MI·SOG·Y·NY. HIJACKED BY PEDANTS
I’m starting to feel pretty worn down by the commentary surrounding the Prime Minister’s speech on sexism and misogyny.
Not because the debate has been heated (it has) not because it’s been partisan (it has) and not even because it has been used as a springboard for even more sexist insults directed not just at the PM, but at women in general (if you are a masochist, have a look at the comments on Andrew Bolt’s blog).
No. What’s depressing me is how reductive and pointless the majority of the arguments have been.
If one more person starts their speech or article with the phrase, ‘the dictionary definition of misogyny is,’ I will go postal.
For a start, unless you’re on a high school debating team, you really should be capable of an argument more complex than ‘I looked up a word. So there.’
Secondly, as any high school debater will tell you, ‘the dictionary’ does not exist. This isn’t Lord Of The Rings, there is no one dictionary to rule us all. A fifteen year-old can tell you that you have to actually reference which dictionary you’re quoting from.
Labor Minister Bill Shorten defined misogyny on Q and A Monday night as a hatred or prejudice against women. It’s a subtle but important difference to the definition that’s been used by the majority of the media that defines the word as simply ‘hatred of women’. The definition Shorten was referring to exists. Firstly in the Oxford dictionary and as of today, in the Macquarie as well.
In explaining their updated definition, the editor of the Macquarie Susan Butler (pictured right, image via AFR) said, “The extended meaning was not created (during the current debate), just made highly visible. And so we felt the need to keep the record of the language up to date, and to adjust the entry at misogyny to cover its current use.”
While referring to the modern definition of misogyny, Shorten was lectured by host Tony Jones who said, “you’ve redefined a word that’s in the dictionary to suit your own means”. This was then backed up by a male audience member, who continually kept quoting this same mysterious ‘dictionary’ as if it was the bible. The same argument had also played out in The Australian over the weekend.
It was at this point that I started yelling at the television, “Which bloody dictionary? If you’re going to dismiss an entire debate, at least quote your source!”
And then I sat back and thought, who the hell cares about the definition? Seriously, how the hell did we allow the opportunity for an important discussion to be hijacked by such pedantry?
We should be discussing how misogyny manifests itself in our society. We should be talking about how the gendered abuse directed at our Prime Minister is affecting all women.
Quibbling over definitions is utterly trivialising the issue.
During the same episode of Q and A, Jones asked the panel to comment on whether former Speaker Peter Slipper’s text messages were sexist or not. It was a serious discussion and along with the women on the panel both The Project host Charlie Pickering and Bill Shorten offered a strong point of view.
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