What Is Misogyny?

Woman standing with man behind her.

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What Is Misogyny?

For a long time, misogyny has been defined as the hatred of women. It is a term that is often used to describe extreme acts of violence against women.

History of the Term's Usage

Words often evolve as culture shifts though, and 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.

The 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.

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 twenty 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 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."

Women deal with the harms of misogyny perpetrated by men on a regular basis. After confronting these oppressive attitudes and actions, women may, in turn, internalize these beliefs.

This internalization can then contribute to their own policing of themselves and other marginalized genders in an effort to avoid being the victim of misogynistic violence from men.

The Impact of Online Misogyny

When misogyny is perpetuated via social media and other online platforms, it can produce dangerous outcomes.

#GamerGate

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 accuses his ex Zoe Quinn of sleeping with a game critic for a positive review of Depression Quest.

His accusations resulted in online and offline harassment of this woman, as her home address and phone number was publicized, and she received rape and death threats, including similar harassment of Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian.

By these accounts, the violent consequences of online harassment extend far beyond the digital spaces in which they may begin.

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.

What Is Misogynoir?

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 this, 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

A 2018 study conducted by a queer Japanese social worker found that "participants highlighted their victimization experiences as involving misogynstic 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, which tend to contribute to underemployment, poverty, housing concerns, health challenges, legal issues, victimization, etc.

A Word From Verywell

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 harms to the most vulnerable of marginalized genders, such as Black trans women, whose low life expectancy is due to the harsh reality of transmisogynstic violence that still disproportionately harms them.

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