
- An increased risk of developing clinical depression
- More psychological distress
- Worse mental functioning
- Poorer self-rated health
- Lower life satisfaction
Women are also more likely to experience a number of different mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders. Some of these differences may be linked to biological differences. However, the disparity is likely influenced by factors such as exposure to chronic stress and trauma caused by sexism, discrimination, misogyny, and gender inequality.
Sexist microaggressions have been linked to anxiety, depression, anger, and low self-esteem, and prolonged exposure is associated with trauma symptoms.
Online Misogyny in the Headlines
When misogyny is perpetuated via social media and other online platforms, it can produce dangerous outcomes.
According to a 2015 journal article, #GamerGate refers to a number of incidents that followed a blog post by Eron Gjoni on August 8, 2014, in which he wrongly accused his ex Zoe Quinn of sleeping with a game critic for a positive review of her game Depression Quest.
His accusations resulted in online and offline harassment of this woman, as her home address and phone number were publicized, and she received rape and death threats. The #GamerGate harassment campaign quickly expanded to other prominent women in the video game industry, including Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian.
The violent consequences of online harassment extend far beyond the digital spaces in which they may begin. Several critics of #GamerGate were “swatted,” meaning that strangers made fraudulent calls to the police and sent SWAT teams to the critics’ houses.
A 2018 journal article reviewed how misogyny is particularly prevalent online and aligns with other oppressive practices, including white supremacy, queer antagonism, ableism, etc.
Based on data from 2017, the Pew Research Center found that attitudes towards online harassment vary by gender, as 70% of women felt that this was “a major problem,” while only 54% of men felt that way, and 63% of women felt that it was more important to feel safe online than be able to share opinions freely, while only 43% of men felt that way.
Experiences and Attitudes Reinforce Misogyny
When marginalized genders who suffer the harms of misogyny are up against men who minimize the issue of online harassment in favor of free speech, such violations are likely to continue.
Types of Misogyny
A few different types of misogyny have also been identified.
Misogynoir is a specific subtype of misogyny that involves contempt and prejudice directed specifically against Black women.
In 2018, Moya Bailey and Trudy, the Black women who had substantial roles in defining misogynoir and championing the term, described it as “the anti-Black racist misogyny that Black women experience” and discussed how misogynoir operated to erase their work itself.
By, despite their success in shedding light on the phenomenon of misogynoir, it continues to operate to harm these Black women. Unfortunately, marginalized genders who are also oppressed in other ways, such as being Black and queer, continue to be at greater risk of harm by misogyny, given how they challenge gender hierarchies.
To illustrate misogynoir at work, Manne delved into the Daniel Holtzclaw case “of the serial rapist police officer in Oklahoma City, who preyed on Black women who had criminal records, in the belief that these women would have no legal recourse.”
In this way, anti-Black misogyny was perpetrated against these Black women long after his acts of sexual violence towards them through descriptions of him in articles and documentaries that promoted him as incapable of such violations by loved ones, doubts of Black folx as credible witnesses, etc.
Unfortunately, Black women continue to face further risks of being harmed by misogyny due to how it aligns with anti-Blackness, and they confront additional roadblocks when attempting to get justice.
Transmisogyny refers to prejudice, hatred, and oppression directed toward transgender women and transfeminine people. It describes the intersection of misogyny and transphobia.
A 2018 study conducted by a queer Japanese American social worker on trans feminine adults in New York City found that “participants highlighted their victimization experiences as involving misogynistic attitudes and behaviors combined with transphobic exhibitions of devaluation, fetishization, and objectification.”
As this qualitative research demonstrates, trans women of color are at heightened risk of being harmed by transphobia, misogyny, and white supremacy. All of these intersecting threats contribute to:
- Housing concerns
- Health challenges
- Legal issues
Tips to Deal With Misogyny
Dealing with misogyny is not easy, but some strategies may help. Steps you can take to care for yourself and others who are faced with misogynistic behavior include:
- Don’t ignore it: Call out misogynistic behavior when you see it and make it clear that it is not acceptable.
- Report it: In work settings, talk to your manager or human resources department.
- Leave the situation: Setting boundaries can be helpful, but it is often best to leave the situation if possible.
- Create safe spaces: Support and uplift all women. Work to become more aware of the damaging effects of internalized misogyny and how it can lead to the punishment of women who challenge the patriarchal status quo.
- Care for yourself: Practice self-care and relaxation strategies to deal with stress.
If misogyny is causing distress or disruptions in your life, you may also find it helpful to talk to a mental health professional. They can help you process your experience, develop new coping strategies, and explore ideas for how to deal with misogynistic behavior.
In summary, despite the pervasive harms of misogyny, as reviewed here, you may find that folx are hesitant to address it directly, even when in positions of relative privilege, such as a wealthy white cisgender woman, which is part of how this oppressive system continues to be perpetuated.
Ultimately, you may need to reflect on your own unique needs and the challenges involved, when confronted with it, as those who have opposed misogyny often deal with overwhelming backlash as a result.
Unfortunately, while it is understandable why folx may be apprehensive of directly opposing misogyny, especially given how it can impact mental health negatively, such avoidance only contributes to further harm to the most vulnerable of marginalized identities, such as Black trans women, whose high risk of being murdered is due to the harsh reality of transmisogynistic violence that still disproportionately harms them.
I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.