May 25th, 2007
I looked up misogyny on onelook after seeing what I considered an inadequate definition somewhere. I found a glut of inadequate definitions. I think misogyny, and in fact all miso- and -phobia words, need more attentive corpus analysis in order to reflect the full spectrum of their use.
OED: Hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.
Encarta: hatred of women: a hatred of women, as a sexually defined group
COED: hatred of women.
M-W: a hatred of women
CALD:the hatred of women [misogynist: a man who hates women or believes that men are much better than women]
Wordsmyth: intense dislike of women
AHD: Hatred of women: “Every organized patriarchal religion works overtime to contribute its own brand of misogyny” (Robin Morgan).
RH: hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. Cf. misandry.
CDAE: [-ist] someone, usually a man, who hates women or believes that men are much better than women. [-y example: There's a disturbing misogyny in his films.]
1913 Webster: Hatred of women Johnson
I think the A++++ WOULD CONSULT AGAIN here has to go to AHD just for the illustrative quotation. Just to make sure I wasn’t confused about “hatred” I looked that up, too, but it hasn’t really evolved to mean anything about systematic societal oppression or ideologically enforced inequality. So take misogyny in the OEC: (the first column of numbers is a count of co-occurrences; the second is a measure of salience that I believe Sketch Engine bases on several measures.)
Some of the corpus collocations are clearly hate-based: vicious, extreme, violent, bigotry, antisemitism, rape. But many of them are clearly things on a larger scale: institutionalize, rampant, casual, usual; materialism. And some of them are more individual in nature, but not essentially hateful: objectification, machismo. It is these latter two categories that are largely unaddressed by the dictionaries that are easy to cut and paste.
I don’t mean to argue that misogyny is not hatred, nor that most people who speak of misogyny don’t believe that it’s hatred. But “misogyny” spends time in the company of words that are not really covered by weirdness like “pathological aversion” and “intense dislike”. The connection with “objectification” shows it fairly well, as does “inequity”. Xenophobia, homophobia, — these words are not really suggestive of “intense dislike” or “irrational fear”, but with learned behaviors, nation-scale phenomena, What’s Wrong With This Country. “Materialism” is not intense or irrational; “misanthropic” is closely associated with “genius”, “intelligent”, “comic”, “muse” — not really qualities of a “person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society”. It looks like a good many of these miso-/-phobia words are often defined very skimpily, every dictionary’s essential ‘evidence’ being nothing more than the etymology.
I’m not saying it’s necessarily appropriate for every dictionary to define misogyny as an epidemic, sometimes unconscious ideology that oppresses or subordinates women to men; but compare with the nuanced definition of “slavery” in NOAD:
This is a reasonable starting point for better definitions of “misogyny”, “homophobia”, etc.: in the language there are all sorts of ways to be a slave or a misogynist beyond being the legal property of someone, or having any explicit/conscious hatred, aversion or dislike. Simplistic definitions lead only to oversimplistic misunderstanding.