Misogyny and the Sliding Scale of Abuse – Our Responsibility

According to statistics and a number of surveys around the World, misogyny and the abuse of women is on the rise.

A survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found about a third of all women in the EU have experienced either physical or sexual violence since the age of 15. The survey found that “one in 10 women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, and one in 20 has been raped”. 

Every 90 seconds, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted – Calculation based on 2012 National Crime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.

Since the age of 15, one third of women (33%) have experienced inappropriate comments about their body or sex life, one quarter (25%) have experienced unwanted sexual touching, and one in five (19%) have been stalked. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006)

Honour Killings – extreme examples of sexual violence?

I recently read a real stopper of a blog article by Dr Eunice Minford entitled ‘Stoning of a Pregnant Woman’

The article details how Farzana a 25 year old woman in Pakistan was stoned to death by her father, brother and relatives as an ‘honour killing’ because she married without their consent. The family had no regrets.

I found the article deeply shocking – like a wake up call from a slumber, where I’ve overslept perhaps for years, or longer. As I digested the eloquent content I felt the article was also a clear call to action and awareness for us all, to call out misogyny on every level and uproot it where it festers.

As a first step I initially committed to a willingness to see the extent of the extremities of violence towards women and so I looked into this story further.

It came to light that the woman’s husband had strangled his first wife to death, to ‘get her out of the way’ so he could marry Farzana. He felt entirely justified in this course of action – women are apportioned so little worth in this culture, our very lives are considered disposable, and not uncommonly so. He received no sentence because the woman’s family ‘forgave him’, which put him beyond the law – apparently a common practice. Farzana’s father and brothers had also previously murdered another of their daughters/sisters after a ‘fall out’ with her husband – something they too admit, and again reportedly with no regret.

Farzana’s extreme case was not isolated. Nor is Pakistan alone in these horrific crimes against humanity. Papua New Guinea has an appallingly high level of extreme violence towards women – husbands who cut off limbs with bush knives, women accused of witchcraft burned to death or beheaded after being gang raped, and the list goes on. The police, on the whole, do nothing, and are also often involved directly in the violence.

‘Closer to home’ there are some real eye-opening statistics on sexual violence towards women in Europe, the US and Australia as listed above.

As Dr Eunice Minford says, in the UK or Australia we may not widely accept women being stoned to death, or burnt alive, or children being gang raped or having limbs cut off…. but if this is the extreme end of the violence towards women, we must stop and ask ourselves several questions….

  1. Does an act of misogyny further ‘down’ the spectrum make it ok? Or does it all possibly contribute to the extreme end of the spectrum and make its existence possible?
  2. How is each one of us personally contributing in our daily lives to these global phenomena of devaluing women, on any level?

What really struck me in the stopper effect Dr Minford’s article had on me, was pondering what I’ll refer to as the ‘spectrum effect’ of violence to women… and how as a species perhaps:

We use the extremes to justify the less extreme.

And so what we should be asking is this:

If the so-called ‘less extreme’ misogyny actually allows the so-called ‘more extreme’ violence against women to exist, does then the whole sliding scale slide over time, if we allow it?

…. and so when we choose to work with our self worth, or call out Misogyny wherever it festers – there is a great big picture to be gained beyond our own quality of life, self care, tenderness and knowing and living of our innate inner beauty as the fair women of this world. Every time we honour what we feel and speak up, we are shifting the scale back, we are curtailing the normalised everyday misogyny – the tone of voice, the things we tell ourselves we can’t complain about or say no to because ‘it’s not as bad as… x,y,z’ … namely a more extreme example of the same thing.

It’s like we say ‘this’ is okay because ‘that’ is in the world and when compared, it’s ‘not as bad as that’…. instead of saying, we have a responsibility to ourselves and everyone else to address this in our own lives, so all of ‘that’ i.e. the whole sliding scale, can be seen for the harm it is.

Staying Silent does not inhibit misogyny – it adds to it!

I began pondering the places we have normalised misogyny – page three porn (The Sun newspaper UK) on the family breakfast table for example – and the scale is sliding ever downward. ‘Pop’ videos these days are basically porn. We are allowing our societies and our notion of women to be pornified and hypersexualised – and we all play a part in this, the indirect is direct.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Women are being reinforced as objects, and objects are ultimately disposable, we cannot pretend the two are unconnected any longer. One end of the sliding scale allows the other to exist, reinforcing and providing a breeding ground for the exact same messages that are ultimately used by perpetrators such as Farzana’s father and brothers when they say they have no regrets.

Bare breasts in newspapers equals ‘women are objects’ – equals violence against women, no question.

Not treating myself with care and the tenderness I deserve, whilst turning a blind eye, equals the reinforcing and internalising, living and perpetuating that women are worth-less – equals violence against women, no question.

Where to from here?

I am not suggesting that we all take up banners and fight and campaign or run around proving we are equal to men by becoming like them. I for one have definitely been there, done both of those in the past, but see clearly now, that that was also part of the same sliding scale.

I see that I did not offer another living way by example that is not on or near this spectrum, and that we actually need to look with care within our relationships with ourselves and others in our lives, to check where we might have internalised these same messages on any scale, where we might override the clear discomfort or signals from our bodies and let the odd comment slide by so as not to ‘rock the boat’ or be seen as a ‘prude’ or similar.

If we start with reinstating and re-claiming the knowing that women are in fact amazing, precious and sacred, we might then begin to see how important it is to be able to name, even call out, and then let go of or discard that which we have ‘taken on’ or subscribed to from the all too commonly held ‘women are less’ scale – and how this has played out in everyday instances in our lives…. until the moment we choose to turn it around.

With a sense of the responsibility (aka power and ability to choose) we each hold, I stopped after reading Dr Minford’s article to name several ways I might take the next step in cherishing and valuing myself as a woman and also cherishing my beautiful tender sons and amazingly powerful daughter and in so doing, knowing THIS, if globalised, will one day eradicate the whole phenomena of women being less, being objects, being possessions and men being trained to leave their natural tenderness so so young and abuse, both themselves and others.

If we each as women claim our own worth as the fair and radiant beings we all naturally are – without needing to look a certain way, or prove ourselves with deeds, or appease, or comply or ‘not rock the boat’ then all points along this spectrum of horror will one day be no more.

We are all, women and men too, precious beyond our current understanding.

by Kate Burns, Bellingen, Australia

547 thoughts on “Misogyny and the Sliding Scale of Abuse – Our Responsibility

  1. I think we have come to think of mysogyny as something more obvious than the subtle ways society tells women they are less than, and as a result women feel they need to justify and work twice as hard to be accepted and taken seriously in some areas of business. Your blog gives women permission to step back and consider what it means for themselves and thenceforward how they choose to move.

  2. “Every time we honour what we feel and speak up, we are shifting the scale back, we are curtailing the normalised everyday misogyny” We all have a responsibility in the way we live to tip the scale back to honouring each and every one of us as equal.

  3. Whilst it is confronting to examine the ways that I have contributed to misogyny, often by my omissions, it is also empowering to accept that the ripple effects of my claiming myself as a woman and calling out any behaviour that does not support this has the potential to address this issue at its roots.

  4. It is very sobering to consider that we might all be responsible for these kind of misogynist acts through how we live, express, move, the choices we make etc. What I see is that there is a ripple effect and that what may seem to be a fairly minor inequality in one part of our world ripples out to others creating a consciousness that becomes more widely pervasive leading to extreme acts elsewhere. Living with absolute responsibility for our every word, and honouring the innate awareness of absolute equality that is within, will then perhaps lead to a different kind of consciousness pervading our world – one that realises the truth that women are absolutely equal with men. Bring it on.

    1. Honouring the equality of men and women in every aspect of our lives is truly the only way to live and our commitment to this will be felt by all.

  5. This is a gorgeous blog Kate, thank you. I was part of an interesting exercise on Saturday where in a group we were asked to ‘see’ with our whole bodies and not just with our eyes. ‘Seeing’ with the whole body is not seeing as we commonly know it but to use all of us, every sense we have, including our sixth sense. In this instance the purpose was to ‘connect’ with the person in front of us. What I found was that when I see people in this way, there is an absolute sense of equality in all beings, the essence of every different person being absolutely the same and equal in every way. The same essence is in every woman and child, just as it is in every man. The apparent external differences are not nearly so important in this awareness. It seems to me, that we urgently need to know this innate equalness and live in reverence of it. What is more, it is an equalness in a truly loving sense, where our natural awareness of brotherhood and sisterhood is manifest. There is immense beauty in the essence of every man, woman and child – and we can choose to live this awareness in our lives.

    1. How exquisitely well said Richard. Imagine how completely profoundly different the world would be if more people experienced what you did at the weekend, and I can relate to, the whole bodily and beyond equality and oneness in essence. We commonly live so far from even the basics of decency. Time for a total reset.

  6. We are living in interesting times as we start to evolve as women the institutions of misogyny and abuse increase in force in an attempt to regain power and control over women. It is not possible for this force to succeed as true power which is sacredness simply is the universe. These earthly games can continue for many years maybe in hundreds but still the sacredness remains more powerful.

  7. “How is each one of us personally contributing in our daily lives to these global phenomena of devaluing women, on any level?” – I think this is a valuable question to ask ourselves and reflect on, and with that appreciate the difference we each make to the whole of our global community and standards simply through the way we live in our daily lives.

  8. Turning a blind eye in our own life or in society is feeding all levels of the abuse against women. The extremes have allowed us to settle in the comfort of feeling we are ok so long as that extreme isn’t happening. Yet as the blog says they are all along the same scale. I am coming to see that it is the invisible or accepted abuse that is allowed by all women no matter how subtle that contributes to the mess that we find ourselves in worldwide. I can see that it needs to start with me for things to change.

  9. What a great blog Kate. It strikes me that despite being a very sweet, tender gentle man I too have contributed to this energy of misogyny towards women by not only not speaking up and voicing the truth I have felt, but also by my own subtle but undisclosed need for women within myself to somehow fulfill me. We open the door wide open to misogyny the moment we do not hold ourselves in love and express it so.

  10. Kate your blog really brought home to me how I can be a contributor to the energy of misogyny, if I do not treat myself with deep respect and the love and care which is every girl and woman’s birthright.

  11. Having a puncture mended yesterday I noticed there were no “girly” pictures on the wall in the office of the garage like there have always been. I commented on this and discovered that the company does not allow this anymore. I remarked on how appreciative I was of this fact and why and the manager said “your brother likes them” as if to make it all right and possibly wind me up. I ignored his comment and answered that I felt the objectification of women to be rather insulting. His demeanour changed and he admitted that he didn’t like the pictures either and I feel that rather than trying to please me he was telling the truth. I wonder how many men ‘like’ these sexual portrayals of women and how many just say they do because that is what they think is expected of them.

  12. It is important that we always know and live with a sense of our value and worth in everything we do and are, ‘If we each as women claim our own worth as the fair and radiant beings we all naturally are – without needing to look a certain way, or prove ourselves with deeds, or appease, or comply or ‘not rock the boat’ ‘.

  13. You really show me how I can be an active agent in change in this world. We must not let the less extreme slide just because of our benchmark for what we call extreme.

  14. We are all precious beings and need to honour and love ourselves, ‘If we each as women claim our own worth as the fair and radiant beings we all naturally are – without needing to look a certain way, or prove ourselves with deeds, or appease, or comply or ‘not rock the boat’ then all points along this spectrum of horror will one day be no more.’

  15. We can choose this way of living every day, where we hold ourselves and each other in Love, with value and not ignore what just feels down right yuck. Rather turn to it look at it and see it for all that it is, know where it comes from and do not back away from any responsibility that is offered to step up, step out and call it out.

  16. The statistics show a rise. Is it because the problem is being more visible or is it because definitions have been changed or is it because there is an actual escalation – it could even be all three.

    1. Great highlight and asking Christoph – it does feel less hidden now – more uncovered of what was already there – but also feels to have escalated in intensity. The more we ignore and allow a slide in the ‘minor’ everyday end of the scale the more extreme the extremities become. We live in a world where gang rape is on billboards as an apparently glamorous way to sell perfume, where young girls in preschool act out porn moves from dis-grace-ful music videos and we confuse objectification of women as a form of pseudo empowerment, where virtually every young woman spends hours perfecting a pouting objectified profile pic for social media and all this we now call normal because it’s so common. We degrade the whole scale of ‘acceptable abuse’ at all points along the scale. So my feeling is it cannot but have worsened at the apparent extreme end of the scale too.

  17. Four years on from your blog post and the full horror of such attacks and violence against women is surfacing more widely in the news. It would seem things have to get worse before they get better. However what are the subtle less extreme ways we put up with abuse form others and also abuse ourselves?

    1. Yes and has our not picking up on the smaller things like our own self abuse or the abuse that goes under the cover of humour lead to less sensitivity to the larger and more obvious abuses that we find ourselves up in arms about?

  18. It is a brilliant discussion to raise questions about what exactly misogyny is and how it lives in the lives of men and women everywhere, and the personal responsibility we all have towards recognising its more subtle forms of control. This is not always easy, as it perhaps asks of a woman to say no to what she has been saying yes to for many years. But as you say, it is ultimately worth it because we are worth it, men and women, all people – we are all worth putting the work in to finding out just how beautiful and without harm our relationships can be.

    1. Well said Shami. We do need to be having these uncomfortable conversations – feeling our part – being willing to make the seemingly tiniest of changes close to home that actually make the biggest difference. It can be a bit of an (ongoing) revealing earthquake feeling what we personally have allowed and what exactly that has fed into – but it can make for a very purposeful reset in every single part of our lives – every movement- every word – each interaction – our willingness to see with acute awareness what exactly is at stake and how it plays out in every image of woman, every subtle put back in place that maintains the status quo and more – and as you say it is very definitely worth it and furthermore it is our innate responsibility to treat ourselves and each other with a level of tender warmth that honours our divine grace.

  19. Societies standards have dropped since the introduction of the internet.
    With out Truly caring to noticie what is going on we have allowed all sorts of abuse to take place.

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