Originally posted on August 1, 2013
Several years ago I asked a question: can an ideology teach hate?
I asked the question as a result of a debate that happened on a popular anti-male feminist blog. I mentioned the abuse my feminist aunt subjected me to, and the feminists on the site proceeded to deny my aunt’s feminist status, deny that feminism played a role in her actions and attitude towards me and other males, and later deny that I was abused at all.
I the question because of a basic truth about feminism that I noted in my previous article:
This is the the same feminism that teaches that men collectively oppress women for the sole purpose of keeping all the power for themselves. The same feminism that claims that every male, regardless of his age or social status, benefits from this “patriarchy” at women’s expense. The same feminism that holds the fraction of men with power and the fraction men who commit violence as representative of the whole male population. The same feminism that views men as the ultimate enemy, one to be feared, distrusted, and suspected.
Would it surprise anyone that an ideology espousing that kind of hatred might cause a person to hurt someone?
The feminists on the anti-male blog dismissed that idea, yet a recent article on xoJane corroborates my position. Jennifer Levin wrote about her feminist mother taught her to hate men:
My mother’s brand of feminism went from wanting equal rights to wanting to smash the patriarchy, which she defined for my brother and me as “men’s historical oppression of women, which they continue to do today.” No man could escape complicity, not even little boys, she said. Suddenly, men were the root of all of women’s problems and since they had all the power, we had to fight them.
Men were always wrong. Men were aggressors; men were rapists; men were stupid; men were obsessed with their penises; men were responsible for forcing my mother into a heterosexual marriage and motherhood. Mary Daly and Andrea Dworkin had become her prophets. She never once said that “patriarchy” wasn’t synonymous with “men.” She used the terms interchangeably. She told us we’d been forced on her by the patriarchy and, given the choice, she would not have had us.
Jennifer also mentioned her mother’s attitude towards her brother:
Most of the women were nice to me and my brother but it was made clear to us that some of their friends wouldn’t come over because there was a teenage boy in the apartment. They were separatists and wanted to live completely apart from men.
I was stunned. “But he’s your son!”
“He’s still male,” my mom said. “And if I didn’t have a son, I’d probably be a sep, too.”
I wish I could unlearn this. I understood very well that there were all kinds of shitty dudes out there. I experienced this reality every day by virtue of taking public transportation to and attending my public high school. But my brother wasn’t a threat to my mom’s friends.
And yet her mother and the feminists she hung around treated Jennifer’s brother as a threat. Such was the nature of her mother’s view that she also taught her daughter that all heterosexual sex was rape:
My mom started encouraging me to “find a nice girl to fool around with.” She told me any woman who had sex with men wasn’t a feminist. She told me all heterosexual sex was rape “by definition.” When I asked her if she meant I was a product of rape, she told me I was “letting myself get raped” every time I had sex with my boyfriend.
If one reads the comments to the article, most of the feminists make excuses for Jennifer’s mother’s behavior. Some agree that her mother’s actions were bad, but deny that her mother’s views were feminist at all. Others argue that if her brother were to speak about his experiences he must make his comments specific to his mother and not about feminism or feminists. Others argue that this is not “their” brand of feminism. Even Jennifer defends feminism by absolving it from any complicity of her mother’s actions:
Misandry as an ironic or non-ironic Feminist pose might be cathartic for a while, but it has nothing to do with achieving equality. And espousing outright hatred and contempt for all men to your children is not a feminist act. It’s tantamount to child abuse.
Let us be clear: it is not tantamount to child abuse; it is child abuse. Let us not skirt the issue just because this woman is a feminist.
Secondly, the hatred and contempt for all men Jennifer’s mother showed is, unfortunately a feminist act. That kind of misandry is found in all corners of the feminist community. Like my aunt, Jennifer’s mother simply acted on the views feminism espouses. While no ideology can make a person commit an act, it takes incredible leaps in logic to think that hateful ideas will not eventually prompt someone to act on them. It is also true that many ideologies attract people looking for easy answers to their problems, and feminism is no different. I suspect that feminism attracts many people, particularly women, who already carry anger and the ideology only makes it worse.
The aftermath in these situations is never good. No matter what ideology one focuses on, whenever an ideology harbors such biased views someone will eventually act on them. The proper response is not to absolve the ideology of any responsibility for what happened. Rather, the proper response is to look at that ideology and ask why it led someone to behave that way.
I do not expect many feminists to agree with that position as it relates to feminism, although I am sure they would agree if I directed it at Evangelical Christianity. However, that is the discussion we need to have, and that is unfortunately not the discussion happening on xoJane.