If you ever forget that we live in a world that favors men over women, all you need to do is look at the praise of “great” men throughout history. Their sexism, misogyny, oppression, and actual crimes against women are ignored, forgotten, or overlooked because of their “great” contributions to humanity. Apparently, as long as men somehow benefit from these contributions, it doesn’t matter that women suffered because of them. These men have been idolized for shaping our history. They shaped our history, alright: they shaped it around the belief that women are secondary and inconsequential—a belief that persists in our society and culture today. So without further ado, here are the founding fathers of patriarchy and gender inequality:
1. Thomas Jefferson
He wrote the Declaration of Independence, he became the third president of the U.S., he founded the University of Virginia—oh, and he owned hundreds of slaves, one of them being Sally Hemings, who had his children after he raped her. That’s right: one of our so-called founding fathers was a racist and a rapist. And yet he continues to go down in American history as one of the greatest men to have ever lived. But great to whom? Certainly not to women or people of color.
2. Mahatma Gandhi
People frequently use Gandhi as cultural shorthand for a good, fair, and just human being. He led India to independence through his teachings of nonviolence, thereby landing himself in the historical hall of fame for being a do-gooder. Well, people might want to start using someone else as an example when describing morality, considering that Gandhi was a misogynistic rape apologist. He viewed menstruation as the "manifestation of the distortion of a woman's soul by her sexuality." And he forced two of his female followers to cut their hair short after being sexually assaulted so as not to warrant further assault, because he believed men could not control their urges with regards to forcing themselves upon women. Fuck that dude.
3. Sigmund Freud
When people think of the field of psychology, people think of Sigmund Freud. The notion of the “Freudian slip”, psychoanalysis, and Freud’s psychosexual theory of development (oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital) are some of the most significant contributions to psychological thought ever. But more and more people are wising up to the fact that Freud was actually more of a fraud. Most of today’s professionals and experts view many of Freud’s ideas as being outright false. He suggested that cisgender women experience penis envy and distance themselves from their mothers at a young age because "girls hold their mother responsible for their lack of a penis and do not forgive her for their being thus put at a disadvantage." But wait—there’s more: many of his thoughts with regard to female psychology were based on his belief that women’s lives were dominated by their sexual reproductive functions. Additionally, he postulated in his work that "women oppose change, receive passively, and add nothing of their own." I think it’s safe to say that Freud adds nothing without a big ol’ heaping of sexist bullshit on the side.
He’s known as a great philosophical thinker. His teachings built the foundation upon which Chinese society was built—hence why much of contemporary Chinese culture is still blatantly patriarchal and misogynistic. Here were some of Confucius’ thoughts on women:
" A woman's duty is not to control or take charge.”
"The woman with no talent is the one who has merit."
"Women are to be led and to follow others."
"Women's nature is passive."
"Disorder is not sent down by Heaven, it is produced by women."
Confucius say… never to recognize him as great ever again.
His teachings of compassion, meditation, and wisdom laid the foundation for a religion that 10% of the world’s population still currently practices—which is why it’s so unfortunate that many of his teachings and beliefs are inherently sexist. For example, there are more rules for nuns than there are more monks because they have the additional burden of not arousing the desires of men. In the texts, monks are seen as the embodiment of enlightenment, while women are seen as the embodiment of death. Additionally, Buddha had the following to say about women:
“It is better for you to have put your manhood in the mouth of a venomous snake or a pit of burning charcoal than a woman.”
“Of all the scents that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. Of all the tastes that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. Of all the voices that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. Of all the caresses that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman.”
Keep in mind, these beliefs and ideals influenced one of the world’s largest religions. Thanks for teaching a majority of the world that women are inherently bad, Buddha. Thanks a bunch!
There you have it: history’s five greatest undercover misogynists, exposed at last. Of course, the list of misogynistic men who have gone down in history for their “greatness” is much, much longer than this list of five. The next time you are reminded of a “great” man, do some research and see if he’s truly great—or just great at being a sexist dickhead.