Oh boy. This is a big one.
One of the many criticisms that feminism faces is that “feminists hate men”.
I am going to make this very clear right now: I do not hate men.
I feel that hating men is completely illogical when it comes to feminism- and a HUGE number of feminists agree. I shall tell you why.
The word “patriarchy” in the dictionary is defined as “system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it” and “a society or community organized on patriarchal lines”.
This absolutely is not the same as saying “men caused all of these problems”.
In fact, it has been suggested that “early men and women were equal”, but it was agriculture that started to bring about gender inequality. When early man acquired territory, he would guard his wives closely to ensure the offspring were his. Patriarchal values in their simplest form DO stem from this ideology, but originally it was a survival instinct for men who needed to know how to propagate their genes. At one point, we relied on it- and that cannot be anyone’s fault! Unfortunately, it grew into a huge set of patriarchal values that have become deeply ingrained in our brains: for instance, that women should remain virgins as long as possible, should not be “slutty”, and that women should not be educated for fear that they would rebel against this system. Which, of course, has led to a huge amount of vilification, bullying, and murder of women, because of course we’re going to contest this. You can read more about how women are punished just for being women here, here, here, and here.
But to think that men are exempt from the harm that patriarchy can cause is a massive, massive mistake.
You may notice that misogynist language is a huge part of the way we as humans interact, and it is not just men who use this language. WE HAVE ALL DONE IT AT SOME POINT. Men, women, LGBT, trans people- we have all done it. How many times have you heard the following words as insults? “Bitch.” “Slut.” “Whore.” “Drama Queen.” These insults are typically aimed at women, but think about some of the insults thrown at men: “Pussy.” “You throw like a girl!” “Whipped.” All of these things are basically calling the man “a woman” or implying that whoever they’re insulting is on a lower social rung than women. You can read a more in depth analysis of this in this excellent article. Men who do not conform to stereotypical “masculine” imagery and character are generally excluded and ridiculed by the patriarchy, because it is seen as feminine: and being feminine is considered shameful from the perspective of typical patriarchal values.
How many times have you heard that men have to be physically and emotionally strong? That men aren’t allowed to cry? Even the people who are typically associated with sexist and patriarchal ideas are affected by these norms. How would it feel to be broken inside and be socially banned from expressing it?
It also affects gay men, who are stereotyped and demonised as having feminine attributes, that are sometimes completely unfounded. Lesbians often are faced with the implication that their relationships are decorative; a turn-on for cis men, as this article explains. Transgender people are in particular danger from cis people for so many reasons- for instance, the number of transgender women murdered this year in America is simply horrifying. Patriarchy operates on a binary system: male and female. And there are many trans people on the planet who feel that they were forced onto the wrong end of it, or that feel that they fit somewhere in the middle or outside of it completely. This does not fit comfortably with the patriarchal values that a lot of people have grown up with, and this is why patriarchy is a HUGE problem. It results in bullying, victimisation, depression, self-hatred, and even the suicide and murder of those who do not conform to societal gender norms. And for me, and many, many other feminists, that is unacceptable.
So, in short, I do not hate men. I hate patriarchy. It is more like a virus than anything else. It is not that there are a particular group “are patriarchal”. It is more like the concept is floating in the atmosphere all around us, and we are all breathing it in and exhaling its bullshit. The reason why I hate this “patriarchy virus” is that ANYONE, even someone perfectly well meaning, CAN be guilty of perpetuating its values without even realising, and ANYONE can potentially be hurt by it- some in unimaginably awful ways because other factors such as race, social positioning, education, disability, and nonconforming gender identity limit people’s ability to be heard. (Fore more on intersectionality in feminism read here and here) This is not because they’re not loud enough; it is because people who haven’t had to deal with those issues don’t understand their importance. These people can be completely ignored because of patriarchy, and people get killed over it.
What also needs to be understood is that feminism is not just one idea. It’s not as simple as “Feminists don’t hate men because I said so”. It is a huge, broad spectrum of different concepts and ideas. This results in millions of different types of feminism. A lot of feminists disagree on a lot of things. Which, unfortunately, means that while huge efforts are being made by feminists to provide spaces for male rape victims, trans men, cis men who are emotionally hindered by patriarchal expectations; there will always be a few feminists out there who think it’s all about cis women.
As an analogy, take religion. Religion is not merely “I believe there is a god”. There are religious people who go to church, some who don’t. Some religious people accept everyone, regardless of faith, with open arms, and they use the theory of their religion to justify that this is the right thing to do- like Conversely, there are some religious people who reject LGBT people, people of colour, and athiests, and they also use religious theory to justify why they should do this.
It goes without saying that the latter are an absolute and utter embarrassment to the religious people who strive to spread peace and love in their communities. The same goes for feminists and man-haters. However, I feel that it would be wrong of me to suggest that “they aren’t feminists”. The Westboro Baptist Church and Da’esh, for instance, may be completely going against what others of that faith consider to be the most important values, but unfortunately there are parts of the texts they all follow that can easily be used to justify any course of action. Religious texts are hugely self-contradictory, and so are many, many opinions on feminism.
Feminism has been going for a couple of hundred years now, and, of course, its textual contributors are so diverse. We haven’t yet compiled an all-encompassing holy book of feminism, but just imagine for a moment that our “feminist bible” consists of everything written by a self-proclaimed feminist. There are bound to be as many contradictions in there as there are in the Bible or the Qu’ran, because each of those texts had hundreds of contributors too, and they both have been massively edited over the years. The same goes for feminist academia. Of course, there have been feminists that have proclaimed to hate men, and that have suggested women should follow this ideology- like this person, who came up with this utterly ridiculous theory. But I say that these feminists are not very well read, and are an embarrassment to the cause. They have not bothered to read enough to understand that men can’t help their social position any more or less than anyone else, and therefore education, rather than vilification, is the way forward. Just like the WBC say that “homosexuality is wrong because Leviticus said so” while ignoring the Book of Matthew that insists on universal love and acceptance.
In my opinion, a true feminist is one that reads as many different viewpoints as possible and learns from the mistakes of our literary foremothers. Ultimately, we should be fighting to free the world from patriarchal values, which affect us all at different levels. Not men, masculinity, or manliness; without which we would be missing out on a vital piece of our diverse societal jigsaw.