As of last week, misogyny is now okay. It is permissible, it is acceptable. This strange situation has arisen because misogyny no longer means hating women as a class. In fact, it doesn’t even mean hating two or three women. It has nothing to do with hatred.
As the world saw when the Australian prime minister lost her cool and spent several minutes blithering about the concept, whatever its meaning in the dictionary, misogyny is now no worse than saying something that is a little sexist towards women. In fact, it doesn’t even need to go that far : just standing a few feet away from someone who holds up a sign calling one – and only one – woman a bitch now falls under the definition of misogyny.
This change has been coming for years now. From the comic series Marvel Divas being called misogynist for focusing on its heroines’ personal lives; to Sports Illustrated being called misogynist for featuring scantily clad women on its covers; to the great pundit and scholar Elton John calling Americans misogynists for being reluctant to vote for a bad-tempered asshole who is hated by half the women she works with, the word has been hurtling towards irrelevance for quite a while now.
But due to her position of power and her prominence as a feminist figure-head, it is Julia Gillard who has pushed it over the finish line. From now on, when you hear a man called a misogynist you will know that he is probably not such a bad person after all. He has probably committed a mere peccadillo, a minor infraction, the gender politics version of wearing a lime green suit to a funeral. He is probably an okay guy who once stood behind George Sodini at a Starbucks, or who once giggled at an off color joke – he is probably not someone who thinks women shouldn’t have the vote, and he is probably not about to walk into a gym and blow away women simply for being women.
Which brings me to the word’s definition as it now stands in The Universal Dictionary of Real-Life English …
misogyny : the holding of an opinion, or the carrying out of an action, to which some woman, somewhere in the world objects. E.g., preferring action movies to romantic comedies
In keeping with this new definition, every time one of the more unpleasant of my MRA brethren is accused of misogyny, I will realize that he has probably just done some little thing of little importance and I will not waste my time going “Tut, tut. Who’s a bad MRA, then?”
What women think of this destruction of a word once used to warn them of actual danger is another matter altogether, but not being a woman I can’t comment – in fact, doing so would probably be misogynist of me.