Woman is a vulgar animal from whom man has created an excessively beautiful ideal. ~Gustave Flaubert
Note: this post contains strong and offensive language. Feminists fuss over misogyny, the more radical camp insisting that man’s disdain for women has steered the course of all human history. New Feminists and dissident feminists like Camille Paglia view most female-unfriendly behaviors by men as far more complicated than a sweeping hatred of all things female. Despite these differences, all feminists do agree that, in its rawest, most hate-driven form, misogyny can and does pose a real threat to girls and women.
It’s important to remind ourselves that raw, gender-based hatred exists. It is a shameful condition, so frighteningly repugnant that those compelled by hatred of women often opt for denial and blame of others, rarely getting the help they require. Men obsessed with a hatred toward girls and women often surface only in violent outburst, such as the 2009 shooting of 4 women during an aerobics class.
Most women have caught glimpses of misogyny. We often experience it as a suspicion, a suspicion that the man addressing us uses a particular tone or body language because he hates women, not us in particular. We sometimes hear or read this type of misogyny in rants about Eve’s destruction of men, the suffragettes’ ruination of civilized society, or feminists’ conspiracy to emasculate all men. Recently, I encountered blatant misogyny head on – how it ended reminded me that women need to talk about misogyny, not just disagree about it.
I am a 56 year old, graying mother who wears glasses. I was alone, seated in my 2006 red, dented Accura throughout this incident.
After Mass one recent Sunday, I took Lombard Street to the freeway here in San Francisco. There was a last exit on that route into Crissy Field, a bay front park I can cross to my home on the opposite side. It was a rather abrupt, tricky exit from the left hand “fast” lane, used almost solely by locals familiar with it. I often took this exit to avoid the high speed road and enjoy the park and views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
My timing was unfortunate. The exit was clogged and backed up. I hit my brakes and broke a sweat: I was stopped dead on what is supposed to be a moving exit ramp. Ahead, I could see a full sized tractor trail truck trying, incredulously, to back down the exit ramp. Fearful of being rear-ended, preparing to call 911, I watched the confused drivers ahead of me crowd against the concrete barrier or edge onto the wet, grassy shoulder, opening narrow passage for the big rig in its effort to reverse down the ramp. Suddenly, a car shrieked to a stop behind me. The driver – a neat, 45ish, lean male – jumped out and started jogging along the ramp toward the truck.
“Good,” I thought, “this guy will sort out the nonsense.”
I lowered my window and said, “He’s trying to back out onto the highway … I am afraid we are going to get rear ended sitting here.”
He stopped and looked at me oddly.
“We won’t get hit,” he said dismissively.
“Oh but I got hit just a block from here,” I replied, recalling the day a distracted commuter plowed into me at full speed on this same stretch of highway.
The man turned toward me abruptly. “Don’t be a drama queen,” he barked nastily, totally … I mean totally … shocking me. I gave him a quick salute, smiled and said, “Yes, sir,” expecting he would move on.
He did not.
Instead, he moved aggressively toward my car. “What the fuck did you say? Don’t fuck with me you cunt,” this man shrieked, his face contorted, his hands fisted.
I was in trouble.
“How about if I pull you out of the damn, fucking car you cunt and beat you right here and break your fucking arm?”
This irate, ranting male was now less than 5 feet from my car. I had no escape. I felt pretty certain he would break the window if I closed it. My only hope was to say something that calmed him, but all I could think was “Oh God this is going to hurt.”
I drew in a deep breath and said as calmly as I could, “I am laughing here. I am trying to use some humor, sir.”
With that, he veered toward his car, but stopped again, turned and came straight back at me like a confused, violated animal. “I’m going to take you the fuck out of that car now, bitch. I am going to break your arm.”
By God’s grace only, I made eye contact and gently, very gently, said, “Is this going to make you feel better?”
That stopped him. He glared at me, snorting with rage, and shouted, “You are a CUNT.” He turned, got in his vehicle and sped backwards down the short stretch of ramp into oncoming traffic.
He was gone.
Several days later, when I described the event to an older friend, a psychologist, I was still shaky and mystified. Nothing in the span of those minutes made any sense to me; I could no more fit this man’s behavior into a cause and effect flow than I could understand why a tractor trailer truck was backing down an exit ramp into oncoming traffic.
“Why,” I asked my friend, “why didn’t the guy break my arm? I have no idea why he stopped.”
“Because,” she explained, “you made it about him when you asked if he would feel better. I’ve heard this many times from women, women who are about to be assaulted or are being assaulted and they ask the attacker how he feels, or something personal about him. These men are acting from hatred and rage against all women – and when you ask about him, you become a person to him. And he’s not angry at you individually. He doesn’t know you at all.”
Misogynists like this fellow, we must remember, are filled with hatred toward the female, at all of us as a whole, much more so than anyone of us individually. We live with these men in our midst, each of us potentially the next victim for their rage. This is what hatred of women looks like, misogyny that can kill.
Upon this, I think all feminists can agree.