Recently in the wake of PM Pragmata De Ville’s now-famous “misogyny” speech re Federal Opposition Liability, Tony Rabbit – kind of a “Dean Martin Celebrity Roast at the MGM Grand Hotel” deal, minus the laughs, but chock full of zingers – one or two people, including your humble and rumpled blodgester, tremulously raised the possibility that the PM (and others) had got it a little wrong.
As enjoyable as it was seeing the Liability getting an overdue baking and bucketing, and as much as he perhaps can be called on having some values dating back roughly to when cars started with a crank and footwear was fastened via means of buttons, that “misogyny” wasn’t quite the right word.
(A concern that seems to have borne emphatic and poisonous fruit as the conservative arm of Australian politics has flailed around with alarming vigour and inaccuracy since – in roughly equal proportions – desperately trying to find examples of Labor Party functionaries who have somehow slighted women as a whole or individually, and can thus be labelled “misogynists” – i.e. a transparently desperate ploy to take the curse off whatever damage had been done by the PM’s Rickles-like 15 minutes of viral fame making “that” speech.)
All of which could and possibly should have been dismissed as so much political grandstanding, via the misuse of emotive language.
Until the editor of the Macquarie Dictionary weighed in a week or two later and announced that publication would revise the definition of that word, misogyny, to suit more modern usage, or whatever the precise verbal bull-biscuit in question was. The proximity, convenience and publicity benefits of this all happening as the saliva was still settling from the Gillard speech (and subsequent reactions to same) seemed, much like the common window, fairly transparent.
There were those of us – well, speaking in the non-regal singular, me, but I’ll wager I wasn’t flying Han Solo here – who, from the start, suggested that misogyny wasn’t the right word in context, and that if people are talking about sexism, or, to coin a flavoursome antique from the hippie era, male chauvinism, then that’s the expression they ought to use, rather than sprinting for the end zone in terms of gunning for publicity, and thus inaccurately using a far more emotive term like’misogyny’.
It’s a clarity of speech/precision of language issue. There are existing words and expressions – perfectly valid ones, possibly some of them involving profanity – for people who think women’s place is in the kitchen, that higher reaches of employment and education are beyond them, etc etc, and all that sterling 15th century claptrap.
None of those words are ‘misogyny’. That means hatred of women. That’s just what it means.
(The ‘miso’ part of the word unless it refers to a sort of intermittently-flavoured Japanese soup, means hate. It’s from a Greek word, ‘misos’, according to the nearest dictionary to hand, which has no reason to lie to me.)
Misogynists might well hold the prejudiced beliefs concerning women expressed a few paragraphs back, but not all who hold such beliefs are misogynists. Both reading/locating a definition and working out the logic in the previous sentence are middle secondary school stuff at most. It’s not all that challenging.
Unless one goes galloping off wildly in all directions carried away by a combination of rhetoric and emotion. Which is exactly what Corinne Grant seems to have done here.
My response to this, for want of a better expression, wild hand-flapping guff, is located on that site, but to make things easier, and to help pad out the interweb, I reproduce it below as well.
Incidentally, on that same site, The Hoopla, you can read this excellent piece by journalist Tracey Spicer. As a bonus, this employs the correct use of the word, misogynist. And how.
(my response to Corinne Grant’s energetic departure from the planetary surface.)
Horse hockey. Ill-considered, emotive horse hockey at that. The issue here is retaining the clarity of the language. It’s a valid issue. Why artificially change the definition of a word when better alternatives for what is meant (i.e. by the revamped, thoroughly modern millie, all-new chorus line version of “misogyny”) already exist in the language?
Sexism is what was being discussed in the PM’s speech, and has been in weedy attempts since by the Opposition and its allies to countermand the damage done by the PM’s now-famous quarter-hour of zingers.
Sexism and misogyny weren’t the same word. They didn’t have identical connotations at all. How will it help the language – our tool of communication between each other – to artificially remove the distinction between these words?
The argument that there is no standard or “single-source” one-truth dictionary reference is weak sophistry. When this issue arose, re the Macquarie I checked three dictionaries I use as reference all the time, and which, as someone who writes for a living and reads constantly and widely, I consider representing a pretty decent spread of approaches to the language.
All had identical meanings for “misogyny” – hatred of women. That’s what the word means. Kind of like how “misanthropy” doesn’t imply someone who’s “Just a bit grumpy”.
There’s no room for movement there. No new phenomenon has come up that needs encapsulation via the previously existing word ‘misogyny’, which already had a clear and viable meaning. Language isn’t a bunch of loose definitions scuttling about like hermit crabs and trying to run into old words and live in them.
The more it’s a tool of precision, the better humans are going to be able to communicate with each other using it.
An unnecessary dilution like this is a diminuition as well. It’s a misuse.
This is a communicational, linguistic issue. It’s not sexism. Raving about it being pedantry and trumpeting that the feminist aspects of the discussion trump any such considerations (the latter apparently being designated invalid anyway – i.e. message here seems to be there’s no ‘One Dictionary’ authority but there IS one Corinne Grant Authority) is pretty rich. Too rich for my stomach, anyway. I’d wager I’m not the only one.
Incidentally, just to remove this as an easy get-out clause for any who disagree with my argument, I have never voted Liberal/National in my life, and do think women should work (or not work) at whatever the hell they want, get paid as much as men for it, marry whoever the hell they want, etc.