Ben Babcock's Reviews > Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice

Misogyny by Jack Holland
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Mar 17, 09

bookshelves: non-fiction, borrowed, culture, 2009-read, history, gender-issues
Read in March, 2009

How many people have sat down one day and said, "Gee, I think I need to learn more about the history of misogyny!"? I did! I saw my coworker reading this and expressed interest in it. Unfortunately, I don't think the brief part of A Brief History of quite sank in at the time ... I was expecting something a bit more....

For anyone largely uninitiated into gender issues or the history of misogyny, I would recommend this book as a good read. Holland is a good writer, and he covers the subject comprehensively. However, the book was difficult to finish. It didn't pull me into the analysis of misogyny like I had hoped. This book suffers from several oversights or deficiencies that don't detract from the material in the book so much as they prevent the book from achieving its full potential.

Firstly, it should be called A Brief Western History of Misogyny. Jack Holland starts in ancient Greece and Rome and works his way up to Victorian Britain and 1960s America. Yes, he briefly detours into pre-colonial India and China, and toward the end he turns his gaze on Taliban Afghanistan and the Muslim Middle East. Overall, however, his overview of misogyny is written from a Western perspective. It's understandable, since most of modern society can trace its roots to ancient Greece and Rome. However, I would have liked to hear in more detail about the other ancient cultures that contributed to modern society (mostly Eastern cultures), as well as a little expansion into tribal Africa.

Secondly, Holland's adherence to the historical pattern of development is often at odds with his tendency to draw parallels to the various contributing factors toward misogyny (his favourite appears to be dualism). This is why I had to force myself through some parts--they just felt very dry.

Finally, I think Holland over-extends his analysis a little too much. I do agree when he points out the misogynistic aspects of the Holocaust, of Nazism, of communism, etc. Sure, fine. However, these mentions feel more cursory than other areas of the book. I don't think he did these topics justice.

A Brief History of Misogyny is exactly as advertised. It's brief, and it's a history. It's comprehensive and informative. It's not an incredibly entertaining book, so if you're worried your non-fiction enthusiasm is waning, don't read this book right now. On the other hand, if you're like me and spontaneously develop a desire to learn more about misogyny, then this book will serve that purpose fine.
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