Misogynist Women: Confronting the Enemy Within

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My Iranian mother is a misogynist. She doesn’t even try to hide the fact that she loves her only son more than her six daughters. She’s even admitted that she has seven children as a result of failed attempts to have more boys. Her dislike of the female extends beyond my family, too. She always speaks negatively about other women, often criticizing their looks and overlooking their achievements.

When I was a child, my mother warned me about my friendships with other girls. She said that females are manipulative and jealous and that they’d eventually trip me up (they did). She also preached that women were intellectually inferior to men and ignored my straight A’s. Her only dream for me was to marry as soon as possible so as to not become a financial burden on the family. She didn’t say much when I was admitted to a prestigious feminist college: She didn’t even come along to move me in. When approached by a student reporter at my graduation ceremony, she randomly spoke about my brother’s new job.

My whole life, I actively sought the companionship of all-American girlfriends who seemed nothing like my mother, but the same dynamic always repeated itself: My needs went unmet by women who were selfish and cruel. I used to wonder if my mother is the reason I had bad girlfriends, but it’s been utterly shattering to finally admit to myself that the majority of American women are misogynists too.

I once lived with a woman who liked to call herself a “Marxist feminist.” We were best friends in our MFA writing program until she encouraged me to have a sexual relationship with a mutual friend and only told me afterwards that she too had had sex with him. She then forbade me to see him again. Her hatred for women went beyond me: She only seduced men in our program that had girlfriends. The (equally misogynist) running joke amongst the other women was that she was a closeted lesbian sleeping with everyone’s boyfriends as a form of intimacy with the women themselves.

When I asked the Marxist feminist how she could conscionably sleep with a guy who was engaged, she said, “He’s an artist. Male writers need that kind of outlet.” The same didn’t hold true for female writers, apparently, because she was very judgmental about how many guys with whom I ate dinner.

One of the longest friendships I’ve ever had with a woman lasted a decade. Katie was a musician who used my position as an editor for music reviews and listings of her shows. She flirted with all my boyfriends and often complained that I was prettier. After I was drugged and raped, she asked if I’d imagined the whole thing while writing my novel. A close friend of hers even called me a fraud, saying that I just wanted to gain attention (and possibly money) because my rapist was my colleague at Rolling Stone magazine.

Katie didn’t visit me after the rape, probably because she was afraid that our friendship would hurt her fantastical music career. After I lost my job and mind, she continued to stay away and eventually advised me to see a therapist instead of calling her. She now runs feminist book readings and workshops in her local town.

My “feminist” sister-in-law didn’t visit me after I was raped, either. She also ignored the photo I emailed her, which my rapist must have taken while I was unconscious after he drugged me. He emailed it to me after I told him to stop contacting me, probably to terrify me. Not only did my sister-in-law ignore the evidence of my tortured body, but she also wouldn’t help me find a lawyer at a time when I was barely functional enough to feed myself.

American women abuse each other far more than we like to admit. There isn’t much authenticity in this mythical sisterhood that we pretend we have with one another. In fact, no one judges us or tears us apart the way we do. Unfortunately, this viciousness is too often confused with strength.

Sadly, intersectional feminism is actively being dismantled by these “strong” women who are electing themselves as leaders of a movement that places racial justice at feminism’s core. These misogynists inject labels and meanness into discussions while shutting down important issues (and women of color) with words they’ve banned and denial of real-world issues.

The tens of female literary agents who tell me I’m talented but won’t represent me are misogynists, too. They are completely apathetic to the rampant hatred towards women of color and don’t want to stand behind a writer with “messy personal issues.” These agents don’t care about the tens of letters I get from women of all backgrounds thanking me for writing about the sexual assaults they’ve survived but still can’t put into words. These agents are carbon copies of Joyce Johnson, the mother of Daniel Pinchbeck, co-founder of Open City, the literary magazine whose parties revolved around women of color regularly getting drugged and raped. Ironically, Johnson was my editor, and after I told her that about what happened to me at Rolling Stone, she told me to lay down and die, that I can’t finish writing my book while in the throes of a nervous breakdown. She then disappeared.

There are so many misogynist women in positions of power all around us. But they don’t rally around women like you and me. They want to shut us up and shut us down. We need to take a closer look at ourselves as well as the women who impact our lives. Misogynist women are far more dangerous than their male counterparts and we need to call them out on it.

How many misogynist women do you know?