Here We Go Again

[Content Note: Anti-feminist tropes.]

Following her comments that she is not a feminist, but "a humanist," Meryl Streep was asked again during a BBC interview if she considers herself a feminist, and this was her response:
I'm a mother, you know? And I am the mother of a son and I'm married to a man. I love men. And it's not what feminism has meant historically, it's what it has come to mean to young women that makes them feel it alienates them from the people that they love in their lives. That disturbs me. I'm – of course, of course – but the actions of my life prove who I am, what I am, what I do, where you put your money, where you put your mouth, so I live by these principles.
This, during an interview where she was talking about pay disparity between female and male actors. UGHHHHHH.

Listen, if Meryl Streep doesn't want to identify as feminist, that's her choice, and I have no inclination to police it. There are a lot of women who support gender equality but don't call themselves feminists for thoughtful, valid reasons. But I do take issue when someone says they don't identify as feminist because they love men.

Which invokes the ancient, tiresome, discrediting narrative of feminists as "man-haters."

Not easily trusting men, or being routinely disappointed by men, is not the same thing as "hating" men. No many how many anti-feminists insist otherwise.

I don't want to speak for any other feminists, whose individual relationships with men might look very different from mine, but I don't not love men. I love men who deserve my love by treating me (and other women) with respect and making themselves trustworthy. That I have standards for men, regarding how they treat women, doesn't mean I hate men.

To the contrary, I give men the gift of high expectations and extend the kindness that is recognizing men are a product of their socialization in a patriarchal system, too.

I've shared this story before (with Iain's permission), and it is relevant yet again: Once upon a time, I suggested to Iain that something he was doing (which was pissing me off) stemmed from a latent sexist notion that it was his prerogative as The Man to do this specific thing, which is not an accusation I wield carelessly or often; I have little reason to, since Iain is rationally egalitarian—and viscerally egalitarian for the most part, too. Anyway, we talked it out, and Iain was generously honest, saying that, yeah, that was the reason he was doing it and, wow, he hadn't realized it, but, shit, that feeling was totally there, ick. No hard feelings; it's not like I've never been called out for deeply internalized bullshit. We move forward with a new understanding.

It took a long time to get there, though, and at one point, Iain had said, "You know, if you weren't a feminist, this probably wouldn't even bother you."

I replied, "No, if I weren't a feminist, it would still bother me, but instead of acknowledging that you're an indoctrinated member of a patriarchy just like I am, I'd just think you were being a lousy shithead."

He chewed on that for a moment, and then said, "Fuck."

That was the first time Iain really understood how my feminism was benefiting him—that feminism doesn't make me see problems that aren't there, but provides the tools which allow me to analyze and prescribe solutions based on a context larger than my immediate experience. And existent outside the narrowly-drawn borders of constrictive stereotyping that cast men as simultaneously brutish and infantile.

Implicit in my feminism is not only the belief, but the expectation, that men are not biologically determined to whatever cruelty they may show, by action or indifference, but instead our equals just as much as we are theirs, capable not only of understanding feminism (and feminists), but of actively and rigorously engaging challenges to their socialization, too.

Feminists, of course, have the terrible reputation, but it isn't we who consider all men babies, dopes, dogs, and potential rapists. The holders of those views are the women and men who root for the patriarchy—which itself, after all, takes a rather unpleasantly dim view of most people.

Streep is concerned that feminism alienates young women "from the people that they love in their lives," and insomuch as feminism has empowered me to draw boundaries with people who refuse to respect my autonomy, agency, consent, and equal womanhood, that may seem true. Except those people always have the choice to respect those boundaries and make themselves trustworthy and safe. It isn't feminism that isolates me from people I love; it is their disinterest in feminist tenets.

On the other hand, agreement around basic intersectional feminist tenets has drawn me closer to many of the people I love in my life. Especially women. My female friendships built around a feminist framework are some of the most important, rewarding relationships I have or ever will have.

And my relationships with feminist men are hell and gone better than any relationship I've ever had with a man who wasn't feminist, no matter how much I might have loved him, or love him still.

(Which is not to say that feminism as practiced does not also have the capacity to be divisive. Of course it does. Just ask any trans feminist who has been targeted by TERFs, or any woman of color who has been urged to "unity" with white feminists. But that, naturally, is not the concern of anyone accusing feminism of causing disharmony with men.)

Finally: I will just observe, for those deeply concerned about the nefarious effects of feminism on beloved men, that there are lots of men in this world who are marginalized via bigotries that have their roots in misogyny. Gay men, bi men, trans men, intersex men, and other men who are devalued by the toxic masculinity on the basis of transgressive sexuality and/or gender—all of them benefit from feminist challenges to the reductive definitions of masculinity imposed on men by a patriarchy that devalues men who don't conform to its limited spectrum of acceptable manhood.

My feminism, a feminism that challenges the patriarchal hierarchy that diminishes those men as well as women, is an act of love for those men.

To call me a man-hater is to invisibilize them.

Naturally, I would expect nothing less from the patriarchy and its reflexive defenders.

I'm quite certain there are feminists who would describe themselves as man-haters, and I wouldn't presume to tell them they were wrong. But man-hating is not a prerequisite of feminism, and I refuse to pretend that it is.

It's not because I give the tiniest, infinitesimal fuck about being called a misandrist monster by patriarchal trolls. Those gnats aren't worth mustering a defensiveness I don't even feel. It's because I want men to know that I haven't written them off, but instead have expectations that they will treat me with respect and dignity.

And if any man fails to meet those basic human expectations, and finds himself at the blunt end of my ire, then he needs to know it isn't because I hate "men." It's because I hate him.

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