When circling around anti-feminist circles for a while, it is easy to come to believe that misogyny is a fantasy. Feminists so often interpolate malicious motives into benign statements and even classical gender norms that it is hard not to think of them as little boys crying “wolf.”
But wolves do exist, even if people exaggerate their presence or lie about them. Misogyny also exists, and while I’ll happily take the label, as it used by feminists (misogynist (n): someone who believes men and women are different), I believe there is a serious cost to indulging in genuine misogyny.
I mention the subject because a co-worker made a passing comment on the way to a job-site. He’d screwed something up, and the customer — a wife and mother — wasn’t happy about it. After telling me not to say anything to her, he said “she wears the pants in this house, if you know what I mean.”
Ironically, when we arrived at the house, it was the husband who was more impatient and confrontational about the ordeal. Nevertheless, the woman in question was unusually firm:
Co-worker: “We’re here for that same problem as last time?”
Woman: “Yes, because you didn’t fix it before.”
Ouch. Harsh, but hardly unfair. It’s hard to even call such a statement “rude,” exactly. It was simply assertive, and only unpleasant insofar as it forced my co-worker to confront his own failing.
For clarity, my co-worker is an outstanding worker, a quality perhaps motivated by his dislike of being wrong; his mistake here was an anomaly. Moreover, he is a fundamentally decent person, and was nothing but polite to the customer. Misogyny is a mindset, and a thought or attitude is hardly a moral fault, especially when not acted upon. To make a moral issue of it is to miss the true price of misogyny.
To illustrate the price, it might be worth looking at the opposite end of the spectrum — a society which venerated and respected its women more than any other society in its time… Sparta.
Make no mistake, this veneration and respect was no feminist paradise. Women were expected to be women, just as men were expected to be men, and much was demanded of both. Freedom from “the patriarchy” was hardly on anyone’s priority list. But these high demands made Spartan women as famous for their strength as Spartan men. And given the conjunctive nature of sexual reproduction, it’s hard to imagine how one might hope to create strong and confident boys with weak and diminutive mothers.
Sparta was not rich in gold, or even in land. What it had was powerful women — educated, known for their natural beauty, and proud to be mothers in the way that men were proud to be warriors. Only men who died in battle and women who died in childbirth were given the highest funeral rites. The symmetry here is obvious.
It should be noted that strong women are not un-feminine. To the contrary, women who are genuinely strong are likely to have the will to maintain an attractive physique. And women with an attractive physique — inherited or created — are likely to possess sufficient confidence to dismiss the temptations of modern androgyny — to derive their self-worth from economic value, rather than their capacity as a wife and a mother. As a legacy, no amount of money can compare to an expanding lineage of powerful and successful humans. In the same way, a woman who knows her value as a woman has no need to aggressively assert herself socially, vainly attempting to emulate what they imagine men do. Women who try to act like Amy Schumer or Sarah Silverman betrays a kind of insecurity in their own worth (it is worth mentioning that this fact might be generalizable to male comedians as well).
All of this is to say that the cost of misogyny is potential access to powerful women. A man who thinks that a woman “shouldn’t wear pants” (that is to say, unassertive, unintelligent, quiet, un-athletic, and most importantly, deferential in all things to men) is unlikely to date or marry such a woman. This is not just a tragedy for his children — what parent doesn’t want assertive, intelligent, sociable, athletic, and confident children? — but for himself. A spouse who challenges you to be the best version of yourself is tremendously helpful for accountability and encouragement in becoming who you wish to be.
Everyone is familiar with the overly-sarcastic and obnoxious kind of woman, the one who mistakes sassiness with intelligence and charm, and who believes being 50 pounds overweight is just “curvy.” These women imagine that they are strong because they flaunt social norms, but no one is fooled. Everyone knows that they reject the norms because they know where they would fall upon the scale established by those norms, and either don’t want to do the work to rise, or believe it’s a lost-cause. This is psychological weakness, not strength. The tragedy is that no one tells them.
But it is equally tragic that men dismiss genuinely and attractively strong women on the grounds that some women who believe they are strong are annoying. It is true that genuinely strong women can have high expectations, and perhaps some men feel that they may not be able to fulfill those expectations. Better — they believe — for women to be deferential in all things, to not be assertive or have an opinion…
And behold, a strange symmetry emerges! Call me crazy, but there seems to be a common psychological origin between feminists and misogynists. Each seeks absolute acceptance from the opposite gender, imagining that happiness comes from acceptance, rather than from one’s own value, which is merely gauged by degrees of acceptance. Acceptance without value is condescension (lit. con-descend — “to come down”), something which proud people cannot tolerate.