Misogyny and Homeopathic Language – A Brief Rant

Again I find myself drawn into the periphery of an argument I don’t want to be part of. It’s not like I have no horse in this race – I do. We all do – it’s just that the core of the argument is better addressed by more learned people than me. That said, I’m getting fucking shouty at my twitter feed as I watch people I love and respect embrace the stupid.

My complaint? The PM misused a word in a well overdue but somewhat overrated speech that has become famous globally. The guardian of the sacred key of Australian language at Macquarie decided to expand the definition of the misused word to encompass the PM’s meaning. Because, you know, language evolves. I’ll get back to that in a minute. Now the word is bandied about like some sort of wildcard bailout of every lazy argument ever. It is wrong, and fuck you all for raping the language I love.

Some context: I’ve just spent three months in Vietnam, attempting to learn the language. It is a concise, ordered dialect that is poetic and beautiful because it is imprecise. Ca phe sua is white coffee. Sua ca phe is also white coffee, but it is also iced yoghurt with coffee flavouring. I’m convinced that Vietnam is still poor because of all the returned drinks at coffee shops – not from tourists, but natives. I could cite countless other examples but I’m lazy. My point is that English is arguably the best and most beautiful language on Earth because its ungainly growth has fostered a precision that doesn’t exist in most other languages.

I’m a fan of evolution insofar as one can be a fan of a scientific reality. It sounds kind of stupid really. How many people are a fan of gravity? I’ll rephrase. I’m a fan of the theory of evolution, which explains evolution eloquently through precision of language. What I am not a fan of is devolution, the homogenization of thought and the homeopathic distillation of words to the point where they become meaningless. Equating misogyny with sexism is a fucking travesty and undermines no cause greater than that of feminism.

Before everyone gets their depend in a twist that a man dared to mention the ‘F’ word, let’s have a think about what we’re trying to achieve. Are we striving of a truly egalitarian society or are we looking to germinate some fuckwitted gender war? I don’t really care either way. I’m a middle-aged white guy who pulls a healthy six-figure income. If I’m the enemy then knock yourselves the fuck out. Nobody I know is lifting a finger to stop you.

What I’m talking about is the abuse of language. Misogyny is shooting a girl for wanting to be educated. It is spitting on an eight year old for dressing like a ‘slut’. It is ‘honour’ killings by fathers that hate their daughters for not being as stupid as they are. It is killing babies because a girl isn’t worth as much as a boy. It is throwing acid in the face of a woman who rejected the advances of a human-shaped turd. It is bombing an abortion clinic. It is denying condoms to women most likely to be infected with HIV. It is hatred of women.

I have many words to describe how loathsome Tony Abbott or Alan Jones is. They are beneath contempt. They are sexist sacks of shit. The public record speaks for itself. They are not misogynists. They’re just idiots. Classing them with true misogynists is offensive to those that have genuinely suffered. It’s saying the person who threw acid in a woman’s face is no worse than Tony Abbott. That’s wrong.

Misusing words damages one’s ability to utilize language for good. I feel embarrassed for you who seek to debase our shared vocabulary through repetition and misuse. Get the fuck out of my language and take your fight up using semaphore or Kermit arms. If all else fails put a fucking #hashtag on it. Just get off my lawn.


About Gibbot

Normal working Joe. Occasional musician and writer. Avid reader and political tragic. Humanist. View all posts by Gibbot

9 responses to “Misogyny and Homeopathic Language – A Brief Rant

  • Austin G. Mackell

    Meh. Your argument leaves me unmoved. Equivalent would be: Racism isn’t me calling henry a fucking worthless abo, only applies if I beat him up or shoot him or rape his daughter or something.

    What specific changes did the Macquarie dictionary make?

  • 730reportland

    Well said Gibbot and I agree totally. This whole thing is way over-blown and another example of crap politics and idiot media self feeding and fueling the most trivial, while ignoring the more important events of that day. The only fools pleased with it are the political correctness fundamentalists. Yeah sure, Mr-Rabbit deserved his smack-down from Joolya, but it was just Play-School Parliament as usual.

  • millymolly55b

    Before I start, please understand that I am not a blogger – and I am new to all this. I have not discussed my thinking on this, so I may have some rough edges to how I express my thoughts.

    The Dictionary.
    My understanding is that the change for the Macquarie was already through first draft – it was ‘overtaken’ by the PM’s speech, as it were.

    I appreciate that you want to restrict the use of the ‘M’ word, but it has had the second, less extreme, meaning for a long time now – the OED recognised this and updated about 10 years ago. As dictionaries lag a long way behind the actual changes in usage this would mean the change has been underway for longer than that. The OED altered the existing entry to expand the definition. The Macquarie currently intends to recognise the evolution of the use of the word by adding a second, separate, meaning to cover the usage discussed recently. I respect, and sympathise with, your preference to restrict your own use to the earlier meaning.

    PM’s Speech.
    Having said that, I shall have to re-view the PM’s speech. I thought she was in effect saying TA’s behaviour was misogynistic – something different from saying he is a misogynist. She is too much the politician and lawyer to say something so specific – unless she can present evidence (which she has for all the quotes she gave). Until I look again I am left with the impression that there was nothing untoward with the usage in the speech.

    On the genocide v murder – I am not sure that is the best example. I have considered misogyny to be something that is a fault (I know it is more than just a fault!) – like, say, pedophilia (this would be the earlier dictionary definition of M). Genocide is more on the political / organisational level, and the person found complicit in genocide does not have to have direct dealings with the person who kills the people. (Perhaps that would put TA in the misogynist frame as he has condoned some pretty nasty behaviours and hate speeches – and himself spoke publicly with the ‘bitch’ and ‘witch’ banners behind him).

    Imho misogyny is much like the darker end of the racism spectrum. We refer to people who go out ‘Paki bashing’ as racists – the same term as used for people who are more comfortable to employ people from their own cultural background. One is racist – hate crime, possibly murder(s), the other is racist preferential treatment in employment. The thing is, is the act based on pathology (misogyny) or on (at best thoughtless) prejudice (sexism)? Just looking at a few examples of behaviour won’t tell us which it is.

    I love my wife – does not preclude misogyny.
    Now for the ‘cat among the pigeons’ bit. I have known (well, I worked with) a racist of the Paki-bashing type – he also went gay bashing – both on a regular basis with his mates. He boasted about his exploits. He had good friends who were black. It is not uncommon, I understand, for haters to make apparently illogical exceptions. Because of this I actually saw no value in the argument that TA could not be a misogynist because he loved his wife and daughters – misogynists are able to love people, including women, who are in their circle. (And yes, I did suspect my work colleague was also a misogynist, but I never discussed his thinking with him on that, so I don’t know).

    After all that, I do prefer to use ‘misogyny’ for the entrenched, pathological end of the sexism spectrum, and ‘sexist’ for the thoughtless, going with the sheep, ‘casual’ prejudice end. The behaviour may appear identical, the reason for it differs – so I can see that ‘misogyny’ may be used for the behaviours – particularly when they are seen as frequent and typical – of the person in question.

    So who can say whether TA has a character fault or not? I believe there are people willing to argue either side on that.

    Sorry – this morphed into a rant. Oh dear! perhaps I’m a closet misogynist hater!

    • Kathryn

      This myth that OED changed the definition years ago annoys me greatly – not in the dictionary on my desk, and not in their online version, nor in the version I checked whilst in the Library this week. Nor in any other online English dictionary will you find this second definition.

      The murder/genocide comparison is very apt – both involve killing, but one is the deliberate attempt to wipe out an entire group of people based on a characteristic, presumably based on an irrational, pathological hatred. The end result is the same: people die; but the psychology behind it is much sicker. If you want a comparison in the same scale for entrenched sexism it is mass murder… it’s still a long, long way from genocide.

      • millymolly55b

        Here is the url for the article in the Australian. I also heard someone from the Macquarie interviewed on ABC Radio – said something similar. It was mentioned that the online version of the OED had missed out on the update.

      • Austin G. Mackell

        Also, everyone seems to be working on the assumption that “pathological” thoughts and behaviors are incredibly rare and abnormal, and that they are only demonstrated by huge and visible violence. Not sure that is a fair assessment, especially not in the context of politics.

  • Austin G. Mackell

    “I do prefer to use ‘misogyny’ for the entrenched, pathological end of the sexism spectrum, and ‘sexist’ for the thoughtless, going with the sheep, ‘casual’ prejudice end.” -this is the best definition I’ve heard so far, and I would put abbot firmly in the former category. Also Heath, Kathryn, there is a rule about what happens when you bring up the holocaust in an internet fight. You loose.

    Personally I think the whole conversation on sexism hasn’t got anywhere near the awful truth of things, for a bunch of reasons but mostly because post-modernism is shit.

    Also, and this is secondary to the actual argument, but really Heath, this is what gets you off your arse and writing? The PM’s blurring the line between sexism and misogyny during an attack on Abbot? I really look forward to your posts. You are literally in my top ten writers I like to read list. But you don’t produce nearly enough content and you don’t take on big enough topics.

    In what might seem a strange tangent, I suggest you take a good solid look at the work of the economist Steve Keen. He’s a rebellious genius form UWS who I think, has basically cracked the issue of what is going on with the economy. I won’t attempt to summarize it here. Just have faith that I am not blowing smoke up your arse and have a gander.

    The upshot is we’re pretty fucking fucked. Things will likely continue to worsen for at least a decade unless drastic action is taken (against the banks, so don’t hold your breath).

    What this means is that the coarsening and hollowing out of our electoral politics, combined with a mass of dissatisfied and angry people, could be either a wonderful or very terrible thing.

    As I said in an email to a former lecturer recently: There is a storm coming, and we aren’t ready.

    We need more from you.

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