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|Spectra and binaries
“”That men are afraid of women is not — despite the headlines — news. Men will always be afraid of women, so long as patriarchy lasts, for the same reason that millionaires will always tremble at the thought of revolution. The master fears the slave. The slave might revolt. There does not seem to be any reason why women should not enslave men. Men have enslaved women for ten thousand years. If it is woman's turn now, who can have the gall to object? For that matter, woman still has a biological function to perform. Man is extinct. Insemination will require tomorrow only common salt and cheap electricity.
Misogyny is the hatred of women. A few countries, notably some Islamic, Jewish, and Christian states, have encoded misogynistic viewpoints into their laws. Some of these states give husbands and fathers full legal rights over their wives and daughters; prevent women from accessing public services without permission of their husbands or fathers; and legally limit the ability of women to participate in society by preventing them from holding jobs, driving, or accessing the press. These legal moves are often combined with a social blindness towards violence against women, up to and including the crimes of rape and murder.
Misogyny is not synonymous with sexism, or discrimination on the basis of sex. Sexism against women involves stereotyping as the weaker or inferior sex compared to men, defining their roles in society as subservient to men, defining and limiting permissible behaviour and agency accordingly. Misogyny is how this sexism against women is enforced. Women stepping outside the role handed to them by sexists and/or a sexist society can face ridicule, shaming, and verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. This can be meted out by a partner, their families, their peers, and society at large, or it can come through legal measures. The effect is to keep women in their place or else face the consequences.
Blatant and subtle institutionalized and social misogyny is still encountered everywhere in the world. This can manifest itself in laws regulating reproduction (specifically birth control and abortion) which prevent a woman from fully controlling her life, social barriers to accessing political and economic power, rape culture, and acceptance of domestic abuse. It is largely a consequence of human history. Old habits die hard. Human history is largely a history of misogyny; it has only been in the last 200 years that women in any country have begun to find any measure of equality.
A formidable part of the discussion concerning misogyny involves statements and opinions that the term is used as a tool to further other causes, or silence criticism where real sexism (or misogyny) is not present. The topic is heated at times, while very few people considering themselves secular will actually oppose the idea of equal rights for both sexes.
Many of the world's religions have their beginnings in strongly patriarchal cultures, and as such may still have misogynistic elements; at the same time, a smart reading of religious texts and the early histories of these religions reveals that painting them in broad strokes as misogynist is inaccurate.
All three Abrahamic religions have historically devalued women; in fact, the fall of man is placed right at the feet of Eve, a perfect indication of the role women will play in the religions.
Women are traditionally prohibited from being priests or rabbis (Leviticus 21:1), which continues today in Orthodox Judaism and, to a lesser extent, in Conservative Judaism. The menstrual blood is considered to be a defilement; a menstruating woman was "put apart for her uncleanness," and a man was not allowed to approach the altar if he had touched menstrual blood without ritual washing (Leviticus 15:19-33).
To be fair, that the ancient Israelites lived in a desert and they had limited access to water, and thus could not bathe like we do (or even get a hold of a babywipe) probably has a lot to do with this taboo. Menstruation is extremely messy and menstrual blood leaves stains, as well as smelling rather unpleasant. Furthermore, menstrual seclusion was often, in practice, a break from one's usual work and a chance to relax.
Historically, while Jewish leaders generally frowned upon "striking a wife without reason", they offered some very generous definitions of what qualifies as a "reason". Nevertheless, divorce was considered more appropriate.
Virgin women who were raped by a man were to be married by their rapist once he pays fifty shekels of silver to her father (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and any vows made by a woman could be nullified by her father or her husband (Numbers 30:3-15). Having multiple wives was also accepted (Deuteronomy 21:15–17, Genesis 4:19–24, and 2 Samuel 3:2–5), whereas there are no known examples of Jewish wives having multiple husbands. Adultery led one to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10) and the daughters of priests who were whores were also to be burned to death (Leviticus 21:9). It was also better to offer women to be raped rather than have a man be raped (Judges 19:24).
Christianity has long prohibited women from being priests; the Bible explicitly states that no woman shall teach any man (1 Timothy 2:12). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also offers an explanation as to why they only allow male priests.
“”Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
Most Christians outside of extremist fundamentalists, however, consider that the primary reason for this was not that Christianity considered women inferior, but due to the culture of that time not giving women an educational opportunity. As a result of this, it was hard for women at that time and culture to be knowledgeable in theological matters. However, in modern times, many women hold positions as pastors and priests in multiple denominations.
Some Protestant religions take a different view and ordain women priests, though not all denominations are accepting of the idea.
Jesus is alleged to have protected a woman from being stoned to death, by telling them, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," (John 8:7) and he is alleged to teach his theology to women (Luke 10:38). Then again, all twelve of the Apostles in the canonical bible were male (Judas was also replaced by a male). It has been argued that Jesus was not as misogynistic as the religion which was to take his name, as the Gnosticism Gospel of Mary and Gospel of Thomas suggest that Mary Magdalene was not a "hanger on," but rather, was a full disciple in her own right. There are also suggestions that the very early church had conflicting views on women, as the third century sarcophagus found in Santa Maria Antiqua painted women in roles of authority. This kind of argument would not convince a fundamentalist, as it would require the Bible to not be literally true or inerrant. More liberal Christians who view the Bible as a work of literature written by humans might find it more compelling.
The New Testament has some passages which suggest that women remained in a inferior position to men. In 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul of Tarsus argued that man's head should remain uncovered as he was the glory of God whereas woman was the glory of the man and therefore should cover one's head. Though to be fair, Paul was afraid of fallen angels coming down from heaven, impregnating women, and raising a race of nephilim (1 Corinthians 11:10). Women were also supposed to be subservient and silent (1 Corinthians 14:34, Ephesians 5:22).
However, many of the Bible verses cited today to promote misogynistic attitudes were not the words of Jesus, but those of Paul of Tarsus (or rather, those of his subsequent redactors), and many argue that Apostle Paul's claims were not against women's inherent value as inferior to men, but mostly related to the culture at the time, which limited women in terms of education and gender roles, making them less suitable to be religious leaders at the time.
After Saudi Arabia gave women the right to vote in 2011, there became only one country in the world that hasn't extended voting privileges to women. And that country is... the Vatican City.[note 1] Some pastors and churches have had a distinctly misogynistic attitude, such as the now-defunct megachurch Mars Hill and its former pastor Mark Driscoll. Driscoll argued that one's penis was on loan from God and God created women to be penis homes.
In the Qur'an, sura 4, Woman, outlines the acceptance of man as the head of the household, and that a man is allowed to have up to four wives if he supports them all equally and if he only marries his second/third/fourth wives for the purpose of supporting them economically. The 34th verse of this sura reads:
Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.
Wives are expected to be obedient, and husbands are allowed to beat them, among other problems. Despite the fact that the religion codifies a lesser role for women, and that modern Islam has plenty of followers who prefer to hide their women, Mohammad was far less misogynistic than others of his time… Actually, never mind. Mohammad was pretty misogynistic.
The Sunan Abu Dawud permits the rape of female captives even if those captives are married.
The Apostle of Allah sent a military expedition to Autas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the companions of the Apostle of Allah were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: “And all married women are forbidden unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess."
The Sahih Muslim also supports this idea.
Abu Sirma said to Abu Sa’id al Khadri (Allah be pleased with him): O Abu Sa’id, did you hear Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) mentioning al- ‘azl? He said: Yes, and added: We went out with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi’l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing ‘azl (coitus interruptus). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.
Both the Sunan Abu Dawud and the Sahih Muslim are part of the Kutub al-Sittah and are considered to be canonical sayings or acts of the Islamic prophet Muhammad by practitioners of Sunni Islam. The Qur'an also teaches its followers that the testimony of one man is equal to the testimony of two women and the Sahih Al-Bukhari teaches that the majority of hell's inhabitants were women.
The women Aisha bint Abu Bakr and Khadija bint Khuwaylid were important in the spread of Islam. Yet today, few Muslims accept women as imams, and a handful of Muslims (including, it would appear, the entire governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia) believe the Qu'ran teaches that women should not even be educated in anything besides how to be a good little skivvy.
An interesting study of 19th century urban-dwellers in the Ottoman Empire concluded that wives in polygynous Islamic societies had greater rights under sharia than their sisters in the monogamous Armenian and Greek Christian cultures had under their native customary law. As a result, women from Christian communities sometimes attempted to infiltrate sharia courts in order to secure rights such as divorce or inheritance.
According to Professor of Religion Bernard Faure, "like most clerical discourses, Buddhism is indeed relentlessly misogynist, but as far as misogynist discourses go, it is one of the most flexible and open to multiplicity and contradiction". Buddhism is misogynist, but as far as religions go, it isn't the most misogynist religion around.
- Buddha openly says that there will never be a female Buddha because women are women in the Aparimitayur Sutra. Women must achieve "enough merit to be a man", be born as men, and then become Buddha. It's worth noting that in the popular Jataka tales of Gautama's past lives, although he reincarnates as multiple animals, none of them are women. Buddha later contradicts himself in the Vimalakirti Sutra and says that since gender is unreal, none of this bullshit matters and that women can be enlightened.
- Women can never be monks. They can be nuns or bhikkhuni, but they are oftentimes viewed as inferior to monks in terms of social position. However, in most East Asian countries, Buddhist nuns are viewed as the equals of monks both spiritually and socially.
- Buddha openly predicted that letting women become nuns will "ruin" Buddhism and make his teachings last half as long when his foster mother/maternal aunt asked to be ordained. He later relented, but gave more rules of conduct for nuns to follow than monks.
Like all religions, Buddhism isn't practiced the same everywhere; as a result, some interpretations will be much more misogynist than others depending on location. Buddhists that believe Buddha is the reincarnation of Vishnu usually believe that one of Vishnu's incarnations was Mohini, who was a woman.
Hinduism is not particularly misogynistic either. Their highest concept, Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, is genderless. They also have both male and female gods in prominent roles as part of their pantheon and there are more goddess temples than those of gods. There are also passages in their texts which support the dignity of women, such as the following:
“”One who wishes that a daughter should be born who would be a scholar and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked with sesamum, and both should eat it with clarified butter. Then the creators (would-be parents) would indeed be able to produce such a daughter.
|—Verse 6.4.17 Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
The Manusmriti is inconsistent on women's rights. Some passages argue that women should obey and seek protection of her father and worship her husband as a god, while other passages declare that women must be honored, adorned, and revered. It also provides women with property rights.
However, in practice, Indian Hindu families more often than not subscribe to a patriarchal worldview, with men given the role of breadwinners and women consigned to domestic duties. Women in conservative Hindu households are expected to ask for their husband's permission to pursue their own interests and may be barred from having a job, with the ban on women working held up as a "family tradition".
Sikhism is one of the few religions that believe in gender equality and they have disassociated themselves from the Indian caste system.
Misogynists have left their mark on the world, causing much grief for women everywhere:
- John Knox, the Calvinist preacher, wrote a misogynist tract entitled The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, which made Biblical arguments as to the inferiority of women. This was a veiled political attack against the Catholic queens of his day, which backfired spectacularly on him when the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to power in England. His weaseling "apology" only served to tick her off more.
- The Nazis were quite a misogynist bunch, due to their obsession with physical strength, martial matters, etc. Consequently, they aimed to limit the role of women in society, strongly promoting the traditional gender roles with the slogan "Kinder, Küche, Kirche." Fascism is an incredibly misogynist political ideology, as women in both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy lost numerous rights when fascism took over.
- Phyllis Schlafly thinks that women are only good for being mothers, the dickens with any other abilities they might have, such as being lawyers and public speakers. Troublingly, she also believes that men have the right to rape their wives, and her belief in female inferiority is shared by her son Andrew Schlafly, who worships her as a goddess.
There are examples of misogyny in historic persons, but talking about them needs to be approached carefully. Many people think that, because a person said something that modern people would consider sexist, they are sexist. Because women, historically, occupied a lower position, it was pretty common for people in days gone by to casually say things we would consider sexist.
An example of this is Muhammad, who argued that women were inferior to men. In Book 6 of the Sahih al-Bukhari, when explaining to women of the Musalla why they were 'deficient', he said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man? This is the deficiency in her intelligence." Yet, he emphasized the role of women as teachers in his religion, his wives being important religious aspects in his band.
There is a possible historians fallacy when one views historical figures or events through a modern perspective rather than the appropriate historical context, especially when considering the difference between good-intentioned sexism and misogyny. Consider, for example, Numbers 31:18. This Bible passage could be construed as misogynistic as it advocated for the sexual slavery of virgin women, but was it actually misogynistic? If one reads Numbers 31:7 and Numbers 31:17, one will see that the males were killed whereas the virgin females were kept alive. It can be argued that the males suffered a worse fate by dying, but it can be also argued that the females are kept alive only for their sex function, which can in turn be viewed as women being treated as sex property and reward, which is an ongoing and consistent theme in the Bible. On the other hand, this may also be considered misandrist as males are killed for lacking reproducibility, but men are also viewed as a standard "unit" (holding positions of power and holding property and all); kings are killed as described in the Numbers passage; which can be another argument for misogyny. All in all, Numbers 31:18 was certainly genocidal, Midianite-hating, and self-interested, and the constant treatment of women as property and just male character generators in the Bible could be made as an argument that it influenced Christians to hold misogynistic attitudes toward women.
- What is Misogyny?
- Misogyny: The Sites
- Christian Domestic Discipline Promotes Spanking Wives To Maintain Biblical Marriage
- 20 Vile Quotes Against Women By Religious Leaders From St. Augustine to Pat Robertson
- Banter is a ritualised social practice essential to structural sexual inequality.
- Violence against women worldwide is 'epidemic'
- There are still some remaining monarchies and dictatorships, such as North Korea. Those can't be considered misogynistic in the principle of voting, however, as no one has the right to vote.
- Love & Death: A Study in Censorship by G. Legman (1949) Breaking Point.
- Mysogyny. Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
- "the attitude of rabbinic sources toward perceived "bad wives" is ambivalent, and wife beating is occasionally sanctioned if it is for the purpose of chastisement or education." —Naomi Graetz. Domestic Violence in Jewish Law. MyJewishLearning. accessed 2014 May 31.
- Noami Graetz. Wifebeating in Jewish Tradition. Jewish Women's Archive. 2009 March 1.
- Jesus Christ Will Never Allow His Church to Ordain Women to the Priesthood by Kathy Schiffer, National Catholic Register, May 4, 2017
- Early Christian Art and Architecture
- There's 1 Country Where Women Can't Vote & It's Seriously Time For It To Break With "Tradition" by Lauren Holter
- Why is a popular interfaith website giving a disgraced misogynistic pastor a platform? by Kirsten Powers Washington Post October 20, 2017
- Pastor Mark Driscoll Called Women “Penis Homes”, September 8, 2014, Libby Anne
- The status of women according to Islam. Saturday, April 12, 2014 by Jonathan McLatchie
- Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah)- part of the Sunan Abu Dawud
- Sahih Muslim
- Qur'an - Surah Al-Baqara 282
- Sahih Al-Bukhari - volume 1, book 6, no. 301
- See entry for Armenian women in the "Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures: Family, Law and Politics", ed. Joseph, Suad; Naǧmābādī, Afsāna.
- The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender.
- Barbara O'Brien. "Buddhism and Sexism: Can There Be Buddhist Gender Equality?".
- See the Wikipedia article on Women in Hinduism.
- http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje/religious-texts/hadith/bukhari/006-sbt.php#001.006.301 Translation of Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 6, 1:6:301