Ask Anonymous • Misandry
By Anonymous Bosch

Dear Anonymous,
I was having a conversation a few months ago with one of my education department professors about the hatred of women, or misogyny. It made me wonder why this word is so commonly known, while at the same time the word for the hatred of men either does not exist or is largely unknown and unused. My professor suggested misterogyny, but it didn’t sound right to me. Surely there is enough hatred of men to warrant a specific noun in the English language to help man-haters name themselves more satisfactorily. I thought you, of all people, would know the answer to this question — because of your affinity for words, of course.

Sincerely yours,
Anjean Vanden Bosch
Class of 2005

Dear Ms. Vanden Bosch,

I enjoy questions like this, and I also enjoy corresponding with another member of the far-flung Bosch clan. You have asked a very good question, although it is a slightly unsettling one, but not all of us should be as settled as we are so much of the time. Moreover, you may have noted that somewhere along the line I may have referred to the phenomenon of gender dysphoria, a feeling of uneasiness or even dismay with one’s gender. You were right to suppose that I find this to be an interesting topic, because it is an interesting area of modern life, and not only because of what you refer to so gently as my “affinity for words” (take a look at affine as well as affinity when you have a chance, to discover the relationship between mathematics and marriage). I like this territory because it provides such good information about where and how we live now, at Calvin College and thereafter.

"Job Mocked by His Wife" painting

"Job Mocked by His Wife" (1630s), Georges de la Tour (1593-1652), Musée Departemental des Vosges, Éspinal

Your education professor, unfortunately, was perhaps a little too playful, if that’s possible — misterogyny is an entertaining possibility for the concept you asked about, but the professor almost certainly knew that there is a word that is exactly what you were looking for. It is misandry (pronounced mis-ANN-dree), and, by extension, a person who is characterized by his or her hatred of men is a misandrist. Lexically speaking, these words make perfect partners with misogyny and misogynist, and both of them keep their distance from misanthropy, which is merely the hatred or distrust of humankind in general. Misandrists and misogynists, on the other hand, hold one gender or the other as being more vicious or despicable, with the sometimes unspoken but implied possibility that the other gender may be more virtuous than the other. (Here I cannot resist the impulse to note briefly the larger families that these words belong to, even if there’s neither time nor space to comment on those families: misandry is related to androcentric, androecium, androgen and philander, while misogyny is related to gynococracy, gynoecium, gynecology and queen; the two words cohabit in androgyny, as you probably already know.)

Almost no one would ask if there is such a thing as misogyny; the hatred or suspicion of women is as old as the ages, and it comes to the foreground in the most amazing places, including love poetry. But there are many who would be surprised to learn that there is also such a thing as misandry. You, Ms. Vanden Bosch, are alert enough to realize that there is such a phenomenon, although you weren’t aware that there is a word for it. You are part of a large and fortunate majority whose awareness of the existence of such hatred or distrust is in place but who are not aware that this is an issue of great relevance to many people today. Even a brief season of Googling will land you and your browser in the middle of more than 12,000 links and a cause. Nearly four years ago, for instance, McGill-Queen’s University Press published Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture, by Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young. Here’s a blurb that accompanies one Web site’s reporting on the book (www.fathers.ca/spreading_misandry.htm):

Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young argue that men have routinely been portrayed as evil, inadequate, or as honorary women in popular culture since the 1990s. These stereotypes are profoundly disturbing, the authors argue, for they both reflect and create hatred and thus further fracture an already fractured society. In Spreading Misandry they show that creating a workable society in the twenty-first century requires us to rethink feminist and other assumptions about men.

There is even a Society for the Prevention of Misandry in the Media, headquartered in New Hampshire, and I have recently heard related concerns from the Reverend Eugene Rivers, a civil rights prophet who preached at Calvin College about the need to undo the damage done to the image of fathers as they are portrayed in popular television shows and in the movies. When religious-studies scholars in Canada, media activists in New Hampshire and a minister in Boston are sounding the same alarms, something interesting is happening.

As you probably know, Calvin College has offered a gender studies minor for the last few years, and you can be certain that issues related to misogyny and misandry are high on the list of concerns within this interdisciplinary course of study. But for you and for your friends, Ms. Vanden Bosch, keep at least this in mind: hatred is a bad foundation, even if some male behavior is despicable, even if men are remarkably easy to hate. But you already knew that, if you’re studying at Calvin College. And, although often attractive, misanthropy is not a big improvement on these more narrowly focused forms of hatred.

Sincerely yours,
Anonymous Bosch

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