Misogyny is a word it seems we’re hearing more often these days. It is derived from two Greek words, miso, meaning “hatred,” and gunē, meaning “women.” But you don’t have to hate women to be a misogynist, as the modern definition has been expanded to include “the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women (or girls).”
Misogyny is a pervasive evil that has existed from very early in human history, and it is alive and well in the world today. (I’ll shortly provide you with some examples.)
The good news is that misogyny is something that Jesus is in the process of eradicating from the earth. At present, that eradication is limited, because Jesus only transforms those who believe in Him.
Eventually however, misogyny, like all other hatred and prejudices, will no longer exist. Scripture promises that, in the future, God will create a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). Only those who have repented, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and been transformed by His Holy Spirit will inhabit that new world.
Moreover, Jesus revealed that there will be no marriage in His future kingdom, but that His followers will be “like angels in heaven” (Matt. 22:30). From that we surmise that believers’ future bodies will be genderless, something that will make misogyny impossible. Then will be the ultimate fulfillment of what is already true in Christ, that “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
So if you long for an end to misogyny in the world (as well as all other forms of unrighteousness), Jesus is your answer. He promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). As I wrote in last month’s e-teaching about racism, it is tragic that so many on our planet long for an end to all evil and selfishness, but they reject the only proven solution.
Take note that Jesus’ plan for a future righteous utopia begins with changing me and you. Before we fix the whole world, we need to first have ourselves fixed.
Two Examples of Misogyny
I’d like to first explore some true and false examples of misogyny. If we can accurately identify it, we have a better chance of standing against it. We also have a better chance of not being fooled by those who wrongly label others as misogynists, and even come to realize that some who are so quick to mislabel others as misogynists are actually misogynists themselves. This could be interesting…
Let’s start with an example of misogyny from U.S. history.
Although it seems difficult for us to fathom today, for 144 years—between 1776 and 1920—American women did not have the right to vote. In 1878, Senator Aaron Sargent introduced to Congress a women’s suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So obviously, women’s suffrage was an issue as early as 1878.
It took 42 additional years, however, of brave women organizing and fighting for the right to vote before Senator Sargent’s amendment was adopted as the 19th Amendment. And what they were fighting against and overcame was misogyny, an ingrained prejudice against women. (By the way, an excellent movie that tells the story of the women’s suffrage movement in England is Suffragette…you can view it at VidAngel.com, a movie streaming service that allows viewers to filter out anything objectionable.)
A more current example of misogyny is the legality for a man to have more than one wife coupled with the illegality for a woman to have more than one husband. There are about 57 nations where such misogyny exists today, and most are Muslim-majority nations located in Africa and Asia. (The Quran allows men to have as many as four wives.)
How could such a cultural/religious practice be viewed as anything but a devaluation of women? How would most men react if their wives informed them that they were marrying an additional man? I suspect most would consider it grounds for divorce.
A World of Misogyny
Tragically, sometimes culture, economics, or government policy force people, even women, to be misogynists. Female infanticide in India, due in part to India’s dowry system, or in China, due to China’s former one-child policy, are examples. In the former, poor, rural parents kill newborn females because they fear ultimately being unable to raise a suitable dowry for marriage. In the latter, Chinese parents—who, until just a few years ago, were restricted by law to having only one child (two is now the limit)—preferred males, who would not only carry on the family name, but would provide for them in their elderly years. So female babies had a higher risk of being aborted (or murdered as newborns), and today there are millions more men than women in China.
There are so many other ways that women/girls around the world are subject to discrimination, hatred, and violence that are unique to their gender. They include legal “wife punishment” (Iraq), legal divorce of an infertile wife (Ghana and other African countries…even though medical evidence shows that men and women usually have the same rates of infertility), prohibition from driving a car (Saudi Arabia), breast ironing (Cameroon), bride burning/dowry death (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan), acid attacks (Bangladesh and South Asia), genital mutilation (Africa, Asia and the Middle East), forced marriage (South Asia and Africa), child marriage (Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania), confiscation of all of a widow’s property by her husband’s family (Kenya and elsewhere), honor killing (worldwide, but mostly in the Middle East and South Asia), and rape (worldwide).
Although not strictly limited to women, it is women who are most often victims of domestic abuse, human trafficking/slavery, wage discrimination, and sexual objectification.
Only misogynists could read the lists above and be unconcerned.
What Misogyny is Not
Now for a few examples of what misogyny is not.
To say something negative about someone who happens to be a woman is not misogyny. It may be thoughtless or unkind, but it does not prove that a person possesses an ingrained prejudice against women, especially if the critical speaker also speaks positively at times about women (or negatively about men).
Allowing one’s wife to serve him coffee every morning is not misogynistic. Couples who love each other love to serve each other and serving should, of course, be mutual. (Demanding that one’s wife serve him coffee because “that is the woman’s place,” however, is misogynistic.)
Voting for a male political candidate over a female candidate is not misogynistic. (Believing that no woman could possibly govern as well as a man is misogynistic.)
Being opposed to abortion is not misogynistic (as is sometimes claimed by pro-abortionists). Only women can have babies, so only they can have abortions. To be opposed to abortion is, of course, to be opposed to women who are planning abortions, to be opposed to boyfriends and husbands who encourage women to have abortions, and to be opposed to male and female doctors who perform abortions. Being opposed to abortion is not a prejudice against women. Abortionists, by the way, are misopedists (those who hate children), because abortion stops the beating hearts of both male and female babies.
Laws prohibiting women from publicly going topless—as men can do without legal consequence—is not misogynistic. Rather, such laws are for the protection of women from men who, seeing them topless, might view them purely as sexual objects (a form of misogyny). The claim that women are discriminated against by means of laws that prohibit them from going topless in public is like claiming that a prohibition against men using women’s locker rooms is discriminatory.
Since I’ve broached the subject, of course most women are offended when viewed purely as sexual objects. But the reason women are often viewed as sex objects is not purely due to misogyny. Two contributing factors are (1) men are sexually stimulated visually (a biological function), and (2) there is no shortage of immodest women. So women can contribute to the problem they despise. Women who dress as sexual objects should not complain when they are treated like sexual objects.
Although the Bible contains its share of misogynist stories, the Bible itself certainly does not advocate misogyny. On the contrary, the Bible is anti-misogyny. Every example of misogyny included in my previous list is condemned by the Bible, if not explicitly, then certainly in general. Jesus taught that we should treat others as we want to be treated. Misogynists do not.
You may have also noticed from my previous list of examples of misogyny around the world that the places where there are the most grievous forms of misogyny are those places where the Bible has had the least influence. If you are a woman living in a nation that has a Christian heritage, you should think twice before criticizing the Bible as being misogynistic. You are benefiting, to some degree, from the Bible’s influence in your culture.
But to further prove that the Bible is not misogynistic (as some claim), let’s begin at the beginning. Scripture reveals that the first woman was created by God in His image just as much as was the first man: “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). That puts women on an equal plane with men from the first pages of Genesis.
But doesn’t the Genesis account teach that God created Eve to help Adam (see Gen. 2:18)? Does that not prove that the Bible teaches women are inherently inferior to men?
Actually, not at all. Rather, it proves that men need help.
I need help every day of my life from many people who are far more skilled or knowledgeable than I am, helpers who are superior to me in various ways. One of them, of course, is my wife.
God apparently thought that men acutely needed help, as throughout the stages of the creation story we repeatedly read the words, “God saw that it was good.” But only after God created man do we read that there was something He saw that was not good: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Surely that was no afterthought. Of course, if God created a male, a female was in the plan. She was the predestined creation that turned “not good” into “good.”
I might also add that God gives His Holy Spirit to believers in order to help them do what they could not do without Him. He is referred to by Jesus as “the Helper” (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7). No one would argue that the Holy Spirit because He is our Helper, proves that He is inferior to human beings. In fact, just the opposite is true.
Inescapable Gender Roles
In keeping with the idea of the creation of the first woman to help the first man, Scripture clearly assigns some differing roles for men and women in marriage and ministry. Those roles are often pointed out as evidence that the Bible is misogynistic. Differing gender roles, however, do not presuppose any gender superiority or inferiority. Clearly, for example, God created men to fit roles as husbands and fathers and women as wives and mothers. Being a husband is not superior to being a wife. Being a father is not superior to being a mother.
Even if you don’t believe in God or in biblical revelation, you have to face up to the obvious biological differences between men and women and the ramifications of those differences. As long as there have been male and female human beings, it has only been the females who can have babies and nurse babies. And those biological facts force women into roles that men cannot fill.
Let us imagine traveling back to a time before there were all the means that exist today to mitigate the inevitable consequences of those biological facts—a time before contraception, abortion services, baby formula, breast pumps, daycare, preschool, primary and secondary school. Let’s consider the historical role of women as directed by biological facts.
Obviously, in more simple times (and still in less-developed places today), both men and woman would be married not too long after reaching puberty. Marriage would have soon been followed by a 15- to 20-year succession of pregnancy and babies whom only the mother could nurse. So a married woman’s role for at least the first two decades of marriage was self-evident.
Of course, older children could help with caring for younger children, especially before there was such a thing as outside schooling. And it was not as if the father couldn’t also have been very involved in the household, as he would have been working the field just outside or running his shop next door.
Now, couple the biologically-directed roles of women with the biologically-directed roles of men during most of human history. Men are generally physically stronger than women, and in the past especially, many jobs and responsibilities were best suited for male strength (like plowing fields, chopping firewood, or repelling barbarians). So just as the roles of women were historically self-evident, so were those of men.
Mothers would train their girls for their biologically-directed roles and fathers would train their sons for their biologically-directed roles. The closest modern example that exists of what I’ve just described is the lifestyle of the Amish.
But the world has changed, a lot. Pregnancy can be limited through birth control. Unwanted pregnancy can be terminated through abortion. Mothers and fathers can split the responsibility of nighttime feedings through breast pumps, bottles and baby formula. Mothers can be freed from the burden of 24-hour baby/child care through daycare and preschool. Many mothers can be away from home all day because their older children attend school. Suddenly, in the long span of human history, it is possible for women to adopt roles beyond their traditional ones that historically were biologically directed.
And as the world has changed for women, it has also changed for men. Instead of chopping firewood, plowing fields, harvesting crops, and hunting wild boars close to home, they’re far away from home most of the day. The stay-at-home mother is a one-parent family much of the time. And in our modern age, men are involved in doing all kinds of things that women can do equally as well, as they require more brains than brawn. They fly airplanes, design things that never existed, teach in schools and colleges, drive buses, run companies, play professional sports, shoot nail guns, wait on customers, harvest grain while sitting in combines, live in space stations, and thousands of other things that no one ever did for most of human history. Suddenly, for many women, staying home for 15 or 20 years—to cook meals, clean house, wipe runny noses and little rear ends—understandably doesn’t seem quite as attractive.
In the past, women would have had no desire to adopt men’s roles. It would have been much easier to be content taking care of a household when the alternative was plowing fields and battling barbarians. But now women also have a world of opportunities. Many of those opportunities offer reward and fulfillment, which is why men pursue them. So husbands, put yourself in your wife’s shoes. Given her options, what would you choose?
The net result of all this “progress” is tension between the old and new, as women are still the only ones who can have babies and nurse babies, but now both wives and their husbands have options that force them to make decisions they’ve historically never had to make:
Will we delay having children so that wife can realize some return on her college degree and we can enjoy a higher income? Will we limit the number of children we will have? If yes, how many will we have? Will mother take maternity leave and then we’ll put our baby in daycare so she can go back to work? Or will she pause her career until preschool, or maybe first grade, or maybe for 20 years? Should dad be the one who stays home for a few years while mom, who has a better job, goes back to work? Will we send our children to public or private school, or will we homeschool? Should father take that job offer that promises more money but that will take him out of town for extended periods of time? (These are all wise topics of discussion before marriage, by the way.)
Every married couple has to work through the answers to these questions for themselves. My recommendation is to order your priorities in light of eternity. Our decisions in this life have eternal consequences.
Not only are there many new options, but there are also many voices trying to influence our decisions regarding those options. Our culture certainly seems to have devalued children and motherhood. It constantly tells us that fulfillment is acquired through the accumulation of more material things. Plus there is the misogyny of uber-feminists that denigrates women who find fulfillment devoting themselves, in any degree, to their traditional, biologically-directed roles.
A Woman’s Worth
Let me conclude part 1 of this 2-part teaching by encouraging Christian mothers to consider the value of their special, God-given roles as revealed by biological facts and the Bible. Those roles are nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, in the eyes of God and those who love Him, they are roles that are clothed with honor.
A woman who devotes herself to her husband and children—when she is perfectly capable of pursuing other rewarding options—is making a praiseworthy sacrifice that will pay rich dividends in her life, her husband’s life, and her children’s lives. Godly husbands know and affirm this frequently, and they not only share child-raising and domestic responsibilities as much as possible, but also understand when their wives, who are so devoted to their families, express the desire to spread their wings and use their abilities and talents in other pursuits. Behind every great woman, there is a good man!
Let Christian husbands not forget that even in ancient biblical days before there was any industrial or technological revolution, one quality of an excellent wife was that, “She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings, she plants a vineyard” (Prov. 31:16). That doesn’t sound very misogynistic to me!