How to spot a misogynist

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When you’re a feminist, you get used to misogynists trying to challenge the necessity of your politics. “Feminism’s finished! Women are equal now and there’s no use for all the hairy arm-pitted rubbish! Quit your yapping! Embrace your curves!”

 

But misogynist isn’t a very fashionable kind of word – I mean, no one saunters into a room proudly pronouncing, ‘My name’s Don and I’m a misogynist!’, unless it’s the latest Charter Meeting of Online Trolls Monthly, or Channel Nine. So because people know it’s not really kosher to be a codified turd, they try and hide their misogynist views under the guise of legitimate arguments.

"If you’re not trained in the spotting of smug, self-satisfied misogynists, you might not know the general thrust of their shtick."

"If you’re not trained in the spotting of smug, self-satisfied misogynists, you might not know the general thrust of their shtick."

 

If you’re not trained in the spotting of smug, self-satisfied misogynists, you might not know the general thrust of their shtick. Luckily for you, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in the field since they all started following me on Twitter. So to help novices and outsiders, I’ve taken the following five popular misogynist arguments and parsed them into some kind of legible (if not logical) format for your benefit. 

 

1. If you want to see real oppression, go to the Middle East.

The problems here are threefold. First, it implies women in the west should be grateful for the benevolence of their natural overlords. Who cares if 1 in 3 of you will experience sexual assault in your lifetime, while also enjoying the privilege of lower pay than your male counterparts and the symbolic annihilation of yourselves in literature and film? In case you didn’t know, women in Afghanistan are being stoned to death. So why don’t you just go ahead and submit your complaint to the STFU file known as my PENIS?

Second is the accusatory tone. Now, I’m no statistician, but I’d estimate that 98.76% of people outraged over feminism’s ‘failure’ to ‘protect’ their brown sisters from the oppression of their Muslim Male Masters (because let’s not forget, this is about racism too) are doing exactly zero to agitate for women’s liberation anywhere, let alone in the Middle East. But even though they hate feminism and all who dwell therein, they still think they know how to do it better than you do. This is because misogynists see themselves as Upper Management – which is precisely why we need to get more women into executive roles.

Finally, liberation and change aren’t beholden to hierarchies of need. It’s possible to seek the liberation of oppressed groups everywhere, at the same time! Asking comparatively privileged women (many of whom also live in the Middle East – it is not a vacuum) to be satisfied with ‘good enough’ just reinforces the patriarchal hierarchy of power that needs to be dismantled.

Besides, I don’t hear anyone accusing working families of selfishness for complaining about their rising electricity bills just because some slum dwellers in India don’t even HAVE working Playstations.

 

2. How can women expect us to respect them when they won’t respect themselves?

When Sheik Al-Hilali compared scantily clad women to uncovered meat, we were rightly outraged. In Australia, we yelled, we don’t treat women like that! Except that we do. We use clothing and behaviour to provide excuses for sexist everyday, be they rapists or simply the kind of people who think a woman’s right to be afforded a basic level of dignity is contingent upon how much of her skin she’s revealing. The fact that we criticize other cultures for it doesn’t make us champions of women – it makes us both sexist AND racist. 

We’re not protecting women – we’re protecting our property. Asking women to respect themselves in order to ‘earn’ the right to be treated like a human being is total horseshit. But suggesting that you have the right to treat her exactly as you please because she didn’t adhere to your archaic views of feminine propriety is misogyny, plain and simple.

 

3. Stop criticizing domestic servitude! Some women are proud to look after their families.

This one’s a misogynist favourite, especially notable for the fact it’s the only time you’ll find them advocating for women’s rights in the workplace. Specifically, a woman’s right to iron her husband’s work shirts instead of her own. Misogynists who use this argument like to wax lyrical about things like choice, pride and sacrificial love. But what they’re really defending is their belief that women belong in the home, performing dull domestic tasks for the primary benefit of everyone other than themselves (and mainly their husband). Despite the fact that these dudes wouldn’t devote even an tenth of their lives to it themselves, they’re invested in outwardly maintaining the nobility of unpaid domestic work – because ascribing false honour to drudgery is how you reinforce invisible social power.

The thing is, women can choose those things if they want to. There’s nothing more tedious than the status quo trying to pit stay-at-homes against workforce broads. But the fact is, these people aren’t advocating for or defending a range of choices. How do I know that? Because if they were, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

 

4. It’s a science thing

“Look, men and women are built differently. It’s biological. Men are more visual, women are more emotional. That’s why more men are in executive roles. It’s about merit. If women were better, they wouldn’t be so crap. I didn’t make the rules.”

So goes the argument. Basically, it’s the kind of pop science spouted by the readers of such noted academic journals as NW Magazine and the Herald Sun. Whenever you hear someone say, ‘women are just better at washing up’ or ‘men are just better at being the leader of the free world’, ask yourself this: would that sentence be as benign if we replaced gender with race? Would we stand by, nodding sagely as mainstream pundits discussed how white people are just better at empathy than black folk? I sure hope not.

So why is it okay to say that women aren’t as good at stuff ‘because biology’? The biology argument is a Trojan horse that does nothing but sneak sexist propaganda into the castle. The only biological difference between a man and a woman is the difference of a Y chromosome – and even then, there’s a bit of wiggle room.

 

5. Men are oppressed too, therefore women aren’t! Or something.

‘If feminists really cared about equality, they’d be addressing all the inequality that faces men. Like, why do feminists only care about breast cancer and not prostate cancer? Why aren’t feminists advocating for single dads? Why won’t women sleep with me when I’m a really nice guy and I’ve made a particular effort to be nice to them, particularly? Until feminism can answer that, I’m afraid I don’t really see it as being legitimate.”

This is the last bastion of the misogynist’s argument – their self fancying checkmate, if you will. What these people are basically saying is that, despite the overwhelming evidence of entrenched sexual, physical and ideological oppression of women, the only way feminism can really be fair is if it first identifies and solves all of the ways in which the patriarchy also oppresses men.

To be more specific, women who agitate for their own liberation are only allowed to do so once they’ve fixed all the things that make men sad, thus making them stronger and even more powerful.

There are probably a million ways I could tear this argument apart, but I think this says it better than I ever could.

To paraphrase the great Sarah Connor, a bitchin’ kick ass broad who saved humanity from blistering annihilation at the hands of the Terminators: if a stick figure, an animation, can reject the stupidity of misogynist rhetoric…maybe we can too.

 

Go forth and rebut, my friends.

 

132 comments so far

  • Good piece. It's so depressing to be still having to reiterate the same old arguments that were around in days of the early hairy-armpit girls (70s). And re housework, one of my favourite quotes is from Fay Weldon: "the cleaner the house, the angrier the woman".

    Commenter
    MadonnaofCoogee
    Date and time
    May 01, 2012, 8:50AM
    • Well just where the hell does that leave me ..... whoops sorry ..... what I meant to start of saying was "I wish they would make the extension handle on the vacuum longer for us non- misogynistic tall men who get a sore back from leaning over while cleaning the whole house".

      Here in Queensland the term "misogynistic" is usually spelt "Liberal National Party" or "LNP" for short, but we do sometimes mistake it for christian fundamentalism.

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      May 01, 2012, 2:40PM
    • My sister would disagree with you. She chose to be a stay at home mother, loves staying at home, looking after her two sons, and the house. Her husband wants her to get a job, would be more than happy for her to be a working mum. She is the one who chose to stay at home, so he accepted it, now he makes the money for the family. And he hates having to work as hard as he does, but he wants her to be happy, and at home she is. She hated work, you see, hated the nine to five and loves being at home.

      "But what they’re really defending is their belief that women belong in the home, performing dull domestic tasks for the primary benefit of everyone other than themselves (and mainly their husband)."

      She would especially hate this comment. The suggestion that her life's work is nothing more than 'dull domestic tasks for the benefit of everyone other than herself'.

      Frankly, that's condescending, patronizing and judgmental. Again, it was her choice to stay at home, she loves it, she thinks working a nine-to-five is soul destroying.

      Just because you think looking after the kids and the house is an example of women sticking to archaic stereotypes (and don't pretend that's not what you were saying), doesn't make it so. Personally I'd much prefer looking after my children to working.

      Commenter
      Jon
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 01, 2012, 2:46PM
    • So Jon, what's actually stopping you??????

      Commenter
      The evil twin
      Date and time
      May 01, 2012, 9:41PM
    • We all have our stories. The Banks are the worst - they won't give loans to single mothers. The insults and abuse that men deliver is typically from football brained morons. And I gotta say, they do it to other men, too.

      Their air of latent, ever-impending violence and celebration of dumbness - and these males think they're so smart.

      Every powerful institution sanctions women-hatred ... the media, the Banks, the businessmen in the Warrior-Red car, strutting so bravely along the street. Then there's the dumb-shit "tradies" who talk crap all day, and go home believing half of it.

      But don't worry. Misogyny is a curse for the rest of us men, too. I tire of being typecast, of being ridiculed any time a red-hot feminist decides to blurt out the rage.

      Blame your mothers, Blame your fathers. But as a person who has continuously supported and advanced women's rights, I DO wish that you would at least recognise that many men have actively encouraged, supported and mentored women, in part to balance the morons.

      Commenter
      Axis
      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 8:28AM
  • WOW!!! That was great!

    Of course, I realise that you are about to start copping some pretty heated backlash.... can't wait to see the comments this article attracts from the MCP Brigade.

    But thanks, this story has made my morning.

    Commenter
    ACF
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 01, 2012, 9:25AM
    • Well said on all accounts. Makes me fell a bit better about still calling myself a feminist in the current cultural climate when many of my peers think the movement is now superfluous.

      Commenter
      Edith
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 01, 2012, 9:42AM
      • Edith just out of interest-could you please outline for me (with specific examples) how being a women in Australia has been an impediment for you. In what ways have you been discriminated against? Most of the women I know are very happy and have never felt the slightest prejudice due to their gender, I am a teacher and yes-I have asked them.

        Commenter
        mark
        Date and time
        May 01, 2012, 10:24AM
      • Oh, Mark. You've been asking the wrong women, obviously. Of course it all depends on what the women have tried to do with their lives. Since women are treated quite well in teaching (I was one), you won't find too much dissatisfaction there - women are accepted where there are shortages. And of course things have improved enormously since my day when a women couldn't own land, a business, get a bank loan, leave the country etc without their husband/father's signature. But there are many, many examples of terrible sexual harassment, bullying, you name it, in more male oriented workplaces.
        Open your eyes, do some reading - if you really want to get over your biases. Or you could spend a few days dressed up as a woman and see how differently you are treated!

        Commenter
        lola
        Date and time
        May 01, 2012, 11:09AM
      • Mark, as a woman in Australia I have been grabbed at, screamed at from moving cars, held up against a wall with a knife to my throat ("Show me your tits", and then when I started to cry, "it was just a joke!"), all for the crime of having a female body. I've had men ask me if I have "daddy issues", hit me when I refused to perform oral sex, had someone request that my ex "let [him] know when [my ex] was finished with [me]".
        So tell me I don't need feminism.
        So many people will have read through this comment thinking about all the things I must have done to "ask" for this treatment. Dressed in revealing clothes, slept around, didn't apologise for being proud of my sexuality.
        I was fifteen, and in my school uniform, when the boy a few years above me pulled out that knife.
        That's why I'm a feminist.

        Commenter
        Kirra
        Date and time
        May 01, 2012, 11:49AM

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