What is Misogyny?
A year ago when I first stumbled onto the Heartless Bitches web site, I didnít really know what misogyny was, although I thought I did. Misogyny, as defined in my dictionary, is "the hatred of women," which seems simple enough, but what was not clear to me was why certain behaviors or characteristics were being defined as related to misogyny. For example, why is objectifying womenís bodies considered misogynistic? Why are "nice guys" described on this site labeled misogynists? "Hate" implies scorn, hostility or animosity. Although I understood that objectifying women is wrong, it seemed like "hate" was too strong a word here, after all, many guys claim to "love" or "appreciate" women. The "love" they claim to have seemed faked, but it is still a far cry from "hate."
I started to do more research on this, and came across some interesting ideas. One particularly valuable resource was a book called "The Centerfold Syndrome," by Gary Brooks. The author states that while objectification "calls for men to become observers, it also calls for women to become the observed. Women become objects as men become objectifiers." He goes on to explain that women are expected to accept the role of stimulators of menís visual interest. This visual interest focuses on a two dimensional view of women, one that values the physical characteristics of women while ignoring personal character or any of the inner complexities that are inherent in human beings. When I understood this, I realized that when I hear someone claim how much they "love" women, they are really talking about love for a two dimensional view of women and the women who pursue that ideal. They are not talking about women as they really are.
This all made a lot of sense, but I still had not made the connection to the word "hate." Eventually I made the connection when I found this website. The author summed up his reason for creating the site and his dislike of women in one simple sentence: "I hate women because I want their attention and they wonít give me any." So what a misogynist truly loves is the shallow image of women that exists only in oneís mind and is illustrated in society in such things as pornography or mainstream media that espouses that ideal. The hatred is directed at real women, for not living up to a misogynistís expectations of women being easy to control and for not providing adequate stimulation for menís interest.
Once I figured this out, many things about misogyny became clear. A misogynistic value system would favor women who put out and are easy to control. Misogynists would talk about women in a dehumanized way, i.e., nice legs, great ass, etc, as if women were nothing more than a collection of body parts. Dating and relationships would become a game of manipulation fraught with various seedy techniques and ploys designed to get women to have sex. Something else I noticed as I browsed the web is that although misogynists try to control women, they are ironically dependent on women for validation in front of other men and society. This dependence is disempowering and only adds to the anger and resentment misogynists feel towards women.
But why are "nice guys" misogynists? In the book "The Gift of Fear," Gavin DeBecker defines "niceness" as a "strategy of social interaction" and not evidence of innate goodness. So what he is saying is that being "nice" merely means your behavior is not offensive but does not mean your motives are automatically pure or good. Being a "nice guy" has been discussed elsewhere so there is no need to go into great detail here, but the bottom line is that trying to "be nice" or to use oneís social charm to achieve oneís social or sexual objectives is just as manipulative as anything else. The details are different, but what is at the core is the same.
It should also be pointed out that in addition to hurting women, misogyny also hurts men. By objectifying women, men are also objectifying themselves. Dating and sex becomes a contest as misogynists try to achieve high degrees of "success" with women, with success being defined as receiving attention from the most desirable women. Emotions are repressed, personal growth is stunted and true intimacy becomes impossible.
Although at this time I had answered my original questions, I had raised many more questions and problems in the process. First and foremost, I began to reflect on things I have said or done in the past, and I realized that some of it I am now not too proud of. In a lot of ways I had bought into the lies that misogyny teaches, and this has led me to make bad decisions or to say or do foolish things. I am pretty annoyed at myself for this, but I cannot change the past. What I can do is learn from it and be glad I figured it out when I am young. I can try to share what I have learned with others who are facing the same thing, which is what I am doing now. And I can also strive to form healthier relationships with women in the future. But how? Unfortunately in my pursuit of understanding misogyny I have had to scuttle much of what I know about building relationships with women because I realized that much of it was based on something that is simply wrong. Which brings up the next question: what is right? This is something I have not finished thinking through, so I will not address that here. What I do know, however, is that by being sincere and thoughtful, and by understanding my own self worth and the value of the people around me, I will build stronger relationships with others and have a more meaningful life. And I have to believe that a relationship with a woman can be built on that much more soundly than one built on misogyny.