Columnist J.M. Sorrell: In the air we breathe

  • In this April 20, 2017 file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks in New York. AP

Published: 11/30/2021 11:49:43 AM
Modified: 11/30/2021 11:49:11 AM

Misogyny. It is commonly thought of as the hatred of women, but this oversimplification conceals its large-scale harm. If sexism is at the heart of patriarchal rule, then misogyny enforces it through punishment when women step out.

Men and women internalize and perpetuate it constantly. When women exert authority or confidence, we are too often thought of as abrasive, pushy or even morally objectionable as we are not serving male interests.

It does not help that patriarchy is a zero-sum system of dominance. Men and boys are taught it is their birthright to have privilege and opportunities not available to women. When girls and women assert competence equal to or surpassing their male counterparts, misogyny steps in to police the situation. A backlash is an effective tool to reign in the misfits.

Throughout history, women have been demonized, raped and killed for being healers! Branded as witches for having the audacity to help others with skill and confidence. Patriarchy is irrational in its need to maintain power. In this way, it is analogous to white supremacy. During World War II, many white soldiers chose death over life-saving blood from Black donors. Both misogyny and systemic racism are rife with stupidity where everyone loses.

When Congresswoman Pat Schroeder ran for president in 1988, she was ridiculed for pulling out of the race as she briefly cried during a press conference. Too emotional? What does that say about former Congressman John Boehner? There are people who believe that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be in jail for using a personal email account or for the Libyan embassy tragedy. The person who recently impersonated a president sent off tweets non-stop, gave away intelligence information and did nothing to address Russia paying the Taliban to kill American soldiers. Along with treasonous acts, he has been accused of rape, sexual harassment and tax fraud. He is an unabashed racist.

Look at the state of our country. If not for misogyny, we would have had a very different four years. There is no question that far fewer people would have died from COVID as we would have had leadership rather than denial, but who wants to vote for a woman who has the nerve to be brilliant with a long record of public service? In the patriarchal world, a woman cannot be too vulnerable or too confident. A man can be either.

Much has been written about the Northampton Arts Council debacle. I feel deeply disappointed that during meetings, no one stepped in to address the obvious misogyny at play. Artist Jason Montgomery had no problem when an actual all-white jury choose his work for the show two years ago. When his work was not chosen this time, he directed his anger toward an accomplished artist and a jury member in clearly misogynistic terms. And he continues to play the victim rather than to own his bias.

The combination of racism and misogyny directed at jury member Jessica Tam was particularly venomous. If the genders were reversed, I doubt we would be at a place where the future and credibility of the Arts Council were in question. Men get to throw destructive temper tantrums with impunity.

According to the Department of Justice, one in five women (18.3%) in the United States has been raped. Nearly 60% of rapists awaiting trial are released. A violent and brutal man who has likely damaged a woman’s feeling of safety for life gets to roam free until his trial. More trauma is added to victims as they have to prove their case with testimony. Women know the rapist in at least 76% of the cases, and child rape victims know the attacker 93% of the time. Girls and women are taught to fear strangers as a deflection from the deeper problem.

I want to know who came up with the term “domestic” violence. If illegal acts of violence happen in one’s home, should they be a private, familial matter only? How convenient for patriarchy. How tragic for the Waukesha, Wisconsin victims of Darrell Brooks.

According to Cornell University philosopher Kate Manne, misogynists seek to be morally and socially superior to women. She is the author of “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny.” I share being curious about how boys become predatory or entitled to do harm to girls and women, and I am particularly interested in how such patterns can be interrupted in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. If it is in the air we breathe, where do we begin?

Next month, I will take a deeper dive into controversial areas of misogyny.

J.M. Sorrell is a social justice activist/trainer and a feminist at her core.


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