Feminism is not Misandry. Seriously.

Aside from crazy Halloween parties and the SF Giants winning the World Series, this weekend also saw the first anti-feminist conference, held in Switzerland. Lately, I’ve seen some men’s groups popping up that equate feminism with an all-encompassing hatred of men. Let’s set the record straight.

Feminism? not so much. (image via http://urbansurvivalguideformen.com/)

What Feminism is Not

  1. A hegemonic ideology. The stories we hear about feminism tend to fit the accepted schema (Socialist Feminism, Separatist Feminism and PostModern Feminism) but, in truth, feminist theories are highly divergent.
  2. A movement to destroy men. Social power is not a zero sum game. The reason this idea persists is because a) media gives the mic to the most radical viewpoints (Teabaggers anyone?) and b) people increasingly tend to focus on news items that confirm, not challenge, pre-existing beliefs.
  3. A conspiracy among women. Put five people in a room and have them order one pizza. Getting that small group to unanimously agree on pizza toppings is enough of a struggle. Getting hundreds of thousands of people to agree on how to ensure women’s rights is a never-ending argument and a far cry from conspiracy.

Putting Feminism Into Context

The one thing I think anyone calling themselves feminist will agree on: women have a right to agency, a right to make decisions about their lives. In short: CHOICE. And the forgotten fact attached to this is that women have historically (in some parts of the world, currently) not had a say in their lives.  Imagine being property in the most literal sense. Imagine your decisions in life left up to other people because you’re thought to have the mental capacity on par with a child.

We tend to forget our own history, especially in a world of increased media saturation and obsession with the next big story. Not even a century has passed in the United States since women gained the right to vote. This is not a long time in historical context. Aside from voting, there have been countless struggles to change both legislation concerning gender as well as cultural norms. Women did not have equal access to birth control until the Eisenstadt v. Baird decision in 1972. Until 1976, a little over three decades ago, spousal rape was still legal in the United States.

Feminist groups were instrumental in bringing about these changes. So, if you’re pretty happy that women can vote, own property, not be legally raped or beaten by spouses, have equal job access and a whole slew of other rights, you might want to give a little head nod to Feminism.

Issues with Modern Feminism

People often level the argument that modern feminism focuses on trivial issues. To a certain extent, I agree. There is an inordinate amount of writing on pop culture invoking feminist theory to illuminate conceptual links to sexism. I think one of the reasons is because it’s more comforting to argue whether or not Lady Gaga’s costumes hinder female empowerment than to discuss the horrific rape of women and girls in far flung corners of the world. It’s easier to focus on photoshopping in magazines than on gender-based violence like honor killings or disfiguring acid attacks.

(I freely admit that I am kind of guilty of doing this and I promise to devote more articles on this blog to covering what I consider more pressing women’s issues.)

Woman being beaten in broad daylight, West Africa. (image via http://www.wunrn.com)

And there is a fair amount of disunity within and between feminist groups. While we can all agree that women deserve choice, we can’t seem to agree on where to put our efforts to guarantee choice and access to autonomy. Why? Because there are so many potential tactics at home and abroad. Plus, especially with issues pertaining to women’s sexuality, the discussions get pretty divisive and heated. (Go look up arguments about porn and feminism. You’ll see what I mean.) And I agree that some legislative tactics meant to help women, such as custody rights, have ended up hurting men.

What you won’t find as much of, if you read a broad range of feminist writing, is massive hatred against men: misandry. Yes, there are female misandrists who are also feminists. There are male misandrists as well. There are even men referring to themselves as feminists and aligning themselves with feminist groups. Some of them possibly ascribing to misandry, some of them not. There are even feminists arguing vehemently for more respect for men and supporting men’s groups.

So, to recap: Feminism is not Misandry. Want a more sensible discussion of misandry? Check out this article in Psychology Today.

Want to comment? Great. Feel free to disagree with anything here, I welcome differing viewpoints. What’s not welcome: name-calling, unfounded claims, uncivil discussion.

15 thoughts on “Feminism is not Misandry. Seriously.”

  1. I agree with all of it except some points of the last. Namely –

    I think the largest reason gender writing so rarely dwells at length on the frequently harsh conditions in the developing world is intellectual accessibility. Correctly or not, I feel about as qualified to talk and argue about the gender issues of a Cosmo cover as anyone. I don’t feel similarly equipped to discuss the West African beating picture you linked. It isn’t that I believe with all the facts and cultural understandings laid out it is justified – I most certainly don’t – but I don’t feel the same fluency with all the various conditions that produce it.

    I also think you underplay the presence of misandry. Of course feminism isn’t misandry – that ought to be obvious, though it saddens me that for some it isn’t. There are many feminist publications, books and thinkers that show no trace of it, including, I like to think, this blog.

    However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a spectre that haunts a non-trivial fraction of the gender studies blogosphere. For some this is due to a Mary Daly-esque actively exclusionary worldview; for most, though, I think it is just part of a deeply conflicted relation to the parallel gender – the same reason a fair bit of misogyny persists among many men. Not everyone exhibits such hangups all the time, but almost everyone shows one or two, once in a while. Sometimes certain norms in feminist circles validate those expressions, and that’s a Bad Thing – just as validating misogynistic remarks or views in non-feminist or “men’s movement” thought is a Bad Thing.

    I don’t agree with people who make it the story or message of Feminism, because it isn’t. I’m not entirely comfortable acting like it bears no relation, though, because I don’t believe that either.

    1. You bring up some good points.

      “I think the largest reason gender writing so rarely dwells at length on the frequently harsh conditions in the developing world is intellectual accessibility.”

      This is something that hasn’t dawned on my before and I have to agree with it. But I’d like to add that there are gender writers capable of discussing these issues (so long as they properly research them) but they often opt for more pop culture topics.

      “I also think you underplay the presence of misandry.”

      This is possible, primarily due to selectivity in media consumption. I don’t interact with many people spouting anti-male sentiments and am quick to challenge their arguments. I think this is a good lesson in trying to step out of ideological echo chambers…

    2. Excellent point on the intellectual access component but I still think the amount of discourse expressed with violent and dehumanizing language against women far outweighs any misandry in the feminist discourse, by a very extreme margin, so it seems a bit whiney to insist on giving it too much weight.

  2. My boyfriend was somewhat recently in Florida at one of the porn industry conventions, working camera on a documentary on rape scenes in porn, the women who participate in them, the ones who won’t, and their own backgrounds in experiencing (or not experiencing rape). Looks to be promising.

    I occasionally got on MRA-blog reading binges in order to open my worldview, see what other people have to say and think. And then I realize that I can’t get mired in the worldview of a group of people who desperately need counseling to get over their little childhood hurts, such as when Becky asked Joe to Sadie Hawkins instead of the blog author.

  3. The MRA blogs have come to light because many of the laws that we make in the western world are sufficiently misandric enough to cause many men to believe that the groups supporting them (in many instances, explicitly feminist groups) are misandric themselves. That’s a fairly logical assessment. Similar to ideologies like communism, while theoretically feminism is about equalism, in practice it often is completely not.

    The MRA groups are not groups “in need of counseling” or a bunch of people who couldn’t get laid (as suggested by the above author). That sort of language serves to once again perpetuate the notion that men who suffer are not only wrong but shameful and somehow not as virile as the above “Joe”. There are clear societal changes enforced by law that put many men at a huge disadvantage relative to women despite women having gained significantly in the last 40 years.

    A male born in the US after 1975 has a higher chance of suicide, will die of virtually every disease at a higher rate, drop out of high school, be unemployed, not have a college degree, have violence committed against him, be incarcerated, be put to death if incarcerated, be more likely to lose his children with divorce, and be more likely to lose his assets after divorce than his female counterpart. All of those rates have either occurred or risen since 1975. Yet we still have laws that inherently believe that women are at a massive disadvantage to men (see VAWA or gender based affirmative action or funding for explicitly female diseases vs. male diseases) supported by explicitly feminist groups. That doesn’t sound like equalism.

    And you’re telling me that these MRA groups shouldn’t complain or even exist? Imagine if the above was “black” and “white” instead of “male” and “female”? Would that change your opinion?

    1. I agree with you about ills suffered by men and I want to see MRAs in existence. I think these groups are important but my issue is what many groups identify as the source of these problems.

      Research done on male suicide rates, depression and violence (possibly also current issues with work and education, but I haven’t seen much research addressing correlates to these) demonstrates a link between male gender role conception and the above issues. Men ascribing to traditional mandates of masculinity tend to suffer higher rates of suicide and depression due to stoicism. Guys are taught to hold everything inside and doing that with your stress is deadly. Higher rates of disease are also linked to this as men tend to “man up”when it comes to pain or discomfort and not visit a doctor, allowing diseases or illnesses to fester.

      As far as custody and divorce laws, there are major issues. The idea that women are inherently better at taking care of children is a) false and b) rooted in a sexist paradigm viewing women as natural caretakers and men as incapable of such.

      Where I do disagree with you is your point about economic well being after divorce. Courts may order men to pay money to women after divorce, but women and children suffer more financially post-divorce than men, even with these laws in place. This fact has been demonstrated in multiple studies: http://www.jstor.org/pss/2648108

      A pertinent snip from that article: “Thus, all studies suggest that women (and children) are worse off than men after divorce, but the magnitude of disparity is open to question.”

      Divorce laws concerning finances are a well-intentioned but futile attempt to deal with this disparity. But these laws don’t work. Why? The problem is systematic, where women tend to take off time for birth and child-rearing, which disrupts their level of work experience. Thus, after divorce, women have a harder time competing in the job market, not to mention the still existing gender pay gap.

      In no way am I saying MRA groups should not exist. What I am arguing for is a dialogue that approaches this issues in a better way. Scapegoating feminism is only divisive and a good outlet for internal frustration. What really gets to me is that those in MRA groups vilifying feminism don’t stop to think about *why* these movements started in the first place and what good they *have* done.

      Changing cultural concepts of gender is not easy. But in order for any solid lasting change to happen, a more critical and objective analysis needs to be done. I think I see in some MRA groups what bothers me about some feminist groups: blaming a section of society for ills which have complex and structural causes.

      1. “Guys are taught to hold everything inside and doing that with your stress is deadly. Higher rates of disease are also linked to this as men tend to “man up”when it comes to pain or discomfort and not visit a doctor, allowing diseases or illnesses to fester.”

        The U.S. spends 2 dollars on health care for women for every 1 dollar they spend on men. Single mothers often get free health care from the state whereas the fathers do not.

        Men learn early and often that they are not allowed to be victims and that only strong capable men will be selected for reproduction. This idea comes directly from female discriminatory practices. Furthermore, on my campus at the University of Louisville there have been several health initiatives this fall. Signs have been posted all over campus along the sidewalks. Of the hundreds of signs, about half had “WOMEN” printed on them, but none had “MEN” printed on them. This represents a clear bias against male health.

        “As far as custody and divorce laws, there are major issues. The idea that women are inherently better at taking care of children is a) false and b) rooted in a sexist paradigm viewing women as natural caretakers and men as incapable of such.

        Agreed. This is another reason why feminist is rooted in hatred. At once they lament that women can’t make as much money as males because of their parental responsibilities, while simultaneously working against MRA initiatives for shared parenting. You want to compete against males in the only way we have to gain status and respect while shut us out of the female sphere of influence and denying us access to our children.

        “Where I do disagree with you is your point about economic well being after divorce. Courts may order men to pay money to women after divorce, but women and children suffer more financially post-divorce than men, even with these laws in place. This fact has been demonstrated in multiple studies: http://www.jstor.org/pss/2648108

        I disagree entirely. First off, the current method of determining how well off a single mother is is flawed. Taking a survey of tax returns will never reveal the true financial status of single mothers and non-custodial fathers. The primary reason being that single mothers do not claim the moneys they receive in child support and may not claim alimony. And males who pay child support are not allowed to claim that on their taxes. That means that the income information derived from tax information does not count the money being taken from fathers and given to mothers.

        At any rate, male custodial fathers have less trouble than female custodial mothers. Why is that? The answer is that males are more willing to work dangerous and uncomfortable jobs than women are and as a result they make more money. It’s the reason that males make up almost 100% of work place injuries and deaths. It’s also because most males realize that they won’t be able to rely on non-custodial mothers to pay child support regularly or at all and what they do pay is usually far less than males are expected to pay. My brother, for instance, received 10 dollars a month for his two sons. Their mother couldn’t be bothered to get a job and claimed to be a domestic relationship caring for children and therefore couldn’t work.

        Finally, there is a simple solution for single mothers who can’t support their children be they divorced or never married. Don’t make babies with men you aren’t married to and don’t divorce for stupid reasons. Infidelity rates are the same and women commit the bulk of child abuse and domestic violence. So why is it that women file 85% of all divorces? Having received so much competition from females, outsourcing, and illegal immigration, men are no longer capable of keeping two households in a middle class lifestyle. Those days are over. Women who divorce for selfish reasons shouldn’t expect everyone else to be financially responsible for their poor choices.

    2. N,

      Ms Sexademic addressed the factual, allowing me to not have to invest the effort into gathering the information that she did.

      However, I do not believe my comment said that any of these men could not get laid, or needed to get laid… or anything about their social-sexual abilities.

      What I was saying and, yes, I did not do a very good job of it, was that nearly all of the men I have run across in the MRA groups online have origins in their currently belief system stemming from rather personal hurts dealing with a single female or a set group of females.

      While I do believe that men do not have it easy, as you stated, women also have their own sex-based social problems. Personally, I take more sympathy with the male side of things than the female, but it is quite hard to even consider the viewpoint of a person advocating hatred and distrust of 51% of the world population solely because of what lies between their legs. Which most of the ones I have encountered do.

      I believe in personal responsibility, individual change, and respect on that level. MRA groups are perfectly able to exist, have meetings, hatemonger, or run bake sales. That is their concern. But as long as they consider me, or any other individual female an enemy based on involuntary membership (as opposed to their voluntary membership) and cannot see me as the person I am, and judge their level of respect for me based on my own personal characteristics, I think they are working out of blind emotion and, thus, I cannot respect the movement.

      I do apologize if I offended you with my previous comment, I should have phrased it without the shaming language.

    3. Systemic inequities exist. They suck, and we should talk about them and fight them when we can.

      I don’t believe laying blame on others or nursing hurts contributes to that. I dislike the activities of MRA groups when they exhibit these patterns, as with women’s groups and social groups in general.

  4. I remember when I was sixteen, we had to do a project about a social issue the teacher randomly assigned. I got women in advertisments. Being the good student I was, I researched it and presented it, but something kept bothering me. Of all the issues concerning women the teacher had assigned, there was none that was serious, like the honor killings you mentioned, or the fact that women are more likely to be poor than men. So at the end of my project, I included a part titled “Is this all really that important?” in which I only put pictures of women beggars, beaten women, and newspaper clippings of mstreated women. The teacher, a women herself, didn’t get it.
    But I’m glad someone does. Thanks for writing this, it really is heartwarming to find someone who thinks feminism is about a lot more than parades and hating men.
    Lately, there’s a lot of polemics going around Spain about, of all things, last names. Usually, a child in Spain has two surnames: the first is the father’s first surname and the second is the mother’s first surname. Now, the government wants to promote a law to allow people the choice of putting whatever surnames they want for their children (as if this wasn’t already done by the children themselves after the grew up).
    With the recession, one in every five Spanish people is poor, and most of them are women. I wish I could shake them all out of their comfortable chairs and make them look at all those women living under bridges and begging on the streets, make them realise that what they’re doing isn’t supporting women’s rights, but making a mockery of them.
    Sorry if I ranted so much, really felt the need to do it, hahaha! Your blog is awesome and makes me think a lot.

  5. You make compelling arguments which as usual are not valid.

    While you can point to the diversity of feminist agendas you will be hard pressed to find any of them who denounce the outright hatred espoused by other groups. Without that disavowal feminists are stating a passive agreement.

    Much of the historical revisionism of feminism is not only subjective but in most instances outright false. All of it is anti-male. When you scapegoat an entire group for the actions of a few you are engaging in acts of hatred. There are no mainstream or peripheral feminist groups which disavow the false and bigoted history created by feminists. Therefore, none can claim to be unbiased let alone humanist (which has been one of the more recent PR campaigns)

    Even as you write your little blurb here you refer to some of those false statistics. For instance, in the U.S. it is women who commit the most domestic violence. In fact, 70% of unilateral violence, where one partner doesn’t fight back, is committed by women against men. And women commit twice as much child abuse as males. And women murder more children than men do. When it comes to relational violence, it is women who are and have been the perennial perpetrators.

    While women didn’t get the vote until the 1900’s they also didn’t ask for the vote until the late 1800’s. At any rate it is rather ironic that a movement ostensibly purposed to make women independent of men should frame the quest for suffrage as “men giving women the vote”. Men giving women things is patriarchal. So then the question should have been, “How have/will women earn/ed the right to vote?” rather than “Why haven’t men given us the right to vote?”. By comparison Women’s suffrage happened more rapidly and painlessly than for males. It took 3,000 years since the invention of democracy for men to get the right to vote. It took women only about 30 years once they decided they wanted it. And no women were forced to sacrifice their lives in that quest. What’s more is that the only group that was organized against women’s suffrage was in fact a women’s group who opposed suffrage because they didn’t want to be drafted. It seems, at the time, even feminists knew that voting was closely tied to military service and they were bound and determined not to have the same obligations of men. This was more than a half century before Orwell coined the phrase, “We’re all equal, but some of us are more equal.” And really, the only reason it took as long as it did is because the Federal Government was unwilling to remove the final impediments that prevented millions of men from gaining the vote. A salient fact that feminists conveniently overlook in their longstanding pity parade.

    Feminism is ultimately and exercise in confirmation bias. Seeking out any evidence no matter how anecdotal, which supports your belief and rejecting all evidence, no matter how valid, which refutes your claim.

    No matter what feminist cloth you claim to be cut from you are still subscribing to a group identity which believes in group rights and group offenses. If one woman is disadvantaged by a law then all women are disadvantaged. If one man rapes a woman then all men are rapists. You may deny this now but you will find it hard to deny your belief that the so-called patriarchy is the wellspring of all of women’s problems and troubles. The patriarchy, by feminist definition is the institution which perpetutates male power. Therefore, by subscribing to the notion of the evil patriarchy you are subscribing to the notion that all males, regardless of their influence over the patriarchy, are part of a conspiracy to oppress women. This is inherently bigoted.

    If that weren’t bad enough, feminists, after dismantling men’s organizations which help train men into professions and act as advocacy for education and job placement, women have set about to create there own similar organizations which do the same thing specifically for women.

    The canned response to this obviously discriminatory practice is that men have been advantaged for so long that women need this kind of help. Really? So what they are saying is that the grandsons of second wave feminists, having grown up long after these advocacy groups for young men have been dismantled, should continue to suffer for the alleged injustices that happened 2 generations earlier?

    Such a myopic viewpoint that would punish young men for something even their fathers weren’t a part of is clearly bigoted and hateful.

    We are a nation which spends billions promoting and expanding educational and employment opportunities for women while simultaneously spending hundreds of billions incarcerating men.

    This is the legacy of feminism.

    1. Very well written piece on feminism. I have nothing to add except the fact that feminists claim that women are disadvantaged in most every sphere of life when the opposite is true, and never acknowledge where they have a strong advantage. An example is education where nearly 60% of college graduates are women.

      One would think that a group that ostensibly advocates and works for equality would work to even the scales to enable a 50/50 college graduation distribution. However, an underlying misandry continues to be at work and reveal itself. For example, to keep campuses from being 65/35 or even 70/30 female to male, colleges are trying to favor males in some cases. When the roles were reversed, and women were the minority, they were for affirmative action policies to level the playing field. However, now that males are at a disadvantage they oppose such policies. That is evidence of the misandry they claim that doesn’t exist, but rears its ugly head on a regular basis.

    2. Wery good post. This is also what I like to hear from feminist’s, usually they gliss over or snob these isssues and this attitude is also a growing ground of suspicious of ambivalence.

      I never understod why some feminist when confronted they get angry and leave (run?), what you mention is what we consider misandry. Thise issues is also what cause mens group to form. And the antagonistic attitude of some (most) feminists when confronted by this questions does nothing than reinforce the accuse of misandry and manhate.

      Another point, is patriarchy, when it is defined is basically male dominance, and yes when you attack patriarchy you also attack men, because men are males, patriarchy + male dominance = evil, therefore males are evil. The argument that patriarchy hurts men to, is feels kinda like a moderate back pedaling. After all men suffering is quite obyus and difficoult to hide.
      Personally I belive a alternative social explanatory model is necessary, rather than the barbaric patriarchy that just put all men on the same plate.

      A Oligarchy is much better fit for this task. Instead a rigid piramid privilege structure. The privilege dynamic would be more like a dynamic moving piramid complex whith privileges changing on
      basis of the present conditions like: were the men left on the Titanic privileged? were the women privileged when they stayed at home while men went on war? are men privileged for going into war? are women privileged when they can easely find safehouse in a women shelter? are men privileged when they are homeless? ect ect.
      Anyways some rational non emotive and non antagonistic input from feminists would be good.


      1. You mention “oligarchy” which is a very good point. Civilization is and has always been controlled by a few people and often these were hereditary rulers who handed down power to both sons and daughters. It happens that males make up the majority of kings but this was more likely because males were more likely to take greater risks and more capable of using deadly force which was necessary to wrest control from other tyrants. History is also littered with lots of dead traitors whose failed attempts at power left them dead, disemboweled and dismembered. These were also mostly men.

        It is also a logical fallacy to accuse men of dominating women. It’s like saying that the mule dominates the farmer. A ridiculous statement when one examines the evidence. Sure the farmer provides a clean space for the mule to sleep at night, good food, medical treatment when necessary, and the farmer may even give the mule affection. But it is the mule who pulls the heavy steel plow through the field all day. And the prosperity generated by the mule flows freely to the farmer.

        Similarly, women also provide a clean space for the farmer to sleep at night, prepares healthy food, tends to the farmer when he is sick, and will even give the farmer affection. But it is the farmer who pushes the heavy steel plow through the field all day in the hot sun. And the prosperity generated by the farmer flows freely to the wife.

        The vast majority of men are not nor have they ever been dominant over women. Men are supplicants and servants but that service was always a give and take. Women needed men because there was no food security and it took physical strength to carve out a farm in the wilderness and maintain it. While women might have been able to run a garden they could not run a (profitable) farm and they certainly couldn’t do that while being pregnant.

        To give you an idea of the kind of patriarchal male that feminists spit on and have maligned for the last 50 years let me describe to you the Donner Party.

        In American history the Donner’s were settlers who moved out West. They left too late in the season and ended up running out of food and being snowed in up in the mountains. Faced with starvation the men continued to look for food while their wives, mothers, and children stayed back at camp around the fire.

        Do you know who died on the Donner expedition? The healthiest and strongest men died. Why? Because these evil patriarchal males continued to search for food burning thousands of calories a day until they dropped dead. If these patriarchal males were the “dominating” type as feminists described then wouldn’t they have forced the women to go out and search for food? Yes. In fact the women would have suffered the most as any dominated group would have. At the moment of crisis a person’s true nature and beliefs come out. In this case we see men starving to death so they could find food for their women while those women sat on their asses back at camp.

        Those evil patriarchal SOB’s.

        One important point to make is the inferiority of feminism over so-called patriarchy. Under patriarchy the prosperity generated by men flowed freely to their women. Women benefited from men working and because married women were often discouraged from working this helped ensure there were enough jobs for every family to have an income and enough people to watch over the take care of children.

        Under feminism there is no call for the prosperity generated by women to flow freely towards men. Women are still hypergamist and will seek out only those men who meet their status requirements–and money is our society’s primary proxy for status. What we have under feminism is millions of unemployed men, reduced education opportunities and higher competition for education resources. This has resulted in 7 million men behind bars and millions more who will never be allowed to vote because of criminal record. Women abandon marriage at an alarming rate. We have a 50% divorce rate with 70% of all divorces filed by women (and climbing) where as we only had a 5% divorce rate under patriarchy. This upheaval of marriage is bleeding the middle class of resources and is one the prime reasons why the gap between the richest and poorest is widening. And children are failing in school, getting into trouble with the law, and young girls think making amateur porn is the cool thing to do.

        Feminism is a failure but because feminists have so much power things won’t change until the whole system collapses.

        And it will collapse. And when it does I’ll bet you a dollar feminists blame men for it.

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