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Mistaken for Misogynist

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Character A (usually male, but not always) says or does something that can be reasonably interpreted as treating Character B unequally or unfairly due to her gender. However, when Character A explains the actual motivation behind the preferential or discriminatory treatment, it's not a belief that Character B is less capable or deserving because of her gender. The true reason is far more benign and may range from being overly protective because Character B is secretly family or Character A is in love with Character B or Character A is using Tough Love because they really want Character B to succeed or because Character B is new to the field and genuinely needs the preferential treatment for their own safety even if they don't want it. This trope specifically requires that Character A not actually be bigoted, despite the way their actions come across to Character B.

Compare Straw Misogynist where Character A actually is sexist but with comically terrible reasoning and He-Man Woman Hater where Character A is not only sexist but outright hates women. Compare Mistaken for Racist, where Character A is believed to have a different kind of prejudice.

Contrast Straw Feminist where Character A is very pro-women but it is played for comedy or so their beliefs can be dramatically undercut. Contrast Female Misogynist where Character A is a misogynist, but also happens to be female. Contrast the Noble Bigot who is sexist but views deferential treatment or exclusion of otherwise qualified women as chivalrous.

May overlap with Big Brother Instinct and Always Save the Girl. Usually highlights a Double Standard.

Not to Be Confused with Bait-and-Switch Accusation where Character B makes an accusation that turns out to not be what Character A thinks he's being suspected of or Discriminate and Switch where Character B is being discriminated against but due to a different prejudice than they believe.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece, Zoro is accused of viewing women as weak when he refuses to finish off Tashigi after beating her in a swordfight, when the real reason is that she is a dead-ringer for his late childhood friend. A couple years later both in-universe and out, she still believes that Zoro doesn't take women seriously and Would Not Hit a Girl, but is proven dead wrong when he cuts a female enemy in half.

    Comic Strips 
  • In the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip story "Cuckoo", the Doctor explains to Ace and Benny that he has to ensure that fossil-hunter Mary Anne Wesley doesn't succeed in winning the respect of the whole scientific establishment with a prize fossil. They are outraged and initially assume he's sexist, but he then explains that it's because the fossil is actually an out-of-place alien that will send Earth's scientific biology down a blind alley for centuries, and that in a short time Wesley will find an actual marine reptile fossil that really will secure her reputation.

    Fan Works 
  • In If I Could Start Again, Steve Rogers feels that this applies to him when he realizes that he assumed Jemma Simmons was the nurse rather than the doctor, but Doctor Simmons assures him that she appreciates that he's from a time where a female doctor would be less common.

    Films Live-Action 
  • Ant-Man: Although it is never explicitly stated, it is heavily implied that Hope believes her father refuses to let her take on the Ant Man mantle because she's a woman and she is endlessly frustrated that he recruited Scott who needs to be trained when she already knows everything about the mission and how the suit works. However, after seeing the two argue about it yet again, Scott, a father himself, explains that Hank won't let Hope wear the suit because he's desperately afraid of her dying. This is confirmed when Hank finally reveals the truth to Hope about how her mother Janet died, working as the Wasp on a mission with Hank. At the end of the movie, Hank presents Hope with a Wasp suit to show that he trusts her to be able to take care of herself.

  • Artemis Fowl: At the beginning of the book, Holly (the only female fairy on the police force, apart from the well-connected flirt who does the announcements) accuses Commander Root of misogyny due to his endless chewouts over her every single mistake, claiming that if she'd been a male, they wouldn't be having this conversation. Root confirms that yes, he is harder on her because she's a girl... and as the only girl on the force, he needs her to be the best so more women will want to join up (her Cowboy Cop approach doesn't really help). In later books they have a better working relationship.
  • Captain Underpants: In the ninth book, Billy Bill saw little Harold hiding behind the sign while trying to hide from Kipper and his thugs, and grabbed him and handed him over to those aforementioned bullies because Billy Bill thought little Harold was messing with the sign. George witnessed this and deliberately removed two letters from the sign to cause chaos, and the 'updated' sign to "Free Brake Inspection" to "Free Bra Inspection" which prompted many old women to start attacking Billy Bill, believing him to be a misogynist.
  • In the Discworld book Men at Arms, Sam Vimes is ordered by the Patrician to hire several new City Watch members to increase diversity, starting with Ms. Angua von Uberwald. Several times it's referenced that he's not pleased to have a "w—" on staff, giving the impression that he doesn't want to work with women. Eventually, it's revealed that von Uberwald is, in fact, a werewolf to Vimes' great displeasure.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Hermione have a debate on what the titular character's gender is, as Harry just assumes it's a male (and turns out to be right at the end). Hermione accuses him of being a sexist who doesn't believe that a female could be such a genius at potions, to which a shocked Harry asks how he could possibly think females aren't smart after being friends with her for six years.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, after Ron complains about Hermione's cooking while they're out camping, Hermione complains about how she's the one who always does it and assumes it's because she's a girl. Ron tells her it's because she's the best at magic.
  • Immortal Guardians: The vast majority of Immortal Guardians are male Gifted Ones who survived being transformed by vampires. However, Gifted Ones can be transformed by getting a blood transfusion from an Immortal with the gift of healing and the males often do this when they find their mate. Etienne asks Seth, the most powerful Immortal, to transform Krysta. Seth says he can't because it would make Krysta as strong and powerful as he is. The ladies all bristle, asking why that would be a problem. Seth assures them he has no problem with the idea of powerful women but it took him thousands of years to master his abilities. Krysta would abruptly have all of his abilities but none of his control, far too dangerous to risk.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Arianne Martell discovers that her father intends for her younger brother Quentyn to become Prince of Dorne, seemingly in defiance of the Dornish custom that the oldest child inherits regardless of gender. When she finally confronts her father, he tells her that the bigger plan was to have her marry Viserys Targaryen to solidify an alliance to restore the Targaryens to the Iron Throne, which would ultimately make her Queen, meaning ruling Dorne would pass to Quentyn.
  • The Troubleshooters series by Suzanne Brockmann:
    • Sam Starrett, Jr. He harasses Alyssa Locke, questioning her every move in the field despite the fact that she's a certified Action Girl with Nerves of Steel who also works for the FBI. The two are always sniping at each other and she can't figure out if he dislikes her because she's a woman in a man's field or because she's biracial and he's a white guy from the Deep South. She finally calls him on his constant racist and sexist remarks and he's shocked. Turns out he just really likes her but his troubled childhood left him incapable of expressing that in a reasonable way.
    • Daryl "Harvard" Becker in "Harvard's Education". When PJ Richards is assigned to a joint FBI-Navy task force team, she catches a lot of flack for being the only woman. When Harvard expresses his disdain, she assumes it's because she's a woman and reams him for assuming she's less than capable. Turns out Harvard is from a family of strong, progressive, action-oriented women and only dislikes working with PJ and the other federal agents because he thinks the entire task force is a waste of time and his unit is ham-stringed by being forced to work with Feds who aren't trained for the tasks his unit specializes in. However, h does think PJ is the best of the four candidates the team was sent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In the Season 4 episode "All the Madame's Men" when Framework Ward refers to the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who recruited him, Coulson asks what HIS name was. Ward promptly chides Coulson for assuming the agent was a man. Coulson, though, was almost definitely drawing on a latent memory of John Garrett, rather than having a sexist assumption about S.H.I.E.L.D. agents being male.
  • Arrow: When Laurel Lance takes up the mantle of Black Canary, she decides to patrol on her own with no help from Oliver Queen, who doesn't even know she's moonlighting as a vigilante. She routinely gets beaten up by the bad guys she's pursuing and Ollie finds out what she's doing when she has to be rescued. She accuses Oliver of treating her differently because she's a girl, but he reminds her that he fought as equals with the original Black Canary, her sister Sara Lance, and he only "babies" Laurel because she literally has no fight training or the necessary skills to protect herself. Once she starts training with Ted Grant, Oliver is more accepting of her in the field.
  • In Better Call Saul Mike is laying a concrete path at his granddaughter's playground, and three volunteers offer to help. He sends the two male volunteers to mix more concrete, and hands the female volunteer a broom. When she gives him an appalled look, he explains that the broom is to texture the concrete so the path doesn't get slippery when it rains.
  • Played for Laughs in Derry Girls when James is trying to make some male friends from the Protestant boys' school. He's trying so hard to pre-empt the rumour that he's gay and to fit in with some idea of '90s lad culture by talking about "tits" and "beer". This ends up being way overboard and the lads start thinking he's sexist.
  • Dexter: Harry Morgan. Flashbacks show that Deb always felt left out of the close relationship Dexter and Harry had. This was particularly exacerbated once their mother died. Deb tries to get closer to Dexter and Harry by working to get good at the things they're always doing, but Harry severely scolds her when he sees her handling knives and guns, the very things he spends all his time teaching Dexter to do. Deb is left feeling like Dexter was the son Harry always really wanted instead of his biological daughter. This misconception doesn't change until Deb finds out Dexter's secret decades later and realizes that Harry was simply working hard to teach Dexter to blend in and knew that Deb would be fine.
  • Stella Gibson from The Fall (2013) is a female version of this. A no non-sense Iron Lady detective, she seems like a Female Misogynist, bristling any time her colleagues try to give her the traditional deference given to women and eschewing things that might be considered overly feminine or weak. However, this is soon revealed to simply be a result of her constant attempts to make sure her professional competence is not overlooked in favor of her natural beauty or attributed to feminine wiles. Stella is actually quite feminist and doesn't think less of other women. When given the opportunity to promote and mentor beat cop Danielle Ferrington who displays flashes of brilliance, Stella does so, explaining the trial-and-error rules she's created for being treated as an equal in a traditionally chauvinistic field.
  • For All Mankind. The female astronauts are patronized all the time by the male astronauts and thus can miss when the same men genuinely give them valid information. When training on the moon rover, Molly thinks that Ed is implying that she cannot drive a car but he is actually warning her not to fall into a bad habit of operating it like it was an aircraft rather than a wheeled ground vehicle.
  • Justified: When Deputy US Marshall Rachel Brooks is called to task for playing fast and loose with the rules in capturing a suspect, she points out that Art is coming down on her harder than he does any of the male deputies in the office and that she didn't do anything Raylan hasn't done, but Raylan never seems to get in trouble. Art, their boss, agrees but says he doesn't come down on Cowboy Cop Raylan because he thinks Raylan is a lost cause and he actually considers Rachel his best deputy. This is backed up by Art making Rachel interim Chief Deputy when he is injured in the line of duty.
  • Supernatural: The season 2 episode "No Exit" centers around Jo Harvelle who wants to be a hunter like her deceased father, Bill. Her mother, Ellen, doesn't want her to be in the field because she is afraid Jo will die like Bill. Jo finds a case and her mother gives it to Sam and Dean instead. Jo sneaks out to work the case anyway. Jo is irritated when Sam and Dean insist on helping her work the case, but on more than one occasion Dean has to point something out that Jo doesn't know. Eventually, when Dean insists on accompanying Jo to investigate a lead but lets Sam go off on his own, Jo accuses Dean of being sexist and treating her like less than a hunter because she's a woman. Dean insists women can be hunters and that he's treating her like a rookie with no experience, unlike Sam who's been hunting since he was a pre-teen. Sure enough, Jo is kidnapped by the Monster of the Week and has to be rescued although she does ultimately assist in defeating the baddie.

    Video Games 
  • Early in Dragon Age: Origins, Alistair asks if Morrigan can cook, which she clearly interprets as a Stay in the Kitchen attitude. With the Warden's prompting, Alistair will explain that his own cooking will kill them and he just wants to know if anyone else can do it instead.
  • Many females in Fire Emblem: Awakening mistake Lon'qu's fear of women as a hatred of them. He asserts that he doesn't hate anyone, but has trouble talking to and approaching them due to losing his first love as a child when he failed to protect her. His trauma keeps him from getting close to any woman under the fear they'll suffer the same fate.
  • Granblue Fantasy: In his match against Aliza in "A Thousand Reasons", Randall makes a comment that she's a good fighter, "for a woman." Aliza takes that he means women can't fight, but he quickly clarifies that he was referring to her shorter stature and apologizes that his comment came out the wrong way.

    Web Comics 
  • Downplayed in Gunnerkrigg Court. When Eglamore says that it "wouldn't be fair" for him to spar with Ms. Jones, Antimony coolly asks "Because she is a woman?" He quickly clarifies that it's because he wouldn't stand a chance against her.

    Western Animation 
  • Elena of Avalor: In "Changing of the Guard," Elena learns that her seamstress, Antonia, wants to try to be a Royal Guard but assumes the position is gender-restricted. When Elena investigates, her Abuelo tells her there's no such rule because they don't need one; the position is so obviously male-only, no women would apply, and even if they did, they'd never pass. So Elena's already fired up and ready to stand her ground when bringing Antonia to apply. When Gabe reacts in surprise, Elena starts ranting about Antonia's competence, only for Gabe to cut her off and reveal he'd recognized Antonia's surname from her father. Her gender is no object, and he's actually impressed by her pedigree. That said, she does face misogyny from the other male recruits.
  • Harley Quinn (2019): When a tow truck driver goes to Batgirl and said he needs a Batman to sign for his plane to be moved, Batgirl accuses him of being sexist but he points out Batman's name is on the registration, making her look silly.
  • In What's New, Scooby-Doo?, the San Franpsycho turned out to be girl trying to sabotage the second annual Grind Games because they wouldn't let her compete; she thought it was because she's a girl but it was actually because she can't keep her balance on a skateboard.