What you need to know:
- Misogyny is what we see online in body shaming of women, making light of sexual assault, and even justifying it.
- Even in corporate spaces, a woman ascending to the top seat is an arduous task, looked upon as some form of favour.
The Oxford English dictionary defines misogyny as a ‘dislike, of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women or girls. What does it look like? Sometimes it is veiled, passing as harmless banter or as a simple school rule for the girls, but when confronted, it comes out, like a monster, snarling to reveal its deep contempt. Often, especially in traditionally patriarchal societies like ours, it is loud and out there.
Misogyny is what we see online in body shaming of women, making light of sexual assault, and even justifying it. Misogyny is what has kept County Number 12, my motherland, trending in the news. The audacity of a woman trouncing a man for a political seat is too much for a misogynistic mindset to accept. She will be accused of being too bold, too loud, too assertive for a woman. Because, misogyny teaches that a woman should be coy, pretty, polite, and sweet.
Even in corporate spaces, a woman ascending to the top seat is an arduous task, looked upon as some form of favour.
“How does her husband allow her to be so senior, does she still submit to him?”
She must work triple harder than her male counterparts. She has to constantly learn to bite her tongue, temper her speech, check her emotions, and her sense of dress, study more, pile up certifications, and pray that her husband will be the supportive type.
She will be judged more harshly if her marriage fails. Her church will remind her to ‘protect’ her husband’s honour and cover up her bruises when he abuses her.
“A foolish woman destroys marriage with her own hands.” Someone will misquote a Biblical verse when she decides to walk away from cruelty.
The perpetrators of misogyny do not even realise that they are misogynistic. It is so ingrained in their everyday language and behaviour that it is normalised. Both men and women are responsible for perpetrating the vice.
It has been demonstrated that women are the drivers of misogynistic attitudes, in both public and private spaces. Women often display internalised misogynistic behaviour and will openly show bias against their fellow women. For example, many women drivers would rather be caught in the wrong by a male traffic officer than a female one.
Recently, I was in one of the Children’s Offices where a couple had a dispute over their children’s custody arrangement, after their marriage breakdown. The visibly intimidated woman could not put in a word as the female officer kept shushing her, “Wewe mama, nyamaza!” but displayed exaggerated respect towards the man who was given ample speaking space. “He is lying about…”
“I said you be quiet!”
Unlearn harmful biases
The ugly face of misogyny is inside our homes, in religious practices, in offices, and in the streets. Marriage ceases to be a voluntary and mutually fulfilling healthy relationship when misogyny takes root.
In such a case, a wife will be ‘allowed’ to be a teacher, but she dare not grow to the level of a school principal. Chances of her marriage thriving will dwindle with every promotion. She will face cruelty, intimidation, embarrassment, and belittling from an insecure husband. Only the truly honourable man will support their wives to climb the highest ladder of their calling and explore their highest potential.
How should we deal with misogyny? We start with the realisation that we all have unconscious biases against any other who is different from us.
We hold biases against people of other races, tribes, social classes, and genders. With this realisation, we become aware and check ourselves.
Most importantly, call out misogyny for what it is. When we see a girl or a woman being harassed, we must ask ourselves, would I be okay with treating my mother, sister, or daughter the way I just did? Would I be okay with letting that comment about a woman pass?
We must learn that misogyny is a social construct and unlearn the harmful biases and attitudes. Today, it is that woman whom we all laugh at as someone makes a joke about violence towards them. Tomorrow, it will be your daughter facing the same.