Critique of Joan Smith`s Misogynies

Critiqueof Joan Smith’s Misogynies

Critiqueof Joan Smith’s Misogynies

Misogyniesis a collection of articles that talk about women-hating culture inpolitics, religion, literature, history, and popular culture. Thebook makes an interesting argument on how women are depicted aslow-life creatures in the society who are dependent upon males. Thearticles narrate about different incidences where women werediscriminated against due to their sex in a male-dominated society.Misogyny can be manifested in many ways such as sexualdiscrimination, hostility, violence against women, belittling andsexual objectification of women. Misogyny is central in sexistprejudice and ideology. Therefore, it forms the basis of oppressionof females in the male-dominated societies. Smith feels thatgender-specific behavior enforces unnatural separation of men andwomen. The author wants to create an open dialog between the sexesthat will result in healthy relationships.

Thebook describes issues that have burdened women for many years. Womenhave always been looked down upon in the society. Divisions have beenset up since ancient time where specifics roles were assigned to acertain gender. Roles such as cooking, looking after children and thefamily have always been associated with women. Even in education,technical subjects such sciences and courses such as engineering areconsidered masculine. The author enlightens the society that thepractices that have diminished women since time in memorial need tobe reformed. The author unmasks the evidence of a rampantmisogynistic contemporary culture in the society. Through coveringthe Yorkshire Ripper case, Smith comes to the realization that thesociety was not only sexist but also potentially lethal for women.

Accordingto the author, the world is full of men who mistreat women anddestroy their self-respect (Smith, 1989). Smith tries to expose howoppression of women is considered as acceptable in the society. Sheuses the Yorkshire Ripper’s case to bring this practice to light byevaluating the misogynistic opinions and actions held by the policeduring the investigation. In the article “There’s Only OneYorkshire Ripper,” smith describes how a serial killer, PeterSutcliffe, escaped police capture even though he had been interviewedseveral times. The author highlights the mistakes the police made intheir investigations. Many errors were made that led to the policesearching for the wrong suspect created by their own presumptions.The suspect was thought to be targeting prostitutes. This was amisogynistic approach by the police as they any woman walking aloneat night was a prostitute. As a result, certain victims unrelated tothe case who matched the profile were included and others who werethe Sutcliffe’s victims eliminated.

TheRipper killing prostitutes was understandable. When the killer turnedto killing other respectable women, the police considered that theRipper’s madness had started to manifest. From this view point, itseems that it was acceptable for the Ripper to kill prostitutes butillegal to kill normal women. The police had forgotten that evenprostitutes are still women and should receive a fair share ofjustice. In fact, most of the women labeled as prostitutes by thepolice were ordinary women whose daily routines had been misjudged.The police insistence that the Ripper’s victims were of loose moralcharacter made them exclude important clues and victims. Theirattitudes towards women and female sexuality blinded them and theycould not recognize the killer even after interviewing him multipletimes. As a result, the investigation dragged for years since theyspent time searching for the wrong person.

Smithtakes the position that murder crimes are often committed by men.However, this is a biased opinion and it is worth noting that womenare also involved in murder crimes. The author also criticizes thepolice as having little information to base to base theirinvestigation. She says that they rely on forensic evidence andsightings of the possible suspect by passers-by. However, forensicevidence is the only form of investigation that the police can relyupon since they do not have prior knowledge of who might be thesuspect. In addition, even if the perpetrator is known, he or shecannot be apprehended without the police collecting enough evidenceto charge the suspect in a court of law. Therefore, even thoughmistakes were made, it is not proper to criticize the police sincethey were doing the best they could to protect the society.

Policeofficers are not infallible and in the process of investigations,mistakes are common. Therefore, the officers cannot be entirelyblamed for lack of apprehending the suspect as soon as possible.Regardless, the mistakes committed in the murder investigation of theRipper were much pronounced and it is important that new approachesbe employed. One of the mistakes made was relating the letters andthe tape to the Ripper yet there were subtle evidences that ruledthem out. The lack of proper records and approaching theinvestigation from only one point of view turned out to be a hugeblunder on the part of the officers.

Theauthor gives a description of how women are blamed for wrong doingwithout considering the real cause of the problem. After beingarrested, certain people were quick to blame the Ripper’s wife forbeing behind his criminal behavior. According to Smith, this wasapproaching the case backwards since the suspect’s marriage wasactually a way of trying to contain his violence. In this sense, theman is assumed to be free of wrongdoing while the woman is the causeof misconduct. It is also important to note that the victims wereconsidered responsible for their deaths. It was thought that theirmoral behavior and the place they were at the time led them tobecoming victims. Therefore, the blame was being directed at thewomen rather than the perpetrator.

Inanother story described by Smith, women are represented as a personwith little power and are intellectually and morally weak creatures.Tereza, a woman in one of Kundera’s novels, constantly longs for aman so that her life can change and improve. When she meets Tomas,she happily accepts the existence defined by male superiority anddomination. Though the two characters, Zdena and Tereza, are unifiedin their fidelity, they have very different stories. Zdena was guiltyof being ugly. Her husband Mirek believes that Zdena does him wrongby being ugly. Smith portrays Kundera as being blind to the woman’shumanity because he cannot see beyond their sexuality. Appearance isregarded highly and if a woman’s appearance is undesirable, no manvalues her.

However,the author only selects convenient examples from history and turnsthe world into a dark women-hating place. Smith bases her argument onone side and fails to notice that even men are victims of crimes suchas murder. The book sometimes fails to give a proper basis for itsargument. In one of the cases, the author describes judge Miskinsentencing a murder suspect for “a mere six years in prison.” Yetthe author inadvertently praises the judge as a man with clear ideason the proper role of a wife (though she later discredits him). Thearticles also focus on one side of the argument and fail to evaluateother situations where males have advocated for the rights of women.

Theshort description of female characters in Kundera’s book depictshow women are belittled in the society as people of less value anddependent upon the man. However, Smith fails to realize that the menin Kundera’s novels are also dependent on women. For instance,Mirek’s affair with an ugly woman is reproached as a mistake.However, he owns his self-worth to Zdena as he was afraid to approachthe pretty ones. Though the story begins by portraying thesuperiority of men, it later becomes evident that they also dependheavily on women to define themselves and their personality. Thecouple, Tereza and Tomas, shows that there is more complexity to therelationship between men and women. Kundera’s books can bedescribed as being both antagonistic and empathetic towards women. Inher argument, Smith only looks at how women are portrayed and failsto notice the flaws in the men as well.

Theauthor also attributes misogynistic practices to males in thesociety. However, misogyny also exists among females and is sometimespracticed by women against themselves or other women. It is a commonideology that a woman’s worst enemy is a woman. In her book shenarrates about a film where a woman was murdered. The first idea thatcomes to mind is a male character is the perpetrator. However, afterher friends investigate, they discover a doctor who dresses as womanis the killer. The film portrays that it is the female version of thedoctor that is dangerous. Moving away from the film, such incidencesare common in today’s world, where women compete againstthemselves. This results in hatred feelings towards other women whoare seen as competitors. As such, describing men as misogynisticcharacters carries some degree of bias.

Thebook looks at historical injustices against women. When males wereapprehended for the crime of raping a woman, they were usually givenshorter sentences or sometimes allowed to go free. Therefore, therewas no justice in court from a woman’s perspective. The commonpractice since historical times has been to place women insubordination with limited access to power or decision-making. Eventoday, the role of women in the society is influenced by media andmultimedia objectification, culturally sanctioned upon self-loathingwith fixations on issues such as plastic surgery, anorexia andbulimia. With the advent of the internet and technology such associal media, misogynistic prevalence has become more aggressive. Theauthors of misogynistic messages tend to be anonymous hence difficultto identify. Misogynistic practices include the use of graphic andsexualized imagery that centers on women’s physical appearance.This prescribes sexual violence, especially for women who areperceived to be associated with feminism.

Itis arguable that the author takes an extreme and paranoid viewpoint.It is a fact that not all women in marriages are oppressed inmarriage. In fact, some women offer their submission without beingforced by their spouse. In addition, there are different types ofwomen with a wide spectrum of character none being inferior toanother. Since there are many shades of men and women in the society,there is no standard or typical character. What might be normal toone woman might be intolerable or considered misogynistic by another.Therefore, the concept of misogyny becomes paradoxical and complexunder certain circumstances.

Smithgoes to the extent of analyzing misogyny in religion. She describeshow the Church of England does not allow women priests. In the book,women that are often celebrated and held in high regards such asPrincess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, and the Virgin Mary are depicted asimprisoned in male fantasies and are allotted the status of eternalchildren (Smith,1989).Misogyny has become prevalent in certain popular cultures, such as inthe music industries. A number of hip hop and rap music containmisogynistic themes. There are many songs which contain explicitsexual content that portray women in offensive ways.

Inthe recent times, reformations in the legal sector have led to equalrepresentation of both men and women. During the time the book waswritten, there were many laws in place that advocated for the rightsof women. Therefore, incidences of women experiencing violence havereduced to some degree. It is also interesting to note that mencannot be entirely blamed for objectifying women. Today, women useself-objectification as a form of empowerment and perception ofself-worth. Actions by popular females such as musicians and actorshave affected the perception of women in the society.


Itis evident that the police committed many mistakes in the YorkshireRipper Investigation. The most notable aspect of the investigation ishow police officers made assumptions based on misogynistic opinions.Though Smith blames the police officers for the poor handling of thecase, it is also important to consider how investigations aredifficult to carry out. Police officers usually have no idea who thecriminal may be and have to rely on forensic evidence to lead them tothe suspect. However, it is worth noting that errors in the case wereas a result of poor relation and placement of evidence. Therefore,forensic analyses need to be thorough to prevent such mistakes fromhappening again in any other investigation.

Theauthor tries to address misogynistic practices in the society. Sheexplains how women have always been oppressed and attempts to provethat men are not better when compared to women. The description ofmistakes made by the officers is the author’s way of mocking men byshowing their failures. She attributes the inability to capture themurder suspect soon to their wrong perception about women. It isevident that the assumptions by the officers that the Ripper was onlytargeting women of loose morals was misguided and made them ignorethe clues that would have led to arrest of the suspect. Though theauthor is right to some extent, her argument is based on highlightingmen’s shortcomings and fails to consider other aspects of theinvestigations that led to underperformance.


Smith,J. (1989). Misogynies.London: Faber &amp Faber.