The pervasiveness of misogyny

/ 16 October 2006

I think sometimes we tend to forget, or downplay, how fundamental a factor in our life misogyny remains. In the last several days I’ve had a number of conversations with former students — all women — who are now in their first calls as pastors. Their stories are bleakly humorous. “Bleak” because of the depth of what they’re up against, “humorous” simply because these are strong women with wonderful senses of humor, and the ability to laugh when many of us would cry.

But anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Thanks to for placing Bob Herbert's recent NYT op-ed piece online (the Times hides it behind their "TimesSelect" coverage) (and if this link doesn't work, you can find it at the very end of the entry). It is very much worth the read. He uses the recent school shootings as an occasion to reflect on how rarely anyone is shocked by violence against women.

Here's an excerpt to get you going:

"The disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock. Guys at sporting events and other public venues have shown no qualms about raising an insistent chant to nearby women to show their breasts. An ad for a major long-distance telephone carrier shows three apparently naked women holding a billing statement from a competitor. The text asks, “When was the last time you got screwed?”

An ad for Clinique moisturizing lotion shows a woman’s face with the lotion spattered across it to simulate the climactic shot of a porn video.

We have a problem. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed on women every day, and there is no escaping the fact that in the most sensational stories, large segments of the population are titillated by that violence. We’ve been watching the sexualized image of the murdered 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey for 10 years. JonBenet is dead. Her mother is dead. And we’re still watching the video of this poor child prancing in lipstick and high heels."