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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 111-113  Table of Contents     

Misogyny, feminism, and sexual harassment

1 Department of Psychiatry, AFMC Pune, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department. of Psychiatry, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Dr DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication10-Jul-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Suprakash Chaudhury
Department of Psychiatry, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Dr DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pimpri, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_32_18

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How to cite this article:
Srivastava K, Chaudhury S, Bhat P S, Sahu S. Misogyny, feminism, and sexual harassment. Ind Psychiatry J 2017;26:111-3

How to cite this URL:
Srivastava K, Chaudhury S, Bhat P S, Sahu S. Misogyny, feminism, and sexual harassment. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Dec 6];26:111-3. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2017/26/2/111/236186

The term “misogyny” is derived from the Ancient Greek word “mīsoguníā” which means hatred towards women. Misogyny has taken shape in multiple forms such as male privilege, patriarchy, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.[1],[2] The roots of misogyny can be traced back to ancient Greek mythology. According to Hesiod before women came into existence, men were coexisting peacefully as companions to Gods until Prometheus decided to steal the secret of fire from the God which angered Zeus. Zeus punished mankind with an evil thing for their delight called Pandora, the first woman who carried a box which unleashed all evils such as labor, sickness, old age, and death.[3]

As mythology spilled its vices about women, every religion had their own viewpoint. Hinduism presents diverse view about the position of women and some text place women as the highest goddess and some restrict them to the role of a mother, daughter and wife, as described in Manusmriti.[4] Tertullian, the father of Latin Christianity, said that being a female is a curse given by God and they are the Devil's Gateway.[3] In Islam, the holy book Quran has a 4th chapter called An-Nisa meaning Women. The 34th verse is a key verse in feminist criticism of Islam which reads: Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient... But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance-[ first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them.[5]

Misogyny over years has evolved as an ideology which has engulfed the society as a smog which diminishes their site to aurora. Great philosophers, socialist, and thinkers of golden era were subdued by roars of male dominant society which narrowed their vision and made them a supporter of patriarchal society. Aristotle who was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist was also a misogynist. He thought of women as a deformity, an incomplete male. He preached that men should always command and women should follow as they are the inferior being created by God.[6] Misogyny at its front had male supporters, but over years, few females also supported the ideology as stated by Sociologist Michael Flood.[7]

Over centuries, women have been suppressed, their rights were neglected as a human being, they were treated as an lower part of the society, and their roles were restricted to household chores and birthing. Prolonged oppression raised many voices and collectively led to a concept of feminism which started the longest movement in history which still continues.

Feminism is a gamut of socio political movements and ideologies that share a common goal to delineate, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.[8] Feminist movements over decades have campaigned for rights of women, including the right to vote, to hold public office, to work, to earn fair wages or equal pay, to own property, to receive education, to enter contracts, to have equal rights within marriage, and to have maternity leave. Feminists have also worked to promote bodily autonomy and integrity and to protect women and girls from brutal crimes such as rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence.[9],[10]

The modern feminist movement could be divided into four waves.[11],[12] Each wave dealt with different aspects of the same feminist issues. The first wave of feminism started with the “Women's suffrage movement” in 1848 in New York under the leadership of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The movement aimed at promoting women's right to vote.[13] The second wave which started somewhere in 1960s campaigned for the legal and social equality for women, it included issues about their reproductive rights, legal inequalities, domestic violence, marital rape and divorce law.[14],[15] The third wave which began in the 1990s [16] dealt with issues such as sex positive feminism, intersectionality, transfeminism, vegetarian ecofeminism, and postmodern feminism. Sex-positive feminism or sexually liberal feminism, propagates the idea of sexual freedom being an essential component of women's freedom.

The term intersectionality was coined by civil rights advocate Kimberle Williams Crenshaw. This theory considers that various aspects of humanity such as class, race, sexual orientation, and gender are not separate, but are interwoven and their relationships are essential to an understanding of human conditions. It focused on abolishing gender role stereotypes and expanding feminism to include women of various culture.[17],[18] Transfeminism as defined by scholar and activist Emi Koyama [19] constituted a movement for liberation of transwomen. Vegetarian ecofeminism postulates that all types of oppression, like castism, racism and sexism, are associated with each other. It is a kind of inter human oppression. A major belief of ecofeminism is that there is a strong connection between the domination of women and the domination of nature, and that both must be eradicated in order to end oppression.

Postmodern feminism [20] has two components, i.e., liberal feminism [18] and radical feminism,[21] the former being an individualistic form of feminist theory which focuses on women's ability to maintain their equality by uplifting themselves in the field of academics, and other domains by which they can make better decisions and attain equal political and legal rights. Radical feminism on the other hand demands drastic reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts.

The fourth-wave feminism refers to a kind of feminism that began around 2012 which targets sexual harassment, campus sexual harassment, rape culture, workplace discrimination, body shaming, sexist imagery in the media, online misogyny, assault on public transport, and other type of harassment that is associated with the use of social media.[22],[23],[24] The recent issues which were shocking and horrid like Nirbhaya Delhi Gang Rape, Harvey Weinstein allegations, and Bill Cosby allegations gave birth to campaigns like Everyday Sexism Project, No More Page 3, and the recent #MeToo.[23]

These issues had drawn significant focus and brought legal reforms in issues such as sexual harassment at workplace as many women are employed in private, government, or unorganized sectors. Sexual harassment constitutes a gross violation of human right and women's right to equality and dignity. It is illegal to harass a person because of their gender and sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Workplace sexual harassment, like other forms of violence, is not harmless. It involves serious health, human, and economic and social costs, which manifest themselves in the overall development indices of a nation. Its prevalence and the constant uproar brought legal actions like sexual harassment act 2012 to cease the silent menace.

It is commendable to note the progress made by the women over centuries and the fight will continue until the roots of misogyny is removed from the world. With the wave of liberalization as a part of globalization, it was expected that religious and conservative societies would become more gender sensitive and provide equal access to education and employment. However, in some places, these hopes have been belied, due to rise of religious fundamentalism. It is important to note that even “liberal” Christian societies are yet to attain complete gender equality, so one should not despair at tardy progress in our country. Without equal access to education, equal opportunity, and economic emancipation, gender equality will remain a chimera.

   References Top

Code L. Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories. London: Routledge; 2000. p. 346.  Back to cited text no. 1
Kramarae C. Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women. New York: Routledge; 2000. p. 1374-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
Holland J. Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006.  Back to cited text no. 3
Olivelle P. The Law Code of Manu. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 4
Eissa D. Constructing the Notion of Male Superiority over Women in Islam: The Influence of Sex and Gender Stereotyping in the Interpretation of the Qur'an and the Implications for a Modernist Exegesis of Rights. Grabels, France: Women Living Under Muslim Laws; 1999.  Back to cited text no. 5
Freeland C. Nourishing speculation: A feminist reading of Aristotelian science. In: Bar BA, editor. Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle. Albany: State University of New York Press; 1994.  Back to cited text no. 6
Flood M. International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities. London: Routledge; 2007.  Back to cited text no. 7
Hawkesworth ME. Globalization and Feminist Activism. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield; 2006. p. 25-7.  Back to cited text no. 8
Echols A. Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967–1975. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 1989.  Back to cited text no. 9
Roberts J. Women's work. Distillations 2017;3:6-11.  Back to cited text no. 10
Humm M. The Dictionary of Feminist Theory. Columbus: Ohio State University Press; 1995. p. 251.  Back to cited text no. 11
Walker R. Becoming the third wave. Ms 1992;2:4.  Back to cited text no. 12
Cooney Robert PJ Jr. Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement Santa Cruz, CA: American Graphic Press; 2005.  Back to cited text no. 13
Burkett E. Women Movement. Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/womens-movement. [Last retrieved on 2017 Jun 22].  Back to cited text no. 14
Davis JC. From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs. Columbia: Columbia University Press; 2017. p. 129-75.  Back to cited text no. 15
Brunell L, Burkett E. The Third Wave of Feminism, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/feminism/The-third-wave-of-feminism. [Last retrieved on 2017 Jun 22].  Back to cited text no. 16
Brunell L. Feminism Re-Imagined: The Third Wave. Encyclopædia Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 17
Tong R. Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press; 2009. p. 284-9.  Back to cited text no. 18
Koyama E. The transfeminist manifesto. In: Dicker R, Piemeimer A, editors. Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century. Boston: Northeastern University Press; 2003.  Back to cited text no. 19
Appignanesi R, Garratt C. Postmodernism for Beginners. New York: Totem Books; 1995.  Back to cited text no. 20
Willis E. Radical feminism and feminist radicalism. Social text 1984;9/10:91–118.  Back to cited text no. 21
Rivers N. Postfeminism(s) and the Arrival of the Fourth Wave. London: Palgrave Macmillan; 2017.  Back to cited text no. 22
Abrahams J. Everything you wanted to Know about Fourth Wave Feminism – But were Afraid to Ask Prospect; 14 August, 2017. Available from: https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/everything-wanted-know-fourth-wave-feminism. [Last accessed 2018 02 25].  Back to cited text no. 23
Martin CE, Valenti V. Fem Future: Online Revolution. Barnard Centre for Research on Women; 15 April, 2013. Available from: http://www.bcrw.barnard.edu/wp-content/nfs/reports/NFS8-FemFuture-Online-Revolution-Report.pdf.  Back to cited text no. 24

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