I believe nearly all feminists, no matter what kind, have been called man-haters at some point. The depiction of feminism and feminists as anti-man is familiar, old, and of course completely inaccurate. I can remember how, as a girl, I was terrified of the label ‘feminism’ because of this depiction of feminists. No matter how much I believed that I was just as good as the boys (if not better), I could never say that I was a feminist. Because if I said I was a feminist I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I would be seen as irrational and emotional, which is laughable as women are assumed to be just that regardless of their political labels.
You can find this idea of feminism as ‘anti-man’ throughout history, but recently feminist popular culture has ‘reclaimed’ the stereotype in a satirical way. Mugs with ‘Male Tears’ slogans, T-shirts with ‘Boy Bye’, or #KillAllMen hashtags. The list goes on. I spent months researching this feminist claim to hating men this summer, and I have to admit that I do not blame anyone for expressing themselves this way. Not only is it a funny outlet sometimes, but it also points out how ridiculous it is to paint feminism as man-hating when it advocates for equality, not revenge. In fact, I think it often perfectly highlights the injustice that is misogyny.
The idea that hating men would in any way be similar to hating women is ridiculous, and those who use the feminist man-hating joke as a serious statement have either missed the point we are making entirely or are consciously using it against us. For example, the fancy word for man-hating: ‘misandry’, was first found online in the ‘manosphere’, i.e. the Men’s Rights Movement and similar groups’ online spaces. It was used to create a counterpart to misogyny and legitimise the concerns of the Men’s Rights Movement and subsequently, plant ideas of structural misandry often aiming to undermine the claims of feminist movements.
I believe that it is well known that misogyny is far greater and far more deadly than man-hating. For instance, this is particularly obvious with examples such as the countering of #KillAllMen with #RapeAllWomen. The counter-hashtag clearly shows that the anti-feminists know that something like rape is so widespread and so harmful that the threat of rape can silence feminists. It indicates that one element of misogyny is believed to be able to stop feminists. It indicates that they are aware that misogyny kills whilst man-hating does not.
However, this is the point where I come to explain the problems with us using man-hating by considering the idea of intersectionality i.e. how different forms of oppression can intersect and create a particular experience of oppression. For example, Black lesbians have a different experience of misogyny than that of white women because of the intersectional experience of oppression through stratifications such as sexism, heterosexism, and racism. Even though feminism has a history of working against generalisations and appreciating the diversity of experience, when we say that we hate men, even as a joke, who are we including in ‘men’? Are we including men who experience racism, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, or classism? If we are, we ought to ask ourselves if ignoring structures of oppression that aren’t gender will help achieve equality at all. If we aren’t, perhaps we recognise that just like how we experience complex oppression, men do too. So the question is whether if we showing recognition of complex oppression affecting men? If we are, I think we ought to consider if we want to add to the violence they experience daily by buying into man-hating.
One tangible example of how satirical man-hating can be problematised through intersectional analysis is this TikTok clip. In the clip, a woman is showing how she has decorated her living room. Before entering the room the viewer can see a crunched over white man in a cage. Following this visual, the clip changes to a white English speaking man saying: “Finally the time is upon us. Men in cages. I thought it wouldn’t be in my lifetime. 2021! I tell ya”, whilst wiping away tears of joy. Now, I am sure the intention behind this clip is provocative humour, but the development of the joke, as well as the narrative by the man, highlights the privilege required to make man-hating jokes. Imagine for a moment that the man in the cage was Black. If this were the case, surely we would react with instant distaste due to the history of enslavement of Black bodies. If this were the case, placing a Black man in a cage would reproduce violence and contribute to narratives of Black bodies as less than human. If this were the case, we wouldn’t be wiping away tears of joy.
Overall, the question of privilege and man-hating is a complex one as identity and experience work together in infinite and intricate ways. Sometimes man-hating is satirical and a means of resisting a gendered society who favours men and masculinity. In no way do I intend to police how people navigate resistance within the capitalist, sexist, heterosexist, racist, ableist, xenophobic, nationalist, ageist, and imperialist society we find ourselves in. However, as with the case with the man in the cage, by considering intersectional implications of our resistance we can limit our contributions to the violence we are often blind to. By considering the man in the cage, I want to emphasise that intersectionality ought to be at the forefront of feminism, and we must include men in feminist analysis.
Here, I am not saying that those of us who say that we hate men intend to contribute to hatred, and I am not saying that you aren’t entitled to be angry with men (I know I am frequently). However, I want us to pay attention to the harm we may be causing. Because no matter how many times I explain myself, saying “I hate men” risks contributing to the same hatred which depicts Black men as animals or working-class men as uncivilised. Understanding how oppression works intersectionally, I don’t want to do work which harms those who understand the pains of oppression. Simultaneously, recognising my privileges as a white European middle-class woman, I do not want to tell feminists how to be good feminists.
Reflecting on the history of the representation of feminism as man-hating, I think that history is best understood as part of the present as it has shaped our reality and made it what it is now. We must understand and recognise that we are not separate from the past, but are rather in conversation with it. Therefore, considering the future, I want to believe that as feminists, we take steps towards equality with intersectionality our ethics at the forefront of our minds. Ignoring the harms of misogyny has created, and ignoring how our man-hating satire is used against us and allies will only hinder us from growing. By learning from our history, our present, and our values, we can create a future where we stand above the methods of harm. A future where we refuse to operate within the same parameters as misogynists. A future which is considerate and thoughtful and not in need of anti-man satire.
Let’s move beyond satirical man-hating and towards unapologetic but thoughtful feminism as we can only win the fight for equality by doing better than those we are fighting.