Through discussions about feminism both on the internet and in real life, I’ve noticed that many men feel offended and threatened by feminists. It is used as an ugly word, or an insult. We hear comments such as “I hate those man hating feminists!” and “Feminists are sexist because even the name has ‘fem’ in it! Men are not accepted in the movement! Why not be egalitarian instead?”
Here’s the thing: feminists don’t hate men. We don’t. I don’t. My brother, who identifies as a feminist, sure as hell doesn’t hate men. None of my friends who identify as feminists hate men. Do we get frustrated with and fed up by how patriarchal society is? Abso-fucking-lutely! Does that mean we hate you? No.
Now, you may be thinking, there are plenty of women who identify as feminists who say they hate men. While they may claim the title of “feminists,” they’re not really supporting the concept of feminism—a demand for equal respect towards all genders. Same goes for so-called feminists who don’t support trans rights. To me, feminism is about challenging the patriarchal gender norms that affect all of us, which includes rape culture. I think many men feel offended when women discuss rape culture as a part of feminism because they think that we are saying they’re all rapists. That is not the case. As a feminist, I think any person, regardless of their gender, is perfectly capable of understanding and respecting consent. What patriarchy says is that YOU, as a man, are unable to keep control of your urges and want to rape women because you just can’t help it, because boys will be boys.
Feminists believe men are smarter than that. They believe that men should be treated as responsible adults who face the consequences when they commit a crime and do not respect consent. If the idea that you are a human being fully capable of controlling himself is offensive, then I think you would benefit from re-examining the effect of social constructs on your life. While plenty of men are respectful towards women and have no desire to harm them, there are still men who think they’re allowed to do as they wish. That is where the uneasy feelings about men come from. We do not think all men are bad but women are wary for a good reason. 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. In some countries, this can even go up to 70%. More than 120 million girls and young women have experienced rape or sexual assault at some point in their lives. While I’d like to believe that most men won’t harm me, I know that the reality of being a woman is different. As someone who has experienced sexual assault and emotional abuse in relationships with men, and who knows plenty of other women who have experienced similar situations, the statistics are a part of my life. I absolutely wish they weren’t.
I want generalization of genders to stop. I don’t want all men to be stamped with the “predator” label. I just want to be safe, and for everyone else to be so, too. Of course, people of all genders are capable of sexual assault and violence, but these statistics focus mostly on situations involving cis-heterosexual relationships. What men can do to help change these statistics is showing us you’re not that way instead of complaining about “man-hating feminists.” Have discussions with your friends about the importance of treating everyone well. Discuss the importance of consent. Remind them that violence is never okay. Don’t let them catcall women and make them feel uncomfortable. Same goes for anyone of any gender. These things are simply not acceptable no matter who you are.
I think the media and society has created this over-exaggerated image of feminists as ugly angry man haters and that’s not a good representation. There are always going to be radical people who are a part of any group. That doesn’t mean they’re a good representation of them all. For example, the Westboro Baptist Church identifies as Christian, yet they intensely bully anyone who opposes their religious views. Are they meant to be a proper representation of Christianity and everyone who identifies as Christian? Absolutely not.
I do not understand why some insist on piling feminists all into one group, claiming that we are all hateful “feminazis” when we’re fighting for issues that affect men, too. Patriarchy affects men in a negative way. If you’re a guy, you’ve probably been told to “be a man,” repress emotions and stay away from anything feminine. You’ve probably been encouraged to have sex (most likely heterosexual sex), and been told that if you didn’t lose your virginity by a certain age, you’re a “loser.” That’s the type of thing we want to change. We’re on your side. We want to make things better for everyone. It’s time you stop being biased and putting us down for wanting to make a better change in society. By casting us as the enemy, you are making the concept of gender equality much more difficult.