Things that are not the opposite of misogyny

Remember when I wrote about Newsroom? This is what I was trying to say:

“And yet semi-hallowed reverence for women is not actually the opposite of misogyny. The feminist utopia version of Newsroom isn’t the one where the female characters are Perfect and Powerful. It’s a version where the female characters aren’t completely othered at every moment; where their motivations make as much sense as male characters’; where they’re given the same opportunities to be perfect and imperfect, powerful and disempowered, as right, wrong, scared, and brave as their male counterparts.”

That’s Margaret Lyons at New York Mag and I could kiss her right now.

Much like racists protest their racism by pointing vaguely at their black friends, and Sarah Palin protests calls of bigotry by waving at her gay hairstylist, misogynists have created all sorts of misguided diversions to distract from their misogyny. Let’s take a look:

1. Protectionism: This ancient strategy involves demonstrating your “respect” for women by protecting their delicate sensibilities from the less pink and sparkly parts of life. Ladies might not understand how sad they’ll be after an abortion, so we should make this decision for them! Women don’t understand biology, so we must push an ultrasound in front of their faces!

Why this is dangerous: A central tenet of equality is the belief in the autonomy and decision-making power of adults. The perception that women possess lesser powers of discernment and need “coaching” to understand complex concepts is insulting and belittling.

2. Pedestal-ism: I made up this word, but I think it accurately describes the notion that women exist to be admired instead of included. Anybody who refers to keeping women “pure,” “innocent,” “ladylike,” etc. is a proponent of pedestalism. Anyone who insists that the maintainance of beauty standards is essential to “womanhood” is invested in perpetuating the role of women as objects of adoration.

Why this is dangerous: Pedestalism is about restricting the female sphere of influence and ensuring that women waste their time pursuing physical admiration instead of learning, communicating, growing, evolving, and being rock stars.

3. Chivalry: I’m not talking about opening a car door (though honestly, good rule of thumb: be nice to people and help each other out. Duh.) Being a provider is not the same as being a partner. Paying the bills or picking up dinner doesn’t make you not a misogynist. Recognizing women as equal partners in social engagements, relationships, the workplace and the home is what makes you not a misogynist.

Why this is dangerous: Chivalry creates patterns of entitlement and transaction in social engagements based on gender. Kindness and generosity, however, create goodwill and reciprocity between peers.

4. Separate but Equalism: Acknowledging lady-talent in traditionally lady-spheres is not the same as recognizing that human variation in talent and preference cuts across genders. There are not “natural” career fits for women vs. men, and even if there were, do you think it’s accidental that the lowest paying professions (caretaking in all forms) are traditionally female? We make career decisions based on what we’re good at, yes, but what we’re good out is often borne out of deeply ingrained and unfair societal messages about gender and skill.

Why this is dangerous: Encouraging your daughter to be a nurse and your son to be a surgeon because she’s a girl and he’s a boy perpetuates long term wage disparity. Maybe those are their ideal careers, but maybe you just can’t wrap your head around your son’s caretaking strengths and your daughters’ love of knives.

5. Family: Having a wife, sister, mother or daughter does not make you not a misogynist.

Why this is dangerous: You can’t hide your misogyny behind a family photo.

Related Post: Why family leave policy is at the root of gender disparity in leadership

Related Post: The death of “pretty”. Ick.

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10 Comments

Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Politics, Sex

10 responses to “Things that are not the opposite of misogyny

  1. Emily S.

    Oh my God, THANK YOU. This is what I’ve been trying to articulate to my boyfriend recently, citing Newsroom and super hero movies specifically. There’s always at least one lady who you could describe as “badass” so I felt like I shouldn’t be complaining. But even these women are fairly 2D, and it doesn’t really make up for the fact that every OTHER woman is cast purely as an appendage of the complicated male characters. Someone to fight for or roll their eyes at.

    • I completely know what you mean! You feel like one “successful” female character is supposed to offset the shitty, flat, boring, dimension-less cut-outs that fill the other lady spots!

  2. ascendingPig

    Okay, gotta disagree with the lowest-paying professions being traditionally female. The highest-paying professions are traditionally and persistently male, sure. Nurses are not paid as much as doctors. But the hospital janitor is paid less than both of them. Librarians, teachers, and nannies are not paid like businessmen, but nor are they paid like garbagemen. The lowest-paying jobs are only remotely traditionally female if you count “stay at home parent”.

    I think this error displays a certain class privilege, that you would not even think of the careers involving less education and comfort than professional caretakers.

    • Hey, thanks for this comment. You raise a really good point and you’re totally right that this is a class bias of mine. The lowest paying professions (in this country) are probably predominantly male (I’m thinking agricultural workers). I appreciate it when people knock me out of my little circle every now and then!

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