Today I need words. Great words. Large thoughts. I need to rise to the challenge of my faith to face hate with love, sorrow with comfort, and fear with hope.
Last night’s election was terrifying. Incredibly sad. Revelations about who we are as a nation shock and terrify us. The underbelly of hatred, fear, persecution, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny reared up and surprised us with the breadth of their power. And we need to talk about it.
We need to name the miscalculated and often denied venom of misogyny. Racism drove the election, absolutely and in no small ways. Xenophobia drove the election, without question and to our deep shame. But clearly revealed, often not spoken, perhaps unconscious driver in this election was the visceral fear of women in power. Even from liberals and millennials. Even from women. If we are to move forward toward a more just and kind world we must name this form of inhumanity that crosses race and culture and make change. It is some of the most important work before us. Just as it is clear that we are not in a post-racist time, we are surely not in a post-sexist time.
Today I challenge all the young women who told me women’s battles have been won.I challenge all men of good will who have never grasped the depth of our cultural hatred of women. I challenge all women who accept misogyny as status quo.
It is difficult to make this argument given the privilege some women have because of race or wealth, but they are not immune. Race and wealth do not give women the protections we think it does. It rears its head when we are dehumanized by the porn industry and the fashion industry. It bays at our heels when we are dehumanized by sexual assault – either verbal or physical – and hides under our beds passing as a misdemeanor or worse that ‘boys will be boys’. Women and men need to make misogyny a central political and spiritual issue because we live in an age when leaders can brag about ‘grabbing pussy’ and still get elected, when sports heroes are given a pass for rape, and when a perpetrator of repeated incest with a 12 year old gets 6 month jail sentence.
This call to arms does not mean we rest in our fight against racism. It does not mean we rest in our fight for the rights of sexual minorities.It does not mean we rest in our fight for those who have no voice: for the powerless, the poor, children and the elderly. But we also must not rest in our fight against the often invisible, multi-cultural hatred of women.
Wow. I said it. Hatred of women. But that’s what misogyny is. Using the word misogyny just sounds better than saying that the hatred of women drives our culture and politics. Wikipedia’s definition is:
Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.
In the extended article these observations were made by sociologists and philosophers:
According to sociologist Allan G. Johnson, “misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female.” Johnson argues that:
Misogyny …. is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies.
Sociologist Michael Flood, at the University of Wollongong, defines misogyny as the hatred of women, and notes:
Though most common in men, misogyny also exists in and is practiced by women against other women or even themselves. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male- dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making.
[…] Aristotle contended that women exist as natural deformities or imperfect males […] Ever since, women in Western cultures have internalized their role as societal scapegoats, influenced in the twenty-first century by multimedia objectification of women with its culturally sanctioned self-loathing and fixations on plastic surgery, anorexia and bulimia.
It is painful to look when a light is shown on the power, pervasiveness, and insidiousness of misogyny when there are many men we love – fathers, sons, cousins, friends, lovers… Women of all colors, all ethnicities, all classes, all sexualities must learn to recognize and name misogyny. We must choose to refuse to hate ourselves. We must speak our truth to power, even to men we love, – only then will we change the world.
Today I call on all good men, all thoughtful women, all institutions of power to name and challenge misogyny where you find it. Everywhere you find it. You will get a taste of what people of color experience when they talk about their experience of racism and are told how they are too sensitive and how much things have changed. You will be embarrassed because sexism is a more acceptable form of oppression, more tolerated, even by good liberals, that you might hesitate to speak up.
But we must speak up. Just as people of color and white people must recognize and speak out against racism, tolerating the discomfort and backlash. So must women and men must learn to recognize and speak out against misogyny and sexism and be willing to tolerate the discomfort and backlash.
Until we do and until we begin to actively work against the real hatred of women we cannot have lasting change for the human race.