It's certainly true that women have, in many cultures and time periods, a lesser social or legal status than men that leaves them very vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and abuse. This trope is not about the realistic representation of this problem, but the way that media present it.
A No Woman's Land is a misogynist hell. Every husband is a lazy cheating bastard who beats his wife to a bloody pulp and sells his daughters to the highest bidder; blink the wrong way and you get burned as a witch; take a step out the door and you'll get raped on the spot; and every other girl is a prostitute and/or Sex Slave. It's a Crapsack World if you're a woman.
This is commonly used as to depict "abroad", either a specific nation or region or just "the other place with people who are different than us and are therefore of lesser quality", the Straw Misogynist trope applied on a wider scope. While the Arabic world is one of the most frequent receivers of this stereotype, India, Mayincatec societies, Southeast Asia, and the whole African continent don't get off well either. Asian movies have been known to depict Western nations this way, as well.
Related to Damsel in Distress. Compare Medieval Morons, which sees people of another time as essentially cruel and stupid. The Women Are Safe With Us is another form of contrasting the treatment of women to depict one group as more moral. Contrast Lady Land.
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Shitsurakuen. A metaphor for the callous ambivalence towards students being bullied pushed to Anvilicious levels. Girls in Utopia Gakuen are nothing but objects to be hoarded, fought over, abused, and discarded at leisure by the boys, who are universally depicted as doing so.
Lots and lots of Hentai. Let's just keep it at that.
The world of Berserk has made it quite clear that it wasn't easy to be a woman in The Middle Ages. Adding the fact that there are actual demons and monsters that want to do far worse than just eat you, it makes one wonder if the imagery of damsels being sacrificed to dragons really did the era any justice.
Women are forbidden from entering the Mount Kurama stronghold, home of the Tengu, in Kamisama Kiss. Naturally, Nanami doesn't let that stop her.
This is the case with Silverland, in Princess Knight. Women aren't allowed to vote or own property and generally are considered inferior to the men. In fact, one of the driving conflicts in the series is that the King and Queen's child, Sapphire, was born a girl and thus is ineligible for the throne. It's subverted at the end, when Plastic mans up, gets all women in the kingdom equal rights, and gives Sapphire the crown. Considering that the comic was written in The Fifties, this resolution was very much Fair for Its Day.
Implied to be the case in the towns the women of Iron Town came from, in Princess Mononoke. When Ashitaka comments on how hard they must work to run the furnace, they tell him that it's far better than the brothels they used to work at, mentioning that they're given plenty of food and protection from men harassing them. The men of Iron Town don't seem overly thrilled by how much freedom the women have, but everyone respects Lady Eboshi and she insists on the women being treated well.
The Fantastic Four ally Thundra (of Lady Land Femizonia) often finds herself pitted against Mahkizo of Machus, a world that is violently misogynistic. The two timelines are eventually merged; it's debatable if anyone's really any better off since the resulting world is still violent and deadly. There was one point where they learned to love each other, but that seems to have been forgotten.
Wartmonger society in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf is portrayed as misogynistic, with males and females segregated from each other except for matters of procreation and sexual amusement. Empath meets a few of the female Wartmongers who don't particularly like the situation that they live in, especially with King Bullrush's guards threatening to molest a young female Wartmonger if the others refuse to surrender Empath unto them.
Kazakhstan is portrayed this way in Borat: as a place where women are regularly raped and the only viable career choice is selling their bodies. Actual Kazakhstani people were not amused by their country's portrayal.
From the second Bridget Jones movie: she is in a women's prison in Thailand and all the other inmates talk casually about how their boyfriends abuse them. The implication seems to be that every Thai man abuses his girlfriend, while the Thai women are not only too weak to leave, they're even too stupid to realize that they're wronged. Slightly mitigated in that, being prison, this isn't an average cross section of society, and it's more An Aesop to show how minor Bridget's problems are in comparison.
See also Bangkok Hilton, which is a female-centered version of Midnight Express.
Kiss of the Dragon, a Jet Li vehicle set in Paris, plays this trope straight by having Bridget Fonda as a woman from some rural region in the US who was lured to France and ended up forced to work as a prostitute for the Big Bad. This may be more a part of the illegal immigration scare than France itself.
A particularly notorious use of the trope is the Hong Kong "Women in Prison" sexploitation flick Bamboo House of Dolls, in which the Japanese capture a bunch of American nurses in China during World War II and subject them and their Chinese cellmates to various forms of torture and sexual abuse. There may be some truth to that premise, though it's probably far from a documentary.
The Afghani film Osama exposes much of the misogyny that was hidden from Western eyes during the reign of the Taliban. A member of the morality police whacks a woman on her husband's bike because her ankles are visible. Later we see that the protagonist's family is on the verge of starvation because all the men are dead and thus none of the women can leave the house because they don't have a male escort. They are starving to death with a market right down the street.
Even though it wasn't the main theme of the film, CSA: The Confederate States of America briefly touches on the fact that women in the Confederate States of America never got the vote and, thanks to John Ambrose Fauntroy V's "Family Values" program, are allowed to be beaten by their husbands.
Stepford, where guys kill their wives and replace them with "perfect" robot women.
Gor most certainly is. Women are prized as objects of conquest, so in places where the risk of sudden seizure is great, High Caste Free Women are heavily covered to make raiders uncertain if they're worth the risk and accompanied by security level tantamount to house arrest, while slave girls are left exposed as the more attractive targets. In areas where the risk is slight (such as Torvaldsland, which is too cold for the flying Tarns, too rocky for mounted raiders, and longboat raids can be detected well in advance), the Free Women wear less cover and get ultimate political clout within their household... however, they can still be enslaved by their husbands. note Well, not really. Bera, Jarl's Woman of Svein Blue Tooth, despite being a notorious shrew and a colossal PITA, couldn't be enslaved out of hand; however, when the Kurii invaded and took a large number of prisoners, they collared a number of women (mostly intending to eat them later, but still) and the Torvaldslanders decided they would have to view this as the equivalent of enslavement by men (after the Kurii had been beaten and the women regained). Elsewhere, it's worth noting that Free Women have plenty of say in both Caste matters and city politics — except among Initiates, but the author is prone to slip in the odd Take That against religion — and are generally treated as objects of deference in their own cities. The point is that Svein was able to do it, and he wasn't shown to be one of the particularly cunning characters, he simply seized an opportunity. If Tarl or Forkbeard decided they wanted to enslave their wives, they could easily engineer the situation with the means a No Woman's Land society provides them.
The short story Taboos by Mary Caraker. Among other things, women are forbidden literacy.
Subverted in The Belgariad. Garion initially reacts poorly on finding out that Nadrak society dictates that women should have male "owners"... until learning that "ownership" works out to what is essentially a mutually beneficial business relationship instead of slavery. Most Nadrak women carry several knives to "chastise" a man who gets carried away, an act that is regarded approvingly by other Nadraks. The Murgos may be a somewhat more accurate example, as their views on maintaining pure bloodlines require their womenfolk to be sequestered and locked up most of the time. However, we only see three Murgo women with any character depth in the whole series, and none are very accurate examples of the culture. This all turns out to be very deliberate, since The Belgariad itself firmly established the heroes' racism, and the Mallorean showed them that the rest of the world was never as cut-and-dried as they always believe.
In L. Sprague de Camp's novel The Honorable Barbarian, princess Nogiri of Salimor comments that Kerin of Novaria, with whom she has just entered into a Citizenship Marriage, is an incredible man and husband and wonders why all Salimorese women don't go to Novaria to find such wonderful men. The primary reason she says this is that Kerin doesn't beat her when she argues with him.
Margret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale gives us the future Dystopia of Gilead, where women are second and-third-class citizens whose status is determined by their fertility. Taking it a step further, lesbians, rebellious women, and women with compromised fertility (which is the majority of them due to contamination and disease) are forced into prostitution if they're lucky or sent to work as slaves in toxic environments until they die horribly if they're not. This is made more disturbing by the fact that those who are charged with the task of indoctrinating women into such a life of servitude, The Aunts, are other women.
Barrayar in the Miles Vorkosigan series is a unique example where the No Woman's Land is both the protagonist's home country and is neither presented as a utopia nor dystopia, and they are becoming saner by the time of the story. Barrayaran women have no citizenship rights, and in Memory, when serving as the "Second" (read Best Man) at the Emperor Gregor's engagement party, he reads from a long list of traditional Admonitions to the bride which are clearly instructions for obedience. Pretty much every non-Barrayaran person Miles meets thinks of his country as a hellhole on this score. Then you meet Lady Alys, the Professora, etc. and learn law and practice are two different things.
Athos is a planet composed entirely of men, no women allowed whatsoever. It was founded by a gynophobic sect of Christianity, making it a Cult Colony as well. Thanks to "uterine replicators", they can actually make it work.
Grayson and Masada in the Honor Harrington stories are both introduced as gender-imbalanced worlds with obligate polygamy where women have no rights or access to education. The situation of women on Grayson and especially their marital arrangements are later portrayed in an idealized way, while Masada continues to be a rape-happydystopia, though Grayson is more chivalrous than Masada, and that their other hat is adaptability. Thus after exposure to foreign powers and particularly seeing Honor in action, they begin reforms. Still, their world suffers from a high mortality rate among male infants, so plural marriages remain a fact of life.
Sheri S. Tepper plays this trope for all it's worth. As her novels are primarily sci-fi/fantasy, example's of No Womans Land are not so much abroad as they are off-planet. Raising the Stones, Sideshow, Shadow's End, Gibbon's Decline and Fall offer examples of entire planets that are women-unfriendly. Subverted in Six Moon Dance.
Janine Cross' Dragon Temple Trilogy one-ups Gor: Women aren't just considered property, they're disposable property. They work, eat, and sleep separately from men. They sleep on raised mats so that their "filthy female secretions" don't desecrate the soil. "Unclaimed" women (adult women not taken as wives) are subject to becoming sex slaves (which is an express ticket to a horrible, diseased death). Those women who do have power only have that which is granted by the men in their lives (powerful husbands or male relatives). Those with Dhjibi blood (denoted by mottled skin) are doubly-disposable. Naturally, in their own lands, the Dhjibi have more or less equality of the sexes.
A healthy bit of Fridge Horror as well, since the author was Swedish and supposedly based on the book on real observations. If Sweden, vaunted for its gender equality, is such a Crapsack Country, what about the rest of the world?
The past is treated this way in Time Scout. Qurac is explicitly called as much. The downtimer Muslim cult is presented as rabidly misogynistic, especially hating the revived worship of Artemis because it has a female deity.
Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley has a post-apocalyptic dystopian society whose Religion of Evil labels women as vessels of the Unholy Spirit and breeders of filth. If they give birth to deformed babies (which they usually do), they are brutally whipped and their babies are ritually sacrificed to Belial.
Though averted in the canon Warrior Cats series, a plot in one roleplay is about a 'pseudoclan' (group of loners who are structured much like a Clan) called SkullClan which is basically this.
In general, most societies in the Dune universe are patriarchal —outside of the Bene Geserit sisterhood—, with women exposed to socially sanctioned subordination and violence; but the worst by far are the Bene Tleilax of Tleilaxu who labotomize all their female children and use genetic and biological engineering to convert them into giant, bloated, brainless uterus-machines used for organ-regeneration and cloning. The Bene Tleilax are also viciously xenophobic and jingoistic about their racial superiority, justified in part by their misogynistic theology, as they despise other cultures —and in particular the Bene Gesserit— which do not subjugate their women as totally or as absolutely as the Tleilaxu do.
Fremen society is patriarchal, and even though Fremen women are strong and fearless, they're still treated like subordinates. For example, a man dying at the hands of a woman is considered embarrassing, as Chani notes when she kills a man who wanted to duel with Paul in the first novel. Also, sietch leaders are always male. In Dune Messiah, Farok tells Scytale that Fremen sacrificed virgins to Shai-Hulud (a practice Farok thinks should return) before Liet-Kynes made them abolish the practice. Finally, male duel victors inherit the wives of their defeated foes as spoils of war, with the wives having no say in the matter.
Some Fremen men have no qualms about rape through force or deception. In Dune Messiah, Farok's son gives semuta to Otheym's daughter "in the hope of winning a woman of the [Fremen] for himself despite his blindness." Farok speaks casually about the conquest of Naraj and his son's forced impregnantion of Naraj women.
Farok: I find it curious, though, to know I have grandchildren on Naraj that I may never see.
The noble houses of Dune are rigidly patriarchal, headed only by men. Female nobles and concubines do find ways to manipulate events, but it is always behind the scenes. The noble houses also practice arranged marriage, or in Irulan's case, forced marriage.
Even the all-female Bene Geserit sisterhood doesn't fully escape this trope. Granted, Reverend Mothers wield a great deal of power, and the sisterhood provides women with elite training and avenues for getting ahead. However, the sisterhood also exerts rigid control over initiates' sexual and reproductive lives for the sake of its selective breeding program, deciding who they will marry, who they will have sex with, and when and if they will bear children. The idea that initiates might have other plans is never considered.
In It Can't Happen Here, the fascist Windrip regime robs women of many rights and bars them from most occupations, and the Minute Men (M.M.s) perpetrate atrocities against women with impunity. Lorinda and Sissy chafe under the regime's misogyny.
Armethalieh in The Obsidian Trilogy is this, to the extent that the high mages go as far as to erase women mages' memories and block parts of their brains rather than let them use — or even admit that they are capable of using — magic.
In Raymond E Feist's The Riftwar Cycle, there is an ethnic group called the Ashuntai who treat their women as property, to the point where women can be punished for wearing clothes.
This makes it all the more interesting when we learn that they are part of the same empire as another Ethnic group, the Brijaners, who worship women as sacred.
The settings of A Song of Ice and Fire are all hostile to women to varying extents, although Dorne is better than most and in at least one tribe of wildlings, women are encouraged to deal with an abusive husband by stabbing him in his sleep. The writer often uses female characters' story arcs to explore and criticize several sexist notions. For example, Sansa Stark becomes disillusioned when she realizes that highborn girls are treated like chattel by their fathers and husbands, Daenarys explicitly considers arranged marriage a form of slavery, and Arya witnesses firsthand the horrible brutality inflicted on peasant women. Cersei Lannister despite being in high position as Queen regent, her power and authority greatly depended on her son(s) being the king of Westeros, and she is mostly a pawn to other people, her Father Tywin Lannister, along with Littlefinger and Varys.
Subverted in The Stormlight Archive. While there are many societal roles that women are banned from filling (women can't be soldiers, rulers, or most kinds of artisan, for example), there are equally important societal roles that men are banned from filling. For example, it is considered profoundly immoral for men to learn to read or write, meaning that nearly all scholarly pursuits are woman-exclusive.
A Dr. Phil arc featured a girl (about 19) who moved to the Middle East to marry a boy she'd met on the Internet. The point was heavily delivered that if she married him while over there, she would lose all her rights as a person. So her parents smuggled her back and revoked her passport and had her date an American boy. It was basically said by Phil that Arab men seek out American women to brainwash and hold hostage. You know wherethis goes. In another episode where the girl was featured, it turned out they were right.
In the episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds", Saffron says that on her planet a woman is always subservient to the male until her father/brother uses her as payment for something, or sells her. This may or may not be true, but the crew of Serenity certainly buys her story.
"Heart of Gold" features a planet (or at least those in charge) of Straw Misogynists, to the point that working in a brothel is seen as a better life for those who work there simply because the new owner is a woman who treats them with basic human decency.
Played very anviliciously in the early episode "Emancipation" which featured Samantha Carter becoming a Blithe Spirit on a planet with this as their hat.
Also occurs with the Jaffa. "Birthright" introduces Ishta and the Hak'tyl ("liberation"), a group of female Jaffa who have fled the domain of Moloch, a Goa'uld who has female infants put to death. Ishta also tells Teal'c that she is from a world where "women aren't held in such high regard", that she was one wife of many, and that she was mistreated. Later, after the downfall of the Goa'uld, Ka'lel (the representative of the Hak'tyl to the Jaffa high council) reveals that many regions oppose giving any rights to female Jaffa.
The BBC miniseries Occupation toyed with this — one of the British ex-soldiers who returned to Afghanistan states that the problem with Afghan culture is that "they've got no respect for women". As he says this, he is framed by the camera sitting in his office, which has several objectifying pin-ups plastered all over the wall behind him. However it's also played uncomfortably straight when the most central female character is fridged by the boy who prompted this comment.Evidence would suggest that Afghan culture's lack of respect for women goes to a far more horrifying level than having racy posters on the walls.
A particularly horrifying example in "The Screwfly Solution," an episode of Masters Of Horror directed by Joe Dante and based on a story by James Tiptree, Jr., aka Alice Sheldon. Every man on the planet becomes violently misogynistic and kills every woman they can find, ending the future of the human race. This is later revealed to be an alien Hate Plague plot to depopulate the Earth and take over.
The season 1 episode "She" featured female demons, who turned out to be refugees from another dimension, where the female of the species has her personality removed when she comes of age to make them easier to control. This is done by removing part of their spine, and renders the subject docile.
In the season 3 episode "Billy", the touch of the episode's villain turns men (including a couple of the protagonists) into murderous misogynists. In this case, it wasn't so much horrifying as it was anvilicious.
In Star Trek, the Ferengi exemplify this trope to an extreme. Ferengi women aren't allowed to handle money, think for themselves, or wear clothes. They also pre-chew their husbands' food. This begins to change when one Ferengi woman points out that the society is handicapping its ability to turn a profit by disenfranchising half its population. Given that the planet's hat is materialism, this is seen as a very valid point, and begins to bring about change.
The JAG episode Head to Toe centers on this. A female soldier is defending herself on not wearing an abaya, and arguments are made for abiding by the culture and appeasing terrorists (Osama bin Laden is even quoted as Americans in the Middle East being cause for Jihads, meaning the abayas will protect women) and against the subjugation of women and treatment of foreigners. When Mac is subjected to this poor treatment she sides with the defendant.
“Outraged? I’m barely surprised. This is a country where women aren’t allowed to drive a car. They’re not allowed to be in the company of any man other than a close relative. They’re required to adhere to a dress code that would make a Maryknoll nun look like Malibu Barbie. They beheaded 121 people last year for robbery, rape, and drug trafficking. No free press, no elected government, no political parties. And the royal family allows the religious police to travel in groups of six, carrying nightsticks, and they freely and publicly beat women. But ‘Brutus is an honorable man.’ Seventeen schoolgirls were forced to burn alive because they weren’t wearing the proper clothing. Am I outraged? No, Steve. No, Chris. No, Mark. That is Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace.” ...
Berkely Breathed's Outland had the Men's Couch for Opus, Bill the Cat, and Milquetoast the Cockroach — a very similar concept to the one used in Non Sequitur.
One of the many, many flaws in FATAL is turning medieval Europe into one of these. Granted, the Dark Ages weren't known for their contributions to Women's Liberation, but... half of the world's males being rapists? And getting less punishment than a wife keeping a disorderly house? Really?
The female Skaven seen in Warhammer have been relegated into mindless sex slaves and breeding machines. The person who created the brood mothers has pointed out that although they're the only females explicitly mentioned, that doesn't mean they're the only female Skaven that exist, but it doesn't make their situation any less horrifying.
Bretonnia is a chivalric medieval version of this trope: Women are considered second-class citizens that are not allowed to own property, fight, or take any part in politics, but men are also expected to open doors for them, protect them, and be courteous to them. It should be noted this mostly applies to the noble class, as the peasants tend to be more egalitarian as a simple matter of pragmatism (Bretonnian peasants aren't allowed to own property, fight, or get involved in politics anyway). Naturally, citizens of The Empire (which has gender equality as a basic right) use this trope on them a lot. It's balanced out somewhat by Bretonnian spellcasters being exclusively female (they're the result of young girls being taken into the forests and brought back... different; young boys taken the same way are never seen again).
In Spawn Of Fashan, the basic rules assume that your character is male. If you want to play a female, you have to divide your die rolls for strength by 2, and multiply your die rolls for charisma by 1.5. Since the rules are already obscure and hard-to-follow enough as it is, most players (if there were any) would choose to play a male just because it would simplify their lives. (But don't worry, the game isn't sexist, because the authors say in the introduction that they're not sexist so it must be true.)
Warcraft The Roleplaying Game by White Wolf says female trolls are just breeding stock and property used to make more trolls. World of Warcraft heavily disagrees however, as there are many female trolls leaders like Arlokk, Mar'li, Lor'khan, Jeklik, and Primal Torntusk in various troll tribes, various troll males treatingtheir mateswith respect, and troll mooks coming in both genders. It also states this about quilboars, who are practically matriarchal in World of Warcraft. But then, the tabletop RPG came out several years before the MMORPG did, and two entirely separate teams of people worked on both versions, so it's not so surprising the lore went different directions.
In Spelljammer, the Romani equivalents known as Aperusa are like this. Men get all the glory and are unequivocally in charge, whilst women do all of the actual work of keeping their ships and families running. There are also separate rules for men and women — for example, widowers are encouraged to remarry, but widows are expected to take lifelong vows of chastity. It's also noted that Aperusa men love to seduce gullible, ignorant women who fall for the "romanticism" of the Aperusa lifestyle, only to find out after the wedding that they've condemned themselves to a life of backbreaking labor looking after a vain, lecherous, quasi-space-gypsy.
In Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, this is what happens in any area where the highly misogynistic Demon Lord Kostchtchie is worshipped. Women are second-class, fit only for breeding strong sons and waiting on their menfolk.
Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas. Women are pretty much just to cook, mend wounds, be sex toys, and make more little barbarian legionnaires. They are explicitly stated to be nothing but property; every woman in the Legion is a slave who is raped, beaten, and brutalized by soldiers daily. If you play a female character and side against the Legion, en masse Death by Irony will ensue upon the Legion. The real kicker here is that one of the female slaves in the Legion's stronghold will warn you that some of the Legion soldiers are planning on raping YOU if you play as a female character.
As a side note, there was originally a plan to have female priestesses in the Legion's Imperial Cult, but this didn't wind up being shown in the final game and it's unknown if it's still canon.
The town of Baig in Faria will outright deny you from entering due to your main character being female. After you defeat the Wizard and break the curse that transformed you into a woman to prevent his prophesied defeat, you will be allowed to enter.
In Dragon Age: Origins, Leliana will tell you the story of Aveline, an Orlesian woman who was abandoned by her father for not being the son he wanted. She grew up with the Dalish, who gave her the chance to seek revenge by competing in a tournament of skill, although she had to disguise herself as a man to compete. Her jealous competitor ripped her helmet off, revealing her as a woman, and then reminded her of her place before slashing her throat. But, according to legend, the injustice dealt upon Aveline convinced the Orlesian royalty to allow women in the chevaliers, so hooray!
This turns out to be the case in at least one of the Puritan Territories called Sybion in Collar 6, Laura's homeland. Because of a severe gender imbalance, women are required to submit to men sexually in the hopes of conceiving a male child, and women are ranked by their fertility. The main setting consists of characters in consensual BDSM relationships as a contrast, with the exception of one villain who explicitly uses force on her slaves.
In the King of the Hill episode "Joust Like a Woman," Peggy fought for women's rights at the Arlen Renaissance Faire run by a misogynistic real estate developer who fancies himself a king. The Faire is like a whole 'nother country, and while the real Middle Ages weren't always the friendliest era when it came to women's rights, the real estate guygoes overboard with it.
In Batman Gotham Knight, the flashback sequences of the "Working Through Pain" vignette where Bruce Wayne goes to India for pain-control training seemed to be set in one of these. The female mentor Bruce Wayne seeks out is a pariah by her local community because she dared to undergo Training from Hell reserved for Men Only. This is in spite of the fact that in real life India women who make it as female warriors are highly respected and have led entire armies as far back the twelfth century.
In American Dad!, Francine stands up to the treatment of Saudi women with a musical number, and gets arrested for sing in public, and dressed indecently. Later Haley gets arrested for beating up a guy, who she thought was terrorist but actually works in a shawarma stand.
Similarly, Beauty and the Beast shows that France in the 1800s is not kind to a girl like Belle, as everyone considers her crazy for liking to read and back Gaston in his behavior towards her, even though he does things that are rude at best and worthy of a restraining order at most drastic. The only people who consider Belle's opinions or desires are her father, the castle servants, and the Beast.
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Female Waterbenders in the Northern Water Tribe are forbidden from learning any Waterbending techniques except healing. Women of noble birth are also expected to accept arranged marriages with no say in the matter.