Misogyny, Machismo, and the Media

Women around the globe are facing both subtle and not so subtle challenges to some of their freedoms.  Men in our societies are receiving conflicting messages about what it means to be a man, what strength means, and some media or entertainment sources are contributing to this.  Popular figures who center their messaging around misogynistic ideologies have also found an audience, especially with males between the ages of 17-45.  Their influence and the impacts that come with that are undeniable.  Some media or entertainment sources also echo this type of messaging and become like an echo chamber, normalizing toxic masculinity.  Some of the consequences of all of this are that laws or policies are creeping up around the world that not only disadvantage women but do damage to them in multiple ways.

When we look at what it means to be a man, we need to also think about who gets to decide that.  Men can be feminists too, and although the word feminist in some circles is looked at as a dirty word, it doesn’t have to be.  In fact, it can highlight allyship and care for women in our families, communities, and societies at large.  Healthy societies should include women at tables where important discussions are being had, where decisions are being made, in workplaces, and in our educational institutions as well.

The concept of mentorship can be a positive force in our lives but, just like a superhero with superpowers, we can choose to use our powers for good or to do damage. The weight of our words can be powerful, and messages that are repeated over time carry a significant impact—one that can’t be measured until damage is done to our freedoms through policies or legal avenues.  We may not even necessarily be aware of our influence but those in positions of power or with followings must be careful of the power that comes with their voices or through the ballpoint of a pen.

While misogyny is not a new concept, it’s making waves in certain areas of society that may, in some ways, seem subtle, but can be linked back to more sinister forces.  Incel communities or men who feel left behind in certain ways are looking to figures that they can identify with.   Men like Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan Tate are revered in certain circles of young men.  Their message or ideology of what it means to be a powerful and strong man while at a first glance can seem motivating could also be looked at as damaging, especially when it comes to how women are viewed.  The Tate brothers take issue with men who say they are depressed or come off as weak, they encourage a strong man take on how men should approach life.  They look at women as something to be looked after or in some cases manipulated, they encourage a “bro” culture where men come first and women are to be sensitive sources of support, and if they question or assert independence, are to be discarded.  The Tate brothers have been successful in distributing this messaging on social media, through their “Hustler University” platform, through workshops, and during interviews with certain media personalities.  While their ability to spread their ideologies could be considered unique, their patriarchal ideas are not.  When you scratch the surface of their work hard, stay motivated sentiments, you see a darker side that has also led the brothers into trouble with the law.  When women are seen as commodities or as something that can be manipulated, this can lead to dehumanizing them.

Rape culture, assaults, psychological manipulation are all forms of violence that not only put women at risk but also the young males who are looking to figures like the Tate brothers to be mentors or models that they should follow.  The definition of a real man should be one that is left up to how a man would like to self-identify.  It doesn’t necessarily make a man weak to express emotions, to seek help, or to consent with the females in their lives regarding how they would like to be treated.  Our media and entertainment outlets also have a responsibility to make sure that they are not complicit in highlighting or spreading the message of machismo unchecked.

Some of what is considered news or entertainment type news programming in the Fox News division can be linked to spreading toxic masculinity type messaging and a divisive type of ideology.  Programs hosted by past employees of Fox News, like Tucker Carlson, or even current employees, like Sean Hannity, have done damage to some of those who view and follow them.  Their messaging of otherism when describing marginalized communities or women creates a clear-cut division of who should have power and control in society.  These sentiments serve as another platform to encourage negative discourse or division.  Over the years both Carlson and Hannity have praised strong men type personalities—like Donald Trump, who in his own right has contributed to damaging sentiments towards women, such as when Trump was caught on a hot mic from an Access Hollywood tape and was heard talking about sexually assaulting women.  His supporters called this “locker room talk” and Fox News hosts gave him cover by downplaying this type of talk.  But things that fall under the category of “locker room talk” can be damaging and can add fuel to a flame that has already been burning bright when it comes to how women are viewed.  Chalking things up to “boys will be boys” or it’s just what men say in a locker room, once again dehumanizes women.  Aggressive masculine pride or sweeping these types of conversations under the rug leads to bigger issues like for example, the Hockey Canada sexual assault scandal.  A culture of some of their junior hockey players being involved with sexual assault investigations since 1989 and by also settling one of those cases in 2022 has lent itself to normalizing toxic masculinity.  Language is important, and it can lend cover to the other behaviors that can be influenced by the normalization of misogynistic ideologies.

We should recognize that no nation or community is an island and that there are global implications to fanning the flames of anti-feminist sentiments.  Misogyny is not new, as was mentioned before; it can come in all sorts of forms and packaging, but we all have a responsibility to make sure that we don’t normalize it.  It’s not ok and it doesn’t just happen in isolated cases.  When we look at the steady increase of domestic violence incidents being reported across Canada or the fight against gender-based violence in Brazil, we can conclude that these issues aren’t isolated.  Other issues that women around the globe are facing are things like gender apartheid in Afghanistan and Iran, the loss of reproductive rights in certain states in America, or even countries like Uganda looking at repealing laws to safeguard against female genital mutilation (FGM).  We sometimes think that certain things can’t happen to us or in our own backyards, but places like Afghanistan or Iran weren’t always places that had regressive laws impacting their women.  Sentiments or ideologies that negatively impact women can affect or inspire policies or laws in a slow and steady way.  No nation is truly isolated, and ideologies can influence other nations.  Things that affect all of us never truly happen overnight, it takes time to create change whether it’s for bad or good.

What can we do to make a difference or to stop ideologies that hurt women?  We can educate ourselves and those around us, we can advocate for laws that will protect our most vulnerable communities, and we can vote.  Voting can seem like such a small act, but elections have consequences.  Civil service is also important; running for office, boards, or committees can be a huge way to contribute as well.  We can also volunteer for organizations that help educate and champion the importance of women’s rights.  At the end of the day, we are all more connected than we know.  The health of our communities and societies depends on how we treat our most vulnerable.  We must try to leave things better for those that come up behind us, and it’s up to all of us to try to leave things better than when we first found them.