Misogyny and Patriarchy in the West | Monica Bassili
Misogyny and Patriarchy in the West
In 2017, I read a book that would change how I understand women in Western culture. Dick Masterson’s Men are Better than Women affirmed every patriarchal and misogynistic trope I had ever encountered. Although the book was satire, how men and women interact reproduces resentment and contempt on both sides.
Western misogyny functions differently than non-Western countries because women are often pitted against each other. To pursue the “most oppressed,” Western misogyny encourages women to prove to everyone around them that they are valid. Misogyny refers to hatred, aversion, and prejudice against women.
With this in mind, Western misogyny is obscured by the competition of other women. In media and news, women are depicted as vengeful, selfish, money-hungry, and cruel against other women. Yet, in most cases, a woman’s actions aim to satisfy a man. Such a paradox perpetuates misogyny; unfortunately, women unwittingly play into the interests and desires of men.
The Plague of Liberal Feminism
One way that women reduce their social, economic, and political power in Western society is the acceptance and encouragement of liberal feminism. Liberal feminism is a sect of feminism that focuses on the equality of men and women through government support. The primary issue with liberal feminism is that it aims to achieve male standards. Higher education, employment, and equal shares of home duties are among the most pronounced issues.
Yet, what should women want to be like men? What value does “uplifting” women to men’s standards bring to society? I would argue that liberal feminism brings little insight into the discussion of women’s issues and Western misogyny. Instead, I would say that women are inherently valuable to society, much more than men. Accordingly, advocacy work should focus on uplifting men to the standard of women.
In addition, Western misogyny thrives on liberal feminism’s lack of racial and ethnic analysis. Without including racialized women, liberal feminism mirrors the desires and interests of white women. For instance, the working white woman of three children and her husband must outsource their childcare to a migrant worker. For the white woman to succeed and attain men’s professional standards, the migrant worker must sacrifice their family and friends to be underpaid and caretake for white children instead of their own.
Consequently, the advocacy work for Western women in North America focuses on the need for white women to secure their position in society. Politically, economically, and socially, liberal feminism supports legislating the rights and privileges of women to enable white women to attain personal and professional success. Unfortunately, the alienation of race and ethnicity in women’s rights discourses supports globalization, capitalism, and neoliberalism, all negatively impacting non-Western women.
Humanism over Feminism
Moving beyond liberal or other sects of feminism, advancing women’s rights and interests requires a human-centred perspective. By including race and ethnicity, Western women can move beyond the confines of liberal feminism and work on real issues racialized women face daily. As long as humans have existed and will continue to exist on earth, misogyny and patriarchy will live. In this life, learning how to manage these barriers and work through them is what leads diverse women to success.
Although you may feel that misogyny and patriarchy need to be eliminated, this is impossible. Every culture, religion, and individual has the power to carry any ideology, even if it harms others. For this reason, working against significant structural issues rarely leads to change and reform; often, it leads to failed campaigns and increases gender inequality.
With this in mind, learning to work with and beyond misogyny and patriarchy in the West requires women to work with men to improve their social, political, and economic position. By working with men as allies, women can gain traction in their communities to support the interests of racialized women. Issues such as familial services and support, affordable and accessible education, and domestic violence are community-based issues and must be addressed within the community.
As a result, there is little value in projecting these concerns onto the provincial, territorial, or federal governments. Due to their scopes, these governments cannot meaningfully address racialized women’s problems in their communities. At the municipal and local levels, governments play a crucial role in promoting and funding organizations that empower women and girls to address issues in their communities. Western misogyny will always exist, but learning how to work within this system can help racialized women’s daily lives.
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