This blog post has been prompted by the recent horrendous cyber-bullying of the academic Mary Beard. I believe that this is the thin end of the wedge and illustrates that misogyny is ‘alive and well’. Or should that be ‘sick, but thriving’…
Cyber-bullying has obviously only been around in the time of the internet, but bullies have been around forever. What cyber-bullying allows is seemingly anonymous opportunities for cowards, who were always bullies, to operate as Keyboard Cowards.
What happened to Mary Beard went way beyond that and well off into misogny territory. It has been suggested by others as an attempt to control and silence her. In some ways the backlash has had the opposite affect, in many cases bringing what she said to a wider audience. It also highlights the prevalence of misogyny.
You may or may not aree with Mary Beard’s views. Regardless, making vile comments about someone’s personal appearance and making physical threats illustrates that this is not about a reaction to that, just pure misogyny.
Arguably as women have gained more ground politically, misogyny has upped the stakes in an attempt to regain ‘lost’ ground. These personal attacks are symptomatic of that.
Most women must come accross sexism, as in thinly disguised misogny, most days. I certainly do. This is so ingrained and common that if you were to confront every occurrence you would be in a state of permanent exhaustion. When you consider it is worth the effort of doing so, you are mostly accused of having a sense of humour failure, or your sexual orientation is called into question.
Some attempts to control take the form of feeling entirely free to comment on a woman’s physical appearance, as with Mary Beard, usually in a derogatory way, and to make vile sexual remarks. When I have experienced this, when walking down the street, or whatever, it has always been males under thirty. This is horrifying on so many levels. How entititled/disposessed/disurbed must you be to think that this is acceptable behaviour?
There is something in this somewhere that smacks of a kind of punishment reserved for those who do not conform to the accepted ideal of that considered to be universally attractive to the majority of men. And it leaves a vile taste.
I used to think that this was something about me, having been on the receiving end of a watered down version of it, too often in relationships. And then one day I met a bright, and also beautiful woman on a training course. During some ‘banter’ during a tea-break, a man in the group said to her that she might be pretty, but was a bit thick. Despite being challenged on this point, he did not back down. Later I spoke to her privately and tried to reassure her that this was rubbish. Apparently her ex-husband often used to say this to her.
And I felt a few scales fall from my eyes. There is a particular type of man who is abusive, who very quickly finds an achilles heel, then goes for it in order to control within a relationship. Mine was my looks, hers was intellect. It occurred to me for the first time that if it had not been that, it would have been something else. Looks or intellect (or insert vulnerability here) was merely a stick with which to be beaten.
I believe there is a distinction between personal and global misogny, but with some overlap. I have wondered what happens to ‘make’ these individuals this way. How they got their own personal version of misogyny…the global we know about already. I no longer care why, I just care enormously that this significent minority are inflicting it on us in many ways.
These men have a choice. And good men don’t do it.