In many ways, our society has come a long way when it comes to the treatment of women. Both federal and state law prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and generally, overt bias against women is barred. Yet we know that our society is far from equal, particularly when it comes to more subtle forms of discrimination. Many individuals still demonstrate some level of antipathy towards women, also referred to as misogyny. So what exactly is misogyny?
Misogyny is an extreme form of sexism that is often defined as the hatred of women. A person with misogynistic beliefs may not be aware that they are demonstrating a hatred towards women — or even believe that they hate women — but their behavior and words expose prejudice, disdain of, or hostility to women. In societies where misogyny is prevalent, there are often high rates of violence towards women. Women may be seen as property or second-class citizens, and mistreated at both the individual and institutional level as a result. For example, a woman who is abused by a spouse (individual level) may be told by a police officer that they won’t bring charges against her husband because it’s a family matter (institutional level). Other views of misogyny define it as a way of controlling or punishing women who challenge male dominance.
Understanding misogyny is important for many reasons. In light of the recent wave of mass shootings that shook our nation in early August, it is critical to understand how misogyny is tied to this type of violence. In fact, the majority of mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence. While these shooters may have had other stated motivations, a shockingly high percentage have demonstrated a clear hatred or disdain for women. We cannot ignore this reality.
Misogyny is also inextricably linked to many other forms of violence, particularly gender-based violence such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. When a person feels hatred or disdain towards women generally, it becomes that much easier to commit violence against them. An individual with a misogynistic world view may view the women in their life as property, and harshly control them. They may also react with anger if a woman does not give them what they feel entitled to, such as sex or romantic love, which may result in sexual assault, physical violence, or even homicide.
Addressing misogyny is critical to ending all types of violence in our society. Misogyny drives domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, homophobia, transphobia, and a range of other gender-based violence. We cannot allow it to grow and flourish in our society if we hope to stem the rising ride of violence in our country — in the form of mass shootings as well as in our homes, on our streets, and everywhere that we go.
Each of us has a role to play. Men can be allies, both through their everyday actions and by joining our Fearless Advocacy for Men’s Engagement (FAME) group. Women can also be allies, and can push back on the type of internalized misogyny that often limits our ability to support other women. We can all support girls and boys to help them grow into healthy, emotionally mature adults, with a particular focus on helping boys move beyond gender stereotypes that may harm them or that may cause them to develop misogynistic beliefs (like telling them that “boys don’t cry” or “you throw like a girl”).
If you would like to join Blackburn Center in our mission to end gender-based violence, there are a number of ways to get involved. You can donate to our organization financially, or support our emergency shelter for victims of intimate partner violence with a donation of goods. Volunteers help our agency in a number of ways, from staffing our 24 hour hotline to performing administrative tasks at the office; you can fill out an application here. We also encourage parents, teachers, and community organizations to schedule a training or education program. By working together, we can address these underlying issues — and create a more just society.