The varieties of sexism

Like many words in political debate, the word “sexism” seems to have been designed to confuse rather than to clarify.  Its only real meaning is “anything feminists object to”.  The word is an impediment to thought because it connects semantically things that have no connection in reality.  Consider that stock villian, the sexist man.  He actually comes in at least three different types.

  1. The misogynist–the man who hates women.  I doubt many of these actually exist, but I suppose there could be some men who’ve had bad experiences with women and have irrationally extended their hostility to the whole sex.  Related to this would be people like the fictional detective Nero Wolfe, who doesn’t hate women (as in wishing them harm) but dislikes their company.  As I said, there certainly could be genuine misogynists out there (although the only examples I can think of are fictional), but they are, and always have been, rare and regarded as defective men.  Feminism certainly did not come into being to protect women from this insignificant threat.
  2. The philanderer–the man who regards women as mere means for satisfying his sexual appetites.  Now, you’ll notice that the philanderer is generally not a misogynist–he has no hatred of or hostility towards women at all.  Caring little about their welfare, he doesn’t wish them harm; he would be pleased for all women to be perfectly happy, so long as it doesn’t interfere with his ability to gratify his lust.  He has no trouble with women voting or working outside the home.  He shares with the feminists an appreciation for divorce, contraception, and abortion.  The more “sexually liberated” women are, the better for him.  Feminists often criticise him, but on the deepest level, the philanderer is their ally.
  3. The patriarchist–the man who believes men and women should assume distinct gender roles based on father/mother archetypes.  The patriarchist is not a misogynist–he can’t be, given his high opinion of the maternal role, and given that his own role requires him to behave chivalrously towards women.  Of course, he will probably despise loose women and bad mothers (unless Christian charity helps him see them as souls in need of redemption).  He will admire women who are chaste and devoted to their families.  Nor is the patriarchist a philanderer; he acts against his own ideals if he behaves like one.  The patriarchist does have a “double standard” for men and women, but although distinct, each standard is very demanding.  The patriarchist is the true enemy of the feminist, all the more formidable because he is sincere and holds himself and his fellow men to a high paternal standard.

As we see, the word “sexism” just creates confusion by linking together these things that have nothing in common.  As a rhetorical trick, it can be useful.  Suppose a feminist is debating a patriarchist.  The patriarchist is arguing, say, that women should not be priests or executioners or policemen or some such thing.  The feminist says that he only wants to exclude women from these jobs because he hates them (i.e. he’s a misogynist) and just thinks of them as objects to gratify his lust (i.e. he’s a philanderer).  The really sinister thing, though, is that the feminist actually believes this silly set of identities:  patriarchist=sexist=philanderer=misogynist.  They actually think that men want women to raise their children because they hate them.  This makes it impossible for feminists to understand their opponents.  It also leads them to despise every culture in the history of humanity except for late-20th-century Europe, since distinct gender roles are at the heart of all other cultures and civilizations.

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