“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in the calm waters all our lives.” ~ Jane Austen, Persuasion
“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.” ~ Bette Davis
“As long as she is thinking of a man, no one objects to a woman thinking.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Orlando
“Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.” ~ Andrea Dworkin
“The misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it.” ~ Joss Whedon
I’ve been reading A Brief History of Misogyny: The Worlds Oldest Prejudice by Jack Holland as part of my research for the sequel novel to The Space Between Time. In the new book, Morgan in the past becomes part of the suffrage movement, and Jenna in the present faces terrible misogyny because of what she has written. As I’m reading this book, I’m not finished with it yet, these are some things I discovered.
First, misogyny is ancient. I knew this from my studies of the Old Testament in college, but Holland places its introduction into written documents at the eighth century BC when Hesiod, a farmer turned poet, writes the story of Pandora. This means that misogyny was probably around long before that. Of course, the Greeks aren’t the only ones to use misogyny as part of their culture and or religion. Which means It’s so deeply ingrained into our way of thinking that it makes it extremely difficult for us to notice, let alone change.
Second, the root of misogyny has to do with man’s self-hatred or at the very least lack of self-worth in comparison to women. This produces a deep seated fear and a desperate inner struggle. Perhaps the ancient Greek myth of Zeus creating man first and then woman as an after thought to punish him, was the male writers way of trying to make themselves feel in control. Because that’s a common reaction to fear, we want to control people and events on the outside so we feel better, without doing the inner work necessary to bring about lasting peace. Trying to control things on the outside eventually backfires, people rebel, and events go against us. To truly get rid of fear, we have to pay attention to our thoughts and feelings, what triggers them, and then change our thinking. That’s an inside job.
The thing that makes misogyny so insidious, is the fact that the Greeks weren’t the only men who had this idea. The Hebrews wrote a similar kind of myth, God created Adam first, then Eve from his rib as an afterthought. Even when I was a child, I didn’t believe that story. If God created man first, then why didn’t they have the babies? And men say women are illogical.
It also seemed to me that Adam was lazy. He was content to have all his needs met without doing any work, while Eve was curious and wanted as much knowledge as she could get. And the final point of that myth that I just can’t buy is that God takes his vengeance out on the couple. If God is love, then that’s the most illogical part of the story. God doesn’t take revenge. She would celebrate Eve’s desire to become more than she was when she was first created.
Other ancient cultures around the world have different creation myths with a woman being the first created, or as female and male energies creating the cosmos together. But since Holland is tracing the origins of misogyny, he goes back to the most dominant myths that include it, and have influenced much of the worlds thinking.
Third, for some reason for centuries, dating back to the Greeks again, men have thought that if they wanted to get closer to the divine, they must deny the pleasures of the flesh. Those pleasures are, decadent food, and environment, and most importantly, sex. And it’s my opinion that this is where the twisted rape culture logic was born. It’s the whole, “The devil made me do it,” mentality. A man has a goal to become closer to God. That’s great, but studies have shown that men think about sex a whole lot more often than women do. So, he thinks he has to deny his natural inclination for sex, (another idea that is illogical. God created it, so what’s wrong with it?) and then a woman enters his awareness. She’s beautiful, he’s aroused. Does he blame himself? Of course not, because he’s got to control his outer environment, and a woman just entered his environment, so, of course, it’s her fault. Not one moment of self-examination about whether what he’s thinking and doing is right or wrong. Bah humbug!
Since misogyny is ancient, some people think, “Well, that’s just how it’s always been, so why change it now.” I think that kind of thinking is lazy and cruel. It’s a kind of thinking that says, “The way things are benefits me and my kind, so we’re not going to change it.” And since for much of history there were more men than women it’s been easy to maintain.
“More men than women?” I’m sure you’re asking that question. Yes, here are some facts Holland points out about why there were so few women in the ancient world. Male babies were highly prized, so when a girl baby was born, she would more than likely end up dumped on the garbage heap to die. Some of these girl babies were saved by men running brothels to replenish their prostitute population, but most of them died. To be fair, some male babies ended up on the trash heap if they were deformed, or not deemed worthy to live. However, this meant that there were few women to have babies in the first place. Then, getting pregnant and having a child was a dangerous and life-threatening situation for women who did not have the proper medical care. Which meant, that often more women died in childbirth than the number of men getting killed in wars.
Since, for centuries, there were more men than women, it was difficult to fight misogyny. It was only during more modern times when medical care was better, and more women survived child birth, that they were able to begin fighting back. Oh, there were some notable women throughout history who defied male domination, but not often, and they usually didn’t live for long. (I won’t go into the whole convoluted theology about Mary, the Mother of God, as they call her. She’s a woman who could never really exist.) There have been cultures that valued women, but again they were often conquered, or annihilated.
And that brings us to our current situation. Feminists, and that includes some wonderful men as well, have only been fighting for women’s rights with growing success for perhaps two hundred years. Compare that to approximately twenty-six centuries of entrenched misogyny. Thinking of it that way, I say we’re doing pretty well in our quest for equal rights, even given the current backlash against women. Most of the time attempts to go backwards wake people up. It seems to me that women all over the globe are standing up for themselves. That indicates to me that we will one day win equality among all people, because when one group wins equality, other groups will too.
For an interesting take on a strong man supporting a strong woman, read this article from the New York Times, “Behind Wonder Woman is a Great Man.”
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share with a friend.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical fantasy involving time travel. It’s available in ALL ebook formats at Smashwords. The print-on-demand book will soon be available as well.