Masked and Latent Misogyny:
Women, Stay Woke
Breaking the Legacy of Silence #45
Kim D. Bailey
“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
I find it ironic, but appropriate, that Part 1 of a 3-part series called Women, Stay Woke, is my 45th column installment with Five 2 One Magazine.
Those of us who follow politics have a certain association with this number, especially those who cringe from the name and mere presence of our current, and 45th president.
I’m aware that writing to this topic is not popular with everyone. Some of my closest friends and mentors say my fist-waving and warrior-woman-words can hurt my brand—my image—as an author, especially for my fiction and specifically, my novelist platform.
Okay, I get it. However, my brand reaches farther than fiction, novels, poetry, or editorial services with literary magazines. I began this column a year ago last month with the platform of not only breaking, but shattering a legacy of silence I was taught to keep, and take to my grave.
My words and direction have evolved. I’ve learned some lessons along the way, such as tell my story, not other’s stories unless I have their permission.
It’s a process.
Still, I would be remiss as an author (one who not only has a columnist platform of telling truths as I see and experience them) but as also as a woman, who has had enough of oppressive patriarchy, if I did not continue to speak to real-life instances experienced by myself and women I know.
Furthermore, my silence about my own experiences and those shared with me by other women who wish for their stories to be told (those who have specifically come to me to tell them), would make me complicit in one of the most treacherous forms of patriarchal misogyny we are facing out there—remaining silent about our male friends who harbor latent, misogynistic ideals.
Such ideals are harbored by women and non-binary folks as well, I know this. I’m speaking to all of it here, but focusing on the guys because…patriarchy…people.
Misogyny is an insidious disease of our culture, plain and simple. It has seeped into our subconscious, to the point many of us who feel we are feminists and speak against such oppression, have no clue that some of our words and actions support patriarchal dominance and sometimes, outright misogyny.
It may seem pedestrian, but for the edification of all, here are some official definitions:
Misogyny [mi-soj-uh-nee] n., hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women.
Patriarchy [patre,arke] n., a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.
With these definitions in mind, my pieces will reference misogyny according to this definition, as well as incorporate the main tenet of one of the critics of academic feminism, Camille Paglia. While Paglia states that men do not hate women, but fear them, I will agree to disagree and state that some men do both. Furthermore, they hate and fear women without any cognition of doing so.
One of my stories about masked and latent misogyny took place late last year and early this year.
A man I had known for about three years as a former co-worker, and friend, offered his “support” to me last Fall when I told him and a few others, in confidence, that I was leaving my ex-husband soon.
He had always been a flirt with me, which I didn’t mind. Knowing I would never cheat on my ex, I took it all in stride and kept this man, whom I will refer to as “Ben” here, at bay and set firm boundaries with him. Ben knew I was not available.
In January, when I was essentially displaced from my home by my ex-husband, I leaned on Ben for comfort. Having bided his time, he took advantage. Of course, I allowed him to press the issue into a sexual relationship. After all, it was almost rote. It was a default mode for me. I was taught by my experiences that my body had value when the rest of me was worthless, at least in the eyes of men. Where my ex did not value my voice, independence, or put me first in our marriage—I knew I would be valued to some degree in the bedroom.
I was aware of what I was doing, but I did not realize the impact of losing someone whom I considered a friend. Ben and I made that hokey Seinfeld episode pact, “The Deal,” and agreed that our activities would not affect our friendship.
When I moved on and met my current partner, Ben came undone.
The verbal abuses started when I posted a photo of Shan and I from our first date. However, those verbal missiles were hurled at me under the guise Ben’s outrage when he perceived I was lumping him with “other misogynist pricks” when another female friend and I disagreed with how Ben and his friend spoke ill of Nora Ephron on Ben’s page. He spewed a lot of his rage at both of us in a private message, and then launched an attack at me via text. I told our mutual female friend that it had to be about something else, but I wasn’t sure what could make Ben so venomous.
Finally, it came to me.
Ben’s vehement assertion that he was “goddamn NOT misogynist,” and that I lied to him about my relationship with Shan, and “My anger with you has nothing to do with the Nora Ephron slur and everything to do with you being deceptive,” revealed a side of him I thought I would never see. His rage was white hot, and he aimed it with a flamethrower—his exceptional mastery of polemics.
One of the tethers of our friendship was writing. Ben writes to political current events with invectives, and I admired his skill. He took an interest in my blog and subsequent column, calling me, “A badass, like Joseph Conrad with boobs.”
I learned Ben was more interested in my boobs than my ability to weave words in a badass manner. His misogyny is sexually conquering women, and then clinging to some illusion that he maintains a kind of ownership over those women until he decides he’s finished with them. When we were hanging out, I distinctly remember him laughing and saying, “You’re the first woman with whom it took almost three years for me to get in the sack.” Apparently, I held out longer than the rest and it baffled him while it challenged his self-image of sexual prowess.
One could argue that women also use their own sexuality as weapons and control over men, and I would not disagree. The subject for that column piece is for another day.
What is clear to me and many other women is that we find ourselves wondering what the hell happened when we speak out against our male friends, their friends, family, or men and society in general, and we get blasted for it or otherwise ostracized. When a woman speaks up against a disgusting comment like, “Nora Ephron is in a corner shoving a crucifix into her vagina,” and is met with rage for speaking against it, she knows she’s hit a nerve.
Ben’s mask was invisible to me, at first. I knew some of his intentions were typically male, and sexual in nature. That wasn’t the problem.
Where I felt violated and demeaned was when I spoke against his friend and he felt it was his right to verbally abuse me, and then say it was my fault he did it. For those who don’t know, that’s abuse, and it has a specific terminology called gaslighting. To gaslight someone, it means to manipulate that person by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. When Ben began his barrage of texts against me, I questioned what I did wrong to deserve such treatment.
It happens all the time. Again, I know women do this but my premise is about how men mask their misogyny and sometimes don’t even realize they hate and fear women.
When I chose another man, Ben showed his true misogynistic colors. He attacked me and said, “I can’t be friends with someone who lies to me.”
It’s laughable now, because he lies all the time. To his wife.
And, I never lied to him. Ben was angry because I took his power away. He saw Shan as a threat to his ability to sexually pillage and plunder as he wished, and as a usurper on what he deemed his special property. It’s as simple, and ludicrous, as that.
What is more sad and outrageous? He probably doesn’t realize the extent of his misogyny. He really believes he’s some enlightened 21st century man, speaking up for women and down to men who are less eloquent and more transparent.
It’s up to us as women to stay woke, to be aware of the insidious actions and words used against us, and those we employ ourselves, to further patriarchy and misogyny. We need to know who we are, what we stand for, and be willing to lose everyone and everything to stand our ground.
No one, man or woman, has a right to tell us we are not as worthy as a man to speak up, be angry, or change our minds.
Next week I will tell a tale of a woman whose long friendship with a man was altered after she posted a simple comment on Facebook.
In the meantime, stay vigilant, ladies. We have a president with zero interest in our autonomy, and his beliefs have unleashed a horde of closet misogynists.
Women, stay woke. And don’t back down.