“Words have meaning,” is a mantra Regina mentions from time-to-time. It’s a simple three-word statement that is very complicated. What does “meaning” mean?
Take the term “feminism.” It’s taken a huge beating lately, as it has from its inception. We’ve discussed on the podcast how the word simply means human equality but that’s not how it’s generally perceived. When used in conversation people interpret it as equality for women.
So “feminism” can have at least two meanings in a conversation: the sent meaning (speaker) and the received meaning (listener). But it gets even more complicated when you consider culture, history, politics, psychology, theology, and on and on.
It’s important, before we start judging people online, to consider the words we’re using in our verdicts. If we want to initiate change or raise awareness, we have the utmost responsibility to do this.
Social media didn’t start public shaming it’s just made it easier and more prolific. Callers into talk radio shows have been doing the same thing for years.
One day a show was discussing feminism. A guy calls in and says female sports reporters bother him. He says he doesn’t know what it is but when they come on and start talking he has to step away. He wanted to know if this was a sexist attitude. Yes, it is. He treats female sports reporters differently than male reporters based on their sex.
chauvinist noun chau·vin·ism \ˈshō-və-ˌni-zəm\ : an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex.
When it comes to salespeople I take the lead because my husband is admittedly a sucker. We were shopping in a mattress store and the salesman seemed very out of place. When we left my husband asked if I noticed that the salesman didn’t like women: he would only make eye contact with my husband, would only speak to my husband, and offered his business card to my husband even though I was the one conduction the business.
Chauvinism has a lot of cultural context. A good guess would be that the salesman’s response is based on religious beliefs. He probably doesn’t hate women, he just feels superior to them.
During a different radio show they were discussing the strict, local hunting laws. A guy called to add to the complaint that, in addition to safety orange, bright pink was being added to the list of hunting safety colors. He proceeded to complain about all the pink in the hunting aisles of retail stores and even the pink accessories worn by the NFL during breast cancer awareness month. He said “they” were taking over and “he was tired of seeing it.”
This chauvinistic attitude is probably based in deep rooted gender stereotypes. This guy probably doesn’t hate women and may treat women like royalty but pink is for girls and hunting is for boys. (Hell, it may not be related to gender at all. “They” may refer to People for the Ethical Treatment of Pink.)
misogyny noun mi·sog·y·ny \mə-ˈsä-jə-nē\ : a hatred of women
Misogyny is a very serious word and it’s used very lightly and casually in the shaming community. When this is done, the word begins to lose its power. A statement or action may be sexist or chauvinistic but it takes a lot more context and time to determine if something or someone is truly a hater of women.
hate noun, often attributive \ˈhāt\
a : intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury
b : extreme dislike or antipathy
Hate is an all-encompassing state. It applies to all attitudes and actions of the individual toward the object. Being against women in the military is not necessarily the hate of women, it can be just a chauvanistic opinion of combat. Being against women in gaming does not necessarily mean men hate of women as much as it may be a chauvinistic attitude about the gaming locker room. The damsels-in-distress trope is more of a lazy sexist idea but does not directly mean the creator hates women.
So what do we call social media bullies who are constantly brow beating, shaming, and flippantly judging people as misogynists? They sound like sexists and chauvinists to me.