Misogyny and Bullying

This is a followup to the previous post, Year of the Woman? That one ran long, and there were some things I didn’t get to. There was also, from my point of view, an egregious memory lapse considering the nature of the post: I didn’t mention the new The Doctor. (Maybe because I’m planning a separate post about her, so she didn’t need to be in the more general one.)

There was a key aspect I meant to talk about with regard to sexual harassment, but my note for it was on a different piece of paper than my main notes. I just didn’t see it while writing the first post (it was in another room).

So now a long post gets even longer!

Let me start by correcting my lapse and mentioning that, in 2018, which some called ‘the Year of the Woman,’ the long-running British TV show, Doctor Who (which began in 1963), finally cast a female in the titular role.

This is after twelve (thirteen, including John Hurt) white males played a role deliberately crafted to have different actors playing the role. In fact, a role perfect for a wide variety of types, which would have played right into the show’s background, context, and ethics.

Some fans have opposed Jodie Whittaker in the role on grounds that come off as, and probably are, misogynistic. It is possible to criticize any work on a variety of counts, but a female The Doctor in Who isn’t one of them.

That Time Lords can have female incarnations has been mentioned multiple times in modern Who. (I’ve seen very little classic Who, but I understand it’s mentioned there, too.) The correct, in-universe, response here is, “Duh,” and, “It’s about time.”

Bottom line, if you oppose a female The Doctor on the grounds of gender, you’re not much of a Doctor Who fan. (You probably spell it “Dr. Who.”)

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You may be wondering how the post’s title connects with Doctor Who.

The Doctor isn’t above a little bullying herself (certainly not himself), and at least some of the opposition to her is, I think, misogynistic, but that’s actually about all the connection there is. I’ll talk more about her and the new season in another post.

It’s more that the last post focused, firstly, on Penny Marshall and the nature of baseball in the early 1940s. Secondly, it declared against the assholes (suspected assholes, accused assholes, alleged assholes, whatever disclaimer you want) who give men, as a gender, a bad name.

Given my verbose ways, that was a full plate.

And I didn’t see the note. 🙂

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Which had a Venn diagram drawn on it:

It makes some points I’ve been noticing for a long time.

The main one is that, from what I perceive, there seems two distinct sources of sexual harassment.

From the misogynistic side comes what I’ll call “true” sexual harassment. This form seems uglier to me, because it seems to come from men with seriously broken attitudes about women. True sexual harassment comes from men who truly hate women because they’re women.

From the bullying side comes what I’ll call “apparent” sexual harassment, and let me be clear the only “apparent” thing is the sexual component. The harassment, the bullying, is entirely real.

I think we sometimes make the error of conflating the two and treating offenders with equal severity when, at least sometimes, bullying doesn’t come from the place of hate like misogyny does.

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Misogyny, the outright hatred some men have for women, is classic bigotry. It’s a prejudice against a class of humans based on a perceived difference.

As I mentioned in the last post, different from racism, gender bigotry has at its core genuine differences between the classes of humans involved. As such it’s a more complicated, and arguably older, problem.

Misogyny, in its sheer hatred, seems an extreme form of bigotry. The kinds of ideas and images that women are routinely subjected to by misogynists is on par with the hatred behind cross-burning and drawings of lynchings.

Go through the pages of almost any porn catalog (if you have the stomach for it), and it becomes starkly clear what true objectification is. It’s not the admiring, or even lustful, male gaze; it’s something much darker, much more primitive.

Our culture, and most cultures for that matter, see women as objects of beauty — the fashion and cosmetics industries are based on that. So is much of our art, music, and storytelling.

It is absolutely possible to find someone beautiful without removing one shred of their humanity. It’s how you treat them, and think of them, that matters.

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Bullying, like misogyny, is generally a male thing, which is perhaps why it’s easy to see them as the same.

I’d like to make the case that some men bully women more or less along the same lines as they bully other men. They bully everyone, because they are bullies.

I understand bullies because I have the “alpha male” characteristic in high measure. That’s the trait where you want to be in control of every situation, the pack leader, the one whose ideas others follow.

(I’ve known female alphas, so let’s drop the “male” part. Culturally, and perhaps biologically a little, dominance does seem a male trait.)

Like it or not, as our cultures revere female beauty, they also revere male strength. (Culture objectifies both men and women, though perhaps a better word is stereotypes.)

Whereas women feel pressured to look attractive, men feel pressured to look strong.

When men become insecure about their perceived strength, that’s when they begin to lash out to prove their strength. Bullying, as has long been said, is often the purview of the insecure, the scared, the lonely.

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The main point I want to make here is that bullies use all available tools in their bullying. Of course they do, that’s what humans do, use every available resource.

Men bully other men along male lines, so naturally they bully women along female lines. Crucially, bullies go after everyone they can. They don’t harass women because they’re women, they harass women because they harass everyone.

So while the tools they use are sexual in nature, their actual intent isn’t.

Their intent is to intimidate by any means possible.

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Not, I’m quite sure, that this makes it any better on the receiving end.

Sexual harassment is sexual harassment, regardless of the intent behind it.

I offer the distinction between misogyny and bullying as a way of seeing the situation with more nuance, which might lead to more effective solutions.

Recognizing sexual criminal as different, and much, much worse, than insecure bullies or horny guys trying to cop a feel. I’m not saying any of them are let off the hook, just arguing for a proportionate response.

One risk here is becoming ever more divisive along gender lines. I’m glad I’m retired, because I catch myself thinking I would almost be nervous about working with women now for fear of accidentally crossing a line.

If someone — anyone, male or female — has a new haircut, are you allowed to comment, to ask about it? What about a broken leg? A killer outfit? A new coat or shoes?

You’ll get different answers on its appropriateness depending on who you talk to. It kinda depends on the person at the time (maybe they’re dying to be asked, or maybe they’re dreading it).

Some feel you ought never speak of personal appearance. Others think it’s innocuous, even a normal part of social chat. (Full disclosure: I’m totally in the latter group.)

Seems like public discourse has become a mine field sometimes.

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I’ve always felt the bottom line was intent.

We can all be angry, confused, lonely, hurt, or just tired, and have a bad moment where we misbehave or say awful things we don’t really mean.

But when we operate from a position of hatred, of disdain and disrespect, that’s a whole different fish cooking thing.

Hate is the enemy.

The Christian Bible equates it with murder (Matthew 5:21-22).

Hate is the enemy, the mind-killer, the soul-destroyer.

Resist!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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