The Philosophy of Misogyny
My interest in gender extremism naturally developed into an interest in misogyny as a social and affective phenomenon. As I delved into the research on this topic, I surprised to find that the literature on misogyny as a concept in and of itself was (and remains) quite sparse. While there has been a great deal of research dedicated to understanding and analyzing the effects of misogyny – particularly the violence it sanctions and engenders – these analyses tend to substitute and/or conflate misogyny for/with sexism or violence. Because of these conflations, what is presented as literature on misogyny is often actually literature about sexual assault or harassment. These issues are very serious and warrant scrutiny, of course – but sexual harassment and assault are manifestations or expressions of misogyny, not the thing itself. It seemed to me that, in order to address material problems like sexual assault and harassment, feminists need to develop a clear working definition of the affective force that undergirds them.
To begin this conversation, I published a paper in the journal Feminist Theory titled “Feminist Theory and the Problem of Misogyny (2021). In it, I demonstrate the conflation I described above and argue for a comprehensive feminist theory of misogyny that recognizes misogyny as a profoundly complicated affective social dynamic. I also offer my own definitions of misogyny and sexism: misogyny (with its etymological roots in ‘hatred’ and ‘women’) should be broadly understood as a negative affective or emotional orientation towards women as a group. Following Gilmore (2001), I argue that the defining characteristic of this state of negative emotionality is one of ambivalence. Sexism (with its roots in sex and ‘-ism’, or the ‘process or action of’ systematic prejudice/discrimination) should be understood as the institutionalized of individual misogyny (e.g., lower wages for women, lack of access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, etc.).
In an upcoming project, tentatively titled "Misogyny, A Condition," I tease out the competing and coincident affects and emotions that characterize this ambivalence: hate/love, anxiety/fear, disgust/horror.