“Feminism” & “Man-Hating” are Not the Same Thing.

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Talking unabashedly about feminism has made me increasingly aware of a major issue: the way in which “feminism” is frequently perceived as “man-hating.”

There’s no shame in being vocal about our feminism—in fact, it’s kind of important. After all, the only way to confront issues like rape culture, the objectification of women, and outdated gender roles is if we actually talk about them.

When I first started talking about feminism, I heard women make comments like, “I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men,” so I knew about the association going in. At the same time, I figured that very few people would associate me as a man-hater, simply because I knew that I would be careful about the way that I talked. I would make sure that nothing I said sounded hateful, for two reasons:

One: Because I don’t believe in fighting hate with hate, or think that I will be taken seriously if I do sound hateful.

Two: Because I don’t hate men. I hate toxic masculinity, sure (more on that later), but men as a group are great. I’m not going to dismiss them all based solely on the fact that they associate themselves with a specific gender.

And yet, even while being careful about what I say, I’ve still received multiple responses that insinuate that all feminists (and, by extension, me) are man-haters.

I’ve had people respond to a perfectly inclusive feminist discussion by saying, “You’re right; women are better,” when that wasn’t at all what I was trying to say. I’ve had people say, “It’s weird to hear you talk like that, because most feminists are man-haters,” when that isn’t my usual experience. And oddest of all, even when I’m not even talking about feminism, I’ve had people make comments such as, “Well, you know how Ciara feels about men,” as though they immediately assume that because I talk about feminism sometimes, I have negative feelings toward men.

And I don’t. I really don’t. In fact, part of identifying as an intersectional feminist means that I actively try to avoid having any negative feelings toward any group of people who just happened to be born a certain way.

So why is this such a common assumption that people make?

Well, it isn’t any secret that this idea of the man-hating feminist has become a common one in popular culture. We hear talk of “feminazis” as if, somewhere in the world, there is actually group of feminists who round men up and lock them away in concentration camps (just to be clear, this has never happened in the history of the planet). We hear about bra-burning feminists who scream in people’s faces to get sh*t done, to turn the order of the world upside down so that women rule and men obey.

But the odd thing about these images is that they don’t reflect the reality of feminism and its goals at all.

Ask anyone who identifies as a feminist, and chances are they will tell you the same thing: feminism is not about giving women a position of superiority over men. If anyone is clambering to turn men into slaves and dogs, they are extremists and do not reflect the views of the average feminist. By definition, feminism is about creating a society of equality, one where nobody is limited by their gender. A society where women can lead the country and where men can express emotion.

And that brings me to another point: feminism does not solely concern women. Feminism primarily concerns women, sure—women are the ones who generally see the biggest changes in their lives because of it. But they are not the ones. Many feminist issues involve men, and not just as perpetrators. This is because feminism is not a battle between men and women; feminism is a battle between feminists (male and female alike) and the patriarchy.

The patriarchy is the name given to a traditional set of societal rules that enforce the idea that men and everything associated with male-ness is superior to women and everything associated with female-ness. And believe it or not, the patriarchy hurts men too. The patriarchy is what enforces the idea that men must be tough and unemotional. The patriarchy demands that men be providers for their family, that they make good money, protect their women from any threats, that they even want to choose women in the first place and aren’t, in fact, gay.

The hard truth about many of these expectations is that they aren’t easy to live up to. Some men have a difficult time providing for their families, and if they are unable to do so, they face a sense of failure, an inability to be “manly.” All men are born with emotions, but the patriarchy demands that they don’t express them, that they bury them deep down and bear that burden alone, resulting in a difficult time expressing themselves and inevitable feelings of loneliness. And because the patriarchy views men as tough, when they are the victims of rape or abuse it isn’t unusual for people to doubt them, simply because they’re men and “should have” been able to fight off their attacker—especially if their attacker was (according to the patriarchy) a weak and fragile woman.

The patriarchy also expresses an odd perspective when it comes to men and children, including their own. In the eyes of the patriarchy, men are not natural parents in the way that women are. Therefore, when they take care of their children they are “babysitting.” Women are considered the primary caregivers; men are merely helping out. This can be a problem for the woman, most certainly, but it is also a problem for the man who wants to be taken seriously as his child’s father.

Furthermore, the patriarchy is also responsible for what is sometimes called “toxic masculinity,” a set of learned behaviours that society pushes on men specifically, but are ultimately harmful, both to the man displaying them and to others. An example of toxic masculinity would be a display of violence, an act that is frequently done to prove a man’s toughness, but can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Other examples of toxic masculinity would include misogyny, homophobia, and sexual assault.

But toxic masculinity is not something that is innate to the male gender as a whole, and it is not a set of behaviours displayed by every man. When I say that toxic masculinity is something that needs to end, I am not referring to men as a whole, nor to masculinity as a whole. All that I am saying is that we as a society need to stop teaching boys from such a young age that they need to turn to such extremes to prove their maleness, because doing so only hurts them and others in the long run.

And these are issues that feminism is trying to fight. Feminism wants men to be able to show emotion, to allow their wives to provide for them if that dynamic works better, to not feel any shame if they don’t quite live up to what society demands that they be.

Feminism is about equality, and that equality includes men.

Feminism is not an exclusive club either; men can identify as feminists just as much as women can. In fact, many male celebrities have stood up for feminism in the media, including Patrick Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Daniel Radcliffe. Even the Dalai Lama has outright referred to himself as a feminist.

These are not men who are actively fighting against their own interests; they are men who believe in equality. Equality for the women in their lives to have command over their own bodies and to pursue whatever they want in life, as well as equality for men to have emotion and be taken seriously as their child’s parent.

 

Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Imgur
Editor: Emily Bartran
Supervising Editor 1: Catherine Monkman
Supervising Editor 2: Catherine Monkman

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Ciara Hall

Ciara Hall is a young writer who enjoys weaving tales of fantasy and blogging about her personal thoughts, feelings, and the everyday happenings of her life. Follow her work on My Trending Stories or visit her website.

William Machmer Dec 28, 2017 11:48pm

Look what I found in just 5 minutes https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2016/09/suzanne-moore-why-i-was-wrong-about-men You can't hate them all, can you? Actually, I can. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/yes-am-feminist-and-yes-hate-men Yes, I am a feminist, and I hate men. https://jezebel.com/5992479/if-i-admit-that-hating-men-is-a-thing-will-you-stop-turning-it-into-a-self-fulfilling-prophecy Most feminists don't hate men, as a group (we hate the system that disproportionately favors men at the expense of women), but — congratulations! — we are starting to hate you. Now for the rest of the story. This was written almost 8 years ago, and details how feminism has destroyed relationships between men and women and it will be women who will pay the final price. http://www.singularity2050.com/2010/01/the-misandry-bubble.html The Western World has quietly become a civilization that has tainted the interaction between men and women, where the state forcibly transfers resources from men to women creating various perverse incentives for otherwise good women to inflict great harm onto their own families, and where male nature is vilified but female nature is celebrated. This is unfair to both genders, and is a recipe for a rapid civilizational decline and displacement, the costs of which will ultimately be borne by a subsequent generation of innocent women, rather than men, as soon as 2020 And you wonder why MGTOW if growing.

Ben Karigan Jun 22, 2017 10:48pm

Ciara Hall if toxic masculinity is not referring to masculinity en mass, then why not just call it "toxic behaviors." The very fact that you're taking these negative traits and gendering it as "masculine" is misandry, and that's just something you need to acknowledge. Men do not have a monopoly on negative traits. Feminists would just never stand for it, if a social scientist came up with a phrase called "Toxic Blackness" that spoke to anti-gay, aggressiveness, and attitudes that promote violence against trans community and other negative behaviors that are more common in black communities relative to population. It would be a non-starter, and would be called racist, and rightly so. The name reinfroces, and stigmatizes the idea that masculinity ITSELF is toxic regardless of the highfulutin academic theory that stands behind it. I also believe gendering the toxicity as "masculine" is what allows violent, aggresive leftist to partake in the psycholgical practice of "ressentiment". Those on the left who you see on college campuses who are most likely to engage in violent protest are often screaming about "toxic masculinity." They project the qualities they least like in themselves on to the other so as to divorce themselves from the feeling of shame of having this quality while experiencing a sense of moral superiority. In this case, Feminists allow themselves to see "maleness" as toxic while ignoring their own innate "toxicity". (as long as it's the OTHER that's violent, I don't have to work on my own violence... or better yet.. it's OK for me to be violent, because the other is innately violent and my violence is used in service of defeating their violence... either way I'M the morally suprerior one) <--- If you seriously disagree with this, just go on twitter for more than 5 minutes to witness the emotional violence the Feminist community enacts on anyone that partakes in even most benign of disagreements. Another problem with the toxic masculinity is concept creep. You can say what you think it means in an academic setting (which I've already noted is problematic and sexist) but in the real word it's problematized further. In instances that are too frequently to be ignored, the idea has come to mean that masculinity in itself is toxic. There is just something toxic about being a man. You see this all the time. If someone tries to argue a point, their point will be dismissed as unworthy of reply simply because as a man, they suffer from toxic masculinity. The concept of toxic masculinity hurts women and feminists because instead of understanding an argument well enough to reply to it, they just go to the "toxic masculinity" ad hominem. And ANY behavior becomes worhty of Toxic Masculinity. That guy took your parking spot? "FUCKING toxic masculinity!" It's used and abused so thoroughly it has become meaningless. It's become hard to tell sometimes if people are using the word genuinely or if they are engaging in a parody of a confused intersectionalist feminist. As far as the idea that women are socialized to like "masculine tough guys" ... it's simply not true. The urge for a woman to be attracted to the tallest guy in the room with the deepest voice is a biological precept that has been proven in scientific settings. It dates back to the earliest development of our species.(just curious... do you think gorilla females are attracted to the alpha males b/c they watched too much gorilla soap operas?) You can no more socialize a gay man to be straight as you can socialize yourself to prefer short men if you are innately attracted to relatively taller men. If you are attracted to a big muscular aggressive guy with a sonorous voice, just be attracted to them. Don't tell me who you want to have sex with is the fault of the patriarchy. So much of feminist anger is rooted in this basic sexual confusion and frustration and guilt over what they want. I can tell you anecdotally AS a short guy, this to me as the most infurationg argument I hear from feminists "Oh you know... I'd totally date you... but i'm socialized to like tall guys" Give me a break. I 100 PERCENT support you and your desire to date / have sex with (or NOT have sex with) whomever you want, boy, girl, furry. whatever. But just own the fact that you're a human with needs that are just as superficial as men. The need for women to protect their egoic identity attachment to the belief that they are innately above superficiality leads them to some serious motivated thinking. (if ONLY it wasn't for that DARNED patriarchy that makes me want to have sex with the hottest guy in the room... ) If putting Steven Hawking on the cover of Harlequin Romance novels is what would move product, then that's what you see, but he doesn't. Fabio moves books. And the people selling those books really don't care to socialize you one way or the other. they just want your money /The end. thanks for listening

Ben Karigan Jun 22, 2017 10:17pm

Erin Kalabsa How is toxic masculinity a thing, but toxic feminity not a thing? Is it because you're a feminist and have hatred towards men because of your misandry? You're that much of a female chauvanist that you can see that there is something toxic inherent in masculinity but not in feminity?

Ciara Hall Jun 22, 2017 10:09pm

Thanks for your comment Ben! As I hope that I explained in the article, toxic masculinity is not referring to masculinity en masse, but a certain set of behaviours that men are encouraged towards that are toxic, both to themselves and others, such as violence, homophobia, etc. When I use the words 'toxic masculinity', I am not referring to all men, but to the behavours that SOME men exhibit. As far as the idea that women are only attracted to masculine, tough guys, that is something that women are encouraged to do by society, but it most certainly is not true for every woman. Some women prefer men who are more emotionally available and vulnerable. Some women don't. It depends on the woman. But women do not want men to be passive lieutenants that merely take orders, and when I say that something is the patriarchy's fault, I do not mean that it's men's fault. Patriarchy is a societal idea, not any one person's fault, man or woman. A woman can be guilty of upholding the patriarchy just as much as a man can.

Erin Kalabsa Jun 22, 2017 5:20pm

Ben Karigan those aren't things and I'm not the one demanding that one person "fix" an entire movement.

Ben Karigan Jun 21, 2017 9:45pm

Erin Kalabsa what are some ways you try to fix Toxic Feminity? or even Toxic Blackness?

Erin Kalabsa Jun 21, 2017 8:19pm

you're funny...

Erin Kalabsa Jun 21, 2017 8:18pm

maybe you should not expect one woman to "fix" the entirity of feminism...after all, toxic masculinity wouldn't even be a thing is it were really that easy to just "fix" something...check yo'self before you wreck yo'self bro...are YOU doing al you can to counter dangerous rhetoric among other men? B/c, as a feminist, this pains me, but really a lot of the "power" lies in men to stand up to other men and say, "That's not cool" - which is hard, b/c god forbid you treat women like people in certian company, there will be hell to pay...

Andy Bowker Jun 19, 2017 8:52pm

This is great and how things should me. The patriarchy certainly does affect men too .. I know that from experience - thanks for acknowledging this. It's about time men and women started to unite more.

Ben Karigan Jun 19, 2017 8:50pm

it's impossible to take seriously anyone that casually throws around the term "Toxic Masculinity" and then says Feminism isn't really just misandry and female chauvinism. Anyone who has tried to make a sincere effort to speak with a feminist for more than five minutes will know immediately feminism has nothing to do with equality, but female superiority. Within 20 seconds of making even the most minor critique of some feminist ideal it's all "You're a MAN! Men should just LISTEN to women and be good allies." OK, so just be honest... you don't think men and women should be equals. You want women to be superior and men just passive lieutenants that take orders. And finally, women want to have it both ways...you are attracted to the most masculine, tough, tall guys out there, but then you want to bitch about how it's the patriarchy that is making men afraid to show weakness... YOU are making men this way. the MINUTE you stop sleeping with these guys, every single gym in this country will go out of business. But that's not going to happen because you're just lying about what it is you want. There's NOTHING more unatractive to a woman than a man that shows weakness, or vulnerability. But at the same time you want to make it the patriarchy's fault (read: men's fault) that we aren't the exact way that you hate us to be.

Michelle Polster Jun 19, 2017 2:37pm

This was great! Thank you!

Prince Perrier Jun 19, 2017 1:25pm

I'm sorry but when feminists have allowed misandry into their ranks and even paraded misandric ideals(toxic masculinty) and people, they basically were willing to take the truthful label of being misandrists. Even if you don't hate men(which is unlikely since you believe in toxic masculinity), your group does. Maybe fix your group first instead of covering it's bigtory.

Jennifer Evangelista Jun 18, 2017 9:25pm

Great article. I agree completely! Thank you