I’m a dude and thus benefit from a history of misogyny. I’ve been raised in a world that views misogyny as alright, and have perpetrated behaviours towards my wife that felt normal to me at the time. Over the years I’ve grown to see them as petty and harming to my wife. I’m sure I still have misogynistic beliefs that I don’t recognize and that women around me are unwilling to call out, or simply accept as normal so they don’t see the terror which I may inflict upon them.
Because I’m responsible for my own behaviour and education I picked up A Brief History of Misogyny by Jack Holland in the hopes that I would learn more about the systems in place that dehumanize women. If I can start to see them, I can start to help dismantle them.
Early on Holland makes a few points about history in general. First, history is “his” story. That is a story where patriarchy discounts and covers up anything that females did that predated a man’s accomplishments[^1]. Second, misogyny is about dehumanizing half of the human race[^2]. When you can dehumanize people you feel justified in not treating them as humans. They are the other and not worthy of voting, or rights, or anything that men decide they shouldn’t have.
## Oil Has More Value than Women
While many men may feel that we’ve moved past this and are way better than decades past one doesn’t have to look very far to see how little we value women. In 2001 George W. Bush congratulated the Taliban for cracking down on the opium trade and wrote them a cheque to compensate them for their efforts[^3]. Four months later, after the famous attacks on Sept 11, suddenly how the Taliban treated women was worthy of note.
Similarly, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is happy to deal with Saudi Arabia. Clearly their oil is more important than how they treat the women living there. These women are not allowed so many freedoms we try to say are crucial, but if you disagree and have oil we’re okay with overlooking your atrocities.
The US election of Donald Trump showed that citizens thought what political party you came from mattered more than the fact that you brag about sexually assaulting women and have no regrets about it. In fact, you’re going to try and do it again if you can.
## Men Control Women’s Bodies
From Roman times, and far longer, women have had their bodies policed by men[^4]. Roman women could be divorced for showing their hair. They didn’t have agency over their own beauty, it was owned by their husbands who should be the only ones to see it.
Christianity brought us shame in the body[^5] and has us in a point where girls are chastised for their dress because it distracts boys. Again the burden for a man’s problems are forced on a women to solve by “covering up”. Christians talk about modesty, but they rarely talk about a boy’s responsibility to not be a distracted male and not become a rapist. Christian mythology is such that a women brought in sin, then a perfect man solve that little problem[^6].
Early Victorian women were taught that they should receive no pleasure in sex. They should only submit to their husband’s advances to have children and they better not enjoy sex[^7]. This put sexual pleasure firmly okay for men, and any women that had sexual pleasure was vile.
Today we see this as a bunch of white men stand around debating the ability of women to take charge of their reproductive capacity. In former years it was Christian men debating whether women could take any pain killers during child birth because it would be avoiding the pain that the Bible said was their punishment for sin[^8].
## Misogyny is about Blaming Others for Male Problems
Much like racism is a problem with white people, that people of colour must bear the ramifications of, misogyny is a male problem where women bear the terrible results. When men feel impotent and angry and humiliated a way to pass the blame and gain some “power” is to put down the women they interact with and women in general[^9]. The desire to place blame and subjugate is so strong that as the world moved away from Christian explanations about why men should rule, they latched onto scientific ones that came to the same conclusions[^10].
Ultimately, men reveal how poor they are at relating to a woman that’s emotionally strong and sexually mature by continuing to try and limit women from having any ability to become this type of person[^11]. From limiting a woman’s sexual freedom, to limiting her earning potential and thus her ability to travel in the same circles that men can, men only keep their positions of power by disenfranchising anyone that may threaten this norm.
## Should You Read A Brief History of Misogyny?
Yes you should read this book, without a doubt. Men especially need to read this book and look at the aftermath of thousands of years of dehumanizing women. Then they need to ask themselves, how they’re going to start to fight against this dehumanization.
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[^1]: Page 8
[^2]: Page 11
[^3]: Page 266
[^4]: Page 40
[^5]: Page 70
[^6]: Page 67
[^7]: Page 187
[^8]: Page 238
[^9]: Page 269
[^10]: Page 269
[^11]: Page 285