In online debates, I am often branded as a misandrist (which is not even recognized by MSWord) by men who have a problem with harsh criticism of their sexist behavior and jokes. I often criticize men and wonder if men are misogynists by default. I also have a low opinion of men in general, because of misogyny. And apparently, having a low opinion of men is a crime in a patriarchal society. For having this low opinion I can be ‘punished’ in many ways, including being labeled a prude, anti-sex, anti-men etc, or as my mother fears, made to live a single life forever. What for me however, is most shocking is not being labeled or remaining single, but rather being meted out this attitude by atheists? It is not only shocking but disappointing. I have lesser animosity from the religious in this regard, and it is scary because atheists pride themselves on their enlightenment, critical thinking capabilities and liberal/secular ideals.
The first time I was branded a misandrist was, when I questioned men who spoke only about feminism in the sexual liberation context. I found their interest was not really in having emancipated women around them who enjoyed equal status, rather women who had no inhibitions getting in bed with them. The second time was when I raised objections to men who loved posting references to porn under the guise of freedom of speech. Third objection was regarding images of naked women or particularly of breasts as a gesture of appreciation in a public forum.
This raises several questions in my mind. One of the major one being, are many of the atheist men I interact with only so because they were looking for sexual outlets? Having been an active woman atheist among the Pakistani Atheists, I have heard several complaints from fellow women atheists that they were considered ‘easy’ in terms of sex by atheist men. Some of them even refuse to join the Pakistani atheist forum because they feel that it works more like a fraternity. In their opinion Pakistani atheist men only want to interact with women as sexual interests. Given the Pakistani context, it does make a lot of sense because of the gender segregation and restrictions on individual freedom.
Also, this brings me back to the earlier part of my post, where I mentioned the hostility of many atheist men when it comes to them facing criticism for their misogyny. If it is accepted as a hypothesis that many men find atheism to be more to their liking because they feel it gives them sexual freedom, no wonder they will be hostile when women turn out to be not so easy as they had originally expected them to be. This could also be the reason why many of them refuse to understand misogyny outside its rigid and most narrow definition, which literally just translates to hatred for women. When they translate misogyny to just hatred of women, they want to take the argument once again into the sexual aspect where women become objects of their adoration and can be fitted into neat boxes of mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, wives etc instead of individuals in their own right. It also is the escapist way. Defining misogyny as mere hatred easily allows men to wash their hands off of any responsibility on an individual level, because they can say, oh I have a girlfriend, if I hated women, I wouldn’t be with one.
According to sociologist Allan G Johnson, "misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female." Johnson argues that:
"Misogyny .... is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies."
Perhaps I should not be shocked and shaken each time, after all I have listened to sexist jokes, accompanied by accusations that I don’t laugh because I lack a sense of humor. Some have even been crude enough to imply I need to get laid. All this because I dared to challenge the status quo, defined by men for women. However, the problem for me right now is not that I am being labeled a misandrist but that I need to reconcile myself to act graciously to these misogynist men.
Men who blame it on the society they live in and need time to de-configure themselves from all the misogyny which has been hardwired into them since birth. Interestingly, even at this, they are at liberty to ask for time to reconfigure, putting the burden of patience on women. So, no matter how I suffer at their hands, I have to be understanding of their psychological hang-ups, their so-called fight with the society which forces them to act the way they do.
Once again the society wants me to be the patient one being a woman, and I have to be more understanding and tactical because I am desperate for things to change?