When big news relating to violence against women or other forms of misogyny breaks, as it has in the form of the killing spree of Elliot Rodger, there is always, without fail, an outcry of ‘not all men’, and not just from men. I thought I addressed the necessity of generalising all men in my previous blog post, where I explained that even though yes, we know that not all men are vicious misogynists and murderers, the patriarchal society raises them to be, and thus we have to consider the ways in which this affects all men, and the ways in which all men are complicit. However, given the angry responses I received from men as soon as I published it, chastising me for insinuating that all men are murderers (which, by the way, I definitely didn’t), I am assuming I didn’t succeed. That, or some men don’t read things before they become unreasonably defensive, and only act to further derail discussions about institutional misogyny and violence against women.
There is a deep-seated belief in a lot of men that feminists are “out to get them”. Either because they fail to see the ways in which women are oppressed by society, or they’re misogynists (or, probably, both), there are men who perceive that feminism is concerned with furthering the rights and freedoms of women at the expense of men. Kind of like this picture.
The assumption that the above image makes only works if you believe that men and women are already equal, and that any gains feminism seeks to make are additional to that. Well, if equality is women being held responsible for their own rapes, the justice system being so against women seeking conviction that an advisor in the Met has described rape as being ‘decriminalised’, convicted rapist footballers being invited back to their clubs with zero condemnation, cis male politicians getting to choose whether unwanted pregnancies can be terminated safely, and endless employment related discrimination, then okay – you got me. I want more than equality. I want this endless dehumanisation, violence, and denial of agency to cease.
And, I mean, that only has to come at the expense of men if men consider their right to dehumanise, violate, harm, and control women to be above all else. If that’s the case, then congratulations, you are a misogynist. Now, when we’re engaging in discussions about the above, one of two things will happen: someone will say ‘not all men’, or someone will mention ‘misandry’ – either related to the first point, or as a separate point about the oppression men face too. Let’s take each in turn.
‘Not all men’ comes from two places: either you accept that men do perpetrate the above, but want to draw attention to the men who don’t; or, you fail to see the above as part of a wider system of male domination. If you’re the latter, I’d like to ask you how 85,000 rapes a year, in light of the barriers to getting conviction and incessant victim blaming, are just ‘individual cases’, but I don’t really want you to talk to me ever. If you’re the former, I understand, and I especially understand if you yourself are a man. You’ve never raped a woman, or hit a woman, so why should you be lumped in with the men who have?
The answer is, quite simply, because rape and violence are part of the masculine identity that society attempts to indoctrinate men into. Don’t get me wrong, it’s harmful to men too; it encourages them to reject emotion and thus refuse to seek help for mental health issues, to strive to unobtainable body standards, and certainly contributes to homophobia. But that quest to suppress femininity of all kinds naturally incorporates a quest for power and dominance, especially over those deemed to be inferior to you. That’s women. So yes, of course not all men subscribe to that masculine identity, or necessarily use it to be violent, but it still exists, and it still causes harm. So we have to talk about male violence. We have to talk about men. No, not all men – but talking about the men who don’t do these things doesn’t fix the ones who do. Male violence is a symptom of being raised a man in patriarchy, even if not all men display it.
And it really is understandable if that makes you feel uncomfortable, but every time you enter our spaces to tell us ‘not all men’ are like that, or that you’re not like that, you derail our discussions and prevent us from actually dealing with those men who are. When you get angry about it, all you achieve is making marginalised people talking about their oppression feel threatened. If you’re going to be mad at anyone, why not make it the men who aren’t like you? Instead of the women who are hurt by those men.
Now, to those accusations of misandry. Misandry is the hatred of men. When women generalise about men in the way discussed above, some men consider that to be misandry. Some men think that feminism is just glorified misandry, because it focuses on the issues of women. But as we’ve already discussed, it does that because women face oppression in ways that men do not. That’s not to say that men can’t face other oppressions, for example based on race or sexuality. That’s not to say men don’t face hardships. That’s not to say men aren’t affected by patriarchy and masculinity themselves, because I’ve already outlined that they are. Feminism doesn’t seek to erase any of this; it is just centred on women, by women, for women. Other groups can campaign alongside this. Men’s Rights Activists could focus on the ways men really are disadvantaged, instead of being misogynistic and blaming women/feminists the way so many of them often do. Elliot Rodger was an MRA himself, lest you forget.
Feminists don’t hate men; or rather, they aren’t feminists because they hate men. They are feminists because they believe that society needs to change. Some of us make jokes about hating men, and killing men, and take pride in being labelled misandrists. If you couldn’t leave the house without being harassed by men because you are a woman or read to be one, if you couldn’t forget the ways multiple men in your life had abused you, and if you had to deal with the persistent possibility that at any moment any man might do it again – you might need a little light relief, too. Chances are that no, we don’t hate every single individual man. But we do hate the way in which society raises men, and the facts are that all men benefit from the privilege it allows them.
It’s completely understandable if these jokes, if this ‘misandry’, makes you feel uncomfortable. It could, I suppose, even make you feel threatened. It shouldn’t. Some women hating some or even all men makes absolutely zero difference to men as a gender. There is no widespread violence against men perpetrated by women. There is no institutionalised discrimination of men. And that’s the difference between misandry and misogyny. One man hating any or all women for their gender is conforming to the societal expectation and contributing to the systemic oppression. Men are supposed to behave in a way that expresses hatred of women, and that only enshrines that misogyny further. When women use the ‘killallmen’ hashtag on Twitter, they are invoking something that will never happen out of a place of frustration. When men retalliate with ‘#killallwomen’ or ‘#rapeallwomen’, they are uttering something that is already happening. Hundreds of thousands of women have already been killed or raped because they are women, and it still isn’t taken seriously and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
The difference between misogyny and misandry is that misogyny kills, and it kills on an institutionalised scale. One woman might decide to kill men for fun, but she’s not doing so because society raised her to hate men. When Elliot Rodger goes on a killing spree declaring that he will ‘punish’ women for ignoring him, that’s because he’s been raised to feel women owe him something. And I’m sorry, but you need to understand that as long as men kill women because they are women, or because men are raised to see women as inferior and as possessions, we’re going to need to keep talking about men as an entity. Whether you’re playing an active role in it or not.