Feminist Theory

So you’ve heard… all feminists hate men

Feminism has a long and expansive history, and rightfully, a lot of feminists have been motivated by their frustration and anger toward the violence, injustice and oppression they have experienced and witnessed. 

Along the way, the narrative and often-times joke has emerged that feminists are feminists because they simply hate men. The joke is often that feminists are so unappealing to men, for different reasons, that they have no other option but to become a man-hating feminist. How many of us have heard “You’re a feminist? Well, you must be a lesbian then!”. Yes, very funny and comedic. Sometimes, the narrative is that what a feminist wants is so outlandish and difficult to accept, that the only logical reason for their thinking is that they must hate men. Sometimes, the joke is that women’s struggle is baseless and frankly ridiculous; ergo, they are ‘feminazis’. 

The existence of feminism – and the exploration of why gendered oppression exists and how to overcome it – puts many people on edge because it challenges patriarchal and violent behaviour that largely gets a free pass in our societies.

If, all of a sudden, certain behaviours and beliefs are not appreciated and called into question, it can be easier to deflect the discomfort this causes with jokes of man-hating than it is to accept the legitimacy of such a movement.

It is much easier to disregard a movement by reducing it to an over-exaggerated joke. 

That being said, we should not ignore or gloss over the impact and contribution that radical feminism has had within the feminist movement. The important nuance within radical feminism is not that feminists hate men on an individual level, but that the domination and oppression of women have created a very real fear, anger, and distrust of men – especially as most societies do not hold the class of men accountable for their violent and patriarchal behaviour. By now, the 97% statistic is fairly well known: about 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed and assaulted in their lives. The common defence of “not all men” argues that not all men are misogynistic, abusive or violent.

A central idea within radical feminism is that women are forced to be constantly on guard and preemptively act as if all men could pose a danger to them, as our societies do not yet have the safeguards, laws, protections and rights in place that allow women to agree with “not all men”.

Contempt against men, or misandry, is considered by radical feminists to be a principle of precaution. And, this theory argues that misandry and misogyny cannot be compared; women do not have the power in society to create and maintain a structured system of violence or hatred against men that would allow misandry to cause harm in the same way that misogyny currently does. 

Feminists’ precaution and distrust of men is neither an exaggerated joke to be dismissed nor is it anywhere near as dangerous as man’s systemic misogyny.

But it is there: it is a very real and human expression of some people’s feminism. Anger, hurt, trauma and resentment have their place in this movement and women’s liberation needs to account for them for all of us to be truly free. 

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