I’ve written before about how feminism is primarily a way for women to build a positive identity for themselves after generations of having their identities defined by men – and that men’s rights movements fundamentally misunderstand this, making them reactionary at best.
But I think it’s worth looking into times when feminism does come in conflict with men, and how the often-claimed charge of misandry is not the scourge that some men feel it to be. Often, men’s rights advocates claim that to endorse feminism is to endorse an anti-male outlook. That’s wrong, and I want to offer an explanation as to how I can be male, a feminist, and not some kind of sex traitor.
First of all, yes. There are women who hate men. Minsandry is real. But men’s rights movements shouldn’t try to stamp it out entirely, and they shouldn’t get bent out of shape when they encounter it. This is because – and this is crucial – misandry does not meaningfully affect society.
Look, you want to get bent out of shape is even one person holds a radical political viewpoint, then fine. Go ahead. But you’ll spend your life getting more and more bitter, and less and less effective, because people are going to hold radical viewpoints. You may be one of those people.
Instead, feminism has attempted primarily to root out misogynistic biases in the social fabric – what feminists call institutionalized sexism. This can exist in laws, language, traditional roles, or just general attitudes toward women. These same generalized biases do not apply to misandry (generally – though I think we’re all familiar with the idea that bad men are violent and bad women are promiscuous,which is sex-linked prejudice on both sides).
Feminism, in short, fights against a particular conception of masculinity, one that has steered society for some time. Women who hold to misandry do not have the same power to inflict generalized harm on men.
This is why I feel perfectly masculine, but don’t engage in a masculinist view of the world. Does that mean, as some men believe, that masculinity is in crisis?
I prefer to think of it as an exigency – a moment of potential crisis and potential opportunity. We have the ability now to form for ourselves a positive identity, free of past anti-woman beliefs. That’s not going to happen in the atmosphere of men’s rights movements, which oppose women rather than build up men. As the old masculinity goes away, something new should take its place.
It shouldn’t be an entrenched misunderstanding of feminism, women, and the power of extremism.