Recently, someone asked me about misandry.
Why are feminists so dismissive of it? After all, society contains harmful messages about men and masculinity. Why act like they don’t exist?
I thought about this for a minute before responding. I’m a major proponent of the well-worn feminist refrain, Sexism Hurts Men Too. I believe it; gender roles are restrictive and harmful for everyone.
But, I told him, there’s a difference between sexism and misogyny. Sexism may be a double-edged sword, but the sharper edge points toward women. Men (especially cis-men) are still unequivocally the winners of the gender-we-value award.
When we talk about misogyny, we’re not just talking about discrimination; we’re talking about hate. The kind of hate that’s systemic, strong, and pervasive. Misogyny is about the kind of hatred of women and of femininity that makes this world a dangerous place for women to navigate- both dangerous to our sense of self, to our souls, but also staggeringly physically dangerous.
The world just doesn’t have that kind of hate against men. That, I told him, is why so many feminists respond to claims of misandry with derision. The harmful effects of sexism on men are real, but misandry? Misandry is a joke.
Then I ran across this article on xoJane, about women who proudly claim to be misandrists, and what that means (summary as far as I can tell: misandry isn’t real; we use it to codify our radicalness and as a way of dealing with misogyny fatigue). I sent it out on our weekly reading-and-discussion email thread, and what you see below is the ensuing conversation. I would love to hear your thoughts on this- let’s continue the conversation in the comments!
I have some problems with this article, and I guess I have to think about it a bit more and re-read it before I can reach an opinion, but in the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Here are my first ones:
A. Claiming to be a “misandrist” doesn’t seem super-effective to me, which is ironic because she’s arguing for less talk, more action (and deeper action).
B. I do feel she’s on-point about how feminists should think critically about which discussions deserve a central place (race and class, deeply entrenched societal attitudes). Not that whether wearing makeup is feminist isn’t a part of the feminist quilt, but that feminists need to make sure it’s not taking up discussion space that could be used for more transformative conversations and actions.
C. M Lunas did pretty much exactly what she wanted him to, in the Got Consent? series. Rock on!
D. I see where she’s coming from here, but although it’s a human reaction, it’s not a very strategic one. Isn’t she interested in making change? “Misandry” doesn’t make change. It’s a way of venting your anger without actually addressing and changing the cause.
“To viscerally despise those who indirectly oppress you is nothing new, for women and other minorities. Misandry is only a result and reaction to the invariable hatred of women that has existed for centuries.
“If someone is a misandrist, it is not so much a sign of rebellion as it is a condition one has developed out of pure exhaustion with being treated like invaluable piece of meat whose only purpose is to serve as a fuckable or nonfuckable body.”
I agree with you Kate, the author makes some good points, especially around misogyny fatigue and feminist priorities. But I have a problem with what she’s trying to propose which is, I think, reclamation of the word “misandry”. At the risk of sounding like all the assholes she references at the end, what about me? And Lunas? And all the thousands and thousands of male allies around the world? What about the LGBTQIA community that includes cis- and trans-men? Its incredibly dismissive and insulting to all of us who really do our best to fight alongside women to change society. What she’s proposing is not hating “the worst of men” (ala “the worst of white folks“) or patriarchy or misogyny, it’s systemic hating of all men without really any thought or selectiveness. Hating “the worst of men” is fine, cathartic even (I suspect), but that’s feminism, not misandry. We can’t just redefine the word and ignore the overwhelming context that it has in society.
I also think she’s being dismissive of those other small battles that are being fought in feminism. I completely agree that there is a certain “fad” quality to some modern feminist issues, and that we should all periodically evaluate where our priorities and efforts are going, but that doesn’t mean that those small battles don’t have real important value. Class and race and sex and sexuality issues are of utmost import but they are the long-game. Things that will likely take decades or more to really change, but we can affect real change in the short term to move that progress along and start changing attitudes and internalizing problematic inequality. Sure fighting against making women’s beauty standards obsolete is trivial compared to the overwhelming struggle against patriarchy, but it’s a start, and it’s something we can really hope to budge in the time we’re alive to advocate.
So yeah, mostly conflicted on how I feel about it like you Kate. Mostly I feel, like the other xoJane post on sex-neg feminism, that it is intentionally inflammatory semi-link-bait that makes some good points but will mostly just stir up discussion.
I struggled with this for a long time because at one point a bunch of my friends were loudly claiming the term “misandry” and wanted me to identify with it too, but it bugged the hell out of me.
My reasoning is this: it erases privilege hierarchies among men. Just hating all men and blaming them for your oppression isn’t productive when there are some men who are less privileged than you. An undocumented, disabled man of color is disenfranchised by multiple oppressions, and I ought to fight on behalf of men like him if I care about justice.
A great concrete example of this is when I introduced a friend of mine, Peter, to another friend who’s a proud misandrist. When my friends and I were leaving her party, she gave hugs to all of them but Peter, even though she met them all at the same time. I knew her reasons for this – she trusts women and not men, because men have treated her really horribly, and I understand why she feels that way. But what she couldn’t see is that Peter is also queer and disabled – invisible oppressions – and being passed over for a hug made him feel disgusting and unwanted, just as he’s felt all too many times in his life.
I guess my default mode is to extend empathy to all people, and to withdraw that empathy only when I can see it’s not deserved. Of course, more straight white men have proven themselves unworthy of my sympathy and respect than other groups, but I still make that leap of faith, every time. I’m not saying everyone should have that same attitude, but consider that men deal with oppressive shit too, and their struggles may not be immediately visible to you.
Agreed to everything Luz and Skylar said.
Hating all of an entire grouping of people is, to me, categorically ethically wrong.
Also… I love men. I love the shit out of men. I love my male family members, I love my male lovers, some of my best friends are men.
^^True, but also 😛
I agree that this is deliberately inflammatory and most of it is annoying and useless. What I think IS useful, and should be discussed more, is misogynism fatigue.
I have a friend who unabashedly says she hates men. I don’t think she means every man is evil or no men are fighting for feminism or even that she wants to hurt individual men. I think she means she’s tired of living in a world with men in it, since that world (as it is now) means that women are institutionally discriminated against again and again and again.
I don’t claim to hate men as an entire group. That would be factually inaccurate, and in my opinion, immature. I’d say my personal position is that I distrust men until they’ve proven themselves to me. But I don’t actively seek out relationships with men. I enjoy ‘women only’ spaces*. There have been very few men in my life who have treated me with anything resembling respect. The people who hurt me, condescend to me, try to take away the rights I have, prevent me from having rights I should have, etc…are predominantly men. Even men I’ve considered close friends have assaulted me, disrespected me, devalued me, and utterly failed to even entertain the idea that being female in America might be difficult. When I think back on my life and reflect on the question “When has a man made my life easier, or better, or more rich?” I come up with very few examples. Not none. But few.
Imagine you go to the animal shelter and you get a cat. You take the cat home, and everything is great until your tall, dark-haired sister comes to visit. The cat hides and hisses every time it sees her. She patiently gives the cat space and offers her a treat every time she visits, and after a while the cat is able to be in the same room as her, sitting calmly. After a few months, you run into the shelter tech who helped you adopt the cat. You mention the problem with your sister and the tech says “OH, yeah, is your sister tall and dark haired? The tall, dark haired women who owned the cat before you beat the cat and swung it around by its tail. It was removed by APS, which is why it was up for adoption.”
Obviously I have more intellectual capacity than a cat and cats are not systemically oppressed. So this isn’t a perfect metaphor. But there was a time in my life where there was a tipping point. Instead of thinking “Oh, a human of the man type,” every time I saw a man, I started wondering how he was going to hurt me or make me feel like shit. I started thinking “Oh, this male teacher is going to laugh at me when I ask a question about the homework.” or “Oh, this male coach is going to slap my ass as I run by.” “Oh, that’s a swaggering forty-something hanging around the corner store. he’s going to yell something gross at me.” Or “Oh, this is an old white guy wearing a suit, I bet he’ll say something sexist.” Or “This bro is probably going to hit on my girlfriend right in front of me or make a disgusted face at me as I walk by.” And I’m rarely wrong. Even the most harmless dudes, like the guys my housemate is friends with who are predominantly hippies, talk over me and forget I live in the house even though they’ve met me five times. There’s this one guy who looks literally everything I say up on Wikipedia as soon as I say it, and then acts surprised when I’m right. Every. Time. Many times when I’ve tried to make friends with a guy, it’s turned out very badly for me. I’ve been raped, by men, three times. Twice by the same man. A man (boy) who came to my birthday parties, and tutored me in Biology and made me mix cds. I got close to a former housemate, only to later have a conversation with him where he asserted that women’s reproductive rights were not an important cause and “Any woman, no matter how ugly, can fuck some man into taking care of her.”
I don’t want this to turn into a vendetta on everything men have ever done to me, but I want to give some background for why I’m so fucking skittish when it comes to interacting with men. It almost never goes well, and at this point it’s become a cost-benefit analysis. Do I want to engage? Or do I just not have the energy to explain to yet another well-meaning guy that false rape accusations are actually extremely uncommon, so he can stop with the fun conversation about how Julian Assange, his personal hero, is definitely not a rapist b/c bitches lie.
This isn’t even getting into the culture of supremacy that I’ve had to deal with my entire life, which doesn’t make me feel any better-disposed towards men. Furthermore, I can’t speak to conventionally attractive women’s experiences with being ignored because they’re “too pretty to take seriously,” although I know that’s a serious problem, but HAHAHAHAHAHA try getting the average dude to listen to you when you’re butch. It’s like I’m invisible.
I don’t hate individual men, but I am tired of a masculine-centric world in which I am ignored, trampled on politically (and literally!), and when I *am* noticed, it’s frequently so that men can tell me whether or not they’d like to fuck me, or tell me that I’m unimportant, uppity, ignorant, or irrational. I think there needs to be room for people like me in the feminist movement. I don’t have an endlessly warm, open heart, ready to forgive and forgive and forgive. I have rage caused by a lifetime of individual and institutional discrimination. This makes me angry at my oppressors. And that is a legitimate anger.
I value men’s presence in the feminist/feminist-ally movement. I don’t kid myself that we can somehow achieve an egalitarian world without working with every person in it, exceptionally privileged men (and their less privileged peers**) included. But just as I accept that some POC hate white people (and not just “the worst of white people”,” but ALL white people) without insisting that they include me as an exception because I do anti-racist work, I think feminists need to accept that rage toward your oppressors is a natural reaction, and accept that some women/FAAB people are going to be permanently, overarchingly mad at men.
*This is complicated because of my gender, obviously, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.
**I’m well aware that there are axes of oppression for men, as well. In the social justice work I do, I fight for everyone’s right to equal rights, representation, and resources. But in my personal life? In my “safe spaces” of social circles, homes and hang-out venues? I’d rather I didn’t have to interact with men unless I invite them.
Re: Logan “I’d say my personal position is that I distrust men until they’ve proven themselves to me.”
…I feel this way about dogs. And I do tend to tell people that I don’t like dogs. Sometimes people are then surprised at how much I love certain dogs. But I don’t consider it morally wrong to not want to be around dogs, so I don’t have any problem with people assuming I hate dogs even though there are some dogs I love. What I actually don’t like is certain dog behaviors, and I tend to love dogs who don’t do them. (Licking me. Licking me is the dog behavior I MOST HATE.)
I guess I have a fundamentally different perspective than Logan because men have been such crucial allies to me throughout my life. The first person I ever came out to was a male friend, and I’m not sure I would have had the courage to come out to anyone else for a long time if not for his encouragement. One night when the dinner conversation turned so unbearable I had to leave the house with my food half-eaten, I called the straight guy president of my high school’s GSA, because I knew he would come and take me away for as long as I needed to be gone, and listen with a sympathetic ear to what happened. A queer trans guy taught me most of what I know about the gender binary and cissexism and sexuality as a spectrum. So I have these powerful positive experiences with male allies, and I owe them so much for who I am now.
So I do understand very much why some of my friends are wary of men. But it hurts me when those friends don’t trust my judgment of which men are good allies. I would never bring a man into a women’s-only space, but there are times when I’ve refrained from bringing men I know are great allies into feminist spaces because I knew the feminists in that space wouldn’t believe me if I said these friends were worthwhile additions to the conversation. And you know what? These feminists were really missing out. In a couple of cases I remember when my guy friend would have been the only disabled or trans* or bi person in that space, but because I couldn’t bring him into the discussion, the group lost that voice. That just makes me sad. There’s a place for women’s-only spaces, definitely. But again, it can be so worth it to take a leap of faith and listen to someone you otherwise might not have heard.
Logan, I understand what you’re saying about misogyny fatigue and protecting yourself, and I can respect how refreshing it is to be in a women-only space, but Luz’s story about Peter got me thinking: Does “misandry” have any place in intersectional feminism?
If we take seriously the goal of eliminating all forms of privilege, rather than just sexism, how can we categorically avoid engaging with men?
When we do so we’re not just losing allies, we’re losing an opportunity to be allies. I know we all care about addressing privilege based on not only on gender identity, but also on race, ability, class, nationality and documentation status, sexual orientation, religion, and many more stupid and hateful ways that people oppress each other. Men experience all those forms of oppression. When we don’t connect with them, we’re not hearing their stories, not valuing their actions, not supporting them in their own struggles.
And as Luz pointed out, sometimes those oppressions can be invisible.
Since I’ve had my tongue so firmly planted in my cheek for much of this conversation, I’d like to come back to serious just a touch and say that I agree with your position, Kate, with respect to the place in intersectional feminism for men’s voices. I am strongly in that camp, which I think all y’all know. Men have unique challenges in navigating the scripts they’ve been given in our culture (many of which are related to a disapproval of anything with a whiff of the feminine). And I am very against throwing all men out with the bathwater. Part of the point of my earlier comment is that while I have no problem speaking that way about dogs, I wouldn’t categorically judge or speak of people that way.
Re: Luz: I reserve the right to make all decisions about whether or not men are safe/good allies myself. It’s not that I think other women are stupid, or bad judges of character, it’s just that someone who is safe for you may not be safe for me. I’d also like to address your stories of men being good allies and personally good friends to you–that’s great! I’ve never suggested that all men are terrible. But it’s important to note that I, another person whose experiences are equally valid, rarely have good experiences with them. That means there are enough men with threatening or harmful behaviors that I’ve grown wary of them. Not because I read Andrea Dworkin. Not because someone convinced me that to have a penis is to be evil. Because my own lived experiences taught me to be cautious. I’m glad your experiences have not been like mine. I wouldn’t wish mine on anyone. I don’t think it’s particularly useful to counter my “I am wary of men because…” personal stories with all the ways men have been supportive and helpful to you. That’s wonderful, but it doesn’t help me. That would be a better argument if I were interested in excluding men from the feminist movement/not treating them like human beings, which I’m not.
As I said above, I have no problem with men in the feminist movement, but I do have a problem being forced to interact with them when I don’t want to. If I think I need a male perspective on disability rights, or male bisexuality, etc…I’ll ask. I think the other editors can attest to the fact that I don’t run screaming away from (irl) or ignore/disagree with mens’ perspectives as a rule. I just reserve the right to decide when men get to be in my space, when they get to share their perspectives with me, whether I engage them, etc…I reserve that right for ALL people, actually, but I’m especially strict with men given my history.
Re: Rosie: But there are intersectional feminists who are making a clear case for misogyny fatigue and avoiding men. And when I think about what they’ve written it seems reasonable too. So how do we reconcile the two?
People get to make their own choices what they read and write about, and who they voluntarily associate with?
Obviously they get to make that choice, and I even understand the reasons why one would make that choice; I just am looking for a deeper understanding of how to make that choice and still consider yourself an intersectional feminist.
Are you referring to me? If so, it’s a private/public (or in my case, internet/work) divide.
It makes sense to me. There’s all kinds of work one can do as a feminist that I think is great but I won’t do myself. I think it’s great to teach kids about feminism, but I don’t like kids so I don’t do that. Similarly someone could think it’s great to fight alongside men for justice but won’t do it because they don’t like men. So in that case you do your own thing and support feminists who do whatever it is you’re not comfortable doing. So I’m fine with feminists who don’t want to be around men as long as they support my efforts to engage men in social justice, just as I don’t spend time with kids but I support feminists who educate them.
Logan’s distinction about public/private rang very true to me.