In Defence of Man-Hating Feminism

Sure, I'll decapitate men foolish enough to approach the unisex loo, but I'll be damn sure to wear a nice dress while doing it.

Sure, I’ll decapitate men foolish enough to approach the unisex loo, but I’ll be damn sure to wear a nice dress while doing it.

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” (Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale)

My title is, more or less, a joke. Or that’s what I would have said before I read the responses to this article by Bridget Christie, an extract from her new book, which brilliantly satirises the kinds of bone-headed idiocies people come out with when they think you might be Too Much Feminist. She opens, promisingly and amusingly, with the line:

“I am a feminist. All this means is that I am extremely hairy and hate all men, both as individuals and collectively, with no exceptions.”

She goes on to develop a beautifully surreal self-profile, ticking off (and exaggerating) all the good old myths from bra burning to lesbianism (but no male-baby hating. Come on, Bridget, it’s a classic for a reason). Reading this, I was slightly stunned to discover that some people didn’t realize it was, in fact, satire. Amazingly (or so it seems to me), no sooner had the article come out than I saw comments approving its honesty and accuracy: yes, feminists are man hating, yes, they do have that reputation, isn’t it good to see someone acknowledge this?

Often, I’ve heard women try to counter this point by denying it. I don’t hate men. I have a husband/son/father/brother. I have a beloved male teacher; I have kind male neighbours; I have wonderful male students; I have loving male friends.

I do this myself. I started to write this post and found myself thinking: but what about that colleague, who is always so thoughtful and kind? What about my fellow blogger, who writes brilliantly on being a feminist ally? What about my lovely friend, who’s transitioning into an amazing man? What about all the men in my life, right down to my baby nephew … how could you possibly, if you knew me, imagine I might actually hate men?

This is all good, and one or another point will be true for virtually all feminists. Short of living in a separatist commune, you are going to struggle to eliminate men from your life, and I think it’s fair to say most of us wouldn’t want to. My feminism is hugely informed by feminists who are also mothers of sons, and I think they add a particularly forceful perspective to this debate.

And yet. I have problems with this approach.

For starters, there’s always the pushback question. But some feminists hate men! They must! I’ve seen them! This response is unanswerable: how can you know all the feminists in the world? How can you be sure you know their innermost views? You can’t, and so you must dissociate yourself (splitting us nicely into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ feminists), or you must stand with them, jointly and severally responsible for the Man Hating.

We have to put this in its structural context. Statistically, women may be walking around hating men and there may be fallout from that, but – by and large – women are not acting on that hatred with physical violence. To put it bluntly, women are not murdering men. Men are murdering women – and indeed other men – because toxic masculinity, the brand of approved masculine conduct our society promotes – is, at its extreme, a violent mode of action. I often link to Karen Ingala Smith’s project, Counting Dead Women, which surveys some of this gendered violence, and I often hear the same response: but aren’t young men more at risk of violence than women? What about the men?

Well, the men are at risk of violence: from other men.

Take me as an example. If I did – truly – hate men, how much impact would it have? It would have an impact on my students, because I’m in a position of power over them. And if I discriminated I would deserve be sacked pretty swiftly. But it’s worth noting that, even in this situation, my bias would be a tiny, tiny drop of water compared to the ocean of comfortably normalised bias in the other direction. It wouldn’t be excusable, but its impact would be, in the general scheme of things, very weak.

This is where the quotation from Atwood, at the top of my post, starts to ring true. Men (NAMALT, etc etc) are insulted that women might dislike them, might object to them, might lump them all together with their violent brothers. Plenty of women are insulted by this too. Women, however, are actually at significant statistical risk from men, and that doesn’t stack up against hurt feelings. Men are, also, at significant statistical risk from violent, hyper-masculine men – that is, from a culture of toxic masculinity – and that, too, doesn’t stack up against hurt feelings.

The other problem with these defensive responses is that, as you will notice, they frame the debate in terms of participation in a particular social set-up. When we say ‘but I have a lovely husband’ or ‘but my dad is wonderful’, what we’re really saying is ‘I’m part of the hetero-patriarchy’. I’m not one of those man-haters, the lesbian ones … or if I am, it’s ok, because here are my credentials: I too, once, existed in a heteronormative family set-up. Whew, thank goodness for that.

‘Man-hating’, you see, is an accusation designed to make us rush into making denials, rush to dissociate ourselves from other women, rush to avoid the implications of aggression and lesbianism and all of those other evils.

I find this particularly sad because it conceals one of the huge positives of feminism, at least as I’ve experienced it. There’s an ideology, coming out of the work of intersectional feminism, that loving yourself is one of the most radical feminist acts, because it involves according yourself worth in a patriarchy that is fundamentally inclined to devalue women. But, in my experience, what makes that ideology liveable is other feminists around you who support each other and affirm each other. I really like women. I enjoy being around them. The idea of ‘man-hating’ feminism is partly designed to splinter that community, to make us all hurry to align ourselves with men, lest anyone should think we enjoy spending time with women. It’s framed as ‘hatred’ not because (I believe) any thoughtful person really imagines that vast numbers of feminists hate men, but because the idea that women might like, and respect, and work together with other women is a radical threat.

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43 thoughts on “In Defence of Man-Hating Feminism

  1. I read the piece this morning and my first thought was that some numpties would think it was factual.
    Sadly, there’s much stupid out there.

      • I’m new to your blog and this statement “so much stupid in the world…” made me laugh for some reason. But it’s true. Katherine and Tabby recommended your blog to me and I wanted to thank you for your work as well. I’m needing to catch up on your posts, but look forward to them.

  2. Absolutely agree with every word of this. I was told (on twitter) that I wasn’t one of the [preferable] feminists- the kind that do their feminism ‘quietly’ and ‘don’t scare men’. The reality that women are constantly and repeatedly scared by men had not occurred to this man. Woman are scared by, beaten, abused, coerced, trafficked, traded, murdered, raped, demeaned, belittled and silenced by men every second of every day. When we raise our voices, we scare them. We scare them because they fear they will be the losers; one of those men whose privilege elevated them above the mundane herd of mundane, unexceptional men and no longer benefitting from this is what is really scares them.

    • Yes. And as someone pointed out on twitter, it becomes exhausting, because instead of celebrating how we’re looking after each other as women, we end up trying to defend against attacks.

  3. When the response to the news that I am a lesbian and a feminist is invariably, “Why do you hate men?”, I answer with a smile that I do not hate men. I disregard them. This works two ways. It has the value of being true, and I find that men are much more upset about being ignored than being hated. Hate at least still puts them at the center of our lives.

    • Love your comment, Deborah. Think you are exactly right. A male student once remarked that being a man in patriarchy is like being a cat in a roomful of cat-lovers. Men are used to being stroked, explained, validated, flirted with, and generally approved of by women. Many (though far from all) lesbians don’t do much of that. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.

  4. Satire has to be pretty good to be understood as satire… and most online readers don’t possess critical thinking skills so we are getting a strange reinforcement of stereotypes by “wearing” them in comedy. The more “defenseless” we are, the more open to insults and attacks and then we become the object of contempt. Humor is often a good vehicle to discuss the problems so that more will come to the forum but it’s risky. If we are too “funny” we aren’t taken seriously; If we are too extreme in our satire, we are not just misunderstood but “willingly” misunderstood.

    I love good satire, so I when I write this I only mean to say we have our work cut out for us. 🙂

    I read the Handsmaid Tale when I was twelve. It was so formative to me… I love Margret Atwood! And then I discovered her professor in university and writing mentor was Jay Macpherson who wrote poems sooooooo according to her own “drum beat” and also essays about mythology (Four Ages of Man is a short but a good book), so I was wondering if you also like Jay’s work? I’d love to hear how you write about or interpret her poetry. “Poems Twice Told” (The Boatman & Welcoming Disaster) is the small collection I’ve been digesting as of late.

    Anyhow, This was a great read. I love your writing so much.

    • YY, I love her work. I am so jealous of you finding her writing mentor – I didn’t know of Jay’s work at all! I have had a quick look and will now be reading furiously. Thank you so much! It’s so good to be introduced to something new and good.

      (And, you are very kind – it means a lot.)

      • Male chauvinism is still male chauvinism even when the male is in a dress. Women get to question the bullshit men tells us, bullshit like men telling women that man was made in the image of god and bullshit like a male dominated medical system and government has the power and ability to turn men into women. Yep.

      • I know there is nothing wrong with men in dresses.

        There is nothing wrong with men who feel they do not identify with their sex organs either. Transgender people are not wrong.

    • Hey saint chauvinism… Out of curiosity, is there even a place for men in your world? Or are they all just a bunch of assholes?

      • what are you saying transwomen are men? I agree and its ok, men have every right to dress as they want and make body mods but it doesn’t make them women. Its too bad we arent working for a world where the idea of what a man can be expanded to include the men we know call transwomen.

      • No, I’m not saying that.

        I am a LGBTQ ally. On your blog and in our discourse you dropped the T and the Q and defended parents who are disturbed by their trans children.

        YOU are the one who has been saying trans gender women are men turned into women. That’s what our discussions were about on your blog where you said it was related to eugenics and brainwashing… and then you cut me off because your”Opinions” trumped my facts, you said. and you’re a support group for people “suffering” from having trans kids.

        I am saying you are chauvinist.

        Trans-vestites or whatever the proper term for cross dressing performance is men acting out a feminine-gender role. Which I also do not have a problem with. I like men in dresses. Big deal.

        I don’t think trans people are chauvinist or sexist. You do.

        I think you’re prejudiced. That’s what I’m calling you out for and you know that from my comments on your blog.

        So Why are you playing dumb here?

      • It used to be “progressive” and “feminist” to advocate for eugenics and for the sterilization of gays and lesbians and other “undesirables”, Im sure people like your self who advocate for transing children will be remember in the same way, with horror.
        I really dont care what you think of me, I disagree with you that a white male dominated government has the power to turn men into women, I am opposed to women being poisoned with testosterone, I am opposed to gender non conforming children being transitioned and sterilized, gender nonconforming children who by WPATHs own studies have been proven to most likely grow up to be gay and lesbian, this is a subject I have personal experience with and have thought long and hard on. Your ignorant opinions dont concern me or interest me, your opinions horrify me. Im more interested in the opinions of women like this,Dr. Kathy Mandigo who wrote this essay, My Disservice to My Transgender Patients
        ” I am packing up my stuff to move, and I came across a folder of work-related papers. One item was a card I had forgotten I had, but as soon as I opened it, I remembered it and the sender. It was a card of thanks from a transgendered patient, a lesbian who transitioned to a man, expressing appreciation for my help in her* journey to become the man she felt she was.

        *(While I used to accede to my patients’ chosen pronouns, I now use the biologically appropriate one.)

        I saw this patient at a youth clinic (patients under 26), and she was usually accompanied by her girlfriend. She had been seen and assessed and started on treatment at the Gender Dysphoria Clinic that ran at the time in a local hospital. I initiated nothing, merely administered the testosterone injections they prescribed.

        I watched my patient change: she gained weight and muscle, developed a lower voice, sprouted facial hair, and described increasing sex drive and aggressiveness. I remember feeling comfortable that this patient seemed very grounded and confident, and I did not feel manipulated in our interactions, which helped me feel comfortable to administer the injections.

        I saw this patient in the mid or late 1990’s, I don’t exactly remember, and as I recall, she was the first transgendered patient I had seen. I was less than ten years into medical practice and hadn’t been taught anything about transgenderism in medical school. I was young and naive and trusted science. There was no science about transgenderism. What was I to do?

        With the growing criticism of medicine and physicians as paternalistic, we were encouraged to listen better to our patients, to their expressed realities. Although we did not take the Hippocratic oath in our medical school, we did still attend to the tenet of first do no harm, but I had no idea how to weigh the risks and benefits of attempts at gender transition. I didn’t have a personal opinion then about transgenderism, and professionally I felt an obligation to try to meet my patients where they were, rather than where I was. I wasn’t willing to diagnose transgenderism, but if the team of proclaimed professionals at the Gender Dysphoria Clinic had made such an assessment, I was willing to be the family doctor who provided follow-up.

        A few years later, a pilot project clinic was opened within one of the community health centres in our city, a clinic specifically for queer patients. We staffed our clinic with as many queer providers as we could find. We expected a flood of queer patients alienated from the traditional medical system; those whom we actually saw were mostly alienated transgender patients, who either had not been accepted for gender transition by the Gender Dysphoria Clinic (often for psychological reasons) or were unable to tolerate the long assessment process of the Gender Dysphoria Clinic (again, often for psychological reasons).

        As I recall, all of these patients were men wanting to transition to being women, and, as I recall, all of them struck me as psychologically unwell, as manifested in their behaviours. I remember thinking that there was an atmosphere of coercion among the staff in which it was uncool to question the validity of the patients’ desires and expressed gender identity. Any psychological disturbance was often attributed to the patient’s suffering of living their life in the “wrong” gender.

        I remember often feeling that these patients tried to intimidate me into giving them what they wanted, that they often assumed outraged insult if I asked questions (how dare I enquire, presumably doubting them), that if I did not give them what they wanted they exploded into enraged diatribes and stormed off. I felt very uncomfortable with them and it was challenging to try to do my job and not react to their anger.

        The pilot project did not last long, as there were few patients, other than this handful of disaffected transgendered patients. It may have been that, because the clinic operated on Monday afternoons, more well-adjusted patients were likely working and unable to access the clinic. It may have been that most queer patients by that time felt comfortable accessing the health care they wanted. Those questions were never asked to sort out whether it was lack of accessibility or lack of need.

        Over the next years, I did not see many transgendered patients, until recently, and with most of them disproportionately appearing among the demographic of mentally ill and addicted in our city.

        One patient came to my private office, a lesbian who was transitioning to a male, under the care of a gender specialist of some sort. (The Gender Dysphoria Clinic had ended, I wasn’t clear why. I believe this was effected under the guise of rhetoric that all doctors ought to provide this care rather than it being relegated to a specialty clinic, but I expect there were other politics at play. Disturbingly, what has been opened is a transgender clinic within the provincial children’s hospital.)

        She came to my office telling me that she had heard I was a great doctor and that I specialized in transgender issues.

        I immediately felt I was being manipulated with a big buttering-up job, and I said this was not true, I was neither a great doctor nor a transgender specialist. My guard was up. I expected this patient read me as a dyke, though I never disclosed, and over subsequent visits, this patient continued to try to be my pal, with an overly-friendly us-two-dykes demeanour, like we were butchly comrades, as though she was forgetting that she believed she was a he.

        Over time, I discovered the patient had been withholding unflattering information from me that would have sped up diagnoses of her other issues. I increasingly felt she was attempting to manipulate me with her excessively friendly behaviour, and then pressure me with her sense of what my obligations were (e.g. that I should provide a letter of support for her to have the gender on her birth certificate changed, when in fact this was her specialist’s responsibility, as the diagnosing physician, a responsibility that he had fulfilled, despite the patient’s claims and demands to me).

        I tried to be professional, to mind the boundaries (e.g. not provide personal information, not collude in the play of friendship), and I administered the testosterone injections her specialist had prescribed, until the patient’s girlfriend felt comfortable to take over. I held this ground, and eventually the patient tired of me, undoubtedly disappointed and disparaging, and left my practice.

        Another patient I saw in my other, public health work, was a man transitioning to a female. What I was told by a nurse of the patient’s story, of what clinics he had attended and who his doctors were, was all over the map, which made me suspicious about what the “facts” were and that I had to verify anything he said.

        When I saw him, he began by being all girl-friend-y with me, like we were two girls together in this crazy world, behaviour I assumed he had seen and adopted as how women get what they want (had he ever read me wrong! he was mimicking behaviour without having the years of lived experience by which a women learns, if so inclined, when to use that tactic).

        As I asked questions about his health background, he became uncomfortable that my questions were revealing inconsistencies in his story (suggesting to me psychological problems), and he got angry and leaned forward into my personal space and flashed me that “you fucking cunt” look.

        All women know that look. This was the same look I remembered getting from the patients I saw at the pilot project clinic, but I didn’t know then what to call it, what it was. Now, after so many more years of life experience, I knew exactly what it was: it is a look that men give women to dismiss and devalue and intimidate; it is not a look that women give women (they dismiss and devalue and intimidate in other ways, often by being passive-aggressively haughty).

        I was better able, after the years in practice, to hold my ground, and I calmly told him that his angry tone and demeanour were making me uncomfortable and he had to calm down or the visit would be over. He denied being angry, but continued to have the angry tone of voice and body language that goes with that look, part of the package of male power tactics.

        I stood my ground and repeated that he was making me uncomfortable. Eventually he settled, I gave him the (non-gender-related) prescription he had come for, and we terminated the visit. I saw him a second time some weeks later, and he did not flare into anger. Whether he was having a better day or had learned to camouflage and control himself better, I do not know.

        These experiences, of seeing more men wanting to transition than women, of seeing almost all of the transitioning patients behave in stereotypical gendered ways (their biological gender behaviours flashing through their assumed gendered behaviours) and out of these behaviours try to manipulate me (rather than being able to discuss the situation openly and honestly), seeing more of these transitioning men settling among the mentally unwell in the most disenfranchised neighbourhood, and especially seeing the transgender men continue to exhibit male aggressive behaviours, has convinced me that most, if not all, transgender patients are not in the wrong body but have mental health problems, problems they believe can be fixed if they get in the right body.

        At the beginning of my years of practice, with my youth and inexperience, I thought I had an obligation to follow the patient. Now I believe that I failed these patients, and that I have a superseding obligation to tell the truth to my patients. I regret every testosterone injection I gave, every estrogen prescription I refilled, and every time I colluded with my patients in their gender delusion. I regret not speaking up to my colleagues and to my patients, instead giving in to the coercion I felt to go along rather than dare to question. I regret not having had the courage to ask questions to get to the story beneath the gender dysphoria story, to find out why my patients had ever been made to feel there was anything wrong with them in the first place. I want to tell the women that we need them as women, and especially as lesbians; I want to tell the men that no amount of medicalization will make them women. Women may have an easier time of masquerading as men, but as long as every man has within him the “you fucking cunt” look, no man can ever masquerade as a women.

        That first patient’s composure stands out from my subsequent experiences with transgender patients. Surely it helped her navigate the Gender Dysphoria Clinic. Was she truly of a different nature, or had she, with her relative youth, not accumulated distorting grievances? After finding that card, I tried to look her up. I wanted to ask if she was still grateful for transitioning, if she was still as happy to be living her life as the man she believed she was, if she still believed she was a man. I could not find her, at least not under his name.

        ~~~~~

        Kathy Mandigo is a general physician in Vancouver who has been in medicine for over thirty years. She has a Masters degree in Epidemiology, and has worked in public health and private practice, at the Canadian HIV Network and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and Health Canada.”

      • Well, I really appreciate you revealing so much of your personal experience.

        I understand it’s exceedingly personal and painful to you.

        I don’t mean to dismiss your professional experience. Of course that would factor into your conclusions.

        I have met more women transitioning then men. And I simply won’t argue with who they are. They tell me they are men and I believe them. Their personal experiences matter too and don’t relay the same information to me at all.

        I don’t think they are mentally “disordered” But if they are, I think all of society is too and has only lent itself to more misunderstandings of gender-liquidity and stereotypical hang-ups.

        And people ending up in bodies they don’t identify with isn’t for me to say.

        The psychiatric field in not accurate science. It has never accurately diagnosed anybody. Moral agendas get in the way…

        In any case, I believe Transgender people deserve voice and their freedom of choice regarding their own paths. How far to transition, how much they want to reveal, and although it’s difficult for their families and yes, doctors will take advantage like anyone else, they have to do what they have to do.

        I don’t think calling them out like frankenstein which is how your blog made me and Katherine feel (I hope it’s okay with her I write that) is good.

        I think your harmful in how you attack trans people. You aren’t just giving your info or your version and opinions. You’re the JUDGE.

      • Hi Tabby, it’s okay you talked about me in unity… but I’m done with “saint chauvinism”. I knew people from childhood until now that were transgender and they were all beautiful, kind, and incredibly open to me. As were the cross dressers and performance people, the transvestites… bisexuals, lesbians and homosexuals…and I am not going to be persuaded by false psychology or bigots… or factional-ists, because my experience was more fortunate than that. I got to know artists and creative people and we didn’t have the mental emotional barriers to love or gender roles that saint chauvinism is creating for herself. I am admittedly simply LUCKIER.

        She speaks as if everyone is a lesbian or should be. My my my… how oddly binary she is in heterosexual terms when one should see the liquidity… or at least the complexity or “personal” as not a disorder but as an expansion.

        There all all kinds of extremes and I think Jeanne was right when she was speaking to the bizarreness of how we are all lumped into man haters when we say we are feminist.

        Thanks Tabby for being real.
        xoxo
        kj

      • I guess I should clarify and say I read the comments on your blog and that Actually Katherine did the first comments with you and I’m picking up the spare on this bowling tournament. Sorry to be confusing, on that… I got in the middle of what you were both fighting about. And have been talking with her ever since about trans issues. It really hurt encountering your blog. You hurt trans allies so I know trans people would feel far worse. I am with Katherine… on the facts.

      • I really dont care what you think of this blog and the blogs I repost here, I know you think anyone who rejects the mantra that “Transwomen are women” are KKKFredPhelpsHitler and I dont give shit because I think people like you who think its great to trans children and to encourage young lesbians to cut their breasts and poison themselves with testosterone and who dont give a shit that homeless women and women in prison are being housed with males some with histories of violence- you fucking horrify me, your opinions matter as much to me as some religious fundie who thinks Im going to burn in hell for being a lesbian. Have a nice day.

      • Oh okay Saint Chauvinist know-it-all, Once people start placing me into KKK or hitler references I know they are the nut-balls. OMG, woman you told Katherine to be nice on your blog and look at your reaction. Talk about having a button to push.

        You’re a dick.

        How about that, Dr. Kathy?

        I don’t encourage lesbians to cut their breasts off. WHOA! But on an interesting related note…Historically the amazons did that, those warrior women needed a better bow arm for them there arrows. Look it up.

        I realize you don’t like religious people. I’m not religious, or an extremist in any regard. What I like to encourage is factual, but also compassionate.

        You do care what I think. That’s why you’re cussing at me. You’re all frazzled. Challenges to your concrete ideas… are spinning you.

        It’s your hate and fear and ignorance ruling you. not your heart or mind.

  5. Pingback: “Do You Have Integrity?” a Rhetorical Question posed by Tabby Ren Elle and some Barometer Frogs… | Tabby Ren Elle

  6. Sorry but you can’t excuse misandry! It’s funny how you hate misogyny so much when you promote misandry so much.. Hypocrite much?

    • Misandry doesn’t exist. Misogyny is the term for structural oppression of women. You are talking about sexism, which can and does affect men, but cannot and does not change the underlying paradigm of oppression of women.

      But thank you for your polite comment.

  7. I’m sorry, but this does NOT excuse the feminists for their own misandric actions, it’s like saying it’s acceptable for us to be a bigot which is disgusting and detrimental as well as it’s not something that equality is all about! I believe in equality of the sexes, but I think sooner or later this feminist movement as well as their stupid theories and their double standards should deconstruct. And no, I’m not gonna call myself a feminist nor am I gonna ever side with the feminist movement to fight the issues of both genders.

    • Hi Vlad, you don’t hate feminism.

      You don’t understand feminism.

      You hate what you do not understand.

      You do not understand yourself in relationship to women.

      The headline of this article is “heady” on purpose. And if you fail to understand the use of satire or humor or to read the source article the post refers to, you will fail to understand how the language of men has been and is being used against women to make us seem like we are man-hating for being feminists or to insist we prove we don’t hate men in order to be better women.

      So, you either you missed the whole point of this post, or you just wanted to come here and lay your turds.

  8. Damn..i wanna come in here and lay some hate on you, but you kinda have a point.
    Just write some crap about manspreading or something and quit making it so difficult to get my rage on.

  9. Pingback: The Wifework of Empathising with Absentee Fathers’ Struggles | Jeanne de Montbaston

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