Feminism 101: More Helpful Hints for Dudes

[Content Note: Misogyny; emotional policing.]

So, here is a thing that I've seen happen countless times: A feminist or womanist woman, either in a fit of pique or resignation, or as a considered statement, will say that she hates men.

And a man who identifies as a feminist ally will jump in to "correct" her, by saying she doesn't really hate men, that instead what she really means is that she hates male privilege; or to lecture her about how unhelpful she's being and how it's counterproductive to feminism to say that one hates men.

Now, some women who say they hate men really don't mean that they hate them, and are using a shorthand—often with what they expect is a closed and sympathetic audience who will understand their shorthand to mean that they have been repeatedly harmed by men or don't easily trust men or are routinely disappointed by men. Or understand that they're really saying something about male privilege, not men.

But some women really do mean that they hate men.

And I understand why that feels bad, to be hated based on your identity. After all, it's that very experience that underwrites my feminism.

However, it doesn't have the same power, to be hated by a marginalized person on the basis of one's identity, when one is a member of a privileged group that has, as a whole, done enormous harm to the marginalized group to which the person expressing detestation belongs.

To draw an equivalence, such as the one implicit in protestations that man-hating women are doing the same thing misogynist men do to women, pretends the inherent power imbalance between genders doesn't exist.

The existence of that power imbalance is Feminism 101. No one can be an effective feminist ally if they refuse to acknowledge this basic truth, this most essential reality that necessitates feminism in the first place.

Sometimes, a member of a marginalized group decides they hate the privileged group, because of a lifetime of mistreatment. And frankly, it's a valid choice. Unless they're trying to do something about it, like encouraging violence against that group (and even then there are exceptions for revolution), then there's no point in telling them they're not allowed to feel that way—except, of course, to nullify their underlying reasons.

To make them the problem, instead of the vast harm that has led them to this state of contempt.

I have a mixed-power identity, meaning I am privileged in some ways and marginalized in others. And it's not like I have never seen a member of a marginalized group to which I don't belong say that they hate all members of a privileged group to which I do belong.

But I understand why it might be that someone hates me, as part of the entire privileged group of which I'm a member, because of the vile cruelty done to them over and over by people with whom I share that privileged piece of my identity. And by me, in regrettable failures.

And I am not inclined to tell them they should feel otherwise.

For a lot of reasons. Including the fact that nothing happens to me if someone decides to hate all members of a privileged group of which I'm a part, besides losing a potential relationship with that person, which they don't owe me.

To expect to be liked, or even received neutrally, by someone subjected every moment of their lives to a systemic oppression from which you benefit, even if you don't want to, is a revolting entitlement.

Not everyone is equipped with the same emotional resources, and not everyone has the same lived experiences. Some people just aren't left with enough reserves to muster the strength that affording good faith to a person likely to harm them demands.

Here is what you need to understand: I live my life absolutely reviled by men. Men who are all too eager to tell me how much they hate me, what they want to do to harm me, what misfortune and violence they wish would befall me, how I am a lesser person than they are. I have been hurt, physically and psychologically, over and over and over by men my entire life. And many, many women will report the same experience. Many women have had even worse experiences with men than I have.

It is work for me to build relationships with men. Even the men I love, and who love and respect me, require me to educate them on how not to replicate the patriarchal horseshit with which they were indoctrinated. I have yet to meet a single man who didn't harm me in some way, even if unintentionally, with misogyny.

If some women end up hating men, because they don't have the energy left not to, I understand that. If some women end up hating men, because they, too, have not known a single man in their life who didn't harm them in some way, even if unintentionally, with misogyny, I understand that.

I understand it, and I grieve it.

And if you are a man who really gives a fuck about women, and you really want to be a feminist ally, then instead of condescendingly lecturing women on how we should feel about men, and how we should do feminism, and what feminism is and is not, then when you hear a woman express that she hates men, if you simply must say something at all, you will ask her to tell you why that is, if she is so inclined, and you will try to understand, too.

You will be a man that gives her a fucking reason not to hate men.

Because I am telling you straight-up that sanctimoniously instructing women how we should feel about men is not a compelling argument for not hating them. It's just giving us one more example of a man who'd rather be a mansplaining jackass than try to understand our pain.

[Note: The theme of this post originated as a comment; my thanks to Shaker gidgetcommando for suggesting it should be turned into its own post.]

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