Came across a passage in a book recently (I read daily no matter what else is going on in my life) lamenting how we don't have a real word for men who kill women, whereas the term "man-hater" is used so often you would think actual harm is caused by those accused of being one. And even though not new, this observation still strikes me every time I see it. They also rightly asserted that while we do have "misogynist", this too clinical and too academic-sounding word doesn't do the concept justice.
It's ironic that man-hater is usually directed at those who don't actually hate men, but who do object to hateful actions that hurt everyone. Man-hater is especially lobbed against those who question the status quo, and who fight to eradicate gender inequality. Actually, no, you just have to look like you're not living up to outdated gender expectations and you can expect to have this word spat out at you. Feminist is another term that when not used by like-minded peers, is more apt to be hissed, snarled, or accompanied by spittle than merely said. Just like the term "man-hater", these words are often hurled in anger or contempt. Fear too, because how dare people, women especially, assert their right not to be subservient. An interesting word, subservient, as you can practically see the words serve, servile and servant floating within it.
Man-hater. But if you think about it, how many acts of physical violence resulting in bodily harm or death are caused by these so-called man-haters? How many injuries, rapes, other sexual assaults, or murders? Leaving verbal and other forms of violence aside for now, how much physical damage do victims of man-hating actually endure?
Then think about the instances of physical assault, sexual assault, rape and death experienced by women. Without even looking up statistics, I know the numbers are staggering and frightening, but woman-hater isn't a term that's regularly used to describe the perpetrators of these acts. One could argue however, that evidence indicates we live in a rape culture, which is part of a larger woman-hating culture. So why is the more accurate term woman-hater rarely used?
Another word that I almost never see used relates to dehumanization. Loosely defined, to dehumanize refers to an act or process of depriving a person or group of human qualities. A terrible thing, obviously. A synonym for this is animalize, meaning to cause to be or act like an animal. Leaving aside the inherent anthropocentric bias (we've all heard phrases like, they're no better than animals!), why (and this is more of a rhetorical question) do we not use the term deanimalize to describe a similar process against animals?
A paltry 2,540 results when Googled, it seems to me that this lack of acknowledgement of the horrendous injustice done to individual beings and groups on a daily and worldwide basis deserves greater use of the term. We routinely strip animals of their animalhood (personhood some would even say), that is, the essential qualities that make them a sentient being and not an object, and don't give it a second thought. It begins with the use of the word "it" to describe most animals instead of he or she, words like pork instead of pig, beef instead of cow, television commercials about eggs that don't even show or mention chickens, and of course the routine farming practices we all abhor. Language is twisted and doesn't include the appropriate naming of what would be considered theft, kidnapping, rape and murder if the victims were human.
Animals, male and female, old and young, sick and healthy, are instead treated as inanimate objects, products of consumption and cogs of a vast and vile agricultural machine. In short, living beings with their own interests are rendered invisible, and the very act of invisibling is made invisible for most people as well. So another word almost completely missing from our vocabulary is animal-hater, and really, what word better describes a person who kidnaps and kills without fear of punishment because of a victim's species? Animal-hating (even though it isn't defined as such) is very much a part of our culture and that of others, so it seems absurd to have many who condone animal cruelty refer to themselves as animal-lover simply because they favour a couple of specific species. Love isn't even necessary; animal-respecter would be nice enough.
Man-hater, animal-lover. Woman-hater, animal-hater. So much hate, but not enough words to identify accurately where the real hatred is coming from, and whom it's actually aimed at. A lot of fakery in other words, and sadly, in today's political climate, even the word "fake" is now failing. The difference between fake and genuine was once more easily discerned, but nowadays fake seems to be applied by some to anything they don't want to hear. In some ways even topsy-turvy is now better thought of as turvy-topsy, as if things weren't bad enough before.
Words fail when they mean the exact opposite, when they conceal what's really going on, and when we don't even have proper names to describe what's happening. Words in this post fail too, of course, because of what I've left out. While I've talked (the words briefly outlined would perhaps be more accurate) about some of the words that fail women and animals, I haven't even touched upon words that fail humans who, for example, aren't white. And I haven't mentioned the most important word, the word that's at the heart of misnaming or not naming at all, and the word at the root of harm to different groups of beings whether based on categories like class, race, gender, ability, orientation or even species.
I love words, but even I often fail to do them, and you the reader, any real justice.