For the Culture: On Misogyny


The following piece is directed towards cishet (people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth and are straight) men:

I want to be intentional about not speaking for anyone who experiences sexism, whether they are women, trans women or queer men. Though I sympathize and strive to be in solidarity, I do not share their experience with misogyny or femmephobia and it is not my place to speak on their behalf. However, I do believe I can speak to the way cishet men perpetuate misogyny, especially at Middlebury.

Recently, women have been sharing innumerable accounts of gender based violence and they are alarming. If you are not aware, google “Harvey Weinstein”, a film producer who was recently accused of sexually assaulting Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Rose McGowan among many other Hollywood actresses. Next google “#metoo”, a social media movement to spread awareness via women posting “#metoo” if they have experienced sexual harassment or assault. Search “Miss Peru” or “Michael Oreskes” or “Ben Affleck.” I could go on. All of these searches will yield results highlighting the problem of gender based violence. All of these stories are in context of a president-elect, who boasted about forcibly grabbing women by the p**** during his campaign.

Due to social media and Donald Trump and the bravery of victims, experiences of misogyny are being shared around the world more than ever right now. If you are not viscerally disgusted by these accounts, you should be. For those who are deeply troubled by these stories, you must not be surprised–this is not new.

As men we are ignorant to the violence women experience regularly, maybe paying attention when some great scandal is revealed. Sexual assault and harassment against women is something straight men often do not understand in the right way. We often respond with astonishment, which is naive, and then proudly condemn such behavior in an effort to secure our own reputation. We self-aggrandize before prioritizing the safety of women. Meanwhile at that party last weekend, when your friend was leaving with a super drunk woman, you did not stop him. That is a problematic situation that can easily become nonconsensual and you were complicit by not speaking up. Similar situations arise constantly. When your friend cat-called those women on your way to the bar, did you call him out? Or simply, if a woman said no, did you stop immediately?

Instead of acting surprised like occurrences of sexual harassment and assault could never happen at Middlebury and then openly stating “rape is f***** up” like you’re one of the good guys, think about how your daily actions fight or tacitly condone misogyny. Call out your boys who catcall–women are not objects to holler at. Don’t let your friends refer to women as “females”, a popular colloquialism amongst black men. Essentializing women to their sexual organs, which is what “female” denotes, is degrading. Misogyny is violence against women–colloquial usage of “female” is on this spectrum of violence. Referring to people as sexual objects does damage and that is verbal violence. Moreover, do not use the words “slut” or “b****.” Do not call women these words because they are sexist insults. A man who is sexually promiscuous is a “player” but a woman who thrives in the same evolutionary behaviors  is a “slut,” a word meant to invoke shame. As a man it isn’t your place to say “b****”, do not sing it in a song and do not call a woman it. It’s a charged word that is inextricable from its usage as a means of demeaning women. Find another word to express your frustration with your science professor who writes hard exams. And when you call other men “b****” (or p****), you’re degrading them by implicitly calling them a woman or a woman’s sexual organs. That is insulting. That is misogyny.

I am not saying that we are all Harvey Weinstein or worse Bill Cosby, but I am saying that we, cishet collegiate men, tacitly permit misogyny in many ways. Call out your friends for problematic behavior and be cognizant of the words you use. Doing your part in addressing sexual harassment and assault goes beyond condemning rape. Speak up and let’s work to seriously acknowledge and combat gender based violence.