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Insults and Context
Imagine a guy who loves his mother, sister, wife, and daughters. He has a history of mentoring and promoting women at work, and he has lots of female friends. Politically, he supports all of the so-called women’s issues, from birth control to abortion. But he hates one particular female politician, and during a speech he refers to her by one of the socially unacceptable insults that are generally reserved for women. Perhaps that word begins with B or C or S.
Someone in the audience records the offensive insult and puts it on YouTube. The clip rapidly becomes a national story. Here’s my question: Is this man a misogynist, or just a guy who hates one particular politician and chose his words poorly?
Let’s do another example. This time, imagine a woman who is active in a number of organizations that support women’s issues. She sees the world as a boy’s club in which women need to fight hard for their rights. One day, while giving a speech about a woman’s right to choose, she refers to an odious male politician by one of the insulting words normally hurled only at men, such as bastard, dick, or a**hole. Here’s my question: Is the woman guilty of misandry (hatred of males), or is she just a woman who hates one particular politician and used a male-exclusive insult because it seemed like the right word to fit the moment?
I think we judge people we know personally in the context of their entire lives. Nothing else would make sense or seem fair. But we judge strangers and public figures by statements taken out of context. Removing context is what turns a non-story into a story. And it allows the news media to put a face on evil, which is a good way to attract eyeballs and sell advertising.
I can think of a lot of people I suspect of being misogynists. The one thing they all have in common is that they are public figures. That means I don’t know their context. Over the span of my entire life, I can’t think of any man I’ve personally known who seemed to hate women in general. And the only overt employment discrimination against women I’ve ever seen was perpetrated by other women.
Sure, sure, I live in a bubble in Northern California. And I suppose I was raised in a bubble in upstate New York. I’ll grant you that misogyny exists. Let’s prove you’re right in the comments below. My question today is this: Is there any man that you know well that you suspect of hating women in general? (It doesn’t count if the man is guilty of only stereotyping. Misogyny is specifically about hatred.)