The Origins of Misogyny


I really hope that you guys read that in a dramatic way.. If not please go back and do that because this article is about to be DRAMATIC!! (not really)

Let us begin with etymology. Like many big words, misogyny came from the Ancient Greek language - two words: miso, meaning hate, and gyne, meaning woman. The word came into use in the English language at the start of the 1600s, predating sexism which was coined in about 1965.

waayyy Back when I wrote my Men Are Trash post, a dear friend of mine asked me where the whole 'women are weaker than men' idea stems from. I really enjoyed that question because it is literally exactly why I am such a fervent feminist. In my course I learned that "the primary cause of conflict in society is located in the struggle between men and women over the social relations involved in biological reproduction. Thus there are two fundamental classes in society, consisting of women and men” (Women and Geography Study Group, 1984: 26). Ignoring the part about reproduction (because I don't really get it), I am inclined to agree with the opinion that men and women have been divided into two separate classes, similar to the way in which skin tones have been split into classes. But still, what logical reason is there for our cultures to dictate that women are of an inferior class?

In a module titled The Making of the Modern World, we were taught that earlier societies, such as the hunter-gatherer societies who lived according to a different mode of production, were not unequal in terms of gender relations. Although their roles in society were different, there was no hierarchy. However, as the mode of production evolved, the role men played in society began to be considered more important. So to answer my friend's question I told him of this theory, explaining that, because labour was divided according to gender, somewhere along the line men started to feel superior and women let them, resulting in the misogynistic society from which we are trying to evolve.

While I was doing more research I found a very interesting theory spearheaded by Ester Boserup, a developmental geographer who focussed on agriculture and touched on the different roles of men and women in pre-industrial societies, so I thought that I'd share it with you guys! This is obviously coming from a geographical standpoint, so perhaps those of you in different fields of study can shed some light on other theories in the comment box!

Let's Beginnn! (finally)

Ester Boserup, in her book Women's Role in Economic Development, asserts that one of the key features of development is specialised occupations (page 3), which require divisions in the labour force, often split by age bracket or gender. Thus Ms Boserup agrees with the idea that gendered divisions of labour brought about gender discrimination, using the example of two different traditional farming practices: shifting cultivation, usually adopted by women, and plough cultivation, employed by mostly men. She argued that if plough cultivation became the preferential mode of agriculture, then men would have an advantage in society. As they are more accustomed to that method of farming, men are able to exclude women from the capital accumulation process, confining women to domesticity and securing their place as the superior class (because the ability to accumulate capital is the more important function in a capitalist society).

Whilst researching this theory, Harvard students found that the most misogynistic of societies prefer and employ plough cultivation practices. They give the example of Pakistan, where apparently 79% of their population believe that "men are more entitled to have a job than women", arguing that the favour of plough cultivation over shifting cultivation (the male method over the female method) is the origin of Pakistani misogyny. I wasn't very fond of this article as it perpetuated some Western superiority, however, their findings were very interesting and did add credence to the theory.

I remember my dearest friend telling me that she learned that the colonial powers of the Western world imported sexism into their colonies. Such a theory is backed up by Ms Boserup's research where she found that subsistence farming in Africa was monopolised by women; men were involved to varying degrees, but mostly the women were in charge!

A review of one of Boserup's books tells us that whilst food crop farming (subsistence farming) was handled by women, men took up cash crop farming. Boserup tells us that men had more access to agricultural tools and services because cash-cropping was introduced as a mode of exploitation by the colonial powers and, to them, capital accumulation was more important than the subsistence of the African people. The superior agricultural services awarded to the male farmers no doubt (re)produced gender discrimination, as subsistence farmers (who were(/are) mostly women) became less capable of carrying out their responsibility, relying on the financial gains of cash-croppers (mostly the men) to sustain their families.

Now there are many people out there who argue that gender divisions in society are natural, genetic, biological this and evolutionary that, but that's really just a bunch of men #trash! Sure, the standard in most societies is that men bring food for women to prepare, women look after the family whilst men work tirelessly, women give birth while men penetrate anything in a short skirt. But just because these practices have gone uninterrupted and unquestioned for many years does not mean they're biological, they can still be modified. Proof that there is absolutely nothing natural about these gender roles lies in the fact that different societies operate with drastically different roles. Looking at economic activity, in 'Africa' (country,countries not specified :/) trading is performed by mostly women, whereas in India its a predominantly male enterprise. Again in India, a significant number of women are employed in construction work, however in most other countries this is considered a manly job. An example of where societal practices have been modified is the rise of monogamy: before, having multiple wives was nothing to hide, now, how dare your side chick tell her friends about you?!

LOL, *sigh*

A Conclusion

I really hope I did a good job in conveying my findings, but I feel like this has all been gibberish, so let me summarise. In the days where capital accumulation wasn't so important, society was fair and equal, with regards to gender. However, as society evolved (our mode of production changed), certain farming practices, predominantly adopted by men, became more important. This advanced the role of men in society, resulting in the common conception that men are of a superior class to women. This narrative has developed over time into the sexist society in which we live. This process must have happened at different times in different places, with the possibility of one group indoctrinating other innocent groups into their sexist school of thought.

Here is where I got my info, so feel free to check read up some more, if you found this article interesting to read and want to expand your knowledge:

Women's Role in Economic Development by Ester Boserup

Review of Economic and Demographic Relationships in Development by Ester Boserup by Vernon W. Ruttan

(you need univ access or you can sign up and pay lol)

On the Origins of Misogyny

Where does the word misogyny come from

Tbh, it's always good practice to evaluate reports and make sure you are being fed the correct information, so I encourage you all to take a look! xx

Once again hope you enjoyed and please comment below if you have any other theories on The Origins of Misogyny (i give up on you if you failed that time too)

#report