How many heterosexual relationships are affected by misogyny?

Please feel free to elaborate about your answer in the comments section. The results of the poll will find their way into a later blog post, or potential series of blog posts.

*The rest of Option #2 (too long for the poll, I guess) is “to the extend that it affects his understanding of my point of view.

While this poll is intended to be taken by women, I am also interested in heterosexual or bisexual male input in the comments, as well. Also, while a discussion about misandry in relationships is worth asking and will likely be discussed here at another time, I’d like to keep this particular conversation directed specifically toward misogyny – intentional or not – in heterosexual relationships. Also, if you are not currently in a relationship, answer for your last relationship, or your past experiences as a whole.

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14 Responses to How many heterosexual relationships are affected by misogyny?

  1. imnotme says:

    I will admit that I feel somewhat conscious of my relationship to the author of this post as I respond, but I will ignore that best I can.

    If I had to guess, as a male, what my female partners would say to this question, I would guess that they would choose the “Sometimes, but it doesn’t have much of an effect on our relationship” option, even though they know it’s a generous assessment at best.

    Things brings to light a slight paradox, or at least a nuance worth consideration. That is, what role does “love” play? Many people justify various tolerances and whatnot that are in seeming contradiction to their general ethos. In relationships, a man may have certain qualities that make the woman feel she can forgive other offenses; offenses that might otherwise end the relationship on the spot.

    So, I might expect that woman who truly believes that she loved(s) me, might answer this question as “other” with the following in the explanation line: Mine and his own expectations of gender roles played equally.

    • imnotme says:

      I took some major leaps in logic in that response… I was struggling to keep up with my train of thought. But, that’s $0.02 worth considering I couldn’t vote! :-p

    • April says:

      Mine and his own expectations of gender roles played equally.

      Looking at it that way, though, effectively eliminates the possibility of unintentional misogyny being able to be present in any relationship.

      Or, perhaps that’s what you’re getting at? Misogyny isn’t so cut-and-dry in a romantic partnership as it is when you’re looking at the “bigger picture”?

      If that’s the case, I agree with about 50% of that. While two people in a relationship will eventually grow into a place where they understand each other’s general personality and mental and emotional processes and can effectively remove themselves from the influence of the rest of the world at times, they also came into the relationship with 1. social conditioning toward the gender they are expected to portray; 2. expectations of their new partner’s expected gender; and 3. unique expectations and understandings of their own gender, formed through their own personality, and also the experiences they have had with socialization, previous partners’ gender presentations and expectations, and any number of other things.

      If this is indeed true, and it seems pretty intuitive to me, then the individual dynamics of a relationship are only secondary to the primary gender-related baggage or identities that both parties bring into the relationship.

  2. elementary_watson says:

    I, as a male, would like to know how you define “male privilege in the context of a relationship”. The only thing I can think of is that a man is not assumed to do the lion’s share of the housework and has it easier to “take flight” from childcare to paid work.

    In my experience the power structure of men as a class – women as a class has very, very little to do with personal relationship, less still with intimate relationships.

    I also want to ask why you link misogyny so strongly to “denial of male privilege”; it’s less than intuitive to me that this is the main way misogyny can creep into an intimate relationship.

    • April says:

      I’m glad you asked for the clarification, because I realize that I didn’t make it very clear.

      The only thing I can think of is that a man is not assumed to do the lion’s share of the housework and has it easier to “take flight” from childcare to paid work.

      To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about that as an example. But of course, it is a factor in some relationships.

      Other examples that crossed my mind in creating the poll are:

      -Male upset with girlfriend’s number of past sexual partners, even though his number rivals or exceeds that of hers;
      -Male is unwilling to listen to girlfriend’s point of view when she is displaying emotions, and often informs her that she is irrational and is not to be taken seriously because of the presence of tears, or she is told to control herself;
      -Assumed childcare responsibilities when time and ability to parent are equal between the partners;
      -Breakdown in communication because male partner is unwilling to accept differences often found in the way that men and women communicate, whether this is intrinsic or socialized;
      -Men being socialized and expected to be aggressive, while women are socialized and expected to be less aggressive and more “peacekeeping.” When arguments occur, this causes the women to more readily give up the argument and concede in order to maintain harmony, while the man then believes he “won,” because his argument was more sound. Over time, the woman may simply stop asserting her points as a result and be led to believe that she needs to look to him for guidance, and no longer trusts her own judgment. This furthers the man’s perception that he is always right and she is not to be trusted with big decisions or seen as an intelligent person.

      Things like this can easily be seen as simply a problem that arises between the individual male and individual female in the relationship, and not based on gender differences. I don’t think that’s 100% incorrect, as I touched on in the post. On the other hand, I do think that the examples I listed are examples of problems where the root cause is the male being socialized to believe that they are the default when it comes to reasonable, intelligent, and coherent communication or beliefs, and that women are, by nature, flawed in some way and should train themselves to be more like men. That’s a generalization and I would further doubt that any man would actually believe that that’s what he’s implying, or intend to imply that, hence the reiteration of “unintentional” in the post.

      Furthermore, I’d be willing to accept that those instances are circumstantial and unique to each couple if I hadn’t experienced or witnessed repeated identical issues over the course of two or more monogamous hetero relationships.

      I link “denial of male privilege” as a strong link to misogyny in romantic hetero relationships because I don’t believe that the majority of reasonable, intelligent, and compassionate men actually intend to behave in a misogynistic way toward their female partners. Denial of privilege – any kind – is incredibly common and not an indication that someone is malicious or intentionally prejudiced.

    • April says:

      I thought of another example that is mostly light-hearted, but insanely prevalent either way:

      Boyfriend usually hates girlfriend’s taste in music. Boyfriend goes to great lengths to ensure that girlfriend knows this and makes her CDs gives her MP3s with the explicit reason being that he wants to help her like “good” music.

      Before you say that people’s tastes are always different and that everybody tries to convert others to their favorite bands or musicians, consider the women you know, and have known throughout your life thus far, and consider their taste in music. If you think something she likes is good, ask her how she was introduced to that band/musician. In my experience, it’s likely to be from a former or current boyfriend.

      I realize that this isn’t always the case, and you could even say that it isn’t men’s fault that they listen to supposedly better music than women. Let’s even pretend that this is 100% true, and men actually have a more refined taste for quality music than women do. If this is true, I believe that the reason is because most women are not encouraged to pursue a serious interest in music (at least, not rock, hip-hop, or other currently male-dominated genres), and when they are, it’s bubbly, manufactured pop music, where they sing songs they don’t write about trite and heavily sexualized subject matter.

      This obviously isn’t the fault of the male involved, and he shouldn’t be blamed, but it is rooted… in misogyny. And he should be willing to be less condescending about her tastes in music, and more aware of the fact that the reason that all of his ex-girlfriends liked N*Sync so much wasn’t because they were all idiots with poor taste in music and stupid celebrity crushes, but rather women who have been told since birth, in all kinds of ways, that they should be concerned with boys and trivial matters. And leave the serious pursuits to the men.

    • elementary_watson says:

      I get what you are saying, April, although I think some examples you mention are about as common when you switch the genders. (Just think of men being dragged to the opera or even ballet by their SOs.)

      To me, “male privilege” would mean that men are able to do something without anyone batting an eyelid, while everyone would be shocked were a woman to do the same thing. I don’t think there are that many things society would condone when a man does it to his SO but denounce when a woman does the same to her SO.

      Now, of course it’s important to know which “society” we’re talking about, and for most of us, the only “society” that matters are the people who know us, and then the media. Now, the man who dismisses a woman in tears as hysterical is, in today’s media, a brutish asshole. The man who freaks out that his SO had more sex partners than he had is a fool. The man who aggressively argues his points with his SO is a control freak. And so on, and so forth.

      I still think these things do still happen, but they are publicly no more excused than when you switch the genders.

      Of course, if the circle of friends you have is a more-than-average tough lot, they might rather defend the guy who tells his girl to “shut up” when she is being emotional and ridicule the guy who sincerely listens to what she says in such a situation. But these are sub-cultures with values not necessarily shared when you leave that particular sub-culture.

      (Of course, now, an interesting question would be how many people/readers of your blog live in such rather misogynistic sub-cultures?)

    • April says:

      … I think some examples you mention are about as common when you switch the genders. (Just think of men being dragged to the opera or even ballet by their SOs.)

      That’s an example that would more closely resemble the male trying to get his SO to listen to “better” music. What I’m most interested in are differences in communication that cause problems to escalate, that cause the woman involved to suffer more of the burden more often than men do. In my experience, a breakdown in communication is the root cause of most problems otherwise compatible couples have. My theory is that in heterosexual relationships, this problem is exacerbated by inaccurate assumptions based on gender, negatively affecting women moreso than men.

      It’s true that a lot of the behaviors that you identified as being bad are often called out, but at the same time, there are so many justifications given at the point of the discussion or argument that behaviors that are problematic and likely rooted in misogyny are obfuscated by repeated claims that the problem is 100% unique to the individuals involved. I think that this is because if the male is accused- however lightly- of inadvertent sexism, it’s not taken well, and responded to with more defensiveness or justifications than attempts at understanding.

      (Of course, now, an interesting question would be how many people/readers of your blog live in such rather misogynistic sub-cultures)

      Good question. In fact, it could account for the pathetically small number of votes the poll has received, considering the relatively high number of views. Then again, I know that a good number of the blog’s regular readers are men, so that might also account for the lack of responses, considering I asked only women to answer the poll.

      Additionally, you’ve got a point about the particular subcultures in question. Whatever subculture I tend to exist in are the more progressive and “alternative” folks to whom issues like feminism, et al come pretty naturally. I do think that that plays a big part in how receptive the men in that subculture are to their female SOs suggesting that some of their problems are rooted in misogyny. People who already have an anti-oppression bent are not as likely to believe that they still have issues to work on. I’m white, and I know that I have the same knee-jerk reactions when it’s suggested that I may have said something rooted in racism in one way or another.

  3. Lauren O says:

    I answered the poll regarding my current boyfriend, who is the least misogynistic man I’ve ever met. He does occasionally have some male privilege moments, but they’re minor, and he’s always willing to listen to my side of it. (I credit his mother for this; she’s a badass feminist.)

    If the poll were about all hetero relationships I’d ever had, though, my answer would be much different.

  4. Emily says:

    I didn’t answer the poll, because I couldn’t decide between #1 and #3. I would say no, no misogyny in terms of dividing up household duties, making decisions for our life/future, etc. I do feel like he prioritizes his job over family in a way that I don’t, and I think that is tied up with patriarchy, but I don’t think it’s because of misogyny on his part, I think it’s more of a difference of personality (he is much more disciplined in terms of all sorts of “work” – both paid and chores than I am) compounded by expectations placed on men and women that both of us have absorbed. I think that I do not push for more time to work, deferring work I “should” do in favor of family time, and he goes along with that. If I were to push for more time for my work, I think he would accommodate it in our schedule.

    Pretty much the only reason I might lean toward #3 is that in political discussions I think that he discounts my POV and experience as a woman. He has a different way of thinking about political issues, and we have argued about it and he doesn’t see that his default orientation toward political questions is, in my estimation, colored by misogyny/discounting women’s perspectives. It doesn’t really extend to personal life issues. Just abstract political issues/discussions.

  5. Lisa says:

    “Men being socialized and expected to be aggressive, while women are socialized and expected to be less aggressive and more “peacekeeping.” When arguments occur, this causes the women to more readily give up the argument and concede in order to maintain harmony, while the man then believes he “won,” because his argument was more sound. Over time, the woman may simply stop asserting her points as a result and be led to believe that she needs to look to him for guidance, and no longer trusts her own judgment. This furthers the man’s perception that he is always right and she is not to be trusted with big decisions or seen as an intelligent person.”

    I agree with you, April, with what you wrote about gender role socialization.

    In fact, didn’t you know that the mainstream media and our society believes that it is romantic for men to manage relationships? Just check out this article here:

    http://personals.aol.com/articles/2009/09/25/do-men-like-assertive-women/

    The last two parts contribute to inequality and abuse in relationships. For example, it mentions that being an assertive woman will never work to attract a man. In other words, it encourages male privilege in relationships, rather than equality. It even encourages women to be less assertive as well. Therefore it’s very sexist.

  6. amanda says:

    can i ask if you have any resources for couples trying to navigate this difficulty? having only been in long term relationships with other women before, i have little experience with hetero men.

    • April says:

      I don’t know of any “official” resources, but I’m sure we’ll talk about it again here, hopefully more in depth, soon. If I come across anything, though, I’ll definitely let you know. I’d love a resource like that, personally.

  7. smilingcynic says:

    Hi, I’m a misogynist dumbass who came here to leave a comment that consisted of absolutely nothing related to this blog post, so April edited my comment.

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