Definitions and connotations

January 13, 2013

I seem to have gotten into some sort of political/philosophical/lexical debate about what misogyny means, in a comment thread to Maureen Dowd’s latest column (on President Obama’s male coterie).

The comments closed, so I though I’d express myself here.

I hold with restricting the word misogyny to its traditional meaning of hatred of women.  I missed its remodeling last fall through Australian events into something about entrenched prejudice.

My point is that the two concepts are not the same and ought to be labeled with different terms.

And here’s why I am bothering to mention it here.  Misogyny in my experience contains an element of sadism, while prejudice, however deeply rooted or enduring, does not.  And with a sadist, one never knows how far they will go, whereas people with prejudice are far more predictable and stay within certain bounds.

I think my interlocutors must never have encountered someone who really truly hated women.  It feels way different from encountering someone with “entrenched prejudice against women.”  I’m glad they haven’t, but to me they are trivializing the experience of those of us who have.

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