Do Your Know the Definition of the Word ‘Misandry’?
I canvased over 300 people representing a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, regarding the word denoting hatred of girls and women. Approximately 94% of those polled correctly identified the word as misogyny. When asked to name the word defining hatred of boys and men, less than 2% were able to identify the word possessing that meaning. Those that did accurately recall the word misandry were not able to spell it correctly. Could it be that there is some level of cultural collusion to have contempt for boys and men remain veiled?
(Curious enough, the word misogyny shows up in my favorite thesaurus while the word misandry does not.) An analogy might be that we easily recall that one side of a coin is named heads as we somehow stop referring to the other side of the coin as tails. We would gradually lose a more complete description of a coin. How did we decide to lose a more complete description of the hatred coin? How did it become so much easier to speak of hatred toward females and virtually impossible to reference disdain held toward males? Can it be that we do not want to know how and where contempt lives for males? And if that’s true, what price are both genders paying for such denial?
We might begin addressing these curiosities by suggesting that due to the social impact of Feminism in the 70’s, we gained some important awareness regarding how hatred of females was being manifested. We came to understand that contempt for girls and women was alive and well expressed by socio-economic oppression as well a drastic number of females being subjected to rape and domestic violence. Hence, the word misogyny took its rightful place in our vocabulary, as we were willing to be receptive to how hatred was hurting girls and women. Could it be that we have not yet come to that place where we are willing to see how hatred injuriously impacts boys and men, and if so, what is our resistance all about?
A simple explanation might be that we are not interested in knowing how hatred hurt males, especially white, straight males, since they are members of the privileged class. Who wants to know the suffering of the privileged? However, there may be two other explanations for the impoverishment of our language pertaining to contempt for boys and men.
The first is that we tend to have some resistance to define females as perpetrators. Yet, we are reminded time and time again that victims typically become perpetrators. We have plenty of evidence supporting the ongoing violation of females by males. Is it possible that the leap from females being victims to perpetrators fueled by misandry is just too much to hold? Is it beyond us to imagine Mom, Grandma and Aunt Helen harboring disdain for boys and men?
I was convinced I was exempt from the cultural edict that women are not perpetrators. While snorkeling off the coast of the Island of Culebra, I left my backpack unattended. Upon my return to the shore, I discovered that my watch was missing. Five women and one man were hanging out in the area. I turned to my wife and said, “Maybe that guy took my watch”. She responded, “What about the five women?”
There are several unfortunate consequences when we define a gender as exempt from perpetrating harm:
*Denial of the harm creates the likelihood of further harm being perpetrated.
* Opportunity for perpetrators to get right (accountability) with themselves and those they harm is seriously thwarted.
* Victims (males) are prone to collude with the denial of having been violated.
* Because of their denial, victims (males) obstruct their own healing.
The second explanation for there being no apparent need for a word to describe disdain for boys and men is that males are not permitted to be victims. I have found in my Counseling Practice that the most challenging psychological work for men is to identify how women may have abused or neglected them in childhood.
There are a number of crucial outcomes when males are not permitted to be victims:
- Males cannot get honest about how they were wounded by females.
- Healing is virtually impossible, especially because women primarily raise most males.
- Males remain unhealed victims setting the stage for perpetrating violence against females. (The cycle of violence goes uninterrupted‘)
Misogyny and misandry denote deep, painful reactions to the opposite gender. The words invite us to get honest about contempt that exists between the genders. This kind of honesty is best expressed by men and women being willing to identify themselves as both victims and perpetrators, opening to the possibility of significant healing.
(For the purpose of this article, a Binary perspective of gender was employed with no intent to dismiss larger perspectives of gender.)