As much as some politicians may be keen to deny, misogyny is a pervasive problem in the UK.
Horrifying UK news headlines from BBC, ITV, Sky News, and STV News over the past month alone all point to a clear problem: Male violence against women and girls is a national emergency, and misogyny is at the root of it.
For some, it's difficult to believe how misogyny could be the cause of such extreme harm, but currently 3 women are killed each week by men, while 1 in 3 women in the UK have been sexually assaulted.
The pattern is misogyny: traditions, behaviours, ideas, and opinions, all entrenched in sexism and a hatred towards women. It's time for the pattern to break.
Misogyny is deeply ingrained in our society and has been normalised for centuries.
It's claimed that misogynistic ideas have existed since antiquity. Aristotle, for instance, is well known for believing that women were inferior, malformed versions of men. The word 'misogyny' dates back to the 17th century, and comes from the Greek words 'misos' meaning 'hate', and 'gun' meaning 'woman'.
Even now, despite its presence in our workplaces, schools, relationships and media, the word 'misogyny' can often be met with resistance. The perception of the word and its connotations are often skewed, misinterpreted as accusations or acts of discrimination towards men.
"But not all men!"
A common response to mentions of misogynistic behaviours is denying individual men's involvement with the act. Of course, not all men are responsible for one man's actions, just as one person does not represent a whole group. But ignoring key trends in behaviours of men as a group, a section of society, is denying the real consequences and influences those actions have, and invalidating those who fall victim to these instances.
Identifying trends is also the first step to changing them. Misogynistic behaviour needs to be identified when it happens so that we can prevent it from happening again.
The meaning of 'Misogyny' and its impact
'Misogyny' is defined as a dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. It's a form of discrimination that's fueled by negative attitudes and beliefs about women, which can result in mistreatment, marginalisation, and oppression.
Misogyny can manifest in a variety of ways, including violence, harassment, and sexual objectification.
Behaviours which have long been normalised such as catcalling, upskirting, and 'slut shaming' (degrading and humiliating women for promiscuous or sexual behaviour) are all forms of misogyny.
Less tangible examples, such as thoughts or attitudes, are still concrete forms of misogyny. For example, taking men at their word while dismissing or trivialising a woman with the same opinion.
For example, research on women's medical experiences has found that women's pain is often not believed or taken seriously by their doctors, as discussed in this Washington Post article.
Other examples of misogyny include:
Using language grounded in sexism and female gender stereotypes to describe a woman e.g. 'Slut', 'Man-eater', 'She wears the trousers in the relationship'.
Expecting women to upkeep stereotypical gender roles like doing house work or caring for children.
Being uncomfortable with the success of women.
Viewing women as 'the enemy' i.e. not seeing women as human beings, but more opponents in a competition, particularly when it comes to intimate relationships, sex and dating.
Those last bullet pointed examples may seem less extreme than outright violence and sexual assault, but these same micro-aggressive behaviours hold the foundations of normalised misogyny, making the more violent and shocking end of the scale seem not so shocking and unlikely.
Normalisation of misogyny plays a key part in these violent behaviours happening further down the line, much too similar to the pyramid of sexual violence.
The content we consume from films, TV shows, books, and on our phones play a huge role in our individual way of thinking.
When the average time for daily social media use is 2.5 hours, it's not surprising that the accounts we follow and the people we choose to listen to on platforms like Instagram, Twitter and TikTok have real power and influence over our opinions and attitudes.
A social media influencer who has recently caused concern for teachers and parents due to their strong influence on young men is former kickboxer and multimillionaire Andrew Tate. For reference on the scale of Tate's influence, his videos on TikTok have been viewed more than 13 billion times...
Tate is a controversial figure who has gained notoriety for his views on masculinity and relationships. While many young men may find his ideas appealing and inspiring, it's important to recognise the dangerous impact he can have on men's behaviour outside of their phones, and in real life.
Tate promotes a toxic and outdated idea of masculinity that revolves around aggression, dominance, and the objectification of women. He says women belong in the home, can’t drive, and are a man’s property. He also thinks rape victims must “bear responsibility” for their attacks.
In a recent BBC documentary, he tells journalist Matt Shea how he thinks the world's problems would be solved if men walked around their houses holding swords, as the grip of a sword would make a man feel a stronger sense of empowerment and masculinity.
He also masks his misogynistic remarks with a guru-like attitude; he's often promoting the self-belief of men, encouraging them to value themselves and be confident. Of course, in isolation, this message isn't problematic, and is ultimately why he has such a huge online following; he's an inspiration to a lot of his fans. It's how Tate gets his message across and the expense of women at his words and behaviours which is worryingly dangerous.
Tate often appears to be playing a character, as Shea notes in the documentary, which makes it easy for followers to engage with his videos, blurring truth and reality with a distorted idea of what a man should/ can be.
The ideas of Tate which promote blatant gender inequalities, paired with his easy-to-digest content and character, mean it's easier for the misogynistic messages and attitudes behind what he says to sink into his followers' frame of mind.
In August last year, English teacher Kirsty Pole went viral on Twitter after urging fellow educators to be aware of Tate and the "dangerous, misogynistic, and homophobic abuse" he promotes.
Voicebox facilitators can vouch for Kirsty's concern; the team have reported several accounts of Tate's name dropping into conversations during our workshops on Healthy Masculinity, Masculinity & Wellbeing, Healthy Masculinity, and Violence Against Women & Girls, among particularly worrying misogynistic language.
What's the solution?
Education plays a crucial role in combating sexism and misogyny.
Targeting misogyny at its beginnings in school yard conversations, working with young people to explore the reasons and influences behind their opinions, and creating safe spaces for conversations is key to eradicating harmful attitudes towards women and girls, promoting gender equality, and working towards a healthier society. After all, misogyny stems from a patriarchal society which we all live in; eradicating misogynistic behaviour and working towards a healthy society benefits everyone.
Among men, high conformity to traditional masculine norms has been correlated with less help-seeking behaviour and more negative attitudes toward seeking psychological treatments, with men repeatedly found to be half as likely to seek help for mental health concerns from a GP. Therefore it's vital that young people understand the importance and benefits of recognising and calling out misogynistic behaviour.
This could look like challenging traditional gender stereotypes in lessons and workshops, teaching boys and young men to reject toxic masculinity, sexist language, and misogynistic influences.
By encouraging them to be more empathetic, respectful, and understanding, we can help to create a new generation of men who are less likely to engage in misogynistic behaviour. Check out UK Feminsta's tips for tackling misogyny and sexism in the classroom, and Health and Wellbeing Wales' resources for tackling misogyny with primary and secondary students.
We need to encourage boys and young men to not only seek out better role models, but to be better role models for each other, empowering them to be true agents of change in their generation and in wider society.
At Voicebox, we believe in learning through doing. That's why we offer interactive drama workshops and assemblies for schools and organisations to help students and young people of all genders unpack challenging conversations on gender, relationships and well-being in a safe and inclusive environment.
Calling it out
There's also huge power in calling out misogynistic behaviour when you witness it. Whether that's in a friendship group, on the tube, at work, with a family member, or in your own relationship.
Being called out can often be met with resistance, as defence stems from embarrassment and that feeling of being put on the spot. However, having the confidence and sensitivity to educate someone who respects you or is influenced by you, might just be that final push they need to truly change a normalised habit.
While identifying and combating misogyny external to you is a powerful tool, it's hugely important to reflect on your own misogynistic behaviour, ideas, and beliefs.
One way of doing this is to self-reflect on your own knowledge of misogyny: how it manifests in your life, social circle, and general culture.
We recommend reading these books on misogyny, as well as watching documentaries such as Matt Shea's piece on Andrew Tate, Emily Atack's interrogation of online sexual harassment, and Ellie Flynn's social experiment on sexual harassment.
Another way of doing this may be to reflect on any potential internalised misogyny.
If you identify as a woman, internalised misogyny, or internalised sexism, might look like judging another woman for the way she dresses, or thinking that you're not suited to a typically 'masculine' job because of your gender.
It's subconsciously projecting sexist and misogynistic ideas onto yourself and onto other women.
While misogyny is a long-standing and normalised problem in the UK, it's important to educate both ourselves and those around us on the ways we can understand it, recognise it, and call it out. We all have a power to combat misogyny, and work towards a healthier society for everyone.
If you're interested in booking one of Voicebox's workshops or assemblies which explore misogyny, you can fill out a booking form here.
If you have a question or would like to chat through something with one of the team, you can book a free consultation here.