Misogyny refers to the outright hatred of women, and typically is expressed as sexual discrimination or objectification of women or girls. Because misogynistic behavior and attitudes are a widespread issue, many women internalize it, which may take the form of self-objectification and passive acceptance of traditional gender roles.
Examples of Misogyny
A person who feels justified in abusing, belittling, attacking, or violating a woman simply because she is a woman is an example of misogyny. Less violent forms may appear within families, classrooms, or job settings. For example, a father may find it difficult to see beyond his daughter’s gender and may treat her differently than he would a son; a teacher may discourage a young woman from pursuing academic disciplines or career paths that are typically affiliated with men, such as math, science, and technology; and an employer may refrain from offering a promotion or raise in pay to a female employee, regardless of the quality of her work.
Other examples are the everyday instances of men calling women derogatory names in public, or reducing them to objects by remarking on and paying attention to their physical appearance and nothing beyond that. Objectification, in general, is a form of misogyny in which the woman is seen as an object designed solely for sexual pleasure and gratification.
A lesser known form of misogyny occurs between women; women may very well internalize the misogynistic messages of society at large and project them onto one another. On a broader scale, this may manifest as a general lack of trust in other women. A woman may also look down upon and condemn another woman for the way she dresses or for being an overtly sexual being; or she may feel threatened by a female competitor and search for ways to keep her from succeeding. Sadly, such behaviors only serve to reinforce the negative female stereotypes that can fuel misogyny.
Impact of Misogyny on Mental Health
One of the most devastating effects of misogyny is on the women who are raised in families and societies where its prevalence is so strong that women learn to hate themselves from a young age. This is referred to as internalized misogyny (Szymanski, Gupta, Carr, and Stewart, 2009).
In some circles, women may be taught to be ashamed of their beauty, their bodies, or the effect they have on men. They may be mistreated or abused and made to believe it is their fault because they have been taught that men often find it difficult to restrain themselves around women. If a woman is raped or violated sexually, there are some who would posit that she is the one to blame if she dressed or acted in a suggestive, revealing, or sexual manner. For the victim, this may contribute to mental health issues; she is essentially being told she is at fault for being attacked, which heaps shame, guilt, and condemnation on her already wounded body and psyche. Some women have committed suicide in the wake of such a traumatic incident.
The internalized impacts of misogyny on young girls and women may be reflected in issues with body image, disordered eating, and obsessive dieting or exercise. With the message of female objectification deeply ingrained in the minds of many women during their formative years, the pressure to maintain an appearance that is pleasing to men—and prettier than other women—is often unavoidable.
Misogynistic leanings also affect the psychological well-being of perpetrators of hatred and violence as well as demeaning attitudes toward women. Men who cannot love women will often find it difficult to sustain long-lasting, healthy intimate partnerships with women. Women who hate women can struggle to maintain meaningful, supportive relationships with other women. Both of these experiences may lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression.
History of Misogyny
Some theories posit that misogyny originates from a fear of the power and sway women potentially possess over men due to the strong allure of the female form. In order to maintain self-control in their presence, men may hate or attack women to subdue or avoid confronting their own feelings of desire and weakness. This likely occurs on a subconscious level, as they may have been conditioned to view women in a negative light by familial, social, and cultural influences.
This conditioning is, in part, rooted in the widely read religious texts and beliefs imposed by some religious institutions. A number of Biblical stories and teachings depict women as temptresses and sources of immoral pleasure and indulgence; these teachings may send the message that women are not to be trusted. For example, in the Bible, the great fall of humanity is attributed to Eve’s disobedience; according to doctrine, she was the first woman created by God and the first human being to commit a sin.
Delilah is another biblical character in the Old Testament who seduces and betrays Samson, an Israelite and one of God’s chosen. Jezebel was a Phoenician wife and cult leader who was triumphantly killed by the Israelites; as per Merriam-Webster’s definition, the name Jezebel is now synonymous with “an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman.”
This general theme can be found in the Bible: great men being led astray by wayward, self-seeking women. There are also several stories that tell of the integrity and honor of women who pray, obey, serve, and remain silent in the presence of men.
The well-known Russian writer Leo Tolstoy is another who wrote extensively on his condescending, often condemning views of women and their sexuality; he referred to wives as “long-term prostitutes” and eventually came to the conclusion that avoiding sex altogether was the only way to protect oneself from the potential “emotional abandonment” that may accompany an intimate sexual relationship with a woman if she chooses to leave (Rancour-Laferriere, 1998).
- Cunningham, G. B., Miner, K., and Benavides-Espinoza, C. (2012, February 9). Emotional reactions to observing misogyny: examining the roles of gender, forecasting, political orientation, and religiosity. Sex Roles, 67, 58-68. doi: 10.1007/s11199-012-0121-y.
- Rancour-Laferriere, D. (1998). Tolstoy on the couch. Misogyny, Masochism, and the Absent Mother. New York, NY: University Press.
- Szymanski, D. M., Gupta, A., Carr, E. R., Stewart, D. (2009, July). Internalized misogyny as a moderator of the link between sexist events and women’s psychological distress. Sex Roles, 61.1-2, 101-109. doi: 10.1007/sl1199-009-9611-y.
Last Updated: 08-12-2015
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KathyMarch 8th, 2017 at 5:48 PM
My husband for 34 yrs is a extreme misogynistic..I didn’t know this ..until just read about it..I thought he just had past issues that caused these problems..my whole family has been affected by his attitude..the problem is he doesn’t know it’s a problem..what can we do to treat him? I live in the San Fernando valley,California thank you Kathy
RyanMay 13th, 2017 at 10:09 PM
LynnJune 21st, 2017 at 7:21 PM
I have been searching fir an answer to why my husband has “targeted” only me for such brutal “attacks” , now after reading this I have an answer. He had a childhood experience which I believe led to his unbearable nature. He fits a misogonist ti a “T”, niw the problem is, how do I go about getting him to seek treatment ? Thank you so very much for making this available. Lynn
YakobNovember 13th, 2017 at 7:02 PM
I believe the majority of a misogynist behaviours fit with mine. What are the treatments.
November 16th, 2017 at
Thank you for your comment, Yakob. While GoodTherapy.org is not a replacement for professional advice, we can tell you that a therapist can help address unwanted misogynistic thoughts and behaviors. Whether couples therapy or individual therapy is more appropriate depends on your unique circumstances. If you’d like to find a therapist near you, can you can search GoodTherapy.org’s directory of mental health professionals here: https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html
Daniel M.January 25th, 2018 at 4:58 AM
What if I consciously know this about myself and have grown use to the sense of emotional isolation and don’t feel the need to change?
RuthMarch 13th, 2018 at 7:22 AM
I grew up with a misogynist father who taught my brothers to be misogynists. He was an alcoholic and a wife beater. I left home at 18 because he turned his violent, misogynistic, controlling behaviour towards me. I was lucky In that after leaving home I have had the privilege of meeting many non-misogynistic men, one of whom became my husband and soulmate. As you can imagine, I can spot misogyny from a mile away.
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