On Misogyny

Mary, the Mother of God

“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.

Women Rising

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

“A Woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“I just want to say to women, ‘Be yourself – it’s the inner beauty that counts. You are your own best friend, the key to your own happiness, and as soon as you understand that – and it takes a few heartbreaks – you can be happy.’” ~ Cherie Lunghi

“No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.” ~ Muhammad Ali Jinnah

My husband and I went to see Wonder Woman this past weekend. It’s been out three weeks, so we thought the theatre might be fairly empty since we go to the movie on a Sunday mornings when most people are in church. However, this time the theatre was almost completely full. Granted it was Father’s Day, but I think the crowd had more to do with the movie, than the holiday.

There are movies that I like because they are good fun, or they have a message that makes you feel good after you’ve seen it. Then there are movies that have universal themes, ones that goe beyond the special effects, the story and characters. Wonder Woman is that kind of movie. I’d like to tell you why I think so.

But first I have to share a bit of serendipity. I’m doing research for the sequel novel to The Space Between Time. Both Jenna in the present and Morgan in the past, are fighting for women’s rights. Because of the complex themes, I’ve been doing some research. The book I’m currently reading is A Brief History of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice. by Jack Holland. I had just started reading the book the day before going to see Wonder Woman. The section I was reading was about what the author thought were the origins of misogyny. He says in the Western world it was ancient Greece, in the eighth century BC when the writer Hesiod wrote a poem about Pandora. In the poem he states that man was created before women, sound familiar and against nature, and that men were completely happy until Zeus decides to punish man for complicated reasons which involve Prometheus sharing the secret of fire with them. I’ll interrupt myself here to state, I’ve never liked most of the Greek gods, especially Zeus. To me he displays the worst of male qualities. But to continue, Zeus creates women as a temping but evil thing to punish man for having the gall to think they deserved better than to live like wild animals. Pandora is beautiful, but evil as she is the one who opens the box that unleashes evil into the world. I always thought that the hidden theme to that story was that man messed up the world and not wanting to take the blame, created the story about Pandora. “Yes, let’s blame women for the evil in the world.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, woman can be just as evil as men. In fact, in the movie there is an evil woman, Dr. Maru, who creates mustard gas. (In reality is was created by a colleague of Albert Einstein.) But, she’s a wounded woman. Her face has been disfigured, we don’t know how or by whom. Later we discover that the inspiration for the mustard gas formula was whispered to her by Ares, the real antagonist of the story.

The mythology of the movie doesn’t mention Pandora, what it does do is show us a community of confident, strong, capable, intelligent, compassionate women who live together in peace. They don’t always agree, but when they don’t they listen to each other, discuss and work things out.

When Steve Trevor arrives followed by German WW I seamen, they fight and defeat the men, but though they acknowledge the help Steve gave during the battle, they also use the lasso to get to the truth of the situation from him. It seems that they don’t hate men, but they’ve had enough experience to know that they need to be wary. So the old, battle of the sexes theme is a part of the movie, but the way Steve and Diana relate to each other is not combative.

That’s another thing I love about the movie. It shows the way women are treated without beating the audience over the head with it. The island of Themyscira, where the Amazons live, is hidden from the world in which the rest of humanity lives. So, when Diana decides to go with Steve back to his world to find and defeat Ares, god of war, she is puzzled by the way the men treat her. They ignore her advice about battle plans, they treat her as if she’s invisible. They talk over her and tell her she can’t be involved in their plans.

And there is the central relationship between Diana and Steve Trevor. She asks him questions about the way things work in his world that he has trouble answering. Her questions make him think in a new way. He sees her battle skills, but has been indoctrinated that women are to be protected. At one point he says to her, “I can’t let you do this,” to which she replies, “What I do is not up to you.” They also have discussions about honor, and doing the right thing. Both have a strong desire to make the world a better place. At one point Steve says, “My father said, ‘When you see there’s something wrong with the world, you can do nothing or something.’ And I’ve already tried nothing, so I’m doing something.” At another point Diana says, “I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.” Because they share similar values, they find a deep connection with each other.

I know that in the recent past there have been lots of strong women characters on TV, in movies, and books. They’re not all perfect, they have flaws but most of them have a strong honor code. Love is extremely important to them. That’s a good thing. We need strong women role models. I hope to see more of this kind of entertainment. Not all strong women need to be warriors like Diana, but they do need to stand up for themselves and for what’s right.

Once at a Comicon conference, Joss Whedon, who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and other stories with fascinating women, was asked why he wrote such strong women characters. His answer says it all, “Because you’re still asking me that question.” We have a long way to go before men and women enjoy equality.

If you haven’t seen Wonder Woman I highly recommend it because it says that hope and love are what will save our future.

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 paranormal, historical, time travel novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and at most other fine ebook stores. It will soon be available for kindle and print-on-demand on Amazon.