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If I Admit That “Misandrous” Is An Overused Term, Will You Stop Insulting Me In The Name Of Your Cause?

August 18, 2013

Sometimes I think it would be so much easier to be bigot. You’d never have to care what other people think. You could just trundle along on your merry way, believing what you want to believe, never changing your mind, never accepting new facts. Just blindly chewing on the same old rubbish.

Alas, I am a liberal. I am honour-bound to pay credence to the rantings and ravings of other people and not simply discard them for being ridiculous, because if I do that then I am being hypocritical and prejudiced, or something. What’s interesting about this is that it usually brings me more at loggerheads with other liberals than bigots. After all, how can you argue with someone who you fundamentally disagree with at every turn? There’s just nowhere to go from there. The staunch, stick-in-the-mud conservatives are a different species to me.

The arguments I have are all about the finer points, the details. These I spend most of my time debating. Lately, I’ve been getting into feminism a lot, and of course it’s a highly necessary movement with mostly good points, and though it is constructed and held by some very, very intense people, that doesn’t make the truths spoken any less true. There is, however, a point I can’t agree with or get behind, no matter how often it is posited. That point is about misandry, and its existence or lack thereof.

Indeed, misandry (or the dislike / hate of men) is not anything like as big an issue as misogyny, because as it is rightly noted, misogyny has been going a long time and is an institution, a system that oppresses people every second of every day. I will also admit that patriarchy is responsible for many of the problems men specifically experience in society; two examples are custody battles that favour the female because she is “the nurturer”, and that horrid form of homophobia / misogyny which makes it impossible to do anything “women do” because that makes you “gay”. These I see clearly as problems stemmed from traditional masculine ideas of masculinity, an integral part of patriarchy. What I’m taking issue with today are merely jibes, quips and insults in relation to… Masculinity. Oh, how things change.

So what is my problem with a bit of light to moderate ribbing? Shortly put, it’s the dreaded H word again: hypocrisy. Because it doesn’t make sense to say “Women are being oppressed every day of their lives with the use of thoughtless language and sexist jokes” and then to use the same thoughtless language and sexist jokes yourself. The argument for this is that men are not an oppressed group. Since misogyny is an an institution and misandry is not, misogyny is a problem and misandry is not.

Before you make that argument, you should think carefully about what it is you think “institution” means. I consider an institution not as a disorganised collection of twats sharing stupid memes on the internet (which I admit is oppressive), but rather large organisations that have the ability to alter your perception and affect you choices without your knowledge. This would include advertisers and many of the people who work in industries that sell products in our capitalist society, since it is a job that involves wriggling into the psyche of the public and does so effectively.

Perhaps you remember those shirts that came out a while back, which read: “Boys are silly. Throw rocks at them.” They were pretty popular. I remember laughing at them myself when I was 12 or so. However, my mother was concerned by them, and when questioned, she did not say that she was concerned it would incite violence against boys; instead she was concerned that the the equivalent opposite of this brand (“Girls are silly”) might incite violence against girls. So, she wasn’t concerned about what it would do to boys, only potentially what it could do to girls.

In a sense I understand, because violence against women is a major global concern. However, I think it’s telling that something perceived as a violent message is only seen as problematic when it threatens the safety of girls – bear in mind, my mother is a woman with three sons. This T-shirt was one in a long line of misandrous message brands and I can see that they are a response to the extraordinary number of misogynistic brands that are still being designed and circulated; but nonetheless, the industry that makes money off of making it cool to insult men is an institution, and potentially one that could gain power for all the wrong reasons.

Anti-misogynist statements can be funny and a great way to counteract half-witted, bandwagon-jumping sexism. Misandrous statements are adopted by people labouring under the delusion that the two are fundamentally different, and just perpetuates sexism in general. If you buy into the franchise, you are buying into the notion that there is a fundamental difference between the sexes. If you believe that, then you have no defence against men who claim that men are naturally superior, other than to simply deny it and possibly to make the equally unsubstantiated claim that women are superior. The fight for equality only works if you actually believe, and are seen to believe, that males and females are born equal. It is society that makes the split. If I behave misogynistically and you misandrously [a word which does not exist and has no equivilent, apparently], we are both uncritically accepting the faulty notions that are causing it.

Besides, the lack of institutional oppression of men is a moot point. Why is is all right to offend people for no reason, or because you identify them as being part of a group which contains individuals you have had bad experiences with previously? That is usually called prejudice. Most examples of this affect people who are already oppressed – but it is that behaviour itself that is solely responsible for their oppression, since without prejudice, there is no oppression. It is only those who are not yet marginalised for which offence is considered acceptable.

The operative word there should be yet. Oppression has to start somewhere and it starts from attitudes; the attitudes that shaped patriarchy pinned women as inferior, in the way, that they were inherently detestable, lived to be desired, or else to be mocked whenever they weren’t of use. Hmmm, sounds familiar. Sounds like all the “If dildos could open pickle jars…” and “What are men good for anyway?” jokes and comments.

Often times, they aren’t even particularly funny. And that’s not me getting offended. I’m not personally offended by the statement “I hate men.” It just isn’t amusing. It isn’t a joke. It’s too dull to be a joke. Face it, it isn’t anything. Just a bald statement, which some women will cheer at, perhaps because at that point in their lives they happen to agree – and we can get very excited when we hear rehashed half-truths that happen to apply to us because they lack any kind of personal detail (look at horoscopes). I remember reading a feminist blog post the other day that said that you shouldn’t laugh at offensive jokes because you give encouragement to the offender, and the offender is not joking; he is expressing what he really thinks. Many a true word is spoken in jest and all that.

So, what’s different for “I hate men” jokes (which I will call misandrous jokes, whether the term offends you or not)? The difference is women are making them. Women are the oppressed, so they can say what they like. Right? Same for people of colour, gay people, etc etc. At this point it’s worth noting that the smallest (i.e., most marginalised) group in that list are the least offensive to people who are their opposite; take it from me that gay people do not make that many offensive straight jokes or comments, perhaps because it is not yet a long-time established above-ground counter culture.

That sort of suggests that the liberty / ability to offend rests firmly in the hands of people who are more powerful, in turn throwing into question the whole the-more-marginalised-you-are-the-more-you-can-get-away-with thing. It also seems to be unacceptable for one oppressed group to insult the other, because you should have some kind of brother or sisterhood, or something. But for some reason, you don’t want to accept the hands of people in that greatest of oppressive majorities: men. That doesn’t fit with progress. I could remind you that Martin Luther King, Jr. did not win white people round during the Civil Rights movement by telling all the white people to “GTFO, stinkin’ crackers! Only joking, JEEZ”.

Another flaw in the theory that the oppressed can say what they like is the rather pessimistic assumption that the oppressed in question will always be oppressed. As I said before, oppression has to start somewhere. Say y’all can chat what you like about men and the way you feel about us for now… Then, maybe not in a hundred, maybe not in two hundred, but in a number of years, the tables turn. Women are the most successful ones, they’re the ones who are leading and not only are they leading, but they are using their leadership to be the oppressors and put themselves above men on the hierarchy (which will always, always exist in one form or another, I’m afraid).

It’s conceivable. We never learn anything from history; we keep making the same mistakes over and over, treating groups of people like crap because we don’t realise that they’re just as human as the last lot of people we treated like crap. Oppression doesn’t spring up overnight, it takes centuries to millennia to create the kind of institutionalised oppression we’re talking about. And you might very well be setting out the ground layer right now. The point is, you can’t know for sure. This staunch insistence that misogyny and misandry are fundamentally different is pig-headed because it wrongly assumes we can’t make the same mistake twice (homosexuality has enjoyed intermittent periods of tolerance an intolerance all over the globe) and goes against the whole idea that we should be careful and considerate with language – careful and considerate to everyone, regardless of sex / gender.

I know what some of you are thinking. “Why should I care what you think? Why should I care what any man thinks?” Sure, you don’t have to care what I personally think. I’m just another twat from the internet, after all. But, you sure as shit should care what men in general think. They make up nearly 50% of the adult population. If you’re hot for a political cause, you don’t win the world around by purposefully alienating 50% of the people who could potentially support and agree with you.

I’m one of those guys. I read stream upon stream of eloquent, intelligent, thoughtful points in regards to men and the way men treat women and I accept it because what’s really being criticised here is the system. Systems go beyond you and me; they gather weight of their own through generations of blind acceptance and incessant influence from higher powers. Before you know where you are, the only crime of individuals like me is not scrutinising every single tiny thing. Which you have to do, if you want to be fair; you have to educate yourself to fill in the blanks of what your social privilege has taught you to be the case. We aren’t born perfect, you have to work to be a good person. And I do, but I often come up short.

At risk of sounding like a whining child, this is not my fault. I try hard every day, to keep up with the feminist movement and other liberal schools of thought in order to better myself and not unintentionally be an arsehole. I’m sure I don’t have the explain that the problem is that the oppression has gone on too long and worked so well that this is like climbing a sheer cliff face coated with Vaseline. My attempts to be respectful, thoughtful and helpful are met, every day, with scorn and contempt from people whose side I am firmly on.

How could I not be upset by this? I am human, after all. I read your blogs and articles and I see all this stuff about how “You don’t owe anyone anything” (addressed at women) and “Don’t let anyone judge you on superficial parts of you” (addressed at people who are not binary gendered, not clothing size 0, etc) and I wonder where all this liberated love and support goes when faced with male allies. Apparently, I owe you my blind agreement. Apparently, I am supposed to be happy that you choose to focus on the fact that I am male, and judge me based on this. Apparently, I am supposed to suck it all up because I am not oppressed, I am privileged, and it’s all just a joke.

It reminds me of how people respond to those suffering in some hidden way, like depression. People may not accept that the sufferer is having problems because the sufferer can’t say for sure what is bothering them so much. They don’t come from an abusive family, their parents aren’t getting a divorce. Nothing has happened to them, so it is though they don’t have the right to their own feelings. It is only much later, well into adulthood, that we realise (hopefully) that it doesn’t matter a damn whether other people feel we have a right to out feelings. We have them and that is that.

You can expect people who are overweight to complain when thinner people insult them. You can expect people who are gay to complain when straights insult them. You can expect people of colour to complain when whites insult them. Ageism, interestingly, works in both directions unencumbered and unchecked. You can expect women to complain when men insult them. And you can expect men to complain when women insult them; remember that women are not a minority here (quite the opposite, in fact), so the power of bombardment works just as well on either side. If you do not care, that says only that your kindness does not reach as far as your liberal attitudes pretend.

The main point, though, is that the attitude achieves nothing. It doesn’t redress the balance between men and women. Since when did having a slanging match turn out “winners”? This is not a fight anybody can win. It will simply go on until someone comes up with a better solution, getting worse all the time. It’s extremely juvenile to think you are entitled to every offensive thought that passes through your brain because “They started it” – they, I might add, being my ancient ancestors, not me. You are supposed to be making a point by rising above the stupidity, even if you get angry. You think before you speak because you can’t afford not to. I think before I speak, since it isn’t as easy as you might imagine to not be offensive – as I outlined before, I am more or less taught to be offensive from an early age. I cannot speak for women in general, but if you are feminist you have chosen a political stance which asks for mindfulness. When you insult us, you refuse to give it; in fact, you consciously shirk it and laugh in our faces when we question your logic.

I know the struggle for gender equality is extremely frustrating – more so for you than me because it is highly personal… I suppose. Recall that I mentioned those millennia of oppression, which is what makes misogyny so bad compared to misandry? Well, you didn’t live through those millennia. You lived through only a few decades, making your anger about female oppression no more personal than by own, but rather – forgive me – a bit self-righteous. I’m not sure I buy the argument that you have more of a connection to these people through history than I do, by virtue of being female, since I don’t regard something like sex as holding any great importance. However, I concede that I mentioned that we all have a right to how we feel regardless of grounds. You are entitled to be angry.

Oh, you can get angry – you can scream and shout and go mad but you can still be reasonable. Frothing at the mouth and yelling “Men have the best of everything because of patriarchy, which is DEATH,” until you turn blue and pass out is actually perfectly reasonable, but saying something offhand like “Who needs men anyway?” is worse because it only encourages the idea that gender / sex indicates worth. That is not a feministic notion. Though this is my personal opinion, I think some of the path towards sex equality is to recognise that the differences between them are actually minimal, and to pay attention to individual differences is vastly preferable. We have trained ourselves to be lazy in our evaluation of people. This, at least, does not vary across the gender spectrum.

What happens when we get lazy and personally abusive is that the disquiet, the discontent between men and women increases. Some men feel like they are trying to make things better for a group other than themselves and women are not – theirs is a self-interest. These men may be willingly making concessions so that women can gain, while some feminists refuse to acknowledge it; instead always on the attack, often attacking the wrong people, not seeing that women contribute to patriarchy all the time by buying into roles set out for them by higher influences – and that a man who offers his support to a woman by saying “You look fine without make-up” is not a misogynistic backwards jerk telling her what to do, but rather a man of his time; mislead, misguided and totally confused, trying to unravel the monster he has helped to create by backpedaling furiously, rather than learning to let go. He can’t see what you see. He needs an education, not a berating. [Edit: It’s been half a year since I wrote this – I’ll add that I agree with this post, that it is not the personal responsibility of every woman to educate her male friends on basic aspects of feminism.]

Yes, men get on the defensive when men’s ways are questioned. When our privilege is pointed out, our first instinct is to deny it, perhaps because we do not wish to believe our success is not our own, or perhaps simply because we don’t like to believe the world is so very unfair. A mature adult can look past this and recognise a sound political point when they see it. It’s more difficult to ignore a direct and uncalled for insult, that makes presumptions about you (I would not have thought that needed to be explained to a feminist, but there you go). In response to this, men bristle and they stay bristled, seeing feminism as a personal attack. Most likely, the loudest and most offensive forms of it will rear their heads first, then men will turn theirs away, thereby delaying any wish to find out more about the cause and all it can offer. After all, no one goes looking for insults. This, in turn, drastically slows down progress in feminism.

In summary, then; you should really know better . I get annoyed because your assumption that you can say what you like about the other groups fuels the idea that the other group can say what they like about you, and totally obscures any good points our political standpoint contains. Why should they listen to you and respect you if you obviously don’t listen to and respect them? It creates a rift where there needn’t be a rift. Whatever the oppression that has come before, it has to end with you , or it won’t end. There was this dude a while back who came up with some archaic shit that about sums it up – what was it – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A bit later on in time there was also something about eyes-for-eyes making worlds go blind or something. Just sayin’ – no excuses.

TL;DR When you say “men”, I feel like you’re looking at me personally. And I know you hate it when I look at you personally and say “women”. Generalisations suck and so do double-standards.

**Title comes from an article on Jezebel , entitled: “ If I Admit That ‘Hating Men’ Is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning It Into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?” Please note, this article does not contain snarky misandrous comments, in fact it’s very reasonable and well-worth a read. That’s “reasonable” even without frothing at the mouth, turning blue and passing out.**

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From → Gender Politics

2 Comments
  1. Thought provoking. I’ve noticed the phenomenon of people from historically oppressed groups making comments that from others – even from themselves – would be met with vehement denunciations of sexism, bigotry, etc. But this one sentence you wrote, ” I am human, after all,” pretty much sums up the problem with this attitude.

  2. JTC permalink

    “Indeed, misandry (or the dislike / hate of men) is not anything like as big an issue as misogyny, because as it is rightly noted, misogyny has been going a long time and is an institution, a system that oppresses people every second of every day.”

    Wrong. Sorry but you can’t have one thing without it’s opposite. Even a 2 year old understands that.

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