Monday, January 28, 2008

A female equivalent for misogyny?

A friend from university rang me earlier and asked me if there was a female equivalent for 'misogynist'. The best we could come up with (with a combined 14 years of study at university, much of which was the study of gender-based issues!) was 'man-hater'.

So I looked it up online. First stop, Wikipedia:

Misogyny is hatred or strong prejudice against women; an antonym of philogyny. Those holding misogynistic beliefs can be of either sex.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny)

I ended up on AskOxford.com (which looks like it might be a useful new resource?):

The equivalent is misandrist (a person who hates persons of the male sex), a rare word but seemingly much sought-after. The corresponding noun for the attitude is misandry.

(http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutwords/misogynist?view=uk)


I wonder why it is 'much sought-after'? (I will have to ask Izzie why she wanted to know, she didn't have time to say when she rang me.) Sought after by men hoping to redress the balance of accusation, or women advocating the practice (hoping to redress the balance of power)? Or sought after because misandry is in fact increasing in society? Does expressing the belief that all men are, erm ... idiots (substitute your preferred word!), make a woman a misandrist? As men retain the greatest portion of power in our society, does it even matter? Surely misogyny goes beyond the emotion of hatred and is more about the desire for control, and the action of power. Can misandry ever really be the female equivalent of misogyny?

I like the word 'misandrist' because it redefines the widely-accepted notion of 'feminist' as a female equivalent of 'misogynist'. Feminists have so often been referred to as "man-hating" when in fact they are the supporters of feminism, which is simply 'the belief in the principle that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men'. (Oxford Dictionary) Yes, feminists often express this belief in terms of anger at the injustice of inequality (and are therefore "neurotic" or "unbalanced"!) but anger is very different to hatred.

A feminist is not necessarily a misandrist. And a misandrist is not necessarily a feminist.

It's very interesting to see that Wikipedia suggests misogynists 'can be of either sex'. I hadn't really thought about this. But I have met women who are misogynists. And men who are misandrists. Although I wouldn't say they expressed 'hatred' but rather 'scorn' or 'contempt'.

Is it really possible to hate your own sex?

It seems a bizarre notion, but than so is misanthropy!

Hmmmm. Interesting ... I think I'll have to think about this some more, but now am going to get back to my much neglected Student Mum blog!

So easily distracted ...

8 comments:

aliqot said...

I'm sure I'll come back to this. Feminism was never originally about hating men, was it?
Much more to do with allowing both sexes to have a more balanced life - work/life, emotion/reason and so on.
Not to mention redressing the inequality of power.

A very interesting post. I just wanted to let you know I'd read it.

Pacha said...

Here in Italy people take feminism to mean man-hating. Completely. And it annoys me no end how people refute the term (applying it to themselves - or not!) without understanding its actual meaning.

Is there one word definition for a feminist misandrist? I like the 'mis' bit of these words as if the people who hate the other sex are missing the point!

You learn something new every day!

HelenMH said...

How interesting! I'd never even thought about this! I like Pacha's theory that the 'mis' means they are missng the point! Or possibly missing out on something x

KAREN CLARKE said...

Maybe there are more misogynists than there are misandrists, which is why we never hear the term? Although judging by the fact that it's 'much sought-after' that could be about to change!

Shame either exists really - certain traits you might not like about an individual (of either gender) is surely normal, but full on prejudice against an entire species is wrong!

Moondreamer said...

Thank you, aliqot!

You're right, feminism was never intended to be about hatred, but about balance and equality. I suppose like any philosophy (is that the right word?) it has inevitably been hijacked by those with other intentions. I think it's incredibly sad that feminism is so generally misunderstood and is so often viewed as a negative thing.

:o)

Pacha, I think the same is true of the UK. It drives me nuts too!

A few years ago, I even stopped calling myself a 'feminist' for a while, preferring the less elitist 'universalist' (a la wonderful Alice Walker) perhaps because I felt people were less likely to make unfounded judgements about me, like that I didn't like men ... I love men! (I think they're confusing sometimes, but that's ok, it's good to be confused sometimes!)

" ...as if the people who hate the other sex are missing the point!"

I love that!

:o)

Helen, I hadn't given it much thought either, though now I'm wondering why.

I agree, Pacha's 'mis/missing' the point is excellent, and you're so right ... they are definitely missing something!

I'm glad Izzie rang me!

:o)

Karen, I'm not sure if there are more misogynists, or if misogyny is just a more accepted concept?

It's an interesting topic and will no doubt keep me thinking for a while!

You are so right about it being a shame that either exist. I hate intolerance or bigotry of any kind! (Erm ... perhaps 'hate' isn't a good word to use in this context!) And I don't understand it, I revel in the fact that there is so much difference in the world, it makes life interesting! :o)

Annieye said...

This was very interesting to read. I think many of these behaviours are learned as children.

Moondreamer said...

Ha! I have just this minute posted something about this with regard to children, Annieye (great minds, hey!)

I agree with you (and am somewhat guilty ...)

:o)

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