What is misogyny?
The term “misogyny” is derived from the Ancient Greek word “mīsoguníā” which means hatred towards women. Over centuries, women have been suppressed, their rights neglected as human beings, treated as a lower part of society, and their roles restricted to household chores and birthing. Misogyny manifests in many ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, patriarchy, sexual objectification, and more, each complete with a unique way of expressing hatred and oppression towards females. As described by Kate Manne, it is an attempt to control and punish women who challenge male dominance.
Misogyny may not always involve violence, but continues to entail harm. Either directly, in the form of psychological, professional, reputational, or physical harm; or indirectly, instilling fear in the minds of women and girls, making it less inclusive. Girls are constantly told to smile, from T-shirts sold in stores reiterating Audrey Hepburn’s famous quote stating happy girls are the prettiest, to catcallers telling young girls to smile. There is pressure put on girls to be happy and smiling, inducing stigma, causing girls to ignore their mental health in order to be ‘appealing’.
With the increasing use of the internet and social media, misogyny continues to haunt women not only in the real world but in the virtual one as well. 21% of women aged 18 to 29 reported being sexually harassed online, more than twice the percentage of their male counterparts. An EU survey conducted in 2014 found that 1 in 10 women in the European Union report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15 (including having received unwanted, offensive sexually explicit emails or SMS messages, or offensive, inappropriate advances on social networking sites). These acts severely affect women’s rights to equal participation in the online public sphere on an equal basis with men.
There is, like all things, a solution to this. Clearly defining sexual harassment and degradation in schools helps eradicate these issues right from a young age. Defining structured laws, and more such steps taken by the governments can help make the world a much better and safer place.
Research Coordinator - Avani Sood
Editor - Vaishnavi Bhojane
Illustrations and Graphics - Vaishnavi Bhojane and Ankitha Ganesan