Thursday, 25 October 2012

Sexism and misogyny

A debate is - how to describe it? - raging, spitting, frothing,  moving like the weather on a number of fronts - in our lucky country. The debate is making me hiss and spit a bit, just like a cat pushed way beyond its limits of patience and forbearance.

There has been much said and written, propounded by experts, would-be experts, victims, the morally superior, and ordinary types like me. It is called Misogyny.

Although various misogynists protest their a) innocence, b) purest of motives or c) whatever, let it be said right here and now that there is indeed a lot of misogyny about. Much of it is common garden misogyny. Look, if we did not have a female Prime Minister, there would be no problem.(!)  It would all be the best of blokes together, with the occasional woman playing a relatively important and visible part. But knowing her place, and being suitably humble about it.

Lots of people far more qualified to comment than I have put in their various viewpoints. I have just watched our Prime Minister's speech to the Parliament, fierily rebutting misogynist attacks on her by the Opposition, in particular by the Leader.  It was indeed a fine and stirring speech. It has won huge support, and many plaudits, in my view deservedly so.

Last night I went to the opera, to see Richard Strauss's opera Salome, a misogynistic piece if ever there was one. It is based on Oscar Wilde's play, and reeks of misogyny. All the characters are vile, but the women are seen as the worst. Although well staged and brilliantly sung and acted, I never want to see it again, as to my mind it perpetrates dreadful misogyny.

Years ago I read Germaine Greer's The Feminine Mystique, in which she wrote (inter alia) that women did not realise how much men hated them. It was true then, and it is true now. If one little boy wants to deliver a deadly insult to another little boy, he calls him a girl!  Says it all, really. When I see the relentless trivialisation of women and the constant brainwashing to have women see themselves in terms of their sexual attractiveness, I almost despair. This despite the immense progress I have seen in my lifetime. In some ways the brainwashing is far more extensive and overwhelming than it was in the past, and much of it is packaged in allegedly liberating terms.

Recently I had my annual check up for breast cancer. The only magazines in the waiting rooms were those which featured celebrities, make-up, plastic surgery, sexy clothing, very high heels, psychic advice and forecasts, and star signs. Plus some recipes and feel-good stories. It is so depressing, especially if young women drink up and believe all this propaganda and sexual typecasting.

Opportunities for women are so much better than when I reached adulthood. Women, once they married, could expect to lose permanency in jobs which were permanent for men and for unmarried females. Married women were ineligible to join superannuation schemes. There was no equal pay. Men tended to be promoted over women, even in occupations in which women  predominated. Gradually these injustices were corrected. But now there seems to be a blatant but insidious campaign to put women back into their proper roles as sex objects.

As I walked up to the Art Gallery today, I passed the windows of the major retailer, David Jones, which were filled with images of women (gorgeous young things) modelling swim suits. They all stood in unnatural poses, flaunting their sexual attractiveness. Unfortunately so many of us women seem to be very vulnerable in this respect. And I don't exclude myself, even though, having been married twice, divorced once and now widowed, and well past menopause, I am past all that. But I still want to look attractive.

I observe the debates raging about Islamic countries and their treatment of women - in so many cases the women are covered and veiled, and denied basic human rights. Some justify the veiling of women as being the choice of the women. I dispute this. We read reports of male mob sexual assaults being perpetrated against female journalists.

Our country is a secular democracy, and men and women have equal rights, political, social and personal. These are the standards which we absolutely must uphold and we must protect and defend those forced into subservience and double standards.

Women are more than faces, breasts, and vaginas. Just as men are more than handsome hulks, penises and testicles. We all have brains, souls, minds and characters.

We are all human beings and should act as such.


molly said...

There's been a lot of talk here also about the difference between how women in powerful positions are held to different standards than men in the same positions.....Nobody obsesses about guys' attire as much as they do about womens'. As much,if not more, attention is paid to who designed her outfit, or how high her heels are, or how she wears her hair, as is paid to how smart, or clever, or innovative, or good-at-her-job she is.........So, it's like that old Greek guy pushing the rock up the hill....sigh.

Elephant's Child said...

A thousand yeses from this corner. I am so over this. Our pay isn't even equal. Hiss and spit - which sadly has been my mantra for October.

Frances said...

Such a rich post, Persiflage.
Re the clothes: there seems to be such a disconnect between two commonplace ideas. (1) Men are highly sexed, and this is sometimes out of their control. (2) Women need to dress sexily to entice and attract men.
There seems to be a certain amount of anger re sexism lately, and I suspect that for older men in particular, who were born at the top of the tree because of their gender, the erosion of this status and power is devastating. And, I've read some whose response is simply aggression and bullying.