‘If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that ...” began Raymond Moore earlier this week. Moore is the chief executive of a major sporting institution, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It almost doesn’t even matter what came after that initial phrase except to know that those who should be thanked are men.
Telling women to be on their knees to their menfolk is an image designed to put women in their place, to remind women that power rests with men. Men are the benefactors and women their slaves; men act as gods in the world and women should kiss their husband’s feet. That women who are beaten should be grateful to have a husband, or not be killed, simply for being female. Women are just as capable of perpetuating these misogynistic ideas.
Misogyny excuses itself in myriad ways. The question is, how can you tell whether you are part of the problem?
Here’s a handy guide I’ve devised for you: Misogyny Bingo. If you’ve made these statements or agree with them, then it’s time to look at how subtle and deep misogyny runs.
"Women should learn to take a compliment" is one that's being trotted out recently by Donald Trump's supporters, every time a woman reporter is reduced by him to her looks only. When The Washington Post deputy digital editor Karen Attiah was incensed by Mr Trump calling her "beautiful", Twitter responded by claiming she should be thankful for the comment, not angry about being objectified. Reducing women to pretty little things is misogyny pure and simple.
“But it’s just business” is one statement by a person who claims its not their own attitudes that are the problem, but it’s the market that decides worth, so it can’t be a misogynistic attitude. That’s what tennis champion Novak Djokovic said backing up Mr Moore’s argument that, apparently, male tennis players bring in all the money. The simple answer is that if attitudes about men and women were on a par, the enjoyment level of women’s sport would automatically be the same.
“Women don’t have the experience or expertise” is an excuse used when women are absent as TV interviewees or on expert panels. That’s because they aren’t invited, denied opportunity, respect and recognition. It happens even when women are experts. BBC Radio 4 infamously claimed after a live discussion on breast cancer featuring only men that there were no women to speak on the subject.
When communities are under fire, women are told not to shout about their double oppression – as minorities and as women – “the time is not right”. I see it happening before my own eyes in the Muslim community. Hush, little Muslim woman, don’t cry “misogyny”, we’re fighting a bigger battle, they say. The irony is that the privilege of being a male – yes, even a Muslim male who does suffer huge discrimination – creates further levels of discrimination, of being oppressed and then silenced by your own community.
Which of course leads to the most ridiculous and last resort of misogynistic excuses “what about the men?” Of course male victims should be supported, but to deny women’s disproportionate suffering and then deny the space to raise the issues is misogyny.
If you hear any of these, shout: “Misogyny Bingo!” Listen carefully, because these excuses are everywhere. It’s your job to call them out.
Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www. spirit21.co.uk