In order to discuss about misogyny, definition of misogyny should be clarified. Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny manifests in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, disenfranchisement of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. Besides misogyny can be found within sacred texts of religions, mythologies, and Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy. The overt kind is when women are hated simply because they are women. Less overt is prejudice against all women or those women who fail to fall into one or more acceptable categories, examples being the mother/whore dichotomy, and the wife/mother dichotomy. Misogyny manifests itself in diverse ways: sexual discrimination, objectification and commodification of women, and mental and physical violence and the threat of violence (Chapman, J. 2014). Though most common in men, misogyny also exists in and is practiced by women against other women or even themselves. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male-dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. Margaret Atwood tells about misogynist society by narration of victim in her book “Handmaid’s tale”. She supposes this story as a future. This paper will argue that we are already living in Atwood’s misogynist society where religion and tradition are used as a tool of misogyny. When you read it, it is so horrible, but we could not notice that we are already reached this. The Handmaid’s Tale may well be the gold standard for sexual violence, the positive example critics can point to the next time some TV series throws in a bad rape scene. It’s not because the rape is “necessary,” a strange word to use when justifying any invented universe. It’s because here, rape isn’t a sideshow, and it isn’t taken for granted. Rape is an integral part of a world like Game of Thrones’ Westeros, but mostly as background world-building for the show’s largely male protagonists. Nearly every important character in The Handmaid’s Tale is female, and misogyny is a defining feature of their lives, not a single issue in a larger story.
“Western values” vs “our values”
It is common knowledge that in many Western cultures daughters could not inherit anything as there were sons in the family, Islamic law has always allocated shares from every inheritance to both daughters and sons (Mazrui, A. 1997). However, in most countries families do not practice this Islamic rule. The rules differ: only sons become inheritance. In Kyrgyzstan daughters do not gain legacy, because they will become a member of another family, anyway.
What is more, in the last few centuries homosexual sex was not allowed in western countries too, as well as Islamic countries in modern life. But, of course, the values have changed in the West. Many Islamic countries are experiencing change and can have changes like in west. (Mazrui, A. 1997).
Furthermore, it is a peculiar fat that the United States, which is the largest and most influential Western nation, has never had a female president. We can also compare two of the most populous Muslim countries: Pakistan and Bangladesh. In these countries they have had women prime ministers: Benazir Bhutto headed two governments in Pakistan, and Khaleda Zia and Hasina Wajed served consecutively in Bangladesh. Just the same with Turkey, where there was a Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. Muslim countries are ahead in female empowerment, though still behind in female liberation (Mazrui, A. 1997).
There is some conflict between western and Muslim countries. For example, elder people in our country don’t like western values and blame them for the fact that they are destroying our youth, leading them to bad way. On 8th of March (2019) feminists and people from LGBT marched through the street with slogans which is against Kyrgyz mentality. All people accepted it aggressively and posted negative comments. Mazrui (1997) recommends to find another post-modern way for Islamic countries, not westernization. I absolutely agree with it. Every country has its own values. The Islamic values are not so bad. But it also has bad sides. And the same with the western countries. They are not reach the top.
“Handmaid’s tale” in present. Tools of misogyny
As we have mentioned earlier, tradition and social norms are tools of misogyny. We are teaching people to be misogynist since childhood. For instance, I will talk about Kyrgyzstan. Proverbs, the part of oral tradition, are all misogynistic. Some of them are about prohibition on girls from different aspects of life or putting women as a cooker, dishwasher, cleaner.
The country where the power is based on principles of religion is called Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s tale”. In Gilead women have become infertile, so the few who can still have babies have been rounded up, brainwashed, and assigned to powerful men in a twisted attempt to restore the human race. There are a lot of prohibition on handmaids in novel such as reading. We can safely say that reading is intellectual thing. What is more I want to stress the fact that women in our society are so busy with household chores. They do not have enough time to read, write or to do such intellectual stuff. In Handmaid’s tale people who has got power in their hands can easily take away person who is against rulers by blaming with false accusations. The same situation we can notice in our world. If someone wants to expose officials or statesman, they just easily can take away him/her. As proverb says “One man no man”, one person cannot struggle against government. The most important problem in Atwood’s novel is objectification of women: using them as a machine rearing kids. This is what is happening in our society. Many people believe that women should give a birth to a baby, bring up her/him, cook: to cut a long story short – just sit at home. Men do not care about women’s interests. Almost all women in our society forget about their dreams, goals after marriage. Because from their point of view, women’s happiness lies only in children and family. But that’s not enough. Girls in Islamic countries marry at an early age. If they do not marry till 26-27, it is considered as a shame. Traditionally, Sharia norms recognize the exclusive right of a man to make at any time, without any explanation, one-sided divorce by pronouncing the divorce formula three times. It does not require the consent of his wife, or even her presence. This kind of a divorce is called “talak” in Arabic. Only after pronouncing the divorce formula for the third time the marriage stops, after pronouncing the divorce formula for the first and second time the divorce does not occur, but the wife must obey the period of idda (three months after the first pronouncing the divorce formula) in her husband’s house or, if he allows, in the house of his parents, during this period the husband may change his mind and resume matrimonial life.
In contrast to the absolute right of a husband to divorce, his wife’s ability to request a divorce is limited. This restricts women’s rights, turns her into a slave. Because no one can know what is happening in their family. She can be abused by his husband. But in our country state ruling is not based on religion. We have another problem like bride kidnapping. Kidnapped brides are staying only for reputation of parents. Even when she is bitten by husband she will still live with him for reputation of parents or for children. In our society’s perception there is no concept as a “rape in family”. Violence against women is cultivated and normalized at home and is directly transposed into the public sphere. People think that husband can do everything. Here we can see how religion can be used as a tool of misogyny. There are a lot of examples of sexual abuse in family. Violence is perpetrated at home: in 1999 a survey on incest was conducted with 348 upper- and middle class urban women in India. Nearly half admitted to being molested; a third was aged ten and younger when they experienced serious sexual abuse including rape, at the hands of family members and family friends. Women are sold, trafficked as brides, kept as slaves, raped by their husbands, and shared among brothers. In 2012, 25,000 rape cases were reported, out of which 24,470 were committed by a relative or neighbor. In 2013, about 40 per cent of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 experienced physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands. A woman married to one man can be shared by his brothers the term for which is draped. A case was reported in 2005 of instances where between two and five brothers living in a house married the same woman (Chapman, J. 2014). (Перефразировать). In “Handmaid’s tale” act of raping is accepted as a choice by narrative. Because women had choice: colonies or children rearing machine. Handmaids should wear red dresses, they cannot put on another clothes, cannot use cosmetics. There are a lot of countries where women cannot choose husband, even do whatever she wants. In this novel there are two or three categories of women: wives, handmaids, and women who work in Jezebels as a prostitute. The same categories in our society, too. As we noticed, daughters are not equally valued as sons in Gilead. We are also facing situations like this in real life.
The role of a woman in Christianity and Buddhism
Religion has been apparent and ever developing since the beginning of man. Both woman and man have contributed to that development and believed in a higher power to explain their own existence. Now, with the different variations on religion and separation in belief, women and men have taken on different roles that are distinct to their particular faith.
Many religions do not hold the respect of woman over that of men. The Buddhist religion for example, states very little about women. This is not because the Buddhism refuses to recognize women but rather that they strive to have equality among women and men. Thus the scripture speaks of the human race as a whole and makes little distinction between genders. In one scripture, the Visuddhi Magga, a monk asked, “Reverend Sir, have you seen a woman pass this way?” And the elder said: Was it a woman or a man that passed this way? I cannot tell. But this I know, a set of bones is travelling upon this road.” (Mohr, & Tsedroen, 2010)
In the days of the Buddha, other religious teachers had also spoken on the duties and obligations of a wife towards her husband. They stressed that it is the particular duty of a wife to bear an off-spring for the husband, and render him faithful service and to provide conjugal happiness. The teachings of the Buddha were not as biased towards the husbands. In the Singalovada Sutta, the Buddha had clearly stated both the duties of the husband towards the wife and vice versa. On the part of the husband, he should be faithful, courteous and not despising. It is the husband’s duty to hand over authority to his wife; and from time to time, provide her with adornments. Therefore, we witness the unbiased attitude shown by the Buddha towards both men and women. (Yifa, & Yifa, 2010)
In comparison to the Buddhist religion, Christianity also strives for an equal and positive view of women. In the Old Testament the creation of man is explained and represents both women and men as equally valuable. It states, “Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” (Genesis 1:26-27.) In society, Christian women have rules and laws to abide by. Christian women are instructed by God to conduct themselves modestly, as a witness of God to unbelievers. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of the gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4). Christians do not try to earn merit in order that there good deeds may outweigh their bad.
In the Christian faith there is a contrasting perspective. Women, though viewed as equal to men in value in the eyes of God are given unequal roles. In Genesis 2, there is a more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve and discloses the differences in their purpose and responsibilities as given by God himself. The general idea is that God did not create the man and the woman at the same time, but rather He created Adam first and Eve later for the specific purpose of being Adam’s helper. Eve was equal to Adam, but she was given the role and duty of submitting to him. The woman’s one and only role in the Christian religion is to be submissive to her husband and be a good “helpmate” to him. (House, 1995) A woman has no role in the church that is ruled and dictated only by men. The Christian woman is instructed by scripture to remain silent in matters of the church. 1 Corinthians of the Bible states, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.”
Like Buddhism, women in Christianity have gained better status and new roles in religion. In fact, women in Christianity may have made the most progress over history. In the early development of Christianity, women were told to take on the submissive role and only he a helper to their husbands. The woman’s role in the church was nonexistent and has now risen to a point where she can obtain roles as a minister and/or dean in the church. The Christian woman also has a voice that is respected and valued in making decisions.
I encounter expressions of misogyny on an almost daily basis. Cultural ideas affect human behavior and experience in many ways. We can safely say that misogyny is one of the most widespread phenomena of modern reality: whether it is everyday communication, visual space, mass media or draft laws. The moment of the reflexion of this phenomenon by society is especially interesting: the paradox of the results of such reflexing is remarkable and symptomatic.
There are two opposing and mutually exclusive attitudes in society about misogyny. On the one hand: it is denied and at the same time justified. “Nobody depresses you”, – men say to women, “but you still do not justify the fact that you were given equal rights, just look at yourself, you are not competitors for us”. This message clearly sounds not just as the most trivial patriarchal contempt (which in fact never disappeared), but also as the arrogant idea that equal rights were given to women by men – as an adult does a favor and gives the child an obviously impossible task, to show him that he is still small. Which, of course, is a gross distortion of the very history of the really hard struggle of women for gender equality – the right to which they did not ask, but won back. And also another manifestation of misogyny which will definitely continue to be discussed in literature.
- Chapman, J. (2014). Violence against Women in Democratic India: Let’s Talk Misogyny. Social Scientist, 42(9/10), 49-61. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24372976
- Mazrui, A. (1997). Islamic and Western Values. Foreign Affairs, 76(5), 118-132. doi:10.2307/20048203
- Atwood, M. (1985). Handmaid’s tale. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/drive/u/1/folders/1wCvK1bk7o8JQ_pYYfokB-RwWsgJFnCOD