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Blog For Choice Day: Why misogyny?

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, January 22, 2009 21:16 EDT
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Jesus H. Christ, I had half a post for Blog For Choice Day written, and my dumb fuck self deleted it. Try #2.

Okay, the post is supposed to be an examination of misogyny. When I started blogging almost 5 years ago, I didn’t really comprehend the extent that misogyny was the main, probably sole engine of the anti-choice movement. In part, it’s because misogyny is so baffling to me. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to hate women, and yet in the years I’ve been doing this and therefore studying and interacting with anti-choicers, I have to conclude that’s what motivates them. Watch this video PZ posted, for instance, and the one thing that really strikes you is that everyone in this video radiates contempt for women, who appear to be, in their estimation, stupid, weak, and just begging to be raped if they get out of line.

The other thing that will strike you is that everyone in the video is, despite their hatred for women, actually a woman. There’s no doubt that this is 100% calculated in order to give a misogynist movement cover, though of course female misogyny is far from an unknown phenomenon. And being a woman, I have a pretty good grasp on what makes being a female misogynist appealing. You’re emotionally rewarded by men for it (and rarely challenged, because your womanhood gives you cover), you get to feel like you’re superior to your entire gender, and sometimes you’re financially rewarded for it. Believing rape myths allows you to believe that you’ll never be raped, and being anti-choice allows you to feel that you’re a moral person because you’re not a slut. I get it.

But what I’ve found in the past 5 years is that the female face that the anti-choice movement puts forward is misleading. The majority of anti-choice wackaloons I’ve encountered are straight men, and to the last one, they have Major Issues with women. (Of course, this is a self-selecting group, as men with Major Issues regarding women are attracted to fucking with me like nobody’s business.) I think that the experience, however tedious, has given me some insight into why so many straight men are just plain old misogynists, even though they presumably like women enough to want to be with us. Women are socially constructed as men’s inferiors and often in a servile role. But at the same time, sexual attraction makes men feel especially vulnerable to women, which hurts the ego. After all, if women are supposed to be in a servile role, but still have a right to reject you, that’s got to be maddening. Much of our society is organized around putting women in their place to rectify this situation for insecure men. Think of a place like Hooters where scantily clad women are literally serving you, and you’ll see what I mean. The reproductive rights wars are fueled by this issue. My experience has been that relatively secure men either are passionately pro-choice or tend to think that it’s not their issue because it’s women’s bodies and therefore women’s problem.

Pregnancy has a powerful symbolic meaning for fans of the patriarchy, and it’s not just that it’s the process by which we make new people. It’s because it gets interpreted as biological proof that women exist for men, and our metaphorically understanding of pregnancy reflects this—men are characterized as cooks putting buns in ovens or gardeners sowing seed in passive ground. The Catholic Church dogma on contraception reflects this view—all the high falutin’ talk about how contraception puts a wall up between married people is a nice way of saying that contraception keeps a woman’s body from being fully subject to her husband’s manipulations. (That many men would rather not risk pregnancy every time they have sex doesn’t seem to change the belief that contraception is emasculating for anti-choice nuts.)

Anti-choicers like to defend themselves against the charge of misogyny by saying they simply believe that life begins at conception. What they fail to understand is that “life begins at conception” is a misogynist statement. It’s the erasure of a woman’s role in making new people, and a claim that the only effort that counts is the effort a man put into ejaculating. Abortion is horrifying because it’s a reminder that men do not actually make babies, but that women do through a 9 month process, and that if a woman chooses to interrupt that process, there will not be a baby. Which is pretty conclusive proof that men don’t make babies. Which directly contradicts the misogynist belief that only men are capable of really doing jobs worth doing. Really, it should be blatantly obvious that women make babies, not men, but psychologically distracting ourselves from this truth is the whole reason we even have a patriarchy and traditions like naming children after their fathers and not their mothers, as if the fathers were the ones who deserve the credit for making the baby. Even writing this paragraph is hard for me, because I know that saying something like, “Obviously, babies come from women supplying every bit of the material and energy except for 50% of the DNA,” will not be a statement that’s greeted with open arms. It may be a bona fide taboo.

What I don’t get is why anyone gives a shit. I just don’t understand the levels of insecurity that drive men to have this burning need to see women debased, especially sexually debased. It’s everywhere in our culture, from mean-spirited pornography to rape apologists to sexual harassment to anti-choice nuttery. I get why women will engage in this—like I said above, it makes you feel like one of the boys. But in all the years I’ve been looking at this issue and trying to understand it, I just don’t get why it’s so satisfying to so many men to put women down, especially with regards to sex. And obviously, that’s not all men, but it’s plenty enough. I don’t get anti-choice nuts, and I don’t get guys who troll feminist blogs in an effort to try to gain some control over these women they consider uppity. I really don’t get why men can watch really hateful porn and not be put off by spitting on women, smacking them, or calling them names when their only apparent transgression is being sexually attractive to the viewer. I can understand the dynamics of how a man turns into a misogynist, but I just don’t understand the amount of energy they put into it is what I guess I’m saying here. Any theories, commenting hive?

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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