Misogyny

Misogynist redirects to this article.

Misogyny is hatred (or contempt) of women. It is a form of sexism, parallel to misandry - the hatred of men. Misogyny is also comparable with misanthropy, which is the hatred of humanity generally. The antonym of misogyny is philogyny, love towards women. Gynophobia, a fear of women, has been proposed as one explanation of misogyny. Misogyny is sometimes confused with the similar looking word, misogamy which means a hatred of marriage, hence the following error.

An example of correct use, from the same period is: A clearer example of the sense, also from the same era but using the related word misogynist, is provided by Thackeray. Many feminists have proposed that misogyny both generates, and is propagated by, patriarchal social structures.

Misogyny in Greek Literature

Misogyny comes into English from the ancient Greek word, misogunia, which survives in two passages. The earlier, longer and more complete passage comes from a stoic philosopher called Antipater of Tarsus in a moral tract known as On Marriage (c. 150 BC). Antipater argues that marriage is the foundation of the state, and considers it to be based on divine (polytheistic) decree. Antipater uses misogunia to describe Euripides' usual writing - ten en to graphein misogunian (the misogyny in the writing). However, he mentions this by way of contrast. He goes on to quote Euripides at some length, writing in praise of wives. Antipater doesn't tell us what it is about Euripides' writing that he believes is misogynistic, he simply expresses his belief that even men who hate women (like Euripedes) love their wives, so concluding his argument for the importance of marriage. He says, "This thing is truly heroic."

The other surviving use of the original Greek word is by Chrysippus, in a fragment from On affections, quoted by Galen in Hippocrates on Affections. Here, misogyny is the first in a short list of three "disaffections" - women, wine and humanity (misogunian, misoinian, misanthr?pian). Chrysippus' point is more abstract than Antipaters', and Galen quotes the passage as an example of an opinion contrary to his own. What is clear, however, is that he groups hatred of women with hatred of humanity generally, and even hatred of wine. "It was the prevailing medical opinion of his day that wine strengthens body and soul alike." So, as with his fellow stoic, Antipater, misogyny is viewed negatively, a dislike of something that is good. It is this issue of conflicted or alternating emotions that was philosophically contentious to the ancient writers. Ricardo Salles suggests the general stoic view was that, "A man may not only alternate between philogyny and misogyny, philanthropy and misanthropy, but be prompted to each by the other."

Forms of misogyny

There are 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. Entire cultures may be said to be misogynist if they treat women in ways that can be seen as harmful. Examples include forcing women to tend to all domestic responsibilities, not giving pregnant women jobs, or beating a woman. 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 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 his treatment of women 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 them 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.

Misogyny in religion

Misogyny can be traced back to the origins of Modern civilization, such as in Greece and Judea, in which stories and legends on the Fall of Man into a world of tragedy and death had been brought about by a woman. In both cultures, the creation of man is primary, and woman an afterthought. In Greek mythology, the human race had already existed previous to 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 unveils all evil into the world - labour, sickness, old age, and death. During the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II issued an apology for all the past sins of the Roman Catholic Church, dividing the sins into seven categories. Among general sins, sins in service of the truth, sins against Christian unity, sins against Jews, sins against respect of love, peace and culture, and sins against human rights, he also apologized for sins against the dignity of women and minorities.

The church has been criticized for being misogynistic. "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. They provided a convenient supply of divinely inspired misogynistic texts for any Christian writer who chose to use them; his statements on female subjection were still being quoted in the twentieth century opponents of equality for women." Writers such as John Knox have been singled out for criticism.

Misogyny in philosophy

Arthur Schopenhauer is famous for his essay "On Women" (Über die Weiber), in which he expressed his opposition to what he called "Teutonico-Christian stupidity" on female affairs. He claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey." The essay does give two compliments however: that "women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than men are" and are more sympathetic to the suffering of others. However, the latter was discounted as weakness rather than humanitarian virtue.

Nietzsche is known for arguing that every higher form of civilization implied stricter controls on women (Beyond Good and Evil, 7:238); he frequently insulted women, but is best known for phrases such as "Women are less than shallow," and "Are you going to women? Do not forget the whip!" Nietzsche's reputation as a misogynist is disputed by some, pointing out that he also made unflattering statements about men. Nietzsche can easily be interpreted as anti-feminist, believing that women were primarily mothers and opposing the modern notion of women's liberation on the grounds that he considered it a form of slave morality. Whether or not this amounts to misogyny, whether his polemic statements against women are meant to be taken literally, and the exact nature of his opinions of women, are more controversial.

The philosopher Otto Weininger, in his 1903 book Sex and Character, characterized the "woman" part of each individual as being essentially "nothing," and having no real existence, having no effective consciousness or rationality. Weininger says, "No men who really think deeply about women retain a high opinion of them; men either despise women or they have never thought seriously about them." The author August Strindberg praised Weininger for probably having solved the hardest of all problems, the "woman problem."

See also

External links

Misogyny and religions

Further reading

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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