Thursday, October 26, 2006

More on Misogyny

If you scroll down on this page you will find a post about how thoughts ripen which links to several good posts on the topic of fascism and misogyny on other blogs. I got so many thoughts after reading those posts that my brain stayed up and had a rowdy party late into the night and most of the thoughts still have hangover.

So I looked up some of my older posts on misogyny, to see what I thought about the topic in my previous lives. This is one which still reads fairly well. It's a review of a book on misogyny. And this and this might be of interest, too.

Then I tried to understand why saying anything more about David Neiwert's post on fascism and misogyny was so hard for me, and part of the explanation is that his treatment of the topic is excellent and sufficient on its own. It's not always important for me to chime in.

Still, that hasn't stopped me in the past too often, so I dug deeper, and came up with this: The basic story about misogyny and fascism is based on the idea that deep in the subconsciousness of all/some men, or perhaps of all/some people, is this diffuse and bitter hatred of women. David puts it like this:

Recognize, first, where it originates: In the twisted, sad view of humanity as innately evil and sick. In the strange mentality that perceives nature -- God's creation itself -- as sinful. In the demented, pathological view of women as lesser humans. These are all ideas we often associate now with our barbaric past, but the truth is that they live on in innumerable ways, especially embedded as they are in popular culture. Why do you think, after all, that a two-hour display of sadism such as The Passion of the Christ could be such an immense crowd-pleaser? Why would a show like 24 draw such immense ratings? Why would slasher films constitute their own moneymaking genre?

The old Catholic misogyny has devolved in our times to the proto-fascist's murderous style of misogyny. Only in the 21st century, instead of being organized, it's just routinely celebrated, as it has been lately in so many American thrillers and horror films. Sure, the psychopaths in them are all scary. But they all have a psychosexual hatred of women. The concept of women as the cause of their psychopathism is embedded in all these entertainments. But when these entertainments are played as mainstream, then the fascist pathology they are about slips into the cultural bloodstream, where it joins, echoes, and nurtures the latent fascism already there, as well as that coming from other sources. Eventually, it announces itself in a thousand atrocities, large and small.


The irrationalism that misogyny embodies, buried deep in our systems, simply can't be dealt with gently. The kind of men -- and women -- who will fall for the new misogyny aren't going to be impressed with compromises and halfway measures. The only thing they understand is "my way or the highway." So those are the options they should be given.

See, this is where I get all despondent and start having the rowdy brain-party instead: "The irrationalism that misogyny embodies, buried deep in our systems..." Do I have this hatred of women deep inside my female system? And if so, why? Can some armchair evolutionary psychologist enlighten me how hating women has helped the human race to survive? And if misogyny is irrational, why have it in the first place?

Combine this with the argument I have often read that the hatred of women has its roots in the fear of death, fear of nature and fear of all the bodily liquids which somehow denote nature and death. In this view, women are closer to nature than men, having more bodily fluids and that fear-inducing permeability. It is this smelly and liquid and squishy type of femaleness that men are supposed to hate, because they come out of it, desire to re-enter it and see it as death. Which is all quite poetic and also totally incomprehensible at the same time, because women are not one whit closer to nature or more mortal, and this doesn't explain how a woman could be a misogynist in a genuinely primal way but only by imitation.

It's not that I necessarily disagree with this view. I just can't relate to it in anything having to do with personal experience. I'm better at grasping the related idea of the need to control women or at least women's fertility, and I can even see how an uncontrolled woman might look like chaos to the eyes of very authoritarian people, because women are in some ways very desirable property to have. But why the whore-virgin dualism? Why are "good women" the ones who don't want men physically at all? Why are the women who do want men physically labeled "bad women"? Why, why, I ask, and I mean the question in a very deep sense. None of the answers that are given suffice to explain to me what exactly it would be in the male psyche that would create this, assuming that this is what David means when he talks about misogyny in "our" systems.

Sometimes I think that the deep reason I'm looking for has to do with dependence. The theory that it is the need for the other, and the rage we may have felt as infants when we were hungry or wet and no giant emerged to care for our needs within the first second of our rage-red screaming, combined with the realization that we were totally helpless otherwise. Could misogyny have its seed in that experience, forgotten now, or buried under years of other memories? Could it be that misogyny is caused by our primary carers being almost totally women? I don't know.

But the tugging between independence and dependence may have something to do with all of this; the need to stand alone, to be strong, and the simultaneous need for the society, for other people, for sex and caring. The fascist solution makes the independence and strength primary and tries to codify the caring into a forced maintenance activity, available at the press of a button. But really only available for men. What do women do about this conflict between independence and dependence?

The common story is to argue that women don't have the same desire for independence, that women are less separate from the webs of the community. I'm not sure if this is the final story we are going to tell or if this is how women are socialized to be right now. It could also be that women seek independence in different forms and places, or that the need for independence comes out in different distorted forms in women more often than in men: higher rates of depression, anorexia, bulemia. Or maybe not. This is all the stuff that dances around in my brain and in my stomach.

And the whole connection between violence and sexuality. Are they alternatives? An old military story is this one:

Whatever background knowledge a recruit possessed about rifles was sure to lead to mistakes when learning the M-14. Unfamiliarity with rifles may have given some (like myself) an advantage in this regard. Nevertheless, any recruit from either kind of background was prone on occasion to incorrectly refer to his rifle as "a gun." Such verbal mistakes like this one were quite common and drew attention to the perpetrator. As punishment, a recruit would likely stand at attention outdoors (sometimes clad only in his undergarments or even naked) and repeat over and over "This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for shooting, this is for fun."

Military stories I've been told often use sexuality to turn women into the other by both making them into the valuable property that is to be protected and by making the act of killing itself into something akin to fucking. Weapons are given female names and the act of intercourse transfers from the recruit to his mechanical tools. How close is this to misogyny? Under what conditions does it work to make misogyny into a tactic of war? Or am I going to deep here?

Here are some of my half-digested ideas on the topic of woman hatred. I carefully chose to be all intelligence in this discussion, because my emotional reactions to the whole topic are not happy ones. But to ignore the emotional reactions in the general debate is most likely a grave mistake.