Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Australian feminist: it was acceptable 50 years ago to hate women

The Macquarie Dictionary is supposed to set the standard for Australian English. Those responsible for the dictionary have decided to alter the meaning of the word "misogynist". The meaning will be broadened from "hatred of women" to having an "entrenched prejudice against women".

Enter Australian feminist Jane Caro. She has explained the shift this way:
Feminist, author and speaker Jane Caro told Fairfax today that words changed all the time and said it was certainly not a problem for feminism that "misogyny" had lost a bit of its fire power.

Ms Caro suggested the definition change may also be a reflection of the rise in the status of women.

"It was acceptable 100 years ago, 50 years ago to hate women," Ms Caro said.

"As the attitude towards women has softened ... it's entirely understandable that the meaning of the word describing that emotional state may also have softened."

Jane Caro believes that it was acceptable 50 years ago to hate women, but that attitudes since then have "softened".

That's a striking thing to believe. My own impression is that women were respected more 30 years ago than they are today, particularly in their role as mothers. I can recall there being at least something of a tone of respect for motherhood back then.

So why would Jane Caro believe that women were hated 50 years ago? I don't think it's ignorance. I think it's this kind of logic at work:

a) Jane Caro as a feminist believes that the true good in life is the traditionally male career role

b) 50 years ago most women were not careerists but mothers

c) Jane Caro assumes that women were deprived of the true good of careerism because of a hatred toward them by men, i.e. the thought process is "women must have been hated otherwise they would have been careerists rather than mothers".

As an aside, Jane Caro is the writer who once wrote a column about the British 7UP documentary series, which tracked the lives of a group of English children. The three working-class girls in the series did not end up having successful marriages: one divorced, one had children as single mother and one remained childless.

According to Jane Caro this represented a fantastically positive development for women. Why? Her argument was that if the average woman ends up marrying well and having children then women have no choice about the way their lives will pan out. But if women are childless, divorced or single mothers then there is the opportunity for a self-determining life, in line with liberal autonomy theory.

That's where at least part of her hostility to motherhood comes from. She doesn't think it allows for a self-shaping life path.

Here is how she puts the argument:
For the first time in recorded history, women began to have choices about the kind of life they would live. Indeed, Apted’s four girls, particularly those from working class backgrounds have demonstrated precisely that. One has had a high-powered career and in the last film had chosen to become a single mother; another is a single parent due to divorce and the third, who runs a mobile community library for children, has not had children at all. The upper class girl, after a startling adolescence, has lived a more conventional life, revolving around marriage and full-time motherhood.

Without doubt, the increase in the choices women have about the shape their lives will take has been exhilarating, exciting and not before time.

As I've written before, once you accept the liberal idea that autonomy is the highest, ordering good, then much else follows, including a denigration of the motherhood role.

What we have to insist on, against liberal assumptions, is that it is not just the fact of choice that is of value, but that there is a value to be recognised even in those things which we are born to, or which we naturally develop toward, or which are common or conventional aspects of being a man or a woman.

Even if motherhood is a conventional path for a woman, that doesn't mean it isn't experienced as a significant fulfilment for each individual woman.


  1. Under this new definition, there are suddenly many more misogynists in Australia. Hatred of women was relatively rare, limited to men who believed they had suffered great harm at the hands of a particular woman. "Entrenched prejudice" is really just an opinion about women that feminists don't like. What the new definition implies, in other words, is that there are now two types of men in Australia: feminists and misogynists. There's no third option. A misogynist is now anyone a feminist doesn't like.

  2. Meh, there's no need to drag "autonomy" into it. This is all about the ever-leftward ideological drift in the West, and the consequent devaluation of the meaning of "hate".

    According to nutcases like Caro, anyone who opposes the present-day Leftist/feminist agenda "hates women." If you accept this premise, then yes 50 years ago everyone "hated women," because 50 years ago just about everyone would have regarded the 2012 Leftist/feminist ideology as TOTALLY INSANE.

  3. I seriously wish I could explain myself and connect the dots as well as you OZ.

    I think the leftist agenda understands what it's doing to the family unit as a whole, it understands that when you alienate the male, and force them out of the home you make crime rates and poverty soar. Since liberals believe that poverty is basically patriarchal oppression they'll lobby parliament/congress for more freebies for the "oppressed", therefore the government becomes the big "take care of the citizens" type they want. Marxism at its finest in my opinion.

  4. It's JANE CARO and her feminist cult that hate the women of 50+ years ago (and the men who liked them).

  5. What the new definition implies, in other words, is that there are now two types of men in Australia: feminists and misogynists.

    That sums it up, as does the last paragraph of anons comment.

  6. A comment at punch on Sue Butler's article.

    Let's coin a new word called feminism,
    misogynist a man with a criticism,
    sexist who points to the sex schism,
    power under the garb of equalism.

    "In other words, feminist theory cannot be accurately regarded as a competing or rival account, diverging from patriarchal texts over what counts as true. It is not a true discourse, nor a more objective or scientific account. It could be appropriately seen, rather, as a strategy, a local, specific intervention with definite political, even if provisional, aims and goals.
    In the 1980s, feminist theory no longer seems to seek the status of unchangeable, trans-historical and trans-geographic truth in its hypotheses and propositions."

    It's only words and words are all I have, to lead your heart astray...

  7. feminist theory no longer seems to seek the status of unchangeable, trans-historical and trans-geographic truth

    Leftism doesn't believe in truth? It only seeks political advantage? Gee, who knew!

    "unchangeable, trans-historical and trans-geographic truth" is, of course, massively tautological...

  8. Interesting notes:

    Jane Caro's father's family is Jewish


    Chloe Angyal, who Bolt has been writing about recently, is also Jewish:


    "Readers calling me a bad Jew for being prochoice: I'm a bad Jew for lots of real reasons. Go yell at my bacon & cheese breakfast sandwich. "

  9. Interested observer,

    It says she was raised in a home without religious beliefs, with her mother being a lapsed Methodist and uncompromising in her atheism and her father an agnostic and unaware of any religious background, though there is some evidence of his family origins being Jewish.

    This makes it unlikely that she had a strong Jewish identity that was in conflict with a mainstream Australian one. It's more likely that the problem was that she had nothing to stop her drifting into the developing mainstream intellectual culture of the time.

  10. If I'm called a misogynist, I'll call that person a misandrist, and point out that it's the sister word, that deserves the same definition, yet applied to feminist men and women alike.

  11. Confusing sexism with misogyny, again...Yes. it's true that 50 years ago society was sexist, but misogyny it was not!

    Husbands certainly *loved* their wives and certainly *respected* the women in the lives and would certainly *defend* their honour, but they did not think it was fitting for their women to enter politics or the workforce.

  12. Wouldn't feminism be misogynist? Why should women adopt "male values" and be like men? Also, isn't transgenderism kind of immoral/weird/unscientific?

  13. Changing the past to justify grievances extending endlessly into the future is a continuing feminist project.

    Good Wife's Guide - really from the 1950's - likely NOT!