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Misogyny is the hatred of women, or the belief that women are inferior to men. It manifests itself in a variety of ways, including social discrimination, physical abuse, legal discrimination, and generalized objectification of women. A few countries, notably some Islamic, Jewish, and Christian states, have encoded misogyny 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 (including on the part of the police) towards violence against women, up to and including the crimes of rape and murder.

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.

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.

It should be noted that 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.

Misogyny and religion[edit]

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.

Abrahamic religions[edit]

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, 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.

To be fair, the fact 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 genuinely is extremely messy and menstrual blood leaves stains, as well as smelling rather unpleasant. Furthermore, cross-cultural speaking, menstrual seclusion is 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".[1][2] Nevertheless, divorce was considered more appropriate.


Christianity does not allow women to be priests; the Bible explicitly states that no woman shall teach any man (1 Timothy 2:12). However, most Christians outside of extremist fundamentalists generally consider that the primary reason for this was not that Christianity considered women inferior, but due to the culture 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.

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)

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.

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 catacombs with painting of women in roles of authority have been found dating to the first and second century CE.[citation needed] This argument would, self-evidently, require the Bible to be false.


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. 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. The division between Shia and Sunni initially revolved around the religious authority of his wife Aisha and her father, the first caliph, Abu Bakr. He vastly improved women's lives and codified greater rights.[citation needed] In his own family, both Khadija and Aisha were teachers of Islam, and held title in their own right to the budding religion. 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. [3]


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".[4] 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. [5] 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.[6] (Looks like Buddha took a Sociology 101 class).
  • 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.[7] However, in most East Asian countries, Buddhist nuns are viewed as the equals of monks both spiritually and socially. [8]
  • 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.[6][9]

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.

Notable misogynists[edit]

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 WomenWikipedia's W.svg, 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.[10][11]
  • 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.

Historic misogyny?[edit]

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."[12]. Yet, he emphasized the role of women as teachers in his religion, his wives being important religious aspects in his band.[citation needed]

Out of context "a man may beat his wife 4 times" sounds horrific and misogynist (judge for yourself), but when it's understood that this was the first legal limitation on exactly how much a man could beat (even to the point of killing) his wife, then it's understood as a proto-feminist position,[citation needed] or at least maybe a step in the right direction.

For most of its history, where Islam was introduced, it was an improvement for women from what had preceded it within Arab culture. It was in the modern era that the West began to radically reform its attitudes regarding gender, while the Islamic world was left behind.

The moral of the story is to be careful in evaluating whether or not a historic character was a misogynist, and "context is everything". But clearly, the omniscient God that we're oh-so-sure exists, certainly didn't know how to explain true equality among men and women in His Wonderful Noodly Appendage's Books, and thereby reforming his believers. It was apparently left up to us to figure out, and therefore, developing morals which were superior to the God-Books.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. "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.
  2. Noami Graetz. Wifebeating in Jewish Tradition. Jewish Women's Archive. 2009 March 1.
  3. See entry for Armenian women in the "Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures: Family, Law and Politics", ed. Joseph, Suad; Naǧmābādī, Afsāna.
  4. The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender.
  5. http://freethoughtnation.com/buddhist-sexism/
  6. 6.0 6.1 Barbara O'Brien. "Buddhism and Sexism: Can There Be Buddhist Gender Equality?". http://buddhism.about.com/od/becomingabuddhist/a/sexism.htm. 
  7. http://harvardmagazine.com/2004/11/separate-and-unequal.html
  8. http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/history/women_world.htm,
  9. http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/history/pajapati.htm
  10. http://samjcousins.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/the-position-of-women-in-fascist-society/
  11. https://bobhistory.wikispaces.com/Treatment+of+Women+in+Fascist+Italy+and+Nazi+Germany
  12. 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