October 19, 2012
Well the debates around misogyny in Australian political life are sure bringing the nasties out from the dark spaces of their hole under the rocks. A recent example is the AFR's editorial reaction to Susan Sheridan's op-ed The ugliness of misogyny in the AFR.
Sheridan had said that Tony Abbott's (and we can add Alan Jones') misogyny can be explained by them inhabiting a culture with a long tradition of hatred and fear of women – and that Abbott reflects that culture. He mirrors it. She adds:
Misogyny is an extreme form of sexism. Misogyny is prejudice against women of such intensity that it is their very femaleness that comes under attack.... One of the prime functions of misogyny is to forge bonds among men, an invitation to snigger together about what they fear and distrust... Misogyny is not an individual pathology (although it may be that in some cases). It affects – it infects – the whole culture. We all, female as well as male, inhabit this misogynist and sexist culture.
She adds that the proposal by the compilers of the Macquarie Dictionary to update their definition of misogyny, to add to “hatred of women” the idea of “entrenched prejudice against women” omits that visceral dimension. I suggest they consider adding “fear” and “resentment” to “hatred”. And that they find a way of describing misogyny as a cultural norm rather than an individual aberration.
The AFR's response---Misogyny debate ignores reality--- is that they find it troubling that our national dictionary should so readily follow the diktat to conflate the centuries-old idea of a pathological hatred of women with modern feminist notions of sexism. Diktat as opposed to popular usage? This is an indication that the AFR is going to go beyond its free market stance to defend social conservatism.
The editorial's defence of misogyny as a cultural prejudice states that:
Sheridan's op-ed is an absurd insult to the vast majority of Australian men and women and a sorry commentary on the indulgent nonsense that foments in our social “science” university departments...... is ridiculous to claim we are part of a culture “infected” by a hatred and fear of women. Sexuality and gender roles are far more complex and deeply embedded in the human condition than antagonistic “power” relations: you could say there are many shades of grey to it. In other words, there are many shades of gray to this issue.
The assertion in the form of fact that biology is more fundamental than power relations is not argued for, nor is any evidence provided. The editorial finishes thus:
Ms Gillard’s decision to accuse Mr Abbott of misogyny was based on political motives rather than any genuine grievance, and the debate has subsequently been hijacked by social media radicals and our politically correct chattering class. Rather than using outlandish claims and Orwellian word manipulation to exaggerate differences between people, politicians and thought leaders should encourage all Australians to make the most of the abundant opportunities this privileged society provides, whatever their gender, race or social background.
The argument is that Individual freedom pushes gender power relations into a background context, rather than act as a constraint that bounds individual freedom to cause inequality between men and women.
What we can infer is that the AFR is defending prejudice against social science.