The word misogyny made its way into my lexis the year I decided to make a major life style modification. I abruptly abandoned a marriage of twenty-one years with a "cultured" misogynist husband with five dependent children. My eldest son had just entered college in another state; my sixteen-year-old daughter was preparing to graduate high school at the tumultuous age of sixteen. I also had very "busy" six-year-old twins one always in trouble and the other blind in one eye and can't see out of the other. I had a pre-adolescent male child who was extremely insecure, a bankrupt business of seventeen years, depth up to my nose, a deadbeat father who was dying of cancer and now needing my help, and a good reputation that was then shattered because of my choice.
As a means of self-therapy I read book after book on emotional abuse, its effects on women and children, and how to recover. I came across a book called, "Men Who Hate Women and The Women Who Love Them" written by a psychologist who wrote the book as self-therapy for she too was trying to regain a confident and productive life after spending ten years with a misogynist husband. It was during this reading that the word misogyny entered into my vocabulary.
According to the author, misogyny [ I pronounced it, "miso-gyny" as in gyne-cologist], is a man who hates women. Additionally, the author defined the suffix gyny as women. The Oxford English Dictionary also defines it as the hate or contempt of women; however, it does not specify this woman hater as particularly male. It has a Greek prefix, miso, meaning hatred. The Oxford English Dictionary declares "gyny" or "gyne" to be a queen, the fertile female of an ant colony. It is interesting to me how a term so commonly used to refer to female temperament and female bodies would carry the meaning a an ant colony. Ants are tiny, meaningless, useless, and can be easily squashed and eliminated. What is the connotation here? Who would refer to the female gender in such context? Why are bugs, especially the insignificant ant, used to define females of the human race?
In "Confessions of a Recovering Mysogynist" by Kevin Powell the author discusses feelings and insights of misogyny that are commonalities in the birth of many male misogynists. Among these commonalities is the fact that first, history books have not given accurate accounts of women and the contributions made by us. Secondly, mothers often spoil our sons by not requiring them to be responsible and productive.
Lastly, and alternately, women often give rise to feelings of abandonment by the fathers of our children and instill blame by oppressing our sons and "beating them down". This widespread conduct has given birth of a great number of society's misogynistic men.
Because men have been the most frequent writers of history, Kevin Powell and so many other young children have not had the privileged to encounter contributions of females in American history. It stands to reason that men have never been alone in this earth. Women are their grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, and daughters. They have been on the island called earth by themselves. It stands to reason that even though not documented, women have played major roles in the development of this nation. I sat in my car waiting for choir rehearsal to start last week. I read Jane Eyre as I waited. A brother came up to my car to speak to me and give me a brotherly kiss on the jaw. When he saw that I was reading the book called "Women's Voices", he jokingly said," what are you reading that garbage for, women have made no real contributions to literature". I gave his response no attention. I realize that misogynist men are all around me and that they have been wrought by society. Mr. Powell describes how males dominated the history books since Betsy Ross was "virtually" the only woman mentioned in American history.
Further, she had a menial job, she sewed the American flag by hand. Sewing is depicted as menial, insignificant, and requiring little skill. Powell nor any other child reading these history books today have not been told that if Ms. Ross was a mother she shaped and molded the mind of man. It was not written nor is it now written that if Ms. Ross was a wife, she influenced if not designed, the thoughts and actions of a man. Neither Mr. Powell nor my own sons have learned in school that women were influential in the development of this nation. I realize that it will take much time and much "re-education" to alter the minds of our men. I am patient with them though, I understand their beginnings and I will subtly or openly (whichever the situation allows for) help to re-educate them.
Misogynistic behavior is developed in some males when they are not expected to wash dishes and perform other chores around the house. Like Kevin Powell whose mother did not require he do chores many little boys today are only required to take out the garbage and maybe cut the grass. Some little boys today are still taught that aggressive behavior is normal, acceptable and oftentimes even expected of them. Little boys are still taught that the world is theirs for the taking. They are still encouraged to fight each other, build and work with their hands. I have witnessed my cousin telling her son who is under the age of two to admire and even touch a female's leg that she deemed as big and pretty, especially when the woman wears stockings. I witnessed grab his hand and put it on the leg of her girlfriend while she said, "see doesn't that feel good" and "isn't that pretty". Little boys listen to their fathers and brothers call females bitches and whores on a daily basis. Like Kevin Powell, little boys are still being trained at home, at school, at church, and by the media to disregard women and their importance.
Surprisingly, though most women consciously agree to lay down with a man and bear his children, they blame these children, especially male children if these fathers abandon them. Very often, the hatred women feel when they are dejected and rejected by their sperm donors is taken out on their sons. The poor little boys are objects of more intense oppression if they happen to physically resemble their fathers. God forbid they exhibit behavior or mannerisms similar to their fathers. I witnessed my aunt turn her son into a monster by constantly beating him down physically and mentally because he looked like his father who abandoned her. Unlike Powell though, he has not been able to recover.
Men who hate women are not born. They are developed. There are many societal ills that instill this behavior in boys and men. Women have always been influential in the lives of men. It will take women to take conscious efforts to empower our daughters, our fellow sisters, and us. It will take the consorted effort of women to change our misogynist fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons into Kevin Powells, "recovering misogynist".