I'll start this with a disclaimer. You always have to start this kind of article with a disclaimer, right? Any time you publicly comment on the mistreatment or underrepresentation of a certain group at the hands of another, you have to spend a good portion of your word count reassuring the ones in charge that it isn't an attack.
You're about to read an article by a woman (me) challenging the beliefs of certain men. That woman is a feminist, but she doesn't hate men. You're reading a piece which, if you choose to read it with bias against feminism, might result in you coming to the conclusion that I do hate men, but I implore you to try and believe me. I don't.
I have on many occasions fallen prey to the wicked temptation to enter into debates with men online who absolutely despise feminists. These men see "feminazis" as vicious man-haters, fighting for dominance and dictatorship thinly veiled as a quest for an equality they supposedly already have.
Actually, I often don't know the opposing opinion-haver's gender when the conversation begins, but it doesn't take more than a couple of disparaging comments and eye-roll emojis to figure it out. But it isn't always men. There are, of course, some women who proudly spread the ludicrous hashtag #IDontNeedFeminismBecause, apparently blissfully unaware that without it, they probably wouldn't be allowed to have their own Twitter account.
Anyway, the belief of the men with whom I get into debates seems to revolve around the fact that, in the past, some feminists wrote pretty hardcore literature about the extermination of masculinity and male gender roles, and thus the assumption is that all women who are feminists today hate men too.
It's true that this literature exists, but taking it as feminist gospel is a pretty simplistic view. By that reasoning, everyone who's ever voted Republican loves Donald Trump. But whenever I've dared to challenge this reasoning, I've been told I'm somehow proving their point. It's a classic tactic in arguments. Belittle the opponent to lessen their voice; mock a woman for calling you out; seek to turn them into the very thing they seek to distance themselves from; stop the debate before it's even begun.
Never mind the long list of famous men who have beaten, raped, and abused women yet continue to have thriving careers, or the man who murdered his sister because she dared to be unashamed of her body. Forget Brock Turner, who just got a puny sentence for raping an unconscious woman because a longer sentence would have a "severe impact on him" or the fact that you're less likely to be promoted if you're a woman, even if you have the same skills as a man. Forget the obvious discrepancy between the way men and women are treated by the media, employers, and society as a whole. No, it's clearly the women who hate the men.
But would you blame us if we did? Considering it took a woman literally jumping in front of a horse for the sake of suffrage in the UK, it makes plenty of sense that some women might be driven to misandry.
The thing is, though, the feminists I know — myself included — don't hate men.
I'm not trying to pretend that all people who call themselves feminists are wonderful, liberal individuals with the nature of saints and the smell of rose petals wafting out of our arse, but I don't see how it is either fair or relevant to suggest that, based on the past behaviour of a few feminists, all feminists must therefore, as a whole, hate men. I would never say that every man is a rapist just because some of them are, so why do I get called a man-hater for pointing out that guys get a really good deal? See that pie? I just want a slice, thanks.
Marginalized groups have to answer for every single one of their members when straight, white men get away with mass-murder unscathed. Modern history is awash with war and destruction brought about by men. Men have been the driving force behind every major fuck-up and tragedy in humanity, so why not, therefore, blame and hate all men?
Because it's stupid. It's reductive.
But these guys who go around making sweeping statements about me and my beliefs are, when confronted with facts about male abuse of power against women, the same people spouting "not all men..."
How can you level with that kind of hypocrisy? Do you keep reassuring them that no, most feminists don't hate men? Do you play the part of the happy hippie flower-girl and shower them with love to combat their idea feminism? Do you calmly engage with their misguided attempts to justify their skewed view of the facts, or do you shout them down as the hypocrites they are, drunk on the confidence that you're right, regardless of if it ever changes their minds?
I don't have the answer. I'm fully aware that gender equality requires the support of both sexes to make it happen, and so it bloody well should. I understand that alienating men from the discussion does more harm than good, and I don't think it's fair to blame a whole gender for the actions of a few. But I'm fed up of having to remind people that even though we've taken great strides over recent years, we still have a long way to go. I'm tired of having to fight tooth and claw for some men to believe the true stories and experiences of women all over the world who are subject to systematic sexism every single day. And I'm sick of having to pander to the egos of straight, white males just to be heard.
Only once was I able to engage in civilized discussion with an anti-feminist, and we came to the conclusion that actually we believed in mostly the same things — it turned out it was the name he didn't like. I explained that feminism actually means equality, but I guess he felt left out. If you're used to everything being about you, then having to use a female-centered word must be pretty hard to take.
It felt like a success that night, but it was a hollow one because I had to pacify the ignorance of a privileged man just to engage. I had to pander to his insecurities before he would consider giving a shit about me.
And that's how it usually goes. Feminists have to constantly reassure men that feminism not only has a place for them, it needs them as allies. It fights for their interests, too.
I love men, but sometimes they make me really fucking angry. And then I take a moment and get angry at myself, because I don't like when someone complains about "all" men being bastards, and I don't think that demonizing a gender works — but I also understand that there was a time when some people felt it was the only thing that gave us a voice.
And here's the rub: I just used my voice on an article about being sick of explaining to men that feminists don't hate them — by explaining why most feminists don't hate them. I still made it about them.
We need men to accept the fact that some of them are chauvinists and rapists; that society enables an unfair discrepancy of standards between men and women; that silence not only perpetuates the problem, but helps it to grow.
This feminism thing — it's for you, too.