an attempt at a lighthearted explanation

Firstly thank you for all the feedback on yesterday’s post. A few specific incidents had came together in my head and boiled over. 

I wanted to see if I could clarify some of my thinking, and see if others found a slightly odd analogy helpful.

Because I think I failed to adequately distinguish between people who behave in a clearly misogynistic way, and not only have no intention of considering the impact of their behaviour on either specific women or women as a gender, but are also to a large extent unaware of the damage they are inflicting, even when that behaviour is physical abuse. 

Then there are people who, in the language of psychotherapy, enable the misogynistic behaviour to be perpetuated. Not necessarily by their relationship towards particular individuals, but by their silent acceptance of (or refusal to challenge) behaviour which serves to undermine and prevent gender equality. 

This first category are probably beyond hope. But the rest of us can still make a difference if we do not allow the actions of the minority to be unacknowledged, if we question norms and consider the implications both of the behaviour we fail to challenge, and of our own failure to challenge. 

Now for the analogy:

In Back to the Future we are introduced to 3 different versions of Hill Valley in 1985. Initially, the McFlys are not unhappy, but struggling, and slightly down at heel. George continues to be bullied by Biff Tannen, and the whole family are far from living their dreams. Marty is perpetually in trouble, his uncle is in jail, and the only bright spot is his girlfriend Jennifer.

Then, thanks to one small change back in 1955, (Marty being knocked over by Lorraine’s Dad’s car instead of George) a series of events takes place over only a few days that means that when Marty returns to 1985, things are somewhat different. His parents are blisfully content, playing tennis every Saturday. George is a succesful author, Biff is enjoying his own business rather than bullying George to prepare his work. Marty’s siblings both have high flying careers. 

And then there’s Biff’s 1985. Where thanks to his grandfather purloining the Sports Almanac, Biff has become a millionaire and has ripped the heart out of Hill Valley. Again, one small change, triggering a new series of events, and everything is different. (One could go into some detail about the morality of the trigger event compared to the previous trigger but let’s leave that for another day).

So, imagine that the current patriarchy is a bit like the original 1985. Women are doing okay, far better than in an alternative scenario (aka Biff’s 1985), but with one small change (challenging misogyny more commonly), we could have a world where there is an increased hope of full gender equality (the new and improved 1985). It’s not substantially different from afar, but within it is full of confidence, equality, and contentment.

My premise is that if we just start with that small event – not letting misogyny be excused when we see it – we can start a series of events that may mean the future is less BTTF 1985 Mark I, avoids Biff’s 1985, and settles us somewhere around BTTF 1985 Mark II. 

Of course in less than 2 years we’ll be in 2015 and we’ll be enjoying flying cars, fashion trends including clothing that shrinks to fit when you put it on, two neck ties and inside out trousers, and…. the mighty hoverboard. 



On misogyny

The Oxford English dictionary defines misogyny as:

“dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women”

which by all accounts is a developed definition which is meant to capture the usage of the word more than it’s strict Greek roots. 

Is this developmental change in how we use the word – and indeed how women use the word – part of the problem men have with accepting the label?

Because frequently misogynists will tell you they “don’t hate women”. But I’m more interested in your cultural, knee-jerk attitude – indeed, your ingrained prejudice. 

I accept that a man who blames a woman for not divorcing an abusive husband does not “hate women” but he does have a compeltely skewed understanding of the position of women in society and of the realities of abusive relationships for the abused partner. 

I accept that a man who says women could succeed in politics if they just tries harder does not “hate women” but he does fail to grasp the long-standing historical barriers that even 21st century entrants into politics must overcome.

I accept that allowing someone to represent your party despite being given evidence of their abusive character towards women does not mean you “hate women” but it does mean you are complicit in allowing someone whose personal life indicates a shall we say shaky attitude towards equality to continue working in an influential position despite their ingrained prejudice. 

So if I call you out on your misogyny, rather than shouting at me with your instantaneous outrage that I dare to do so, maybe you should consider why I am using such a powerful word. Perhaps it’s to try and counter your abuse of power. And perhaps your failure to consider my rationale is just one more example of your ingrained prejudice that you are somehow superior to me. And perhaps your not seeing your own misogyny is why feminists talk about structural barriers as well as individual hurdles. Remember the word ingrained. Not intentional (necessarily), not something you have done deliberately (necessarily) but an ingrained attitude you have betrayed and I have pointed out. Now fix it.