Misogyny and Femcide: Addressing Violence Against Women

Author: Liana Shi, Dana Hall School, '24

According to sociologist Allan G. Johnson, "misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female”. Misogyny is defined as the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. Femicide, the killing of women or girls because of their gender, can often be a result of misogyny. Notably, being misogynistic may not simply mean hating all women, Philosopher Kate Manne of Cornell University believes that misogyny should also be defined as “the attempt to control and punish women who challenge male dominance”, because of how some misogynistic beings could still love certain women in their lives.

History of misogyny:

Misogyny has long existed in history, it can even be found within sacred texts of religions, mythologies, and Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy. For example. a close look at Aristotle’s biological writings reveals that “women, barbarians, and ‘natural slaves’” are ill-equipped to attain “full virtue and happiness.” The ancient Greek mythologies also had misogynistic beliefs such as punishing humankind with Pandora, the first woman, who carried a box which unleashed all evils such as labor, sickness, old age, and death.

Misogyny can appear in different forms, it could be both physical and psychological violence. With the increased use of the internet and social networks, misogyny can also appear online. With the development of social networking sites, these platforms become a great way for feminists to advocate and share opinions, but can also become a hostile place where misogynistic beliefs appear, and worse, become places where women’s spaces for advocacy to be shut down. A more violent and disturbing result of misogyny is femicide, the intentional murder of women or girls is a direct impact of misogyny beliefs, and is often involving abuse, violence and murder. Femicide can occur in various forms as well, many can be perpetrated by partners or ex-partners of the victim, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation and sexual violence. These sorts of femicide is known as intimate femicide or intimate partner homicide. Preliminary findings of an ongoing study by WHO and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine show that more than 35% of all murders of women globally are reported to be committed by intimate partners. In comparison, the same study estimates that only about 5% of all murders of men are committed by an intimate partner. Some other examples of Femicide can be honor murder, where family members murders the victim due to “protection of family honor”, which may occur after certain actions of the victim, such as pregnancy, sexual behavioral or even for being raped. There are also circumstances in which the victim is not related to the offender, known as Non-intimate femicide. Such killings can be random, but there are also disturbing cases in which the murders of women is systematic.

Domestic violence can also be a result of misogyny. The main issues faced by victims in these situations is the lack of help received as well as the lack of prison sentence for the offender. According to Waetherburn (2010), the average term of imprisonment for a domestic violence offender convicted of common assault is 4.6 months. By contrast, the average term of imprisonment for a domestic violence offender convicted of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm is 12.6 months.

Ending femicide:

Because a large amount of femicide is caused in intimate relationships, it is important to train health workers and police in order for them to be able to identify violence happening in households and thus providing victims with the help they need. It is also necessary to strenthen the awareness of women's rights in areas where murder in the name of "honor" continues to occur. In conclusion, the key solution to the elimination of misogyny is to acknowledge the challenges faced by women, and to continue advocating for the equality between genders.

Graphic by Mirna Vedula