We all hate misogyny

Misogyny is all over the news. It is a topic that  Julia Gillard, the Australian Labor Prime Minister, has used to discredit the Leader of the Liberal Opposition, Tony Abbott. She has managed to get traction in the media both in Australia and internationally by painting Abbott as a misogynist.

The issue follows from the resignation of the Parliamentary Speaker, Peter Slipper, after publicity over highly misogynistic texts he sent to his male advisor (that is now suing him for sexual harassment).

Abbott’s wife, Margie, last week responded to the increasing accusations of sexism aimed at him from Labor. She defended her husband in the media both on television and in the press.

This week Gillard gave a 15 minute parliamentary speech (on 9 October 2012) that began:

I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not.

And the Government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.

Misogyny is a modern English word that was borrowed from the Greek misogynes from misos hatred and gyne for woman.

The male equivalent of misogyny is misandry from misos and andros for man, or male human being. Misanthrope, now used for someone who hates mankind once also meant man-hater.

Miso was a common element of words in ancient Greek. One notable one, which perhaps should be reintroduced was misoponein meaning to hate work. In English there are a few obscure creations including misocapny meaning hatred of (tobacco) smoke and misocyny meaning hatred of dogs.

Fighting a gender war may win Labor the day but there is a risk that it might backfire by portraying the Prime Minister as a victim or of using her gender as a defence against all criticism.

Postscript—The SBS reported in October 2022 that the speech led to a change in the definition of “misogynist” in Australia, with the Macquarie Dictionary updating the meaning of the word from “hatred of women” to “entrenched prejudice against women”.