Well, I see that Donald Trump is defending Bill O’Reilly, who has been widely criticized following reports detailing the millions paid by Fox to settle several sexual harassment claims against O’Reilly. The President says O’Reilly “didn’t do anything wrong.”

Speaking of misogynists…

I recent participated on a panel addressing that subject, and since this was the first time I’d been asked to speak on misogyny, I began with the dictionary, which defines a misogynist as someone who hates women. I don’t know that either Trump or O’Reilly hate women–they simply view us as inferior beings created to “service” them.

More generally, as I said during the panel discussion, I really don’t think that people who hate women are the problem: our problem is the men–and women!– who have been socialized into patronizing, paternalistic attitudes about women.

Some of the most offensive of those attitudes come from religion—in some denominations, especially fundamentalist/literalist ones, the doctrinal belief is that women should be “submissive” and subservient, that men should be the head of the household. Adherents of those religions view women primarily as “incubators” and strongly oppose the notion that we should be able to control our own bodies or make our own reproductive decisions.

Those who hold such beliefs are the “hard core” of misogyny, and because feminist arguments are unlikely to have much traction with them, my own approach is to simply write them off–at least in the sense of engaging in argumentation with them. We are more likely to be able to affect those whose attitudes toward women are the result of unthinking acceptance of social stereotypes.

Most misogynist attitudes are simply holdovers from social stereotypes that were once widely held. There were reasons for those attitudes: before reliable birth control, wives really were dependent upon their husbands, and the few married women in the workforce were less-than-reliable employees; when most jobs required physical strength rather than intellect, women were at a disadvantage. Those realities created social expectations about gender roles, and those expectations were incorporated into laws and informed social customs.

Cultural attitudes are slow to change, but they do. (Ask a gay friend if you don’t believe me.)

A couple of quick stories: I was in law school and interviewing for a summer associate job with a law firm back in 1974, and I had three small children. Since that bit of information was on my resume, it seemed reasonable to offer information about my childcare arrangements, and I did so. One of the two partners with whom I was interviewing blurted out, “It’s not that there is anything wrong with being a woman; we hired a man with a glass eye once!”

Several years later, my youngest son was applying to colleges, and had set up an interview with a graduate of one of the east coast institutions to which he’d applied–a lawyer in that same downtown firm. When he arrived, the lawyer asked if he’d had any trouble finding the law office. My son replied “No, my mom used to work here.” To which the lawyer responded,   “Really? Whose secretary was she?”

Comments like those are very rare today.

What we need to remember is that women’s progress—all social progress, really– is incredibly threatening both to religious zealots and insecure men. (And those categories are not mutually exclusive.) We are seeing a backlash, especially from Republican lawmakers: how dare we make decisions about our own reproduction? How dare we demand equal pay? How dare we demand that health insurance plans cover contraception?

We need to remember that the backlash doesn’t represent majority opinion. If most Americans held these attitudes, there wouldn’t be a backlash.

The problem is, some of the most retrograde ideologues are in state and federal legislative bodies–not to mention the Oval Office. We women need to rise up and work to defeat the  efforts of this President and the Republicans in Congress, who are trying to turn back the clock.

A lot of harm can be done if we simply wait for the old attitudes—and the old guys who hold them—to die out.


  1. George Lakoff has been discussing this topic for decades. I don’t think he uses the word misogyny, but he discusses the subject in terms of categories of thinking, such as Patriarchal and Nurturing.

  2. Sexual harassers are rarely stupid; they are often in high level positions and very careful when and where they target their victims so that no one in authority is in the area to observe. The fear of losing livelihood by reporting these often ugly and insulting attacks will cause victims to hesitate reporting the offenses; allowing offenders to get away with it for many years. I watched one serious sexual harasser for years within City government; repeated refusals and offensive responses do not work – they cannot be offended. This is as old and accepted by many men as their due – remember the Donald Trump advice to Billy Bush which became national and international headlines but did not prevent Trump’s election to the presidency. Nor did the actual sexual abuse law suits and the one for child molest (or seduction) against him which seem to have disappeared in the court system…or been thrown out. Trump’s insulting comments about women in high level positions who defy his authority, or run against him for the presidency, continue to lose. His target the past few days is Susan Rice; not sexual in nature but the same “women as lower level beings” position in life – and in politics.

    Dozens came forward about Bill Cosby; then the “pity the poor old, nearly blind super-star” begging began and continues today. Nothing will be done about Trump or O’Reilly; reminds me of that old adage about old soldiers, “old sexual abusers never die, they just fade from the headlines.”

  3. That’s precisely what “Make America great again,” is all about, men, especially white men, in total control. Who could miss the point when the photo of lawmakers gathering to discuss women’s health was published? There wasn’t a single woman in evidence while decisions about our health care were being made. It would be maddening even if the men who were gathered had any real information about women’s health, but these were all Republicans, who seem not to have a clue about how the reproductive system works (e.g. Todd Aiken).

  4. Peggy; you are so right. Plus the fool (can’t remember name or if Rep. or Sen.) who is trying to pass a bill in Iowa requiring “women who miscarry must carry the fetus to term”. Or requiring funeral and burial for miscarried or aborted fetuses. Or denying birth control for women while providing Viagra and/or erectile dysfunction supplies for men.

  5. In 1991 Susan Faludi wrote Backlash: the Undeclared War on Women. I read that book. It should be re-read because it is more applicable than ever!
    I work with a few young men (20’s) who hold mysogynist attitudes along with displaying bravado behavior. They are products of the ongoing backlash.
    It seems to me that we women continue to experience these attitudes and behaviors because some men (mostly white men) haven’t figured out their role/ purpose in a changing social environment in which they are no longer “top dog” but just part of a diverse whole.

  6. “Comments like those are very rare today”.

    My daughter who works as a physician in neonatal intensive care at Memorial Children’s Hospital in South Bend: “Hello, I’m Dr. K and I’d like to speak with you about your child’s condition and treatment plan”.

    Mother OR Father of child: “Great. When can we talk to the doctor?”.

    This happens more than once in a great while and as recently as this year.

  7. I am a fan of Lakoff (whose doctorate, by the way, was from IU) for his framing advice rather than his nurture versus authoritarian political definitions and oblique commentaries on misogyny. I had the good fortune of coming from a family where my outspoken mother ran the show and became aware early on that she was to be treated with respect both within and without the family. When one considers the Abrahamic code in its application to women which persists to this day, one wishes he had stayed in Ur (in present day Iraq).

    Present day capitalists add substantially to their bottom lines by paying women less than men for the same or substantially the same work, and we men are burdened with arrogant carriers of testerone such as Trump and O’Reilly, both of whom, as Maxine Waters stated, should be in jail. Their elevation to stations of power and money speaks to the never-changing code of female subjection buried in the old Abrahamic code.

    What to do? Vote. Vote for those who promise equal pay for equal work; for recognition of the rights of women to reproductive health etc. etc. etc. Mobilize. Women comprise a majority of the voting public and if (like my staunch New Dealer mother) they all showed up at the polls and voted for sexual equality they could create a new world (though not the one Bannon talks about), a world of equal pay and democratic recognition of their equal rights before the law, a world where, finally, the Abrahamic code goes to its long delayed grave in the mists of history. It is doable, so let’s do it.

  8. Another paraphrase of the old saying:

    “Old sexual harassers never die. They just smell like they have.”

  9. In my humble opinion, U.S. women have made fantastic strides since 1988. What happened in ’88? The Supreme Court got in the act. Before ’88, all major service clubs in the nation were totally male. The Supreme Court put an end to that. All clubs were ordered to lift those restrictions.

    I was a regular member of a very large club (around 600 men) and a regular visitor to a much smaller club (less than 100 men). The Supreme Court edict became the law of the land and the large club instantly started looking for prominent women to join the club. The small club added one woman. Today, both clubs have close to 50% female membership, and these women are sharp.

    Most men dress alike. The women seem to do their best at not dressing like anyone. The women have a sense of humor and are witty. They can take the most menial assignments and turn them into interesting events. They’re executives. They’re sales reps. And most of them are mothers … something the men will never experience.

    This is not meant to degrade the men. Most of them are extremely nice people. But the women have made incredible progress and are smart enough to consistently improve. The Fake President Trump had better clean up his act or the women will run right over his bony ass.

  10. “Really? Whose secretary was she?” To quote an old cigarette commercial, “you’ve come a long way, baby.”

    Seriously a lot of men’s attitudes towards women haven’t changed much if any. Makes me ashamed to be a male.

  11. It seems to me that misogyny is a defect of the ego. It is entitlement on steroids. I am worthy but you are not which is related to I am powerful, you are weak. People who seek power are convinced that they deserve it because they are special. They have something that others don’t have.

    It seems that’s what’s common among the various “isms”. What’s different is what entitles me. My skin color, my genitalia, my God, my physical strength, my attractiveness, my position, my wealth.

    As culture evolves such people are the last to let go of what entitles them.

  12. While I definitely agree that President Trump’s defense of Bill O’Reilly’s behavior is unconscionable, Trump has far bigger fish to fry. He has to begin, at some point, to act like a President. Right now he seems to want to spend more time on small fry items like this and his continual distraction program regarding his connections and those of his campaign and possibly his administration with Russia than deal with the extremely serious foreign policy situations that presented themselves which he is supposed to be dealing with.

    Whether we like it are not, or he likes it or not, he is the President of United States and later today he’s going to be talking to the Chinese president in the hope of getting Chinese help in regard to dealing with the escalating North Korean provocations. He also has to deal with what just happened in Syria and to do that these going to have to really talk turkey to the Russians.

    The potential for armed conflict regarding both situations is a very present danger. He needs to stop fiddling around with Bill O’Reilly and his reputation as well as his distraction game and get down to brass tacks and deal with these situations that are fraught with danger, real danger. If he cannot do so he has no business being in the position he’s in, period.

  13. From your article Dr. ” A lot of harm can be done if we simply wait for the old attitudes—and the old guys who hold them—to die out.” The people holding these attitudes will die, of course, but not the problem. This isn’t a new problem. Like racism, it is handed down, generation to generation.

  14. The story has faded from public memory now but; Indianapolis had its own national (probably international) headlined celebrity rape situation, it did end in conviction but the celebrity served his time in the IYC – Indiana Youth Center, the Boy’s School intake center in Plainfield. Not one day in prison. The celebrity was here for a well known annual national gathering which is still a major event here each summer. The director of that event (I will not mention his name, he is dead now) was one of the city government employee (Mayor’s Office position) sexual harassers prior to being named director of the national event. He was one of those people difficult to dodge, due to his position, without making a public scene and I and other women would have been the ones who were blamed. The last time I saw him he was sitting in the back seat of the limo with Mike Tyson in front of the Market Street entrance to the City-County Building. Knowing first hand the director’s sexual harassment proclivities and Tyson’s history was also well known; I had a sick feeling about the two of them together. I believe it was that night Tyson raped one of the beauty contestant participants. I wonder; could it have been a set-up deal?

    Getting in and out of the City-County Building during the trial was a trial – no matter how early I arrived for work, there were crowds…angry, often yelling, supporters of Tyson. The woman judge, Virgina (sorry I have forgotten her last name) sequestered the jury in the Indianapolis Athletic Club for the duration of the trial, the windows on the bus transporting them to and from court were covered. The sequestering was so tightly done that, it wasn’t until after announcing the guilty verdict that the jurors learned the terrible fire they were rescued from late one night had taken the lives of two Indianapolis firemen who saved their lives. The news devastated all of them. The media made a major issue of race although both Tyson and his victim were Black; when questioned after the verdict if the racial issue made a difference to their decision; they were confused by the reference, they had no idea of the media stressing race.

    This is a teaching event as to how to sequester a jury and how to deal with celebrity “pussy grabbers”, no matter their public…or political…status. Except for that no actual prison time deal.

  15. Takes a grabber to know a grabber! They’re disgusting. And that basket of deplorables in the White House/Trump Tower/Mar-a-Lago? They’re beginning to thin the herd…either that or the grossly inept hand-picked idiots are running like hell to get as far away as they can. Run. Go. Leave now without cleaning out your desk.

  16. Old attitudes toward women would disappear a lot faster if all women abandoned them as well. Those old attitudes are becoming less dominant, but they still sting. I’m so thankful for both the female and male pioneers who struggled against all odds to provide equal legal, economic, and other opportunities to women and girls.

  17. Anyone remember Obama and his hard won deal, with the help of numerous other nations, to stop Iraq from getting nukes? Remember how wingnut senators decided they had a right to negotiate with Obama because fantasies?

    Where are they now when we have the most irresponsible, unprepared moron in charge trying to make nice with a yooge country he has done nothing but call names and accuse them of crimes? Drumpf is incapable of being a figurehead Potus let alone one that believes he is the world’s best deal maker. Where are all the diplomats who believed they could have gotten a better treaty with Iraq? Your Potus needs you misfits now. That’s right, they were busy nuking the filibuster to save korporate amerika’s scotus pick. Priorities I guess.

  18. Could it be that William Clinton was the leader of the “Trump/O’Reilly misogynist movement”? Perhaps all of us who point fingers need to have better memories!

  19. KRA; let us also never forget the misguided appointment of Clarence Thomas to SCOTUS; ignoring Anita Hill’s believable accusations of sexual harassment by him. One Senate hearing member on that appointment, Ted Kennedy, was at the same time involved as a character witness in the rape case for one of his nephews. Ted Kennedy was also much publicized for years for his sexual escapades (as Trump has been), including the death of a young female aide after a private party, who drowned in his car when he drove off of a bridge and swam to safety, leaving her to die alone trapped underwater in his car. Kennedy received the proverbial “slap on the wrist” for her death all but ignoring his drunken disregard. At the time of the Thomas hearing, Ted Kennedy was the last person to be voting on a morals issue for or against anyone. This pales; but does not distract from Bill Clinton’s infamous lie and that famous blue dress with evidence proving he lied. Face it; we as women will always remain at some level of victimization regarding sexual harassment, attack and abuse. Below is proof that we have not really “…come a long way, baby…” over the past 25 years.

    “Another repercussion of the Hill-Thomas controversy was the increased involvement of women in politics. The media heralded the 1992 election year as the “Year of the Woman” when a record number of women ran for public office and won. In the U.S. Senate, eleven women ran and five won seats–including one incumbent candidate. In the House of Representatives, twenty-four women won new seats. Many commentators saw this increase as a direct reaction to the Thomas nomination. His appointment dismayed many women, who felt that Anita Hill’s allegations were not taken seriously by a Senate that was 98% male.”

  20. Much of the press on WJC was bought and paid for lies. There really was a vast right wing conspiracy against the Clintons led by none other than Citizens United and The owner of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette-Richard Mellon Scaife. Also involved was the National Review and any number of high ranking wingnut law offices around the country pushing fake stories and keeping the lawsuits against Clinton in the headlines.

    The Clinton’s left office millions of dollars in debt to their lawyers from having to defend all these phony charges.

  21. Marvin’s misogynistic comments toward JoAnn has become old and accepted among the “enlightened” at this forum. Speaking of enlightened. It’s amazing how misogyny and racism are accepted if you happen to be Joe Biden. That’s why the New Democrats have no credibility. They fawn over members of the party guilty of the things they seemingly despise.

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