Jezebel writer Lindy West recently wrote a piece titled “If I Admit That ‘Hating Men’ Is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning It Into a Self-Fulfilling Propechy?” in which she argues against the existence of misandry — negative attitudes and/or hatred toward men as a group of people [she doesn’t define it, but I will]. She explains that men face “human problems,” not misandry, and that men’s “obsession” with misandry has turned it into a self-fulfilling prophecy; women are starting to hate men, West writes, and men are turning women against them. Additionally, West writes that men see misandry as a “seductive scapegoat,” but the most powerful proponents of misandry are actually those who claim it exists.
While I believe West has some good points within her article — that men face some problems not because of their gender, but because they are humans — I cannot help but see a huge blind spot she has. Rather than extending this attitude of ‘people face human problems’ to both men and women, she fails to do so while amounting problems women face to patriarchy.
Feminism, as I often see it in online circles today, is a victim narrative in which women are painted as people with no volition who are simply acted on by male aggressors which are to blame for so many of the problems women face. Rather than seeing problems women face as human problems, proponents of feminism cast concerns as problems of the patriarchy and ‘privileged white men.’ Following are some examples.
The ‘gender wage gap,’ some feminists argue, is a result of systemic discrimination against women by men. Organizations like the AAUW note that women can improve their pay in the workplace by being more assertive, negotiating for better jobs/pay, and choosing more competitive jobs — which can arguably explain the pay gap while also considering, as AAUW notes, the fact that men work more hours, are not typically burdened with childcare responsibilities, and select more high-paying fields involving substantial risk — but still consider the pay gap to be evidence of gender discrimination.
Some feminists consider all sex work, even by women who willingly engage in it, as “modern day slavery” while conflating actual instances of sex trafficking with sex work by choice. This attitude takes away the agency of women and inaccurately casts all sex workers in a light of victimhood when many engage in sex work willingly, happy with their choices.
Domestic violence and sexual assault is often inaccurately framed as a ‘gendered assault’ in which males are aggressors and women are victims even though all people, not just women, experience sexual assault and domestic violence. Bogus statistics are trumpeted and sex is portrayed as something which is “often” the result of coercion. The narrative of ‘rape culture’ ignores men who are victims of rape and sexual assault and often casts all men as ‘potential rapists.’
Some feminists portray the atheist/skeptic communities as dangerous places which are hostile and unwelcoming toward women – so much so that anti-harassment policies are “needed” for women to feel safe and that male leaders in the atheist/skeptic communities need to speak out against sexism. One popular blogger says that there is a serious discussion in the community concerning whether women are “eye candy and fuck toys for the privileged white men” or whether they are valued colleagues. Another blogger says that “angry men” have declared war on women in the community. Another blogger says that she doesn’t feel safe as a woman in the atheist/skeptic community – and less safe than walking down a sidewalk.
Feminism — at least from its most vocal and/or popular voices which I have encountered — hardly seems to be a social movement for the benefit of all persons which fights for gender equality talking about the ‘radical notion that women are people too.’ Feminists constantly portray problems women face as stemming from the purposeful intention of men (i.e. the patriarchy) and craft victim narratives – rather than considering problems women face as human problems. Problems, too, are simply created when they don’t exist. West talks of misandry being invited by men on no good basis and I believe women create problems under the scepter of patriarchy on no good basis.
A helpful rewrite of portions of West’s article, I think, replacing men with women, misandry with patriarchy, and so on should reveal West’s lack of skepticism quite plainly and hopefully offer something hopeful for women to escape the victim narrative of feminism and to stop blaming their problems on men and the patriarchy.
Without further ado, I will present my version of portions of West’s article from a ‘perspective of a man’ written to women:
Okay, so maybe you are a woman. Maybe you haven’t had the easiest ride in life—maybe you grew up in poverty; you’ve experienced death, neglect, and despair; you hate your job, your car, your body. Maybe somebody (or multiple somebodies) pulverized your heart, or maybe you’ve never even been loved enough to know what a broken heart feels like. Maybe shit started out unfair and became irreparable and you never deserved any of this. Maybe everything looks fine on paper, but you’re just unhappy and you don’t know why. These are human problems and other human beings feel for you very deeply. It is hard to be a human. I am so sorry.
Though it is a seductive scapegoat (I understand why it attracts you), none of these terrible, painful problems in your life were caused by the spectre of “patriarchy.” You can rest easy about that, I promise! In fact, the most powerful proponent of patriarchy in modern internet discourse is you — specifically, your dogged insistence that patriarchy is a genuine, systemic, oppressive force. This is specious, it hurts women and men, and it is hurting you. Most men don’t hate women, as a group (we disagree with the ideas you put forth which often casts men in a negative light) but — congratulations! — we are starting to hate you. You, the person. Your obsession with patriarchy has turned misogyny into a self-fulfilling prophecy. (I mean, sort of. Hating individual women is not the same as hating all women. But more on that in a minute.) Are you happy now? Is this what you wanted? Please stop turning us men against you.
It is nearly impossible to address problems facing women—especially problems in which men are even tangentially culpable—without comments sections devolving into cries of “patriarchy!” from women and replies of ” patriarchy hurts men too” and “patriarchy is real” from women. Men are tired of this endless, fruitless turd-pong: hollow “conversation” built on willful miscommunication, bouncing back and forth, back and forth, until both sides throw up their hands and bolt. Maybe you are tired of this too. We seem to be having some very deep misunderstandings on this point, so let’s unpack it. I promise not to yell.
When men say things like “patriarchy isn’t real,” we mean it the same way you might say, “Freddy Krueger isn’t real.” The idea of Freddy Krueger is real, Freddy Krueger absolutely has the power to scare you, and if you suspend your disbelief it’s almost plausible to blame all of the unsolved knife-crime in the world on Freddy Krueger. Additionally, it is totally possible for someone to dress up like Freddy Krueger and start murdering teens all over the place. But that doesn’t meant that Freddy-Krueger-the-dude is literally real. He is never going to creep into your dreams at night and murder you. He has the power to frighten, there are isolated forces in the world that resemble him, but he is ultimately a manufactured menace.
There might be a lot of men in your life who are mean to you, but that’s just men not liking you personally. Men are allowed to not like you personally, just like you are allowed to not like us personally. It’s not misogyny, it’s mis-Kate-dry. Or, you know, whoever you are. It is not built into our culture or codified into law, and you can rest assured that most men you encounter are not harboring secret, latent, gendered prejudices against Kates that could cost you a job or an apartment or your physical sanctity. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t isolated incidents wherein mean men hurt women on purpose. But it is not a systemic problem that results in the mass disenfranchisement of women.
There are some really shitty things about being a woman. You are 100% right on that. You are held up to unreasonable expectations about your body and your career and your ability/desire to conform to traditional modes of femininity (just like men are with traditional masculinity), and that is absolutely oppressive. There are deeply wounded men who just don’t have the patience for diplomacy anymore who absolutely hate you because of your gender. (However, for whatever it’s worth, I do not personally know a single man like that.) That is an unpleasant situation to be in—especially when you also feel like you’re being blamed for the seemingly distant problems of people you’ve never met and towards whom you feel no particular animus.
Maybe you’re saying, “Hey, but my life wasn’t fair either. I’ve had to struggle.” I know it wasn’t. I know you have. But that’s not how fairness works. If you present fairness as the goal—that some day everything will be “fair” for everyone—you’re slipping into an unrealistic fantasy land. Life already isn’t fair, because of coincidence and circumstance and the DNA you were born with, and we all have to accept the hands we’re dealt and live within that reality. But life doesn’t have to be additionally unfair because of imposed systems of disenfranchisement that only affect certain groups. We can fight against that.
We hate feminist rhetoric which demonizes men. We do not hate women.
The fact that you blame men—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting men isn’t nearly as important to you as resenting men. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?
To all the women who have had shitty lives and mistake that pain for “patriarchy”: I totally get it. Humans are not such complicated creatures. All we want is to feel like we’re valued, like we deserve to exist. And I’m sorry if you haven’t found that so far in your life. But it’s not men’s fault and it’s not my fault. The thing is, you’re not really that different from the men you rail against so passionately in these comment threads—the men who are trying to carve out some space and assert their value in a world of powerful women. Plenty of men know exactly what it feels like to be pushed to the fringe of society, to be rejected so many times that you eventually reject yourself. That alienation is a big part of what men are fighting against. A lot of those men would be on your side, if you would just let them instead of insisting that they’re the villains. It’s better over here, and we have room for you. So stop trying to convince us that we hate you and I promise we’ll start liking you a whole lot more.