From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"When I say woman, I mean a sex so fragile, so variable, so changeable, so inconstant and imperfect, that Nature, when she made woman, seems to me, speaking in all honour and reverence, to have strayed from that good sense with which she created all things."

and from a different translation:

"When I speak of women," said the doctor, “I speak of a sex so fragile, so variable, so changeable, so inconstant, and so imperfect . . . that Plato, you will recall, was at a loss where to class them . . . . For nature has placed in their bodies . . . certain humors, brackish, nitrous, boracious, acrid, mordant, shooting, and bitterly tickling . . . by which the entire feminine body is shaken . . . all senses ravished . . . all thought thrown into confusion . . . sometimes so violent that the woman is thereby deprived of all other senses and powers of motion as if she had suffered from heart failure, syncope, epilepsy, apoplexy, something like death."

--François Rabelais

Satire VI, medieval misogny

"In spite therefore of certain ideals of chastity presented by the Christian hagiographies, in spite of the incense burnt at the altar of Woman in romances, at tourneys and in the Courts of Love, there was never a time in the world's history in which women were more grossly insulted, more shamefully reviled, or more basely defamed than they were in the middle ages, by men of every class, beginning with the most serious writers of theology and going down to the mountebanks of the street-plays. The number of anecdotes, trivial or obscene, that drag women in the dirt is simply infinite…"--Vergil in the Middle Ages (1872) by Domenico Comparetti

Related e



Misogyny is hatred or strong prejudice against women. The word comes from the Greek words μίσος (misos, "hatred") + γυνη (gunê, "woman"). Compared with anti-woman sexism or misandry (hatred, strong prejudice against men), misogyny is termed by most feminist theories as a political ideology like racism and antisemitism that justifies and maintains the subordination of women to men.


History of misogyny

Misogyny in Greek literature

Misogyny in Greek literature

Misogyny comes into English from the ancient Greek word, misogunia, which survives in two passages. The earlier, longer and more complete passage comes from a stoic philosopher called Antipater of Tarsus in a moral tract known as On Marriage (c. 150 BC).


J Holland sees evidence of misogyny in the mythology of the ancient world. In Greek mythology, the human race had already existed before the creation of women — a peaceful, autonomous existence as a companion to the gods. When Prometheus decides to steal the secret of fire from the gods, Zeus becomes infuriated and decides to punish humankind with an "evil thing for their delight" — Pandora, the first woman, who carried a jar (usually described — incorrectly — as a box) she was told to never open. Epimetheus (the brother of Prometheus) is overwhelmed by her beauty, disregards Prometheus' warnings about her, and marries her. Pandora cannot resist peeking into the jar, and by opening it unveils all evil into the world — labour, sickness, old age, and death.

J Holland also sees evidence of misogyny in the Christian view on the Fall of Man based on the Book Genesis, which according to Christian interpretation brought tragedy and death into the world by a woman. (See also Original Sin.)

Middle Ages

Medieval misogyny


The religion of islam is in itself mysogynistic. The Quran specifies both that "women are inferior to men" and that any women who are found to disagree with this should be beaten (Qur'an 4:34). In the book "Women and the Glorious Qur'an: An Analytical Study of Women-related Verses" the author claims that the relation between men and women specified in the "men are the guardians of women" verse, does not simply apply within a family, or within marriage. The book specifies that men are superior to all women, both in general and in specific cases, not just their wives or daughters. The book mentions that this is a "progressive" opinion within islam, and that there are many islamic scholars with much worse opinions on women, such as the very authoritative at-Tabari, who claims that men are superior to women, not just in the case of a woman being financially dependent on a man, but always, and due to Allah's statement on the physical and intellectual superiority of men above women.


Strindberg's misogyny

Arthur Schopenhauer is famous for his essay "On Women" (Über die Weiber), in which he expressed his opposition to what he called "Teutonico-Christian stupidity" on female affairs. He claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey." The essay does give two compliments however: that "women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than men are" and are more sympathetic to the suffering of others. However, the latter was discounted as weakness rather than humanitarian virtue.

Nietzsche is known for arguing that every higher form of civilization implied stricter controls on women (Beyond Good and Evil, 7:238); he frequently insulted women, but is best known for phrases such as "Women are less than shallow," and "Are you going to women? Do not forget the whip!" Nietzsche's reputation as a misogynist is disputed by some, pointing out that he also made unflattering statements about men. Nietzsche can easily be interpreted as anti-feminist, believing that women were primarily mothers and opposing the modern notion of women's liberation on the grounds that he considered it a form of slave morality. Whether or not this amounts to misogyny, whether his polemic statements against women are meant to be taken literally, and the exact nature of his opinions of women, are more controversial.

The philosopher Otto Weininger, in his 1903 book Sex and Character, characterized the "woman" part of each individual as being essentially "nothing," and having no real existence, having no effective consciousness or rationality. Weininger says, "No men who really think deeply about women retain a high opinion of them; men either despise women or they have never thought seriously about them." The author August Strindberg praised Weininger for probably having solved the hardest of all problems, the "woman problem."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Misogyny" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools