Men who hate women may not consciously realize it. But their acts reveal them.
Posted February 18, 2015 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
- Misogyny is typically an unconscious hatred that men form early in life, often as a result of a trauma involving a female figure they trusted.
- A misogynist can be extremely competitive with women, likes to control them sexually, and may suddenly leave the relationship without ending it.
- When a misogynist puts a woman down, the bad behavior is rewarded with a dose of the pleasure chemical dopamine, making them want to repeat it.
The misogynists. You may have heard of them. But what you may not realize is that they can be anywhere around you. They are notoriously hard to spot. They do not come with a label attached, and they may even come across as pro-woman.
In most cases, misogynists do not even know that they hate women. Misogyny is typically an unconscious hatred that men form early in life, often as a result of a trauma involving a female figure they trusted. An abusive or negligent mother, sister, teacher, or girlfriend can plant a seed deep down in their brain’s subcortical matter.
Once planted, this seed will germinate and begin to grow, the tiny root working its way into the fear processing and memory areas of the brain as its tiny stem works its way into frontal areas of the brain, affecting emotion and rational decision-making.
Signs of misogyny
The first signs of misogyny are barely noticeable, but with additional exposure to neglect, abuse, or lack of treatment, this behavioral seeding will grow larger and more prominent. But even when the misogyny reaches maturity and the tendency toward acting with hatred toward women can no longer be controlled, the misogynist and the women around him will often fail to notice the condition until it’s too late.
The following traits are typical of the misogynist:
- He will zero in on a woman and choose her as his target. Her natural defenses may be down because he’s flirtatious, exciting, fun, and charismatic at first.
- As time goes on, he begins to reveal a Jekyll & Hyde personality. He may change quickly from irresistible to rude, and from rude back to irresistible.
- He will make promises to women and often fail to keep them. With men, on the other hand, he will almost always keep his word.
- He will be late for appointments and dates with women, but be quite punctual with men.
- His behavior toward women in general is grandiose, cocky, controlling, and self-centered.
- He is extremely competitive, especially with women. If a woman does better than him socially or professionally, he feels terrible. If a man does better, he may have mixed feelings about it but he is able to look at the situation objectively.
- He will unknowingly treat women differently from men in workplace and social settings, allowing men various liberties for which he will criticize female colleagues or friends.
- He will be prepared (unconsciously) to use anything within his power to make women feel miserable. He may demand sex or withhold sex in his relationships, make jokes about women or put them down in public, “borrow” their ideas in professional contexts without giving them credit, or borrow money from them without paying them back.
- On a date, he will treat a woman the opposite of how she prefers. If she is an old-style lady who prefers a “gentleman” who holds the door for her, orders for both and pays for the meal, he will treat her like one of his male buddies, order for himself, and let her pay for the whole meal if she offers (and sometimes even if she doesn’t). If she is a more independent type who prefers to order her own meal and pay for herself, he will rudely order for both and pay the check while she goes to the bathroom.
- Sexually, he likes to control women and gives little or no attention to their sexual pleasure. Foreplay, if it occurs at all, is only a necessary means to an end. He likes oral sex but only as a recipient. His favorite positions enable him to avoid looking the woman in her eyes.
- He will cheat on women he is dating or in a relationship with. Monogamy is the last thing he feels he owes a woman.
- He may suddenly disappear from a relationship without ending it, but may come back three months later with an explanation designed to lure the woman back in.
Only rarely will a misogynist possess every one of these traits, which makes it harder to identify them. Their ability to lure women in with their charm and charisma adds to the difficulty of spotting the early-warning signs.
Women haters (unconsciously) get off on treating women badly. Every time they can put down a woman or hurt her feelings, they unconsciously feel good because deep down in their hidden brain, their bad behavior is rewarded with a dose of the pleasure chemical dopamine—which makes them want to repeat the behavior again and again.
At the beginning of a relationship, things are often kept pretty light and bright. At some point, though, you wear out those surface-level conversations and real life starts to set in. Although it may not be super obvious from the get-go, you may realize that you and your partner don’t agree on important issues. It can be difficult and disappointing to get to this place, but you may need to know what to do if you realize your partner is a misogynist. Because misogyny, like so many other -isms and issues, isn’t always apparent right away.
Honestly, you could be in pretty deep, your feelings and heart completely entangled, before coming to the realization that a joke wasn’t a one-off or as lighthearted as it may have seemed at the time. It can be difficult to confront or call out misogyny sometimes, especially if the situation is a bit complicated or you feel like you have a lot on the line. If your head and your heart are at odds, it can be difficult to sort out exactly how you feel or what your next move should be.
Although this may mean that the relationship has run its course, it’s also possible that with a little bit of education and more understanding (and maybe a little patience on your part), your partner come around and leave misogyny behind.
Making sure that you both know what misogyny means can help change the way your partner thinks about his or her words and actions and also how you respond. The website for the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines misogyny as “a hatred of women.” Additionally, according to Psychology Today, misogyny is often unconscious, meaning misogynists don’t know they’re misogynistic. That means you have to recognize the kernels of hatred in words and actions, and call them out when they happen.
It’s been a long, hard year, so you’re probably looking forward to spending some restorative quality time with your family over the holidays. But then you wind up having to deal with that guy, and the time you were looking forward to is nearly tanked. To save your next trip home, it’s worth knowing how to deal with misogynistic family members ahead of time. Unfortunately, most of us have at least one hidden somewhere in the family tree. The good news is that when you see them coming and can anticipate how interactions with them might go, it diminishes their power to inflict harm вЂ” intentional or otherwise.
The trouble with misogyny is that it’s often the slightly more covert cousin of sexism. Unlike sexists, who are loud and proud with their silly superiority complexes, many misogynists don’t even realize how their hatred for women is manifesting in their behavior. According to some experts, misogyny may be an”unconscious” hatred formed early in life. It might begin with a perceived hurt caused by a woman they trusted; it might be the result of witnessing others displaying misogynistic behavior and learning from it; it might be both; or it might be something else entirely. But once the seeds of a misogynistic viewpoint are planted, they can take root and blossom over time, resulting in the subtle targeting of women with pointed language, controlling behavior, and other misogynistic hallmarks. People of any gender can be misogynists, too, so it’s not just limited to an “us vs. them” mentality between men and women.
So before the person fitting that description in your family starts in during board game night or holiday dinner, here are a few ways you can deal.
1. Speak Up
Of course you don’t have to sit through some misogynist’s insufferable remarks all night long. And since they may not even realize they’re being offensive, it makes sense to call their attention to it with a subtle response like, “Hey, your sexism is showing. You might want to do something about that.” Then change the subject. No matter how steamed you may feel, it’s worth noting that name-calling or getting defensive will likely lead nowhere good fast.
2. Try to Have a Thoughtful Discourse
If changing the subject was a fail and the misogynistic family member (or members, bless your soul) want to engage, try a tact known as “threading the needle.” In other words, you’ll want to navigate the difficult topic as skillfully as you would a piece of thread through the eye of a needle. Don’t just disagree with misogynistic points of view вЂ” invalidate them. Offer sound arguments that disprove the crux of their argument. The calmer, more intellectually, and more willing you are to engage in conversation, the harder it will be to argue with your logic.
3. Appeal to Them on a Personal Level
Sadly, you can’t always (or often) deal in logic with misogynists. They’ll simply roll their eyes and accuse you of being shrill or call you something ludicrous, like a “femi-nazi” (so original, bruh). If this is the corner you find yourself painted into, you might try to appeal to them on a personal level. It’s not uncommon for misogynistic viewpoints to be couched in, “Oh, but you’re different because I know you” reasoning вЂ” so if they something demeaning to women while trying to tell you you’re the exception, you can explain to them that their comments are hurtful to all women, including you.
It’s problematic that we’re still at a point in our cultural development where it’s necessary to relate hurtful behavior directly to the person displaying it in order to stop it; it’s been said before, but “How would you feel if that was your sister, your wife, or your mother?” shouldn’t be needed in order for someone to treat someone else like, y’know, a human being. But while we’re still trying to change things for the better, it can sometimes help in the meantime to humanize the argument enough to get them to back off. At the very least, they’ll hopefully have a sincere desire to stop hurting a person they love. Otherwise, you aren’t just dealing with a misogynist вЂ” you’re dealing with a dillhole, to boot.
4. Seek Out an Ally
Fortunately for me, I have a very large family full of strong, outspoken women. Finding a relative who will back my play when it comes to dealing with a misogynistic family member isn’t hard. In any case, try to find an ally in the family with some pull. If you stand together with someone (or with more than one someone) who reinforces your perspective. well, that old saying about there being safety in numbers helps out.
5. Just Walk Away
Should all else fail, just walk away, my friend. Push your chair beneath the table and find a seat somewhere else. We don’t get to choose who our family is, but we sure as hell do get to choose whether or not we spend time with them. If a family member is exhibiting unhealthy attitudes toward women and refuses to let up, simply remove yourself from the equation and let them stew in their own hatred. You’ve got better things to do, like beat your brother at Monopoly for the 7000th time.
Images: Johnce/E+/Getty Images; Giphy
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This world is made up of all types of people, including men, women, feminists — and misogynists. Speaking plainly, misogynists hate women. They hate everything a woman represents, too. You’re going to run into one and it’s likely you’re going to hear his loudly proclaimed opinions. Dealing with a misogynist requires courage, humor and the ability to stay professional.
You do yourself and other women around you no favors by staying quiet. Using a courteous tone of voice, speak up and let the misogynist know that what he’s saying is misogynistic and wrong, suggests the Corporette website. Some appropriate responses could include: “Wow. And here, I thought you really respected women. I guess I was wrong.” Or, “Be careful! You’re revealing your hatred of women.” While you’re thinking that he’s a jerk, don’t call him any names. Once you’ve said your piece, change the subject. If you’re at work, bring up a work-related topic. Depending on your work environment, you might be able to get away with being blunt.
Shine a Bright Light
Whether online or off, you’ve probably heard the precaution: “Don’t give him any attention. Don’t feed the troll.” However, doing so in the face of misogyny tells the misogynist that he’s free to continue spouting his opinions. Instead, point him out. At work, alert your immediate supervisor — or his. If he’s in a position of authority where his hateful words wouldn’t be appreciated by his own supervisor, he’ll soon find out just how wrong he was to say what he said. By pointing out just how misogynistic his words were, you’re giving other women the ability to speak up, according to Jessica Valenti at “The Nation.”
Get offended or get away. You have a choice. If you choose to get offended and give the misogynist a few truths, you might be verbally slapped with a name or accused of suffering from PMS. Besides, if you have to work with this man, losing your temper might cause future interactions to be strained and less than productive. Another option — you can walk away. Find someone else to talk to during your work day.
Interacting with a misogynist when you know you’re going to be dealing with him indefinitely requires that you find inner strength. You’ll also have to believe that, eventually, you’ll be able to find that tiny nugget of kindness in that person. Listen to what he says and realize just how clueless he sounds, find the humor in it and laugh. If need be, laugh in front of him.
Maintain Respectful Relationships Only
If the misogynist is a professional colleague, keep in mind that he’s not your friend. Work only to keep a professional working relationship with him. In short, take the high road. At the end of the day, go home knowing that you interacted with him as courteously as you could. You might also encounter a misogynistic neighbor or relative. As soon as you realize his — or her — mindset, remember you’ll likely have to interact with this person on a regular basis. Try not to make your situation any more difficult. Be courteous, even if you can’t be friendly.
However, the subjects delivering the shocks did not know that the electric device was not actually attached to the “students” and they were not delivering real shocks. The participants playing students were confederates pretending to be shocked.
The research found that a whopping 65% of the “teachers” willingly obeyed the researcher and increased the electric shock level to dangerous. It was also found that 84% of the subjects playing teachers were glad of their involvement in the research whereas only 1% of them regretted to have participated. Various other similar studies were conducted and the same outcome was found with different variations.
So why did so many people perform such a sadistic act?
“Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.” – Stanley Milgram
As I said earlier, anyone can act mean given the right circumstances, however, most of us choose to behave decently and ethically as long as we are not provoked or instructed by an authoritative figure. Mean and toxic people are constantly in the “right circumstances” zone as they are unable to experience sound mental and emotional health which motivates them to be mean to others.
What makes people act mean
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” – Wayne Dyer
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why most people tend to be mean and may appear toxic:
1. Lack of awareness
Most of the times what we think to be a mean behavior may happen due to a lack of awareness, lack of knowledge or a lack of skills. And they might not have any intention to be rude, mean or hurtful.
Misunderstanding can make some people appear to mean when in reality it is simply an issue of miscommunication. When information is not conveyed properly during communication it can lead to misinterpretations which may come off as meanness.
Some people may be perceived as being hurtful when their real intention is to help you. For instance, an overprotective parent or husband may appear to mean to the daughter or wife. On the other hand, some people believe that this kind of behavior is necessary to get certain work done. Their real intention is not to hurt you but only to achieve the outcome.
4. Attention seeking
“Negative people need drama like oxygen. Stay positive, it will take their breath away.” – unknown
Some people act mean as they consider this will help them gain attention. It doesn’t matter to them if the attention is positive or negative as long as they get noticed.
5. Low self-esteem
“People who project negativity typically have low self-esteem. They feel badly about themselves, and their negativity is simply a reflection of those feelings.” – Hendrie Weisinger
People who are suffering from low self-esteem often tend to act mean in order to feel superior to others and feel better. This is merely a way for them to protect their weak self-esteem.
Some people can seem to be hurting you intentionally when they are only trying to desperately protect themselves in an effective manner. This can happen when they are unable to take responsibility for their actions and problems.
Some people tend to be very controlling in order to protect themselves and this makes them cause a lot of discomfort for the people around them.
8. Emotional reaction
Most people act mean as a result of the emotional reaction and may be unaware of the impact of their behavior. Although they don’t intend to be harmful, their behavior can be rather intense and hurtful.
Taken from the Greek miso, to hate, and gyne, for woman, misogyny literally translates into “woman hater.” Would you recognize misogynists in your life? Read on for signs… Even in an era of equal rights and shifting gender roles, misogyny still exists. Commonly used to describe men who hate women, the last place you’d expect to find a modern-day misogynist is in a solid relationship. How can someone who loves you, respects you and trusts you be a misogynist? Although many misogynists are in monogamous relationships, they’re not truly committed because they can’t be. Their underlying feelings of superiority over women, disdain for the feminine mind, jealousy over women’s successes or just women in general are constant barriers to true intimacy and commitment. How can you tell if your man is a misogynist? Read on.
Saints and Sinners
Also called the virgin/whore complex, does your guy classify all women as either a saint or a sinner? A common trait among misogynists is to label a woman as either “good” or “bad” and treat her accordingly. How did he react the first time he met your friends? Was he instantly turned off by most of them, and did he encourage you, perhaps subtly at first, to get rid of them? If so, consider that the first warning sign. Misogynists will often exert their women-hating tendencies by trying to eliminate or reduce the number of women in their lives. He has his reasons for wanting to be with you, but that doesn’t mean he has to share you with friends. While it might seem odd that a misogynist forms a relationship to begin with, even misogynists can connect with women because deep down they’re still men, still human and have emotional and physical needs. However, just because he wants to sleep with you doesn’t mean he views you as his equal. Under his seemingly charming exterior, he may still believe that you’re beneath him, that he’s somehow entitled to his relationship with you and that you’re just a sexual object to him.
The Control Freak
Misogynists believe they’re in control of the relationship and can dictate everything from how you wear your hair to what time dinner will be served and what movie you’ll see. They’ll often begin with gentle teasing, then cajoling, before slowly moving on to insults and ridicule to get you to change your behavior or appearance. Listen carefully to his “suggestions.” “He’s trying to get you to be who you’re not,” says Los Angeles-based psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser. “One day you wake up, and you’re like, ‘Where did I go? I don’t even know what I like to eat anymore!’” Sure, it’s normal for a man to have preferences. But if your guy continually presses the matter, gets angry when you tell him no or takes steps to implement the change behind your back, he may be a misogynist. “With a control freak, you have to give up more and more of your separate experiences, separate activities, separate friends,” says Mark Rogers, Ph.D., an Irving, Texas, relationship coach who works with Dr. Phil. “And then it goes deeper to separate thoughts and feelings until you’re emotionally micromanaged. And that’ll kill you.”
It’s All Your Fault
Misogynists blame women for everything that goes wrong in their relationship and life. It is your fault if he doesn’t get the promotion he has been waiting for because you didn’t press his shirt before the interview? Or did you forget to quiz him on the possible questions? It’s not important what you did or didn’t do; what’s important is his unfair and incessant blaming. Women in love with misogynists find themselves apologizing for everything and walking on eggshells most of the time. Should you be on the receiving end of the blame-game day in and day out, seriously evaluate what it is about your guy that makes you want to stay even one more minute.
Yours is Mine, Mine is Mine
Does your guy punish you by withholding intimacy, money, love or approval because you’ve done something to “offend” him? This is a final warning sign that you’re with a misogynist, and you need to find a way out. Misogynists will often use affection as a weapon against women in order to teach them a lesson, or worse, put them in their place. If you don’t behave like they want, or do something to upset them, a misogynist will typically give you the silent treatment and pout like a petulant child. He also may refuse to do something he has already agreed to do, not allow you access to money or withdraw from intimacy until such time as he feels you’ve sufficiently repented. “He doesn’t care what you have to say,” Rogers says. “He may listen, but only long enough to prepare for his next persuasive statement.”
Watch Out for Prince Charming
Depending on how long you’ve been with your misogynistic guy, getting away from the relationship may be difficult. On the surface, he may really care about you. Tell him you’re leaving and he may feign surprise or even cry You need to be strong and remember that love is an equal partnership. Love is compromise. Love is giving in when the issue is more important to your mate than it is to you. Love is not winning at all costs, but making sure each of you gets a chance to swing at the ball. Be prepared for an outpouring of love and affection. Misogynists can turn the charm on and off like a switch. He may bring you flowers or whisk you away on a romantic vacation or second honeymoon. He may even modify his behavior long enough for you to believe he has truly changed.
But don’t be fooled. Misogyny is an inherent trait. Deeply ingrained in the psyche of who he is, he can’t change his core beliefs or hatred for women in general. Being in love with a misogynist is painfully challenging. He loves you, he hates you, he blames you. You’re on a constant roller coaster of emotions during the relationship. You deserve a man who loves you for you, doesn’t try to change you and most importantly, doesn’t try to control you. You’re the only person who should be in control of you. Are You in an Abusive Relationship?
How bad does it have to get before you say enough is enough? An abusive relationship saps your energy, strips away your dignity and can be physically dangerous to you and your family. If this sounds like your relationship and you need help breaking away, read Are You in an Abusive Relationship? Connect with Us
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7. Be compassionate
“Being nice to those who treat you badly isn’t being fake. Your spiritual maturity has risen above the desire for vengeance.” – Michael Binot
It’s hard to feel any kind of compassion when someone is constantly bad mouthing you and hating you. But this is an excellent way for you to deal with them. Studies have revealed that compassion allows our heart rate to slow down and enables the secretion of oxytocin or the bonding hormone. Moreover, it also stimulates areas in the brain associated with empathy and joy which helps us care for others when they most need it. The better you understand them, the better you will be able to control the conversation.
8. Know that you have a choice
“The less you respond to rude, critical, argumentative people, the more peaceful your life will become.” – Mandy Hale
The biggest damage a toxic person can do is affect our emotional and mental state. But it is on you if you will allow their negativity to affect you. Even if you have to engage, you can control how much they affect you. You don’t need to accept their negativity just because they have a lot of it.
9. Be assertive
Negativity can often seem to be more powerful and stronger than your calm and composed demeanour. You might feel like fading away in front of their mean and aggressive behavior. But you need to take a stand and feel the power of composure within you. So make sure you are direct and upfront with someone who is being mean. However, it doesn’t mean you need to be mean to them as well. You simply need to stand your ground.
10. Be mindful
Toxic and mean people can easily trigger our fight or flight response which makes us want to be mean with them as well. But this can escalate the situation and make it worse. Mindfulness enables you to bring your attention to the present moment and be aware of your thoughts and emotions. This will help you to stop panicking and take control simply by focusing on your breath.
11. Walk away
“Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out.” – Robert Tew
Sometimes you can’t understand or reach out to the other person as they are too far gone and despite your best efforts they will keep attacking you. So it’s best to maintain your distance in such cases. You don’t need to apologize or be nice unnecessarily. You simply need to walk away. You can always control yourself.
Here are some other things you need to keep in mind when dealing with a negative and mean person:
- Remain calm at all times
- Show respect towards the other person
- Refrain from judging the mean person
- Understand what they are asking for
- Don’t be defensive
- Do not demand conformity or compliance
- Apologize only if you need to
- Look around for help
- It’s best not to try to convince the mean person
- Avoid smiling or laughing at their face
- Follow your gut instincts
- Do not resort to anger
- Learn to let it go and not feel stressed
- Keep physical distance from them
- Be flexible in your approach
- Set clear boundaries and limits
- Appreciate yourself for going through this uncomfortable experience
Winning over a mean person
“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.” – Will Smith
Now that you have some idea about what may drive a mean person to be negative and toxic, hopefully, you realize that it’s not about you. In most of the cases, it’s never your fault and their meanness is mostly a reflection of their own corrupted thinking or flaw unless you have done something significant to trigger them. Mean people will always find some reason, no matter how minor, to react and release their pain, anger, and negativity.
Internalised misogyny is when women subconsciously accept sexist stereotypes and ideas. It is a by-product of years of oppression of women. We are born into a patriarchal society where women are constantly objectified. Being surrounded by people and media that constantly propagate the idea that women are inferior takes a heavy toll. Women began to internalise the hatred and objectification that they see around them. It seeps under the skin and affects how women view themselves and the women around them.
Internalised misogyny leads to slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and reinforcing outdated gender roles.
Women that experience internalised misogyny tend to minimise the value of women. Internalised misogyny alienates women from each other and propagates sexist notions.
Identifying Internalised Misogyny
The first step in unlearning internalised misogyny is understanding what internalised misogyny truly is, and what it entails. It can range from not being friends with other women because they’re “too much drama” to slut-shaming women. Internalised misogyny leads to objectifying yourself and the women around you. If you measure your value or the value of other women on the basis of how men perceive you/other women, then you need to work on your internalised misogyny.
When crimes against women are committed, slut-shaming and victim-blaming often takes place. Questions that transfer the blame to the women are asked, like –
- “What was she wearing?”
- “Why was she out so late?”
- “Why did she go out alone?”/ “Why did she go out with a boy?”
Instead of holding men accountable all of the blame is placed on women.
Unlearning Internalised Misogyny
Accepting that nobody is immune to the sexism that surrounds us is imperative to unlearning internalised misogyny. Women are not to blame for internalising the hatred and self-loathing that surrounds them. With that in mind, it is still up to women to be critical about when they’re being misogynistic, and do their best to be kinder to themselves and others. Since internalised misogyny causes women to shame, doubt or undervalue themselves and other women, it isn’t always easy to identify.
Depiction in Media
Indian media ignores the multitudes contained within women and reduces them to two broad archetypes, a saint or a villain. The National Commission of Women has stated that “women are either being portrayed as Sita (Ramayana) or as Kaikayee (Ramayana) and there seems to be nothing in between the two extreme characters being shown in soaps”.
The evil mother-in-law characters are prime examples of internalised misogyny. They love their sons and think no woman is good enough for them. After dealing with sexisms for years, they turn their internalised misogyny outwards. While villainous mother-in-law is a bit of a reach in most cases, the internalised misogyny aspect is accurate.
Internalised Misogyny in Indian Culture
Years of patriarchal expectations and being forced to follow outdated gender roles has resulted in women from older generations having internalised misogyny. Their internalised misogyny affects how they treat the women around them like their children and daughter-in-laws. The women around them began to internalising the misogyny surrounding them. It has become a vicious cycle that lasts throughout generations and oppresses women.
The only way to end the cycle is by working on yourself, and then working to improve the lives of women around you. In a country where crimes against women are committed at an alarming rate, it is important that women stick together. The toxic cycle of internalised misogyny leads to preconceived notions of how a woman should exist. No more listening to mothers and grandmothers imply that if you’re worth less if you’re not a perfect cook, perfect cleaner, and perfect dutiful housewife.
Consider this: there is a glaring double standard in the way that we talk about hip-hop music and misogyny.
There’s been a resurgence of both interest and criticism of the ’90s rap group N.W.A ever since promotion for the new music biopic “Straight Outta Compton” began earlier this year. The film, chronicling the gangsta rap group’s rise to fame, has been praised for highlighting the parallels of racial tensions between 1987 and today. It has also been commended for humanizing a group that was largely demonized in their day for their blunt lyrics about life in the hood.
N.W.A in 1991, after the departure of founding member Ice Cube
But “Straight Outta Compton” has also faced some harsh (and valid) criticism, mostly because it largely glosses over the rap group’s unapologetic sexism. Key female N.W.A collaborators like rap artist Yo-Yo have been omitted entirely from the film, while the overall presence of women has been relegated to mothers, girlfriends, and groupies, all in the periphery. The group’s most notorious instance of violence and misogyny, where Dr. Dre viciously assaulted hip-hop journalist Dee Barnes in 1991, isn’t addressed at all.
The film’s release has forced the remaining members to address their treatment of women in the past. In an interview for the August 2015 issue of Rolling Stone, rapper Ice Cube vehemently defended use of the words “bitches” and “hoes.”
“If you’re a bitch, you’re probably not going to like us. If you’re a ho, you probably don’t like us. If you’re not a ho or a bitch, don’t be jumping to the defense of these despicable females,” the rapper/actor explained.
He continued, “I never understood why an upstanding lady would even think we’re talking about her.”
The interview has added fuel to the ongoing scrutiny that Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and N.W.A have received over the past few weeks.
Ice Cube in “Boyz n the Hood”
Since the 1980s, hip-hop artists have been accused of objectifying women, demeaning women, and promoting violence and sexual abuse against women. They’re guilty of colorism, too — the praise of “lightskinned hoes” and the denigration of darker skinned women is evident even in the controversial casting call for “Straight Outta Compton.”
In examining hip-hop’s past treatment of women as it relates to N.W.A, we’re forced to appraise how hip-hop treats women today. It’s safe to say that not much has changed.
Last year, Rick Ross ignorantly included a drug-rape lyric in a verse for the song “U.O.E.N.O,” while Lil Wayne had to apologize for the lyric, “beat the pussy up like Emmett Till.” Kanye’s West’s last album “Yeezus,” highly divisive, has been called out as one long hate letter to women, and objectifying music videos from artists like Drake and 2 Chainz persist.
Kanye West holding a woman’s decapitated head in the video for “Monster”
Hip-hop has a long, sordid, and complex relationship with women. Female MCs including Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt-N-Peppa, Lil Kim, and Nicki Minaj still aren’t taken seriously as lyricists in a male-dominated genre driven by bravado and machismo, where the distinction between “despicable females” and “upstanding ladies” is made on the whim of male artists.
But it’s not just hip-hop that has a misogyny problem. All music does. Rap music isn’t the only genre with degrading and demeaning lyrics about women. Videos like Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” featuring scantily clad models came before, during, and after some of the most objectifying rap videos.
A moment from Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” music video
Sexism is rampant in the punk, metal, and indie rock scenes. And while there’s been criticism of non-rap genres before — the campaign for parental advisories and censorship of hair metal bands in the 1980s for instance — hip-hop seems to be an easy and constant target.
It makes sense why it’s most often the scapegoat. Hip-hop is global, wildly popular, and mainstream in a way that many rock genres aren’t nowadays. But there are complexities in the way that hip-hop misogyny must be approached. We can’t talk about hip-hop, an art form born in the Bronx and popularized by black and Latino youth, without talking about race. Tied up in these critiques are perceived ideas about black masculinity as aggressive, toxic, inherently dangerous. It’s not just the music, but who is making the music that seems to make it so offensive.
So how do we reconcile this?
This isn’t an argument for absolving hip-hop of its ongoing sins. And it isn’t to say that one form of misogyny in music is worse than another — a Dr. Dre song called “Bitches Ain’t Shit” should be critiqued the same way as a NOFX song called “Punch Her In The Cunt.” But we must also address the fact that the narrative of male hip-hop artists universally hating women persists, while there continues to be very little critique of other, white-dominated genres.
Critiques of hip-hop must be contextualized. First of all, not all hip-hop perpetuates sexism. And rape, violence, and the degradation of woman are not a “black thing.” Sexism in rap music didn’t spring forth solely from black culture, which seems to be implicit in commentary about hip-hop. Rather, the sexism we see in some hip-hop music is a reflection of the sexism that we see in society as a whole. It’s important to remember this.
Failing to critique other genres of music ultimately does a disservice to all women. When we focus the debate solely on hip-hop, we narrow problems like sexual violence and abuse to a very specific group, but don’t talk about the ways these issues manifest in other genres and impact a much wider range of women. With the scope so limited, how much change can we actually expect?
Hip-hop most definitely has a problem with women, and it’s one that needs to be addressed in a real way. That’s clearly evident by the fact that, 20 years later, Ice Cube can still defend the music he made with N.W.A — seminal, but still highly problematic. What’s disturbing though is that while we’re at least reckoining and grappling with the realities of hip-hop, how we can both love the music and critique it in a meaningful way, the same conversation about other genres hasn’t really started. It isn’t right that the totality of hip-hop is thrown under the bus while the rest of a super sexist industry gets a pass from having to actually deal with its relationship to women. It’s a subtle, but profound double standard, and it needs to be acknowledged.
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