The War on Words: Feminism and Misogyny

This is the second post in a series of however many I feel like blog posts on the misuse and abuse of language with regard to hot-button issues.  For some context, it might be helpful to read the posts in order starting with the first one.  I am already looking forward to my third one, the topic of which I will leave as a surprise for now.

In our continuing journey across the etymological and colloquial battlefields of the war on words, it might be worth taking a moment to stop and consider women’s issues.  After all, battlefields are generally littered with far more dead bodies of men than women, but I really like women, so I’m going to focus on women’s issues.

So what is feminism?  Well, it’s a lot like reality.  Really, really complicated.  Just taking a quick look around, we see that there are many differing perspectives under the feminist umbrella.  And if we take a look at the history of feminism, we can see how it has changed over time, which is also useful to note.  The first wave, second wave, and third wave either gently wash into the shore of our social structures and create growth and life or are a tsunami of terrible destruction that wipes out all that is good and holy, depending on who you ask.  There have a been a wide variety of responses to feminism from both those outside the women’s rights movement and those within it.  Some within the women’s rights movement have endorsed the ideas of feminism unreservedly.  Others have critiqued many of those ideas while agreeing with the goal of gender equality.  Many others sought to make intellectual shifts in feminist ideas in an attempt to improve them, some to move them in a more moderate and constructive direction and others to foster the view that all men are rapists and deserve to die.  There are really quite a wide range of feminist views, and it defies simplistic categorization.

Despite the complexity of feminism, folks tend to paint it with a very broad brush.  Among traditionalists and conservatives, feminism is frequently a dirty word, an epithet to express the sort of liberalism that has disintegrated social structures, created a namby-pamby education system, and has promoted general moral decay.  Among modernists and liberals, feminism frequently carries positive connotations.  It’s viewed as a wonderful social movement that has created a more egalitarian society and helped break down oppression, leading the grand exodus out of our patriarchal past.  In the men’s rights movement, feminism is frequently viewed as an ideology that perpetuates misandry and is therefore in need of elimination.

Unfortunately, our fine lexicographers helped immensely in oversimplifying our understanding of feminism by defining it as simply as possible.  If you look at most dictionaries, feminism seems really easy to understand.  When you crack open the dusty dictionary and mosey on over to the F section, you’ll learn that feminists just advocate for equal rights.  What could be more admirable or harmless?  Who’s going to disagree with equal rights?

Misogynists, of course.  For those who don’t know yet, misogyny is defined as the hatred of women.  Depending on who you speak to about it, being a misogynist could be as difficult as saying that all women are so inherently depraved that they should be beaten regularly and may be killed after they have made men enough babies and sandwiches to make room for them to have younger women.  Or it could be as easy as suggesting that the way some feminists view women as a victim class and men as an oppressor class is overly simplistic and ignores a lot of scientific information about human behavior.  So how does it get so easy to be a misogynist in some cases?  Well, it goes back to the dictionary.  If you disagree with important aspects of what a person considers to be feminism, it’s easy for them to see your disagreement as an attack on feminism.  And if you don’t like feminism, clearly you just don’t like equal rights for women, because that’s what it means in the dictionary.  Unfair?  Certainly.

But all is fair in love and the war on words these days.  And nowhere else have I seen the intense amount of rancor in the war on words as in matters of gender and sexuality.  In fact, sometimes you risk getting ostracized, censured, or even slapped in the face if you do discuss the issues surrounding gender and equality.  Ah, sweet equality.

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16 Responses to The War on Words: Feminism and Misogyny

  1. MommaFish89 says:

    I disagree with equal rights movements when it gets to a point where equality is no longer the ultimate goal. When it comes to a point where what they (and I am generalizing “they” to any E.R. groups) want is to be able to do, say, and act as they please seemingly without consequence and without anyone saying anything about it, then I no longer feel that what they stand for is “equality” but merely an “acceptance” of their actions in any regards. When they want to raise the bar and begin to ask for unnecessary compensation for their… struggles and then continue to do so, and continue to run back and back to the same arguments, and call forth on decade-old treatments and abuses as justification for their cause now… then I no longer support them.

  2. Ampbreia says:

    You’re very brave and bold to take this on.  *HUGS*

  3. AmorVomnia7 says:

    There are many different flavors of feminism. There are many different types of feminists.However… Much of the more “egalitarian” views that some feminists have and some feminisms espouse… It isn’t the same feminism that lobbies. It isn’t the same feminism that’s taught in gender studies classes. It isn’t the same feminism that pushes for VAWA. It isn’t the same feminism that defines rape as only a penetrative act at the strict exclusion of rape as an act of envelopment.Or what GirlWritesWhat says:”Your flavor of feminism is not the one informing a collection of lawyers, social workers, educators, child care specialists, psychologists, community coordinators and other professionals to collaborate on a blog that cheers the plans to eugenically exterminate the male half of the human race. (RadFemHub)””Your feminism, with its admirable goals and complete lack of influence in society. Comprised of a teeny-tiny unfunded, unorganized minority whose dissent is to the vanguard of the movement what a mere gnat is to a muskox. Your feminism is “true feminism”. Sure, it’s not the feminism that informs domestic policy, writes advisory papers to the UN or eradicates due process on college university campuses. The people who do all of that are the “other feminism”. You know, the feminism that isn’t “true feminism”. The big, funded, established, wealth-bloated, politically powerful version of the ideology. And heck, you don’t even talk to those people. You don’t even get invited to their parties.”So it should be important to note that when I write about the issues I have with ‘feminism’, I’m talking about the feminism that refuses to see the evidence that domestic violence is a 50/50 thing between the genders. If you’re a feminist that recognizes that VAWA isn’t egalitarian, then I’m not talking about you.But despite that, there’s at least one thing that I can think of that is pretty much a staple amongst 95% or so of all feminists (this actually stretches beyond feminists in large part because of the effects feminist propaganda has had on society overall), and that is their problematic view of “patriarchy”. No matter how egalitarian a feminist can get, they’ll cling to the propagandized version of patriarchy as a female oppressing system rather than the more accurate portrayal as a division of labor.All in all, the true issue is gynocentrism and not so much ‘feminism’. Gynocentrism has 2 branches: Feminism and traditionalism/chivalry.

  4. tjordanm says:

    Good post, I’ve been saying for years that “feminism” is a broad term and can mean a lot of things. Note, though, that you’re discussing this like it is a semantic issue. Words are limited and don’t express the full landscape of what a human can think, and so yes, it seems like a lot of this stuff is words. But it goes deeper.

  5. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @MommaFish89 – I’m with you on that one.  I think it’s easy for people who are very devoted to a cause to get trapped in what things were like in their generation because that’s where their formative experiences occurred.  It can be very difficult for us human beings to move on from a hurtful past.  Unfortunately, it sometimes leads us to deal very ineffectively with reality as it exists now and confront the real problems of the present.  I think that’s why many very dedicated people who worked hard and did great things for civil rights end up looking like crazy radicals later in their lives.  The past has moved on, but they have not.  They are still fighting the battles of their generation while younger generations really need their help and wisdom for the newer battles.@Ampbreia – Many thanks.  *hugs back*  I am glad to have a little support in my attempt to halt the war on words and have a little peacetime understanding and cooperation.  Hopefully we can have healthier discussions about these issues if we’re not always misusing our words and engaging in hyperbole.

  6. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @AmorVomnia7 – I always enjoy GirlWritesWhat.  One of the issues she brings up very effectively is that a certain portion of the women’s rights movement has a lot of what I like to call social activist infrastructure.  It’s the same kind of thing we see with environmentalists or animal rights activists.  There’s an unfortunate tendency for the fanatics and radicals to be the ones who are invested enough in the issue to build the organizations to get things done for their cause.  As a result, the stuff that gets done and the rhetoric that gets employed often includes things that more moderate or fair-minded folks would see as problematic.  It’s an issue of who controls that infrastructure.So more moderate and fair-minded folks have a couple of options.  We can really take our moderate cause more seriously and infiltrate that infrastructure so that we can improve the situation, or we can tear down the infrastructure and rebuild it.  I’d prefer to use the existing infrastructure and shift the goals in a more moderate direction.So if gynocentrism is the root of the problem, do you think it would help to center the intellectual discourse around it and treat particular feminist positions and theories as a symptom or expression of it?  Do you think that might help MRAs shift the debate a bit and avoid some of the pushback from feminists so that MRAs can get a somewhat more fair hearing from the audience?@tjordanm – Thanks for the compliment.  I appreciate it.  You’re right that it does go much deeper.  Maybe I’ll do a separate follow-up to this post outside my War On Words series to address some of the deeper issues.

  7. AmorVomnia7 says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – It doesn’t seem to help by just focusing on gynocentrism. It’s tough when feminists deny that they’re being gynocentric and absolutely will not budge when it’s suggested that they are.As long as feminism is the default on ‘gender equality’ in the public eye, MRA’s will never get a fair hearing from an audience. They are completely dismissed as misogynists. Warren Farrell has been harping on this stuff for about 30 years with the softest and most gentlest voice that’s possible. The public simply doesn’t want to hear it.

  8. JadeMaster2 says:

    Bravo! You are going to get trolled and drug over hot coals for this, but you did very well at opening a conversation that has long needed to be exposed to scrutiny.

  9. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @AmorVomnia7 – That’s very true.  Feminism does have the market cornered on public discourse over gender equality.  The women’s right’s movement quite literally defined the terms in the debate, which solidifies the position of feminism as the ideology of choice.  Early bird gets the worm, I guess.I really like Warren Farrell.  He’s a great person who shows incredible dedication in the struggle for equality regardless of gender.  But maybe what we need isn’t a Warren Farrell in the public eye.  I think the grassroots approach to building awareness will be more effective anyway, given the nature of the issue.@JadeMaster2 – Thank you!  I appreciate it.

  10. QuantumStorm says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – @AmorVomnia7 – I love Warren Farrell and much of what he shares. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if the MGTOW approach isn’t the first step that men should take. The more I talk to feminists about this issue, the less encouraged I am about the possibility that they will actually shift their thinking by us debating and discussing things with them. Since feminists treat men as agents who enact their own change, it might be worthwhile to play the same game. By choosing to opt out of marriage and relationships, it would be a guy’s way of taking charge of his situation. It would be his way of revealing his own disposability and victimhood by acting as an agent of change, as paradoxical as it sounds. I think MGTOW’ers should be exposed to a lot of what Warren Farrell is saying because he has a very good view on getting the genders to work together, which will help temper some of the more extreme MGTOW’ers who might otherwise fall into a bitter, misogynistic rut. At the same time, a lot of what Farrell talks about probably won’t happen until things get really crappy for men and more men protest silently by turning away from marriage. Also, excellent post as usual. 

  11. I’ve only called one person in my entire life a misogynist. He had this attitude that women should grovel at his feet and kiss his ass. Because I would not do that for him, he threatened me and tried, and failed, to make my life a living hell. I thought he was just some douchebag, until I realized that he was treating the guys around him very well, and was trying to break down one of my friends by telling her she was too masculine and not really a woman in the weirdest, most flirtatious way possible. I did lots of tests to see if he was actually a woman hater, and when it was confirmed, I exacted my revenge upon him by simply ignoring his ass and further infuriating him. I eventually broke him to the point where he would nonverbally ask for permission to speak to me. I will not, and do not, use the word “misogynist” lightly, just because of that asshole. 

  12. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @QuantumStorm – Thank you, good sir.  As far as discussions with feminists, I use an approach of incrementalism.  And the first step I take is to discuss evolutionary psychology and its bearing on gender issues for both genders.  I’ve had some success with that, mostly with feminists who are not of the radical social activist variety, which is really the only place to start really changing minds and hearts.  The best a person can do when engaging in debates with ideologues is to convince some members of their audience, because they will predictably just dig in their heels at push away facts as hard as possible when their ideology is threatened.  I would not expect to have any success in debates or discussions with the radical sort.As far as refusing to marry or have relationships, I’m not sure that’s going to work.  Women are often more likely to listen to people they feel close to, so denying them the closeness could be counter-productive,@angelwingfive – It sounds like you were justified in describing his behavior toward women as hateful, and I’m sorry you had to endure that kind of behavior.  Did you ever find out why he felt that way about women?  I find it really odd to hate others based on gender, so I’m curious as to what would motivate that.

  13. galadrial says:

    Not to be a bitch…but how many jobs have you lost because your boss demanded sex…to keep your job?I’ve had that joy three times.It doesn’t frequently happen to men.(I will allow it as a rare occurrence for males.)Now you CAN complain…you can even sue…but most likely you will not find  a lawyer, and will lose your job. You may also end up being blackballed in your industry. Men don’t get “slow tracked” when they become fathers.It happens to women the instant they become pregnant in many cases.There is still income inequity.Twenty years ago, they told us the men got batter salaries because they had better degrees.Now women have those degrees…and are still paid less. And i learned this week (not to be a trendy) that if a woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape (something that never has happened to a man) her rapist has parental rights in 31 states, including CUSTODY and visitation.Since feminism isn’t the answer…how would you suggest we deal with these issues?Forgive me if I think ignoring them is an invitation to further abuse.

  14. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @galadrial –  Just to be clear, I want you to know that you don’t have to preface anything you say to me with, “Not to be a bitch…”  You can say whatever you like, and if it’s offensive enough I might delete it, but I won’t use that word to label you (or anyone else here, for that matter).  I actually like you and enjoy a lot of your posts.  You are a very kind and caring person.To answer your question, none.  I’ve lost a job because a business went under due to tough economic times.  I’ve lost a job because I had the gall to point out to someone higher up the ladder than me that I couldn’t do my job without the most important tools to do it with.  And I’ve lost a job because the work was seasonal.  Thankfully, I never lost a job for any reason related to anyone else’s sexual misconduct.  That’s pretty atrocious.  You have a lot of courage for doing the very difficult but right thing of being honest and true to yourself in those situations.Far be it from me to insist that there aren’t problems for women, or that everything is fair for women.  And far be it from me to insist that men don’t have advantages in some areas.To answer your question about what I suggest, I certainly don’t suggest ignoring problems for people based on their sex.  It really runs counter to my egalitarian ideals.  And because my biological father was abusive, violence against women is a very personal issue for me that I really can’t ignore, and I’ll certainly admit my own emotional involvement there.  I’m far from objective on that issue.What I do suggest is that feminists and masculinists (or MRAs) work together on making lives better for both men and women.  Fundamentally, I think men and women need to treat each other better.  We need to be more focused on building healthy relationships than scoring ideological or intellectual points. At a very basic level, I suggest changing the focus of men and women’s rights movements so that both are more focused on the constructive and positive.  So that we’re building each other up to be better people.  So that we really listen to each other more.  So that we can talk honestly without reprisal.  So that we can admit our failings and forgive them. So that we can understand each others needs and work cooperatively to meet those needs.  And I think that if we do that first, it’ll be a whole lot easier to resolve the systemic issues because we’ll at least have a basis of love and respect on which we can stand together and work out what’s most fair to everyone.  I guess that what I’m getting at here is that I’d suggest reconciliation, because that’s the only way I see this working for women, men, or people who don’t fit comfortably in either category.  And if we’re going to have reconciliation, we have to throw down the ideological truncheons and work together to make sure that loving parents of whatever gender can work at home or outside the home, to make sure that people of whatever gender don’t get sexually assaulted, to make sure that people of whatever gender are not viewed as objects, disposable, or worth less because of their gender.I look forward to your thoughts on my suggestions.

  15. galadrial says:

    I feel the need to apologize for at least some of the tone to my post.I know that all men are not bastards…and not every one will exploit women. That said, In the last few weeks I have dealt with men who insisted that “feminism” is the root of all existing evil in our country, between men and women.I like to point out that The Playboy Mentality existed BEFORE the 70’s…and that it changed a LOT before the first bra got burned.  We hear a lot about how those “evil, mannish women” screwed up everything…but rarely a peep about how Hugh Hefner’s philosophy pretty much single handed, did in the old school rules. You could apportion some blame to the 60’s, as well…but blaming women for wanting equal rights? Not quite cricket.When I was your age, women made 59 cents an hour, to ever dollar man at the same level of employment made. I understand it’s up to about  80 cents an hour today, and that’s progress. But I noticed some of the candidates last year saying some damned scary things…such as, “If women stopped working, we could end unemployment tomorrow”. Ummm…and what would those women, and their families do for income? Crickets. But back to the Hef, if I may.  The Playboy Mentality centered on the idea that a man didn’t have to BUY the cow to get sex.  instead, he could be a groovy, swinging guy…so long as he never bought into the idea of marriage. He could pick “playmates”…and have a fun life. It ignored both pregnancy and social diseases. Guys could not get pregnant…and back then, antibiotics killed most STD’s. I’m not sure it is appreciated how difficult it was to be a young woman during the Hef period.  You had to be careful not to seem too cling-y..and you had to not value yourself much. I’m sure you’ve heard of Girls Gone Wild? They travel around with cameras to the big “party spots”, to get footage of young women doing stupid stuff…usually because they are drunk. That’s today’s “hef.”.  During the late 60’s, early 70’s, if you went for a job, even WITH a college degree, they started you off as a typist.  If you were a guy, you never touched a typewriter…and got paid a lot better…right from school.  “Girls” had to prove themselves,  If you complained, you got fired. If you put in 2-3 years (at FAR less pay), then they gave you a shot at being an assistant…usually to young men who came in after you did. I used to call myself a feminist. People assumed I was gay, hated men, and was screwed up.  Now a guy in the same time period could be a rutting dog—butt grabbing, dirty language, rude remarks, and stuff we’d call harassment today. Know what they called them? “Sir”. The thing is…I have a daughter…you’ve heard of her. She’s smart, delightful, polite, and six shades of wonderful…but the first time I held her after she was born, I was ASHAMED…not of her…but myself. I had done nothing to improve her future. I had allowed myself to cave when people asked me if I wore leather jackets, or smoked cigars. I wanted equality…not superiority.  but back in the 80’s, that was TOO much to ask. I’ve read a lot of posts here at Xanga…and the vicious attacks on women are little short of vile. You might be right—that both genders need to work together…but all i hear (not your posts…you are a thinker, even if we don’t always agree) is how women are trying to TAKE something from men. How is asking for equal rights for all, taking ANYTHING from anyone? Yes…there are differences, and different strengths, and vulnerabilities between the genders…and it’s hard to figure out where to draw the lines at times…but I am sick to DEATH of hearing that women screwed it all up. Like you, I grew up in a home where domestic violence was common. I have three relatives (that I know of) who were raped in the last 40 years…other who were molested. I want to teach my daughter that she doesn’t have to be a victim…that no one has the right to harm her, especially because of her gender…and that she has no right to harm anyone else, either. But honestly…how do I teach her to take care of herself, when so much seems oriented to disliking women for being self sufficient? I know a lot of women who had kids without being married…because no one asked them…of because they feared that if they waited much longer, they wouldn’t have a child. It wasn’t my choice…but I understand it. Men in their 40’s can still marry a woman in her late 20’s. or early 30’s, and have children. A woman in her 40’s? Out of luck. Forgive the ramble, but this is a complex topic…and honestly, one gender didn’t get us here…and one will not get us out.

  16. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @galadrial – I warmly accept your kind apology, though I really wasn’t bothered by your tone.  What usually bothers me is the underlying sense that if I dare to challenge some of the intellectual facets of feminism, I must be a misogynist at worst or just callously indifferent to women’s concerns at best.  And even that I don’t get overly offended by, mostly because I realize that if the majority of a person’s experiences are with people who critique feminism and also behave badly toward women, it would be very easy to associate the two.  From what you’ve told me of your experiences, I can definitely see how it would be easy to associate people who critique feminism with misogyny or a callous disregard for women.Like you, I think the folks who use the kind of “feminism is the root of all social ills” rhetoric are seriously overstating the case, which is why I poked a bit of fun at those hyperbolic views above in my post.  Like you, I also think that there were other factors at play in producing contemporary social conditions.  Certainly, feminism and the women’s rights movement were factors, but we need to also look at those who responded to feminism and the women’s rights movement, the social conditions that existed prior to those movements and concurrently with them, popular philosophy of the day, changes in marketing and commercialism, demographic shifts, legal and policy changes, etc.  It’s a very complex mess that we are always going to misunderstand if we just look at one aspect of our society and point to it as the cause of everything we don’t like.  I’ve been drafting a post in my head on this very topic for the past couple of weeks, but it’s a big topic and it will take some time to coalesce.Also, I very much understand what you mean about being sick to death of hearing that women screwed it all up by destroying traditional gender roles and social structures, etc.  I get tired of hearing it too, and I get tired of hearing about how men screwed it all up via patriarchy and how we’re all at best a bunch of rape supporters and at worst not deserving of life.  The blame game played by many on both sides of the issue may fulfill our need to vent our very real frustrations, but it gets us nowhere if we just keep playing that game without moving on and building something better for all of us.  What I’d like to see is a focus on building something better so that your daughter doesn’t have to deal with the blame game, the misogyny, or the misandry any longer than necessary.  I’m sure you’re teaching her the best you can under the sad circumstances.  I really feel sorry for what women and girls and men and boys go through in our contemporary socialization process.  It’s pretty horrific.I think you said it very well that one gender didn’t get us here and one won’t be able to get us out.

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