Misogyny isn’t just hatred of women. It can also include aspects of prejudice, fear, and grandiosity — and it doesn’t always involve men.
Misogyny can look like many things. It can be blatant, like violence against women, or it can be less obvious, like subtly perpetuating inequality between men and women.
Someone with misogynistic beliefs, for example, might take men at their word while dismissing or trivializing a woman with the same opinion.
Gendered terms like “women” and “men” are used throughout this article. But we understand gender is solely about how you identify yourself, independent of your physical body. So, when we use this language, we’re referring to all people who identify as a woman or a man.
Both concepts involve negative perceptions about women. Unlike behaviors of misogyny, however, chauvinism doesn’t necessarily involve an underlying hatred or disgust for females.
Chauvinism stems from a sense that males are superior to females and a belief women are naturally weaker, less intelligent, or otherwise less able in some capacity compared to men.
Someone with chauvinistic beliefs may still enjoy being around women and may act protectively toward them out of the belief that they need someone to provide for them.
Misogyny can be an extreme form of sexism. These two terms aren’t always interchangeable, however.
“Misogyny is a dislike of, contempt for, or prejudice against women,” explains Roma Williams, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Houston. “Sexism is discrimination or prejudice against people who are of the opposite sex.”
Anyone can be a sexist if they discriminate against the opposite sex.
Misogyny is hatred and discrimination specifically against females.
Can women be misogynists?
Women can be as misogynistic as men.
A feeling of superiority toward other women, contempt for common feminine behaviors, and male-dominant ingrained beliefs can all contribute to female-toward-female misogyny.
Misogyny isn’t a mental health condition. It’s an attitude and a belief that may involve complex underlying factors such as core belief systems, cultural norms, and childhood experiences.
Some religions, such as those founded in Christianity, teach that woman came after man, was made out of a part of his body, and was created as his companion to be under his care.
This framework may be sometimes perceived as implied inferiority. Along with the belief of some religions that women ushered sin into the world, religion could contribute to a negative bias against females, which in turn, could contribute to misogyny.
Much of learning during childhood is mimicry. If you’re exposed to misogyny in your household as a child, you may grow up thinking this is how you’re expected to behave as an adult.
Culture and gender norms, where women may often be perceived as “inferior beings” may also influence how a child develops misogynistic beliefs, particularly if they see their male role models dismiss or mistreat the women in the family.
Personal ideals and values
You don’t have to be religious to have personal beliefs that align with misogyny.
Throughout life, if you’ve benefitted from misogynistic beliefs, related to role models with misogynistic beliefs, or felt aligned with causes that involve misogyny, you may consider these tenets a part of your core value system.
Sexism, even in small doses, has been linked to mental health impacts including anger outbursts, depression, trauma, and low self-esteem.
To help fight back against misogyny, Karen Robinson, a licensed clinical social worker from Alexandria, Virginia, recommends taking a stance of involvement. This includes:
- persistently advocating for people who identify as women
- lifting up and supporting the efforts of women around you
- joining causes that support women
- contacting your state government representatives about misogynistic laws and regulations
- participating in marches and strikes against misogynistic practices
- creating safe spaces for women
- cheering for women
If you’re experiencing misogyny first-hand in your life, both Williams and Robinson recommend a zero-tolerance approach toward misogynists.
Standing your ground
“Don’t ignore misogyny,” says Williams. “Speak up! If you see it, say something, and let the person know that their basis will not be tolerated.”
Robinson says you can help do this by setting personal boundaries, communicating concisely, and being assertive.
If you don’t feel safe standing your ground, you can help address misogyny through formal channels, like the human resources department at work or a mental health professional.
Knowing when to leave
If you’ve tried to have a conversation with someone about their misogynistic behaviors and it hasn’t worked, you may have to leave that relationship or situation behind.
Robinson advises getting away from misogynists when you can.
“A misogynist has a profound hatred of women and not only believes in sexism, but carries it out in their everyday behavior. They blatantly disrespect and abuse women,” she says.
Misogyny is hatred and prejudice against women. Both men and women can perpetrate misogyny.
While there may be many underlying factors to misogynistic behaviors, someone living with this mindset may not feel they’re in the wrong or need to change.
Having clear boundaries and leaving misogynist situations when possible can help limit the impact it has on your life. Supporting and advocating for women in all environments may help stop the impact misogyny has on your culture.
Misogyny is often linked to violence against women. If you’re experiencing domestic violence or abuse, help is available.