Readers, it has come to my attention that there are those among you who believe my (and other feminists’) oft-expressed disdain for members of the male sex is tantamount to man-hating. So Imma gonna take my dude joke/snark hat off for a minute here and explain why this is not the case, not because I think I should have to, but because I’d rather just have a post I can easily link back to as a reference point the next time this comes up in a comments section/on tumblr/on Facebook.
I admit at the outset that I am skeptical that such a thing as “man-hating” happens at a systemic level in feminism, and that my hackles do go up whenever the accusation is leveled at it. I have my own example to go by. Though many people have made a creepily close study of my contributions to internet feminism by blog comment and claimed on the basis thereof that I am a man-hater, I’m not aware of ever having actually stated that I hate men. Similarly, most “some/all feminists are man haters” critics appear unable to point to anyone specific who has ever said this in any context other than a moment of jest or anger. (Occasionally a mention is made of some kind of distant relative who was known to openly despise men but whom, it seems, has since receded into the mists of time – no one has seen any of these living, breathing man-eaters since the early 80s apparently.)
I therefore suspect that man-hating, such as it exists, possesses something of an ephemeral quality for these critics: they can’t tell you where or when they’ll find it, but they’ll know it when they see it. Which – well, okay, sometimes I feel that way about woman hating. The difference between me and them is that I tend to actually be quite familiar with my subject (culture) when I identify woman-hating in it, because I live right smack in the middle of it. It is my fondest wish to live in a society with such a similarly comprehensive understanding of/education in feminist thought that I am able to place trust in the average Internet Joe’s diagnosis of man-hating therein. That day, however, I think you will all agree, is not here. So when someone yells “man-hater,” I have to work to suppress an eyeroll.
In my humble opinion, the origin of all of this “man-hater” nonsense is the enormous success to the patriarchal propaganda machine that sprang up in response to feminism. But diagnosing this as the cause only gets me so far. See, the propaganda is so insidious that there are actual feminists out there who believe it. And it’s them that I worry about, the ones who seem to pick apart my sarcastic ramblings for proof of the conclusion they drew in advance: that it was my (and other feminists’) continual and total man-hatred that has held the movement back from its otherwise inevitable success.
Most of the time I think the communicative disconnect can really be located in focus. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not too interested, when I’m talking feminism, in men. I tend not to mention them very often. My gaze tends to wander when we get too far into the subject of What Men Think. If this reads as disdain of anything in possession of a penis, well, I suppose I can’t control that. But I want to ask these people: why do you think disinterest in men is tantamount to hating them? My own answer, of course, is that people are used to everyone, everywhere, being interested in the doings and feelings and sayings of men all the time. This being the natural state of being for the average man – “this” meaning “being the centre of attention” – and I guess the destabilization of this position as THE subject of all conversation on everything could be insulting. But it seems to me that any person who dwells on this supposed insult beyond an initial visceral reaction is missing the point.
Now, sometimes I do say things that more directly poke a little fun at so-called “men.” The first mistake some readers make is assuming that by “men” I mean the living breathing kind of who you live in sin with or from whose loins you sprang. The truth is, I mean the social construct of masculinity. In my particular strain of feminism, I think any connection between one’s junk and one’s behaviour is suspect. I think it’s patriarchy’s argument that the latter flows obviously from the former. So when someone tries to tell me that by making fun of masculinity, as it is constructed in the here and now in this culture, is insulting to men, I get puzzled. What’s insulting to men is to assume that they can’t help themselves but engage in self-centered, boorish behaviour. They sure can, and tons of them do. But when any man, who is fallible, Just Like Us, invokes his privilege and behaves in irritating “male” ways and gets haughty about it, I will call him out for it. I think he’s being an asshole, but I think the only way he will realize it is if I keep telling him he’s doing it. Not if I decide to coddle him because the patriarchy has so damaged him that he cannot help himself.
Now, people tell me I could circumvent the “man-hater” label by never using the term “men” and always backwashing everything I say with three yards of “Gender Is A Social Construct 101.” I gotta tell you, this has not been my experience. Instead, it has been my experience that people who are willing to buy that gender is a social construct understand me perfectly clearly, and those who aren’t, don’t. And at a certain level, if you are afraid of unhooking the self-justificatory wires between your genitals and your behaviour, there’s no amount of coddling from me that will get you to do so. And I’m pushing thirty, and getting tired of having people who are not actually interested in, you know, liberation expect me to expend so much damn time in “getting [them] on [my] side,” which implies, after all, they’re somewhere else to begin with.
To echo Twisty: hear me, o afflicted internet readers: I don’t hate men. I hate what the patriarchy constantly tells them to do, and I hate it when they use the patriarchy’s standards as the measure of how they are supposed to behave. I hate it that a lot of them spend more time arguing with me about how I’ve hurt their feelings than they do with other men about how they oppress women. I hate it that so pervasive is their mode of reasoning that many young women now evaluate feminist thought by how “man-hating” it is. And I hate it that I write this post knowing a good half of my critics will never understand what the hell I’m talking about.