21 October 2006
of "man-hating" and "misandry," part 2
i don't know. is it possible to "reclaim" the word man-hater? because if we can realize "man" is just a construct, and define "man" as an embodiment of culturally-sanctioned masculinity -- a sexual egotist, a chest-thumper, blind to his privilege, an abuser, a rapist, the boss, the master, a power-slut, someone who takes what he wants without asking, someone who can't talk about feelings, someone who sees others as objects for his use -- then i definitely hate "men", and i would think that all forward-thinking people should. hell, real-life men ought to be revolting against "men", too. not by attacking women who challenge the conflation of construct and reality, not by calling someone hateful or crazy for putting patriarchy on a stage, not by expressing outrage at the depiction of violence against women in a way that disparages a man -- but by expressing outrage at actual violence against women, which frankly is committed, and justified, in all men's name, and gives men a bad name. if you don't like that, stop condoning it. can't you believe that it's not this playwright who is making you out to be all these things, but the patriarchy? i have a feeling the real offense is that you are used to the patriarchy also giving you moral blessing, and the playwright does not.
[fast-forward sound effect.] yesterday i read a post by amanda of pandagon, and today one by the happy feminist, addressing the "man-hater" accusation and its illogic.
amanda writes about the dixie chicks song "goodbye earl," about a woman and her best friend killing her abusive husband who can't be bothered with restraining orders, and men in texas karaoke bars who "kid on the square that it's man-hating" every time:
This makes me a little nuts, as you can imagine. How is it man-hating, unless you think both that all men beat women and that women should be complacent, or even worse happy, with this? They go to a lot of effort to establish that it’s Earl, a wife-beater, who has to die. At best, this song is wife-beater-hating. I wish they’d be more clear and just say women have no right to self-defense.
The phrase “man-hater” is more an insult to men than to feminists. Anyone who uses it generally means that the person thus accused is a rapist-hater, abuser-hater, sexist-hater. And when you call someone a “man-hater” who is actually hating on sexists, abusers, and rapists, you imply all men are these things. And they are not. So who are really the man-haters when that phrase is being wielded? It’s not the feminists; it’s the men implying that hating rape or hating abuse is the same thing as hating men.
HappyFeminist distills the analysis even further:
If you take male dominance as a given that is beyond question, then feminism comes to seem as a rebuke to men, a statement that they aren't doing a good enough job. In fact, feminism is only a rebuke to those men who believe in their automatic right to dominance, not to men in general.
Another common belief is that feminism is an effort to render men unnecessary or superfluous. Again, this belief about feminism only makes sense if you believe that a man's role is to be in charge of women. The distinction that is missed is that feminism only renders traditional roles superfluous, not men themselves. That distinction is easy to miss if you identify men with their traditional roles so thoroughly that you cannot see a value for men otherwise. In fact, feminism is about getting rid of arbitrary roles so that we can all, male and female alike, be seen as necessary and valuable for the individual abilities and characteristics we bring to the table.
amanda also talks a bit about this very common word among a certain subgroup of feminism-backlashers: "misandry". she calls bullshit on it, arguing that to make a word that sounds like the mirror-image of misogyny is fine, except that nobody hates men like women are hated. she refers to the two school shootings in one week, quite recently, in which men told boys to leave the classroom before molesting and/or killing the remaining girls. these incidents are something i've wanted to say something about for a few weeks now, and i just haven't been able to. but bob herbert wrote an op-ed about it for the new york times, and although it's timesSelect (i.e. hard to get to) i think it's worth a quick read, so i'll make a separate post with the text in it: read it here.
anyway. and some dude in the comments argued with amanda that yuh-huh, some women do too hate men. and she argued quite succinctly that there was nevertheless no equivalence between misogyny and what some people call misandry. and she responded "There are people who hate men, notably anti-feminists who think very little of men. However, attempts to equate the two will get you returned to telling me when someone sent the girls out of the room to rape and kill the boys." i thought this was a succinct and solid response, but the dude thought otherwise. then i tried to explicate her comment with a comment of my own, which produced more or less the following:
amanda already acknowledged that "there are people who hate men, notably anti-feminists who think very little of men." there are women anti-feminists who do this, too, so there is your man-hating woman. anytime someone is trying to sell you “boys will be boys,” they are hoping that you’ll think little enough of males to not hold them to a standard of human decency. and that sucks. but, in case you haven’t noticed, such people — men and women — tend to restrict that “hatred” of men to dismissing their humanity and potential for goodness. that is, though they may "hate" men thusly, they still do not go around singling men out for assault, rape, enslavement, or murder.
update: this topic is making the rounds in the blogs i read, and shakespeare's sister writes about what it is like to talk about sexism in a relationship with a good-intentioned man; reviews sara robinson's post on the subject of male violence, disenfranchisement and our modern, "toxic" culture of manhood/manliness; and addresses what a positive movement for redefining men might be like: "...if nothing else, it would provide that long-absent framework that men who are already interested in such an endeavor have been missing, the tools to finally begin extracting what defines manhood according to men from what defines manhood according to a patriarchy. They are very different things indeed." good stuff.
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