with a smile and a back handed put down disguised as a compliment.
dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.
By this definition, I have been and continue to struggle with misogyny on a daily basis in almost every interaction I embark upon. This is what I am laughing at, sadly, when I listen to Amy Schumer and perhaps every other female comic. I laugh, I get it – if you are female, you get it but you don’t talk about it. Feel sad about this, so sad – am struggling with words.
Recently, I joined a Dojo. And ye-es I have absolutely no right to be there. But I did ring and explain my qualifications (2 classes of Pilates per week and occasional yoga attempts) to the Sensei prior to showing up masquerading as a person who could possibly do this.
The class was, all blokes – who admittedly were not exactly in peak condition. Who is after 40 years of the modern diet, post industrial social isolation and failing at perfection? I did not know exactly what to expect. I was there for my body. Sitting in a chair for hours on end, is what counselling requires but not what spinal alignment needs. Someone suggested martial arts. I’ve tried everything else, except a new career – why not this. So I went. I think in truth, I compared martial arts to some kind of dance form and sort of blanked out around the part where you could maybe ‘hurt’ someone.
I encountered a bit of misogyny from the well meaning and slightly aged Sensei, who ‘gets away with what follows’, due to his status as a baby boomer and the fact that probably ‘he doesn’t know any better’. At a certain point, regardless of political self righteousness,the path of least resistance is the road less travelled and the path of prudence. And also, on this occasion – the one I took.
Prepare for jaw dropping shock. I was attempting to blend in to the back row. As I had practiced many times in High School, on the bus home from High School, in multiple lectures over the years. I was pretty sure I had this down pat. But no! Being the only ‘girl’, I became an object of interest.
“What is she doing here?” My explanation which consisted largely of a desire to strengthen my body and reduce back pain, seemed to the Sensei – highly suspicious.
The Martial Arts Class I attended was not just movement, I was surprised about this. But then some yoga teachers like to have a chat in class and give their 50 cents worth on your reason for being. So ‘being talked at’ was not entirely unexpected, being noticed and the way I was noticed – was a bit of a surprise.
Took me a couple of weeks before I realised the Sensei was picking on me. Had to run the verbal diarrhoea part of the class by Clangers to be sure. I thought, ‘fine, no problem – I am just there for the class’ and at the same time, my body was getting stronger at a rate approaching light speed so leaving – highly undesireable. I only twigged because I started to notice getting scared or maybe it was anxiety, I just started to feel something like dread before classes.
The Sensei said many things, perhaps trying to bait me – to see what I would do. Mostly I am a daydreamer in classes so I missed them. I end up day dreaming because there is a lot of narcissistic waffle in classes. I managed to tune in when something useful is being said. So I arrived with a start when I noticed the Sensei wobbling on about Bushido Code, missed most of this but what I heard was …
‘something, something … “older women want to learn martial arts because they need male attention”
I realised – he meant “me” … PROBLEM! MISOGYNIST DETECTED
I was like, to myself in the privacy of my own mind, ‘male attention, or lack of – not the problem, not so much’. So many things I could say and thought.
He couldn’t see me or my situation, or my identity, history or person – at all. Never would. What he saw – was assumptions about every failed female relationship that made up his past. He saw his mother being beaten by his father and blamed womanhood for the self hatred and loathing he experienced, as he drowned in impotence unable to protect her or recover from what he had witnessed a man do to a woman. He was a man. Men hurt women, ‘I am a man so I …?’ How does he make sense of this? He becomes – the abuser? … I mean ‘martial artist’.
All this lurked in the background of his mind where connection and the essence of the feminine had to flee to survive. All of this was waiting to protect, I mean project on to … little old me.
Some stories lack a tight satisfying ending. There is an ending to this chapter, but the story continues. My Sensei, as he is now – was not an “opponent”, he is far from worthy – skilled in Martial Arts though he is. I found one opening, a weak spot … if you watch an adversary long enough, a weakness can always be found and I attacked, not to harm but to civilize. To say more would reveal too much.
Warriors are found in many forms but true Warriors have honour and follow not just the form of a code, but also its essence. The body can always be vulnerable, but the mind, pending the clarity of … is another story entirely.