“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” ~ George Orwell
“Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.” ~ Andrea Dworkin
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
Welcome to the new Saturday Sage Woman Chronicles posts. Thanks for joining me here.
Today I’d like to share my thoughts about the controversy surrounding Harvey Weinstein because the novel I’m working on addresses women’s rights both during the suffrage movement and now.
In Time’s Echo, both Jenna in the present and Morgan in the past are struggling to break down the barriers that women have had to deal with for many centuries. Surprisingly, I’m having a difficult time writing it, because misogyny is such a complicated issue. It’s like a huge fortress that everyone has assumed is impenetrable, but as we’ve seen in recent years, and especially in the last few months, the fortress is beginning to crumble. Part of my dilemma comes from not wanting to make my novel preachy. I’m trying to walk that fine line between showing what happens to my characters on a personal level in a truthful way, so that my readers can empathize with their struggles, while being accurate to what was and is really happening. If my readers connect emotionally with what’s going on with my characters, maybe it will help shed some light on how to move forward.
When I got the idea to tackle this complicated situation, I did some research so I could get a better perspective about what women have had to deal with throughout history. Misogyny is centuries old. One of the books I read was A Brief History of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice by Jack Holland. The reasons for men subjugating women are extremely complicated but maybe we don’t really need to go back and look at why they felt they needed to take control. What we do need to do is examine how it works right now.
Holland says that misogyny can be summed up in four words: pervasive, persistent, pernicious, and protean. (pg. 270) And the reason breaking the back of misogyny is difficult is because men and women are linked by biological, sexual, psychological, social, economic, and political ties. If the human race is to survive, men and women must cooperate with one another. And maybe that’s the main reason women are rising. It’s high time men and women had true equality so we can break down this fortress of misogyny and reshape the world to be a friendlier, more supportive place in which to live. I’ve got some ideas about how we can help that happen.
First of all, it seems to me that some men have the idea that everything that exists belongs to them. That applies to territories they “discover” or women they meet, their children, or people they think are inferior to them, and so on. They claim the Scriptures back them up. “And MAN shall have dominion over the earth” or words to that effect. But if we’re all created in the image of God, then we ALL have the right to navigate our own paths without interference.
Second of all, I’ve been a teacher for many years now. At the beginning of every school year we are required to take refresher workshops. one of them on harassment. The law states that whether or not harassment has taken place is determined by the victim (for lack of a better word) rather than the perpetrator. That means when a person claims they are being harassed, the law says we are supposed to believe them and take appropriate actions. So victim shaming and blaming has got to stop. A woman, or any other victim, does not ask to be harassed, raped or abused in any way. People need the support of the law, not condemn the victim.
Third, people have to speak up when they’re assaulted in any way. I would be willing to bet that almost any woman you care to ask has at least one story of being harassed. We need to teach our children to not only respect others, but to have empathy for them too.
I was so lucky to have the father I did. He taught me that I had every RIGHT to say no to a boy who thought that he had a RIGHT to my sexual favors just because he paid for everything on our date. And I did have at least one time when a boy tried to play that card. I pushed him away and told him if he wasn’t going to take me home, I was going to get out of the car and walk. He drove me home and we never went on another date.
When I was about to enter ninth grade, we moved to a new small town. I was the new girl amidst a group of students who had grown up together. As a result, I was harassed by the boys of the school. They thought they were teasing me as a way of welcome. That’s not how I took it. It was the age of mini-skirts and one day when the teacher was called away from the classroom, a few of the boys decided it would be funny to put me into the tall, narrow trash can in the room. They then pushed me out into the hallway and stood by watching hoping I’d try to get out. Fortunately I was rescued either by the teacher, or the girls in my class. That wasn’t the only incident at that school. Another day a group of boys, teasing and harassing me, pushed me into the boys bathroom. When I came out, the principal happened to be walking by. Fortunately, he had been my principal at a school in another town, so when I told him what had happened, he believed me.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I was faced with harassment. Another incident happened when I was in college. I had a summer job working on the campus grounds keeping crew. I was paired with a man old enough to be my grandfather. At first he was nice, but soon he began making lewd comments and eventually he began touching me in inappropriate ways. I hesitated to report the situation because often in such situations women aren’t believed. Thank heaven when I finally told my supervisor what was happening, he said, “Oh, no! I’m not going to stand for that.” I was moved to another crew. I don’t remember what happened to the older man.
It’s sad to say that women throughout the ages have had to learn to maneuver, manipulate and endure all kinds of horrible situations involving men, if they survived to grow up at all that is.
So these latest revelations about Harvey Weinstein have provoked a frenzy of discussion about misogyny. Any time there’s a big controversy about any topic, it’s an opportunity to untangle the hows and whys and make decisions about how to solve the problem. The four “Ps” that Holland talks about in his book, apply to more than just misogyny and we need to be persistent in dismantling practices that were never right to adopt in the first place.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments and likes.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.