Throughout history and to this day women across the globe remain severely disadvantaged in terms of economic opportunities in comparison to their male counterparts. McLanahen & Kelly found that women within the USA are 50% more likely to live in poverty than men1 whilst women working fulltime in the UK only earn 80% of the male total2. In Misogynies Smith states the reason for this continued oppression are the women-hating tendencies inherent every man.
It can however be said that whilst she does tentatively speculate on the origins of this 'hatred', with religion and upbringing being her key themes, she offers no particularly strong arguments and no conclusive evidence to back up her claims. Indeed it can be said that she, like many other feminists, has chosen to focus simply on the implications, the 'how', of male-dominance, rather than attempting to discover the 'why', as if she believes it to be as natural a phenomena as the men would claim.Smith's most persuasive argument is the role of religion in instilling the current social divisions. Judaeo-Christian misogyny can be attested to writings within the Old Testament with Genesis chapters arguably the prime culprits for the following centuries of female oppression. The writings state that Eve was created from one of Adam's ribs suggesting Adam to be in some way superior. Similarly as it was Eve who committed Original Sin and gave into the devil therefore she, and all women after her, should be punished and blamed for ills in the world.
The moral of the story is that it was Eve's fault, her weakness caused Adam to be ejected from the Garden of Eden therefore all women are weak. The Church of England's continued refusal to allow female priests is for Smith a symptom of their 'sexual disgust, fear of female sexuality and a desire for sexual apartheid'3 as women were seen as leading men to sin and so wholly unsuited to priesthood Within the bible and most other dominant holy texts there are very few references to 'strong women' and any woman included is meek and submissive such as the Virgin Mary.Smith believes Mary to be 'nothing more than a receptacle, a useful vessel' and that 'her place in history is contingent with her docility'4 . For many men women are either Mary the virgin or Eve the temptress, there is no middle ground and so most women are perceived to be wicked, dangerous and provocative. Her views are echoed by Stanton5 who views women as being victims of male-dominated religion. The foundations of Misogyny built within Genesis have prevailed throughout the ages within the church.
Men's hatred of Eve was manifested in their fourteenth century witch hunts.Pregnant women at the time were often refused painkillers whilst giving birth with the excuse that they should suffer because of Original Sin. Their sufferings were justified as it was believed women should lead a 'female path emulating Jesus'6 Even before the emergence of Christianity women were held in near-slavery within the ancient Greek societies despite it being the birthplace of modern representative democracy. Aristotle's view that 'the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the one rules and the other is ruled'7 was commonly held.Smith makes some reference to Roman society where for a short period of time woman of higher social classes were allowed significant freedom of movement. However these women abused their freedom and stretched the patience of the strict roman too far, their freedom was removed and there are few examples of any women receiving such privileges for nearly a millennia.
Throughout history women such as Helen of Troy, Jezebel and Cleopatra have been blamed strongly for the downfall of their respective empires, in Smith's view they were singled out for being strong sexually active women.Barbara Ehrenreich, citing Gerda Lerner, speculates that in the gendercide of males may lie the origins of misogyny: "In the situation Lerner describes, where enemy males were killed and enemy females enslaved, the only surviving adult representatives of the defeated enemy would of course be female, and the psychological equation would have been established, over time, between femaleness and the enemy'8 History it can be argued has entrenched a pathological hatred of women within the subconscious of men. Is this woman-hating truly their fault?From birth men are taught that they are superior and similarly women are taught they are inferior. In Catholism this manifests itself at puberty whereby are told to renounce their mothers to maintain male solidarity. It is the constant fear of having their masculinity undermined that Smith argues that much of their misogynistic tendencies stem from as they are taught 'real men' dominate women. For many men the presence of women in the workplace was undesirable as it turns it from a neutral to a sexual place, which they argued will cause it to lose efficiency.
However this could simply reflect their resentment of women wearing suits, typically symbolic of masculinity. Women were also dissuaded from working as this would undermine her husbands 'natural' position as sole breadwinner. Historically it was asserted that women's natural maternal urges were subverted by educational, occupational or political aspirations9 The belief that women were incapable of rational thought long prevented them from reaching higher level of education and those that attempted to do so were heavily criticised for neglecting their natural and national duty towards motherhood.As Smith says 'all a woman has to do is be passive, incompetent, helpless and whining - the last thing that is expected of the feminine woman is that she should actually achieve anything'10 With the emergence of capitalism it can be seen women became exploited as workers and child bearers, viewed simply as a consumer good' 11 It was efficient for them to remain subordinate by way of keeping costs down, hence the support Karl Marx gave to the cause of women as they were at the same social level as working class men.Women's oppression is therefore 'functional for capital' 12 as it decreases the overall average wage level. However as Bryson argues 'women are oppressed in societies which by no stretch of the imagination can be described as capitalist, for example within Amazonian tribes woman are often controlled by gang rape 13 clearly this is not simply an economic issue.
Most developed societies are referred to as patriarchal, a situation defined by Weber in which 'the father dominates the other members of an extended kinship network and controls the economic production of the household'.McDonough +Harrison 14 regard patriarchy as 'the level of control of women's fertility and sexuality in monogamous marriage and the economic subordination of women throughout the sexual division of labour and property'. Within Catholicism the denial of contraception can be seen to be a method of ensuring women are subordinate in marriage whilst the process of marriage itself can be seen to be 'the gift' or purchase of a women from her father to the son-in-law with the dowry as payment.Emotions such as love and attraction Smith argues force chinks into men's armour and threaten their masculinity, seen as wholly 'feminine' qualities. Men approach such emotions with hostility and in Smith's view 'cannot cope with the intense feeling associated with women's sexuality'15 Sigmund Freud's Oedipus complex can also be used to explain misogyny in some cases. For young boys their item of first love is their mother and so when other women fail to live up to her standards and their expectations they become disappointed and in turn angry.
Smith focus's heavily on the case of the Yorkshire Ripper who she believed 'viewed femininity as threat, who hated and feared it so much that his survival depended on his capacity to locate and annihilate it'16. He was taught by his father and relatives that women are victims or lesser beings who exist for men's convenience whilst for him his mother was like the Madonna until the moment she was caught by his father with another man.It can hence be summarised that men are taught from birth that women are inferior and spend the rest of their lives struggling to convince themselves this is true. For Smith men are the victims of such lies just like women and that Misogyny is simply a by-product of the maintenance of a power structure based on men's superior physical strength which long ago became redundant17 Clear attempts have been made by feminists to source the origins of women-hating but in general they are as vague as the quote states.There is no single reason which all feminists agree on although most concur that Religion, History and Upbringing can be seen as key problems to be addressed.
Smith prefers to chronicle the history of women's oppression and can thus be argued to make only a relatively limited study into its origins.