A Conversation Between A Man And A Woman About Misogyny, Patriarchy And Why Women Hate Women
In an ideal world, there’d be no misogynists (or misandrists for that matter). Unfortunately, in our world, misogyny abounds. What’s worse: most of these misogynists, in fact, are women! So, why do we women hate each other was the question that started it all...and thus began a banter between a man and a woman.
Arjun Dhar: I often hear women defend their own moral fabric by saying “I’m not one of those women”...“those” obviously implying women whom the world dubs a “slut”, and who according to “these” women make the great majority while they remain pure virginal saints (or so they “claim”!).
Thus, it would seem that owing to the fear of being judged, a lot of “these” women prefer to play the good-girl-next-door, so they can elevate themselves in the eyes of the world, even if it means cutting the other woman and her morals to pieces (remember the Monica Bellucci-starrer Malena). I truly find such form of self-worth extremely shallow, and I am sure so do other men and women with one grain of sense and/or sensibility.
While it’s fair that each individual, irrespective of gender, can choose their own moral paths; to use it as a USP for exalting oneself as a woman, is extremely demeaning by nature to “those” women who have simply chosen to live their lives on their own terms, accepting that they are indeed sexual beings who enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. This stereotypical women-putting-other-women-down is the worst form of misogyny. In fact, it should actually come as little surprise that H. L. Mencken, the great American satirist, defined a misogynist as a man who hates women as much as women hate one another. How apt!
And while you can argue that men too indulge in “one-upMANship” with other men, the grounds for competition between us men, however, is more progressive and is seldom correlated to our extra-curricular activities inside (and sometimes outside) the bedroom.
Mallika Nawal: Sigh! “What do women want?” has been the ever-lasting lament of every man and no wonder, you—being a man—too find it difficult to fathom the reason for women claiming that they indeed are NOT “one of those women”. After all, what does a woman stand to gain if she claims to be different from “those” women? And why are men not judged on the same standards?
You see, the world categorises men and women differently. Good Man vs Bad Man vis-a-vis Good Woman vs Bad Woman actually come with very different connotations. While for the men, this “goodness” is determined on moral ideals like honesty, hard work, persistence, ambition, integrity, conviction, etc. (as rightly put forth by you); for a woman, her morality is determined simply by the presence or absence of a single membrane—aka, the famed “hymen”.
Thus, the world categorises “good” women as sexually pure, while “those” women—which is basically an allusion to “bad” women—are those that have sex, whether commercially, recreationally, or relationally.
In other words, a woman’s moral compass, as once mentioned by Jessica Valenti in her book The Purity Myth, actually nestles between her legs. Thus, every woman tries to play the “purity card” (irrespective of whether they are “pure” in reality or not) for one simple reason—to find acceptance in a society that judges her not on the basis of her work or accomplishment, but on the basis of her sexual escapades. And thus, every woman attempts to distance herself from “those” women, hoping she will escape being clubbed and persecuted for being “one of those women”. Then again, do they really have any choice?
AD: Hmm. To quote what you just said, “the world categorises men and women differently”, am I safe in assuming that “the world” here comprises men and women and not aliens? After all, men alone do not make the world or its mores…women contribute equally to it. Thus, this statement highlights three weaknesses “their” kind suffers from. Firstly, the need to victimise themselves; secondly, judging each other by those very standards they want to shun; and thirdly, seeking validation and acknowledgement from the other kind (men, that is, not aliens) more so than their own. It’s little wonder then that all these three factors greatly contribute to their current status quo. While they forget the simplest thing, and what the American actress Roseanne Barr once said, “The thing women have yet to learn is (that) nobody gives you power. You just take it.”
Thus, when I hear women complaining that the world needs to change, I am left dumbfounded. As if their contribution to the struggle of womankind ended with them highlighting the “need” for change. Pray, enlighten us O Wise One for this “need for change” wherein half of you daydream of utopia and the other half undermines the rest half, with only a handful of you carry the true baton.
Then again, look at the mile-long checklist that most women often use when choosing partners…someone who’s taller, smarter, more affluent, more successful than them with many more such “more-s”. It makes one wonder if they crave to actually be on an unequal footing even to begin with. I wonder how many men out there have the same Nile-long checklist of “more-s” that they want in their partners. I, for one, as a man, simply want a partner on an equal footing.
Speaking of the moral compass that you spoke off; it is simply NOT TRUE that men are not judged on the basis of their sexual morality. After all, haven’t we heard—time and again—about men being compared to dogs when it comes to insinuating that a man is likely to hump anything that moves. Even in an extramarital affair, is it usually the man who is judged (sometimes “unfairly”) as being the cause of the infidelity…the woman (who makes the equal half of the affair) again goes scot-free as the hapless victim of a man’s sexual pursuit. As if the world once again forgets that it takes two to tango.
And yet the law punishes the man. Don’t believe me? Let’s review Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code.
Section 497 - Adultery: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”
Do we seriously not see how the law is biased towards women? And yet women, who are the abettors, seem to forever worry about what “the world” owes them.
Interestingly, Section 497 also inherently treats the wife as a property of her husband, vis-a-vis a man trespassing on another man’s property. And since her own consent has no validity, it absolves her of her participation in the adulterous act. (I wonder if all feminists will now have an “Aha” moment!)
Why can’t the argument for once shift to: equal rights for all? Why does it only have to be about empowering women? Why can’t we ask for equal rights with equal responsibilities or be content in an unequal world?
MN: Yes, the world comprises men and women (and not aliens, even though men and women do sometimes curiously refer to each other as Martians and Venusians). However, we—whether man or woman—live under the ever-watchful eye of patriarchy, which in turn socialises each one of us to become crusaders fighting to preserve the tyranny of patriarchy, irrespective of our gender. This is formally referred to as “gender socialisation”, where women themselves become pigeonholed into perpetuating the patriarchy.
This is why “sex” and “gender”—even though often used interchangeably—are completely different concepts. While sex is a biological construct, gender is completely cultural. Hence, patriarchy, like any other social system, manifests itself through different spheres, be it social, economic, political, religious, legal, etc. This is what we see wherever we look.
Social: Consider power for instance. What is patriarchy if not about power? Patriarchy as a social system places this power in the hands of men, where women, whatever their station, become subservient to the needs of the father, the husband and the son. This is why a woman is socially spoon-fed to believe that she needs three Ms in her incomplete life in order to become a complete woman: Man, Marriage and Motherhood. In other words, and as I stated in one of my columns (“Keeping Up With The Ms Jones”, Swarajya, December 2014), “I am simply not born a woman; I am expected to become one! And how do I become one? Simple! By marrying and procreating! My uterus is my destiny—my one-way ticket to ‘womanhood’!”
Economic: One of the ways in which patriarchy exerts its power is through economic control. Despite the strides made by many women in the workplace, the sad truth is that the modes of production are still controlled by men...the world over. Women today, therefore, are still paid less than a man, for the same work. And then there’s the glass ceiling effect.
Not to mention, even when a woman is able to break through the glass ceiling and reach positions of power, insinuations are made regarding her having used her female organs to further her place in the organisation. In fact, think about it—as a woman, I can’t even take a lousy bank loan, for which I need a male guarantor.
Religion: Historically speaking, the ancient world was ruled by Matriarchal Paganism, which was violently dethroned by Patriarchal Christianity under the auspices of the pagan-turned-Christian Roman emperor Constantine (272-337 CE). And with it came the narrative of the “fall of man”. And surprise, surprise—it was the woman, Eve, who was responsible for this disgrace. Thus, even the Hindu religion which believed in equality between men and women, became polluted over due course of time after coming in contact with the patriarchalistically enthusiastic Abrahamic religions.
Legal: You spoke of the adultery law that only makes provision for a man’s imprisonment, while letting the woman, who obviously chose to become a partner in crime of her own accord, go scot free. Unfortunately, the subtext is not so simple. If you read the entire premise of the section, there are several things that should ring the alarm bells.
1. “Without the consent or connivance of that man”, which means, as a man, you are free to have sexual intercourse with another man’s wife, so long as you have that man’s consent or connivance. As always, the woman’s consent does not matter, not even in the eyes of the law.
2. If you were to have sexual intercourse with another woman (irrespective of whether she was married or not), your “wife” would not have the power to punish “the other woman” through prosecution. The law makes no provision for the woman yet again.
3. The law basically tells us that a woman is nothing more than “property” of a man. In that respect, the laws of adultery are no different from the laws of trespassing, where one man can be prosecuted for trespassing (or “penetrating”) another man’s property.
Women, therefore, bear the brunt of patriarchy, from the moment they’re born to the moment they die.
Moreover, according to Rasa Von Werder, author of It’s Not Over Till The Fat Lady Sings, “patriarchy can only rule through violence, brainwashing, and ignorance. They have to train and brainwash men into being macho and aggressive, while brainwashing women to be submissive and compliant”. In other words, both men and women serve as mere means to the patriarchal ends. But the reality still remains that women still get the raw-er deal!
AD: Well, I cannot argue any further (In fact, forget arguing, I think I have run out of patience and can’t read any further). So this is where, as a man, it’s time for me to play dead and relent (I am sure the woman in you is secretly rejoicing). However, it still cannot be disputed that a woman is a woman’s worst enemy. For all we have bantered about, women still lack strength because they “feel” they are underprivileged. Ironically enough, it is in fact the educated woman (who is well aware of all her rights) who seems to be the most underprivileged. Then again, who am I to argue with that?
But, there’s something I want to tell you as a man (who considers you my equal in all respects). As long as you continue to expect us men to empower you and keep abdicating your role in your own empowerment, you are fighting a lost cause. For unless you women stand up for each other, there is little that any man can do for you. After all, your strength needs to come from within.
MN: Yes, you’re right. We women have been just as guilty of misogyny as the so-called misogynistic men. And the sad reality still remains that women continue to undermine other women (and men for that matter), instead of joining forces and taking on the patriarchal dark lords. After all, aren’t men too bearing the brunt of a patriarchal society that expects them to be strong at all times—to not cry, to be the breadwinner. In fact, whether it is adultery or alimony, the stakes—for all intents and purposes—is stacked against the man to begin with.
Hence, maybe the solution lies in first identifying a basic premise—that there are women who are misogynists, just as there are men who are feminists!
In fact, it isn’t Man vs Woman at all, it’s Man & Woman vs Patriarchy. And that is how Nature intended it to be—Man + Woman...together.
AD: Hmm. Amen to that.
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