With the start of the twentieth century, the first wave of feminism was initiated with the hope of highlighting the struggles associated with being a women and the strive of opening more opportunities for them. As the ideology of feminism and movements to fight for the equality of sexes progressed through history, words like “patriarchy,” “misogny,” and “sexism” became extremely popular, even making their way to the mainstream vocabulary. This led to the two words “misogyny” and “sexism” not to be only mistaken as synonyms, but to also be partially misunderstood.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word sexism is defined as the “unfair treatment of people, especially woman, because of their sex.” Sexism is prejudice and discrimination towards a specific sex and condonement of it as inferior. In a patriarchal society, it is the ideology that supports the stereotypical norms that surround the faulty gender roles. With this understanding in mind, it can be argued that sexism is not only limited to women. For example, believing females are delicate creatures that are not fit for strenuous exercise such as weightlifting is considered sexism, in which it would be specifically targeted towards women. However, if a man enjoys wearing feminine style of clothing and is consequently mistreated at work, this person would also be considered a target of sexism. Marcia Klotz, an assistant professor in English and gender and women’s studies at the University of Arizona, states that “Sexism includes misogyny, but is not limited to it,” as it is a broad form of discrimination that is deep rooted in our society and is the cause of many instances of discrimination.
Misogyny, on the other hand, is defined as a “feeling of hate or dislike towards women.” In fact, the word itself originated from the Greek roots “misein” and “gynē” which mean to hate women respectively. Misogyny is way more blatant than sexism as it enforces the bias against women in a hostile manner. Although sexism can sometimes be unconscious due to the stereotypes society created around women, misogyny is often a different case since misogynists truly feel women should not be equal to men and that the gap should be sustained no matter what. An example of misogyny would be a person hating on feminists because they cannot tolerate women trying to achieve equality. Misogyny could be perceived as the “law enforcement of a patriarchal society” as it aims to keep women at a lower status than men.
Language is the essential aspect of our communication as a society. Gaining a better understanding of words like “sexism” and “misogyny” helps us not only understand important issues around us, but also how other people perceive these issues.
By Heba Badahman