From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Misogyny is hatred or strong prejudice against women. The word comes from the Greek words μίσος (misos, "hatred") + γυνη (gunê, "woman"). Compared with anti-woman sexism or misandry (hatred, strong prejudice against men), misogyny is termed by most feminist theories as a political ideology like racism and antisemitism that justifies and maintains the subordination of women to men.
Misogyny is sometimes confused with the similar looking word — misogamy — which means a hatred of marriage, hence the following error.
- Any doubt he may have ever cherished in his misogamic breast concerning a woman's creative capacity. — Pall Mall Gazette, 7 January 1889
An example of correct use, from the same period is:
- He ... walked the banks apart, a thing of misogyny, in a suit of flannel. — Herman Charles Merivale, Faucit of Balliol, 1882
A clearer example of the sense, also from the same era but using the related word misogynist, is provided by Thackeray.
- Confound all women, I say, muttered the young misogynist. — William Makepeace Thackeray, The Virginians, 1878
Occasionally writers play on the similarity of sound between misogyny and miscegeny (mixed-race marriage).
- This psychosocial analysis of the murder of a white civil rights activist by her mulatto lover (Joe Christmas) is replete with themes of fate, free will, sociopathy, family violence, misogyny, miscegeny, and isolation versus community.
An example used in current context is:
- Among the concerns some of Hillary Clinton female backers have with Barack Obama is the perception that he can slide into misogynist comments at the blink of an eye.
- You should get married. A misanthrope I can understand - a womanthrope, never! (Act 2)
History of misogyny
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).
J Holland sees evidence of misogyny in the mythology of the ancient world. In Greek mythology, the human race had already existed before 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.
J Holland also sees evidence of misogyny in the Christian view on the Fall of Man based on the Book Genesis, which according to Christian interpretation brought tragedy and death into the world by a woman. (See also Original Sin.)
The religion of islam is in itself mysogynistic. The Quran specifies both that "women are inferior to men" and that any women who are found to disagree with this should be beaten (Qur'an 4:34). In the book "Women and the Glorious Qur'an: An Analytical Study of Women-related Verses" the author claims that the relation between men and women specified in the "men are the guardians of women" verse, does not simply apply within a family, or within marriage. The book specifies that men are superior to all women, both in general and in specific cases, not just their wives or daughters. The book mentions that this is a "progressive" opinion within islam, and that there are many islamic scholars with much worse opinions on women, such as the very authoritative at-Tabari, who claims that men are superior to women, not just in the case of a woman being financially dependent on a man, but always, and due to Allah's statement on the physical and intellectual superiority of men above women.
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."
- Misandry - male counterpart
- Honor killing
- Marriage strike
- Object relations theory
- Violence against women