Richard Burton the great Welsh actor was well known in Hollywood as a philanderer - a reputation he earned over many years. According to the scandal sheets of the day, Burton was particularly fond of having it off with waitresses, barmaids, sales girls ... a variety of women who relatively speaking didn't hold a candle to the love of his life, Elizabeth Taylor - goddess of the silver screen and twice his wife. The obvious question is why did he do it when his spouse was one of the most beautiful women in the world? Simple: the Madonna/Whore Complex. Today the equivalent of Burton would be Tiger Woods or in fact any number of men.
To grasp the roots of misogyny and its recent offspring, misandry, understanding the mechanisms of the Madonna/Whore Complex is crucial. It was Sigmund Freud who first identified a peculiar shift in the psychic development of males during late infancy. A boy at this stage of development becomes aware of his sex, the strong attachment to his mother, and develops an incoherent fear of the threat of castration by his only rival - the father. This Oedipal epiphany represents a massive upheaval in the infant male's psyche with possible long term consequences for his attitude to women in adulthood.
According to Freud the successful resolution or otherwise of this inner conflict is inherent in the psychological development of the male child. If the conflict is not successfully resolved because of abnormalities in the mother-son relationship it may manifest later in life in the form of chauvinistic behavioural patterns from mild sexism to misogyny as full blown phobia. The tendency as such will be to divide women into two camps: as either the ideal mother figure of infant fantasy (Madonna) and therefore the ideal wife, or someone who is at once sexually desirable but lesser in virtue (whore), and treated as such.
There are other factors which contribute to misogyny including a number of theories from the genetic to environental, but their common thread is they are all psychically deterministic in that males have been conditioned in some way to either fear women and thus feel the need to control them or idealize/adore them (put them on a pedestal) thus keeping them in a birdcage so to speak. Fortunately the Madonna/Whore complex is resolved successfully in most cases leaving only remnants of the psychic conflict to influence behaviour. However it is those remnants in combination with a man's genetic/ anthropological predisposition that are at the heart of persistent female disadvantage.
Religious institutions are a good example of misogynistic inclinations. The obsessive way that religious doctrines and heirarchies associate sex with sin clearly betrays male fears of female sexuality - the story of Mary as virgin bears this out. Because the power of female sexuality threatens a rivalry that could compromise male control, females have been historically portrayed in many faiths and cultures as unclean and a danger to male purity. The obvious case in point is Muslim fundamentalism and the burqa. When all is said and done the gender war is really the genital war.
That being said, male attitudes to women in modern day Western nations over the past 20-30 years have improved remarkably and bear little resemblance to the overt chauvinism that was on display a few generations ago in all communities around the developed world. Considering the powerful primal urges of males to follow in the footsteps of their hunter-gatherer forebears in terms of tribal dominance and procreation, males have - for want of another word - sacrificed these instinctive urges to accomodate the needs and concerns of modern women. In other words most men have consented to become domesticated notwithstanding poor attitudes remaining among some misguided youths and foolish adults who don't know any better. While plenty still needs to be done in the areas of violence against women and discrimination, the improvement in men's attitudes is very real as evidenced by the statistical decrease in domestic violence and rape since the 1970s.
While male attitudes have been improving, another development in the genital war has become prominent with the ermergence of misandry, the flip side of misogyny. Distinct from the anthro-psychological nature of misogyny, misandry is a purely cultural phenomenon - a reaction/backlash to male sexism, nurtured by an intense, anti-patriarchal type of feminist ideology. When long overdue breakthroughs in women's rights and gender discrimination took place in the 1970s a more radical form of feminism came to the fore as part of the Second Wave of Feminism, particularly within literary and academic circles. Radical Feminism took a broad approach to the gender question declaring that the entire system was arrogantly patriarchal and needed to be overturned and remade. But as the Radical Feminists began to wane as a force in the 1990s a new kind of post-feminist thinking began to take shape that roughly fell into two camps, one of which became the heir to Radical Feminism and the ideological vanguard of the Third Wave.
Philosophy scholar and feminist author, Professor Christina Hoff Sommers, has controversially identified Feminism as now falling into two categories: Equity Feminism, and the other third wave: Gender Feminism. To quote:
The traditional, classically liberal, humanistic feminism that was initiated more than 150 years ago was very different. It has a specific agenda, demanding for women the same rights before the law that men enjoyed. The suffrage had to be won, and the laws regarding property, marriage, divorce, and child custody had to be made equitable. More recently, abortion rights had to be protected. The old mainstream feminism concentrated on legal reforms.
The gender feminists (as I shall call them) believe that all our institutions, from the state to the family to the grade schools, perpetuate male dominance. … Gender feminists are constantly on the lookout for the smoking gun, the telling fact that will drive home to the public how profoundly the system is rigged against women. To rally women to their cause, it is not enough to remind us that many brutal and selfish men harm women. They must persuade us that the system itself sanctions male brutality. They must convince us that the oppression of women, sustained from generation to generation, is a structural feature of our society.
For her views Professor Hoff Sommers has been stigmatised by feminist opponents as anti-feminist and a conservative in sheep's clothing - an irrational reaction considering statistics in the U.S tend to back her up. According to a Time/CNN poll, although 57 percent of women felt there was a need for a strong women's movement, 63 percent said they didn't consider themselves feminists. A further criticism of Gender Feminism has been over its ideological inflexibility and almost religious zeal in leaving no room for dissent. Perhaps Professor Hoff Sommers' views on the issue at large can be summarized by this quote from an interview with journalist, Scott London:
Feminism has taken a wrong turn in recent years. It has become too self-absorbed, too unrepresentative, and too punitive to dissenters. The conviction that women remain besieged and subject to a relentless male backlash has turned the movement inward. We hear very little today about how women can join with men on equal terms to contribute to universal human culture. Instead, feminist ideology has taken a divisive gynocentric turn, and the emphasis now is on women as a political class whose interests are at odds with the interests of men.
The motivating factor for writing this Peoplez Daily article has been a growing awareness while reading a relentless stream of comments in various social media, that misandry (the hatred of men) though not literal hatred, is becoming an exponential form of bonding; a toy; a peer group plaything; a faux badge of honour, and a means of expressing female solidarity among the oft mooted sisterhood of the intelligentsia. Even an excuse to criticise men for criticism's sake. Rather than seek to unite and encourage men's advances in embracing gender equality, they seek to starkly differentiate the sexes on the one hand while neutralising differences in terms of role playing on the other. The basis of this venture stems from the old nuture over nature argument, an argument that any geneticist or anthropologist can prove is seriously flawed.
With the hopes that men will shed the remnants of their sexist past and spread the new wave of living in harmony with women throughout the developing world should go an embrace from the feminist movement for a job as yet incomplete but nevertheless well done. Not a rejection of men as the root cause of all frustrations. It truly would be the ultimate irony if misogyny was finally retired to the history books only to be replaced by the misandry of hardline Gender Feminism. A damaging and potentially regressive scenario for the human species if ever there was one.