The ‘American Office’ is possibly one of my favourite shows ever. Producer Greg Daniels ticks all my boxes; The Office is hilarious, warm, saturated with “that’s what she said” jokes, and most importantly, has Dwight Shrute in it. I love the show to the extent that I have watched every single episode a minimum of three times, and still find it extremely difficult to fault any of them.

Extremely difficult, but unfortunately not impossible. It causes me deep pain to admit that whilst I see what the writers were trying to do, I’m not a major fan of Creed’s character. It pains me even more to admit that I’m a little critical of the brilliant Women’s Appreciation episode, where Phyliss gets flashed, Dwight sets up an ‘Anti Flashing Task Squad’ and bans all bananas from the office as his first act. If I haven’t sold the episode to you with that, then hopefully I can sell it to you by posing an interesting discussion.

During one of Michael’s nonsensical conference room meetings, the intelligent Karen Filippelli labels Michael a misogynist. Despite desperately wanting to be loved by everyone; Michael is surprisingly relieved to hear this. He says triumphantly, “Thank you!” When a baffled Karen retorts “What I’m saying is, you’re being sexist”, it is only then that Michael becomes offended. “No…I’m being misogynist. Thats insane. I’m not being sexist”. The characters and audience mentally facepalm because Michael thinks that sexism and misogyny are different things. This is clarified by Karen’s second comment, “That’s the same thing!” It’s a joke that’s both funny and informative… right?

Wrong. Contrary to popular belief, sexism and misogyny are not synonymous.  It’s a belief so popular it is relayed by a widely watched US show, without any of the professional writers, producers, or directors questioning it. The dictionary definition of sexism is “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex”. Alternatively, misogyny is “the hatred or dislike of women or girls”. The two seem incredibly similar, but in my opinion, it is possible for someone to be sexist without being misogynistic. If someone uses the word “slut”to describe a woman, but wouldn’t do so to describe a man who is equally as sexually active, I would label them as sexist.

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

They have subconsciously taken on the traditional, dominant belief that a woman’s sexuality should be controlled. However, I would not consider them to inherently hate or dislike women. I believe that “hate” and “dislike” are active words, but acts of sexism can be committed without much thought due to the age old prevalence of the patriarchy in our society. I have a male friend who has made several sexist comments, but soon realises that they are not acceptable when he sees how irate they make me, a woman. If he was a misogynist, it’s likely that he wouldn’t account for my feelings or take my opinion seriously, as you normally wouldn’t with someone you disdain.

However, it is possible to see how the two terms crossover. A chief executive could express a hatred for women through paying his female employees less than their male counterparts, a sexist act. Furthermore, you could argue that all acts of discrimination against women stem from a deeply subconscious hatred of women. This could be the case sometimes, but I believe that the vast majority of sexist acts occur because of age old social norms being imposed on individuals, who very much love their mothers, girlfriends, sisters and aunties.

Plus, it is possible for a feminist to make a sexist comment. The other day I stupidly said “female doctor”. Those two words suggest that the profession is associated with the male gender only, and thus if a doctor is a woman her gender must be clarified. This is discrimination against women, but not a comment in which I express my hatred towards women. I definitely do not hate women.

Some of my best friends are… Anyway, you get my drift.  Sexism does not equal misogyny. Both are wrong and very real, but misogyny has darker connotations. It’s a term that should be used correctly in everyday life and popular culture, rather than just being inserted anywhere. That’s what she said.