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Misogyny: The Male Malady

david d. gilmore
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    "Yes, women are the greatest evil Zeus has made, and men are bound to them hand and foot with impossible knots by God."-Semonides, seventh century B.C. Men put women on a pedestal to worship them from afar-and to take better aim at them for the purpose of derision. Why is this paradoxical response to women so widespread, so far-reaching, so all-pervasive? Misogyny, David D. Gilmore suggests, is best described as a male malady, as it has always been a characteristic shared by human societies throughout the world. Misogyny: The Male Malady is a comprehensive historical and anthropological survey of woman-hating that casts new light on this age-old bias. The turmoil of masculinity and the ugliness of misogyny have been well documented in different cultures, but Gilmore's synoptic approach identifies misogyny in a variety of human experiences outside of sex and marriage and makes a fresh and enlightening contribution toward understanding this phenomenon. Gilmore maintains that misogyny is so widespread and so pervasive among men that it must be at least partly psychogenic in origin, a result of identical experiences in the male developmental cycle, rather than caused by the environment alone. Presenting a wealth of compelling examples-from the jungles of New Guinea to the boardrooms of corporate America-Gilmore shows that misogynistic practices occur in hauntingly identical forms. He asserts that these deep and abiding male anxieties stem from unresolved conflicts between men's intense need for and dependence upon women and their equally intense fear of that dependence. However, misogyny, according to Gilmore, is also often supported and intensified by certain cultural realities, such as patrilineal social organization; kinship ideologies that favor fraternal solidarity over conjugal unity; chronic warfare, feuding, or other forms of intergroup violence; and religious orthodoxy or asceticism. Gilmore is in the end able to offer steps toward the discovery of antidotes to this irrational but global prejudice, providing an opportunity for a lasting cure to misogyny and its manifestations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0032-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    ONE AFTERNOON in the early fifteenth century, the Italian woman of letters Christine de Pizan writes, she was browsing through her library for something light to read and discovered Jean Le Fèvre’s Lamentation of Maltheolus (ca. 1275), which enumerated in scabrous detail the wickedness of all womankind through the ages. So appalled was she by Le Fèvre’s polemics that she countered with a book of her own, The Book of the City of Ladies (1405), which may be the world’s first feminist tract.

    Christine claimed that the Lamentations was an unscholarly treatise and full of lies and distortions (see Solomon...

  5. 1. Melanesian Misogynists
    (pp. 17-35)

    IT IS NO EXAGGERATION to say that the greatest obsession in history is that of man with woman’s body. Since time immemorial, men have rhapsodized about feminine flesh; the earliest known works of representational art, the European “Venuses,” tiny stone statuettes of voluptuous females with huge, pendulous breasts and grotesquely enlarged vulvas, attest to the antiquity and primacy of this obsession.

    But more than a mere sexual object or a model of beauty and fertility, the female body is also man’s first home. The womb is the mystical place of origin and procreation, and the female body harbors the fetus,...

  6. 2. Flesh and Blood
    (pp. 36-56)

    MANY MELANESIANS ARE COMMITTED misogynists, living apart from their wives out of fear, denigrating woman’s bodies and whatever comes from them, elaborating magical spells and rites to repel female dangers. In espousing this kind of genderized Manichaeism, so firmly rooted in images of insidious flesh and mephitic blood, these highlanders seem bizarre. After all, in our enlightened Western world the voluptuous female body inspires our greatest art. But the Melanesian style of body-hating misogyny is by no means a rarity in the world; nor is the form it takes—visceral disgust, enchantment by biological forces—all that unusual. It is...

  7. 3. Malevolent Maidens
    (pp. 57-78)

    MISOGYNISTIC FEAR centers on the flesh that makes woman man’s opposite and renders her unknowable to him. Misogynists tremble before the bodily labyrinth: veins, intestines, sexual organs. With her lunar cycles and genital effluvia, woman destroys the idealist’s illusions of a pristine universe. But physical repugnance is only part of the picture. For many misogynists revulsion grows into a an indictment not of feminine flesh but of her spirit, her intellect, her character and will. For the committed woman-hater, woman is malignant not only in body, but in her intentions toward man. Here man’s fears transcend sexuality to encompass toward...

  8. 4. Scriptures
    (pp. 79-97)

    WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN religious teachings that condemn women. Virtually every faith, monotheistic, polytheistic, apostolic, or animist, has something hostile to say about menstrual blood and female reproductive functions. In addition, most religions blame woman, not man, for concupiscence, because it is supposedly her irresistible attractiveness that provokes male lust. Most religions contain an ascetic tradition and therefore a potentially misogynistic component.

    In most of the world’s messianic religions—in which God’s revelations are set down in writing by prophets—sin is brought into the world by women. It is always First Woman, never First Man, who, because of innate...

  9. 5. Social Structure
    (pp. 98-114)

    ONE ASPECT OF MISOGYNY has escaped most previous studies. It is linked to the way tribal peoples in preindustrial (or “primitive”) societies reckon kinship and marriage, and involves the contemplation of woman as alien and dangerous, not because of her biology or her innate wickedness, but because of the tenuous position that she occupies within the social structure of such societies. The connection of misogynistic grievance to a distinctive form of social organization may explain the lack of interest among social scientists other than anthropologists, who are the specialists most concerned with kinship, for this is a specifically ethnological problem,...

  10. 6. The Western Imagination
    (pp. 115-135)

    MODERN WESTERN MISOGYNY differs from that in most preliterate societies because it often takes on deceptively sophisticated, even aesthetic expressions, unlike the biology-based, mystical beliefs we have seen in places like New Guinea. Often subtly reasoned, European misogyny places less stress on notions about magical pollution, bodily fluids, and witchcraft, and relies instead on “scientific” judgments about woman’s inferiority. Given the richness of fantasy involved, the Western variant could be called a misogyny of the imagination.

    Yet underlying the lofty pose, there lurks the same malice toward women and the same male disillusionment. In this chapter, we look at some...

  11. 7. Commonalities
    (pp. 136-150)

    NOW THAT WE HAVE LOOKED at the “masses of evil” attributed by men to women, from polluting tribesmen in New Guinea to scaring Johannes Brahms out of his wits, the time has come to put the various images and fantasies of woman-hating into some sort of logical framework. Then we can perhaps identify the common denominators. The point of this exercise is, first, to show that misogyny is not monolithic but is comprised of numerous beliefs, fears, and misconceptions, all having something in common. Second, by teasing out the various emotive ingredients that constitute misogyny as a generalized feeling-tone, we...

  12. 8. Psychological Theories
    (pp. 151-168)

    GIVEN THE PREDOMINANCE and emotional salience of misogyny, numerous theories have been advanced to explain it. Before proposing one of my own, I should describe what other explanations have been proposed. These various theories can be broken down into several inclusive categories.

    First, there are psychological and, in particular, psychoanalytic, interpretations, mostly based on what Freud said about male psychology and on recent revisions and refinements in the Freudian theory. These can be further subdivided into Oedipal, pre-Oedipal, and object-relations approaches. Whatever their biases, most of the psychoanalytic explanations account for the frequency of woman-hating by positing some universal experiences,...

  13. 9. Structural and Materialist Theories
    (pp. 169-182)

    PSYCHOLOGICAL AND GENETIC THEORIES that emphasize such factors as castration anxiety or olfactory dysphoria help to illuminate some of the many constants in misogynistic behavior—for example, menstrual fears and taboos. But they do not help very much when it comes to understanding the variables, such the intensity of horror associated with the bodily effluvia or terror of the vagina. Theories that attempt to explain the variation and the local differences in empirical cases might be called structural or materialistic theories: they emphasize stimulus-response rather than “innate” intrapsychic dynamics, and they look beyond the psyche, to impinging “outside” factors, to...

  14. 10. Gynophilia
    (pp. 183-201)

    IF THEORIES ABOUT MISOGYNY make an impenetrable thicket, so do men’s feelings. Like so much having to do with men and women, misogyny is only one piece of the puzzle. To be sure, many men hate and fear women, but just as many also love and revere them. It is obvious that two edges of this mental sword are related in some labile fashion and share origins in the ancient touchstone of the primitive male cerebellum.

    “Woman” has the uncanny power to frustrate man’s noble (but unrealistic) ideals, to subvert his lofty (hollow) ends, and to sully his (deluded) quest...

  15. 11. Ambivalences
    (pp. 202-218)

    WHAT THE PREVIOUS MATERIAL SHOWS is that men’s feelings toward women are contradictory, labile, bifurcated, and ambivalent—to put it mildly. Ambivalence occurs when one experiences diametrically opposed emotions at the same time: the affected person is drawn in opposite directions, torn by incompatible emotions. He feels anxiety because he cannot reconcile the clashing feelings.

    The word “ambivalent” (ambi-valent, having two “valences” or directional charges, as in electrical current) was apparently coined by Freud’s contemporary Eugon Bleuler in an article written in German in 1910 (Weigert 1991:20). By coming up with ambivalenz. Bleuler was attempting linguistically to capture what he...

  16. 12. Conclusions
    (pp. 219-230)

    IF MISOGYNY IS A PREJUDICE based on uncertainty, then what is most striking about misogyny is how consistent the uncertainty is. Everywhere we look, men are sorely divided in their feelings toward women, but everywhere the repetitive emotional complex in so many males clearly points to some psychogenic factor above and beyond the vicissitudes of social context or environment. Explanations based on politics or economic “systems” certainly cannot do complete justice to the problem, for it seems that all political systems, economic arrangements, and ideological systems are consistent with misogyny. Woman-hating is just as bad under capitalism as it is...

  17. Glossary of Kinship Terminology
    (pp. 231-232)
  18. References
    (pp. 233-248)
  19. Index
    (pp. 249-253)