I continue to find it pathetic that every few weeks feminists feel compelled to write articles about how people misunderstand them. For a group that has been around in its present form for nearly six decades, feminists are completely incapable of convincing people they are not misandrous ideologues bent of ruining society.
As Zerlina Maxwell stated in her recent article:
The message is fairly simple: Feminism in this case is the sanctimonious, uptight older sister, always out to spoil everyone’s fun.
In 1990, Pat Robertson famously said, “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” Despite countless well-reasoned arguments to the contrary, it’s clear that some 25 years later, feminism still has an image problem.
And whose fault is that?
This isn’t to say it’s feminists’ fault.
Really? Please explain.
For whatever reason, a comprehensive definition of feminism has failed to stick in some circles, as suggested by the fact that actress after actress has gone out of their way lately to publicly reject the feminist label. The recent popularity of the Women Against Feminism Tumblr has similarly proven that far too many women don’t understand what feminism is or what its main goals are.
Another explanation would be that people fully understand feminism and its main goals and want nothing to do with the ideology or its followers. It is very easy to play the victim, yet in this instance feminists cannot lay claim to that status. Feminists attack people who disagree with them. The feminist response to actresses disvowing feminism was not compassion but mockery, anger, and harassment. The same holds true for their treatment of Women Against Feminism. There was no solidarity or attempt at dialogue. There was only attack after attack, humiliation, and bullying. Men fair far worse. Bring up men’s issues, and one suddenly finds feminists tweeting pictures of themselves wearing t-shirts that read, “I bathe in male tears.”
Feminists like to believe the act out of compassion for everyone, but their actions and words prove otherwise. Yet so convinced are they or their altruism that they grace us with things like Maxwell’s list of the 10 worth myths about feminism. As she explains:
This means that all those who believe feminism hurts women, is perpetuated by man-haters or is designed to subjugate men’s rights are confused. So, in order to counter some of the more problematic and pervasive stereotypes about feminism, we’ve given some of the most popular myths a good old fashioned debunking.
Let us see what Maxwell offers:
1. Feminists hate men.
This may be the most persistent myth of them all. Faulty logic dictates that because feminists are active and engaged in making the world equal for everyone, they want to do so at the expense of men.
This is just not true.
Agreed, which is likely why no one makes that argument. The argument people make is that feminists demonstrate a visceral, consistent antipathy towards men. This manifests in feminist theories like “The Patriarchy” and “male privilege” to policies like teaching men and boys “not to rape.” That is the complaint, and so far feminists have done little to address it, although they have done much to worsen it. One need only read articles by Amanda Marcotte or anything on Jezebel or listen to commentators like Zerlina Maxwell to see precisely why people think feminists hate men.
If anything, the feminist critique of unhealthy masculinity drives this “you just hate men” narrative. Feminists want to put an end to catcalling, harassment and abuse of women. But if the vast majority of abuse of all people, including that of women, is at the hands of men, are you a raging man-hater for pointing that out? Of course not.
Except the “vast majority of abuse of all people” is not at the hands of men. There are of studies demonstrating that women commit a large amount of violence. Likewise, the majority of men are not violent, so holding them collectively or individually responsible for the few men who do commit violence is at best nonsensical. It is at worst sexist, hence the complaint that feminists hate men.
2. Feminists aren’t funny.
While there is a broader debate centering around the fallacy that women are inherently less fun than men, that misconception is even stronger with feminists. But while there is certainly a seriousness with which feminists address issues like the abuse and murder of trans women, for example, there are a million examples of feminists who are funny as heck.
Humor is subjective, so there is no way to declare who is or is not funny. It can be stated, however, that what feminists find funny is rather specific. It would appear that as long as men and boys are the butt of the joke, the joke is perfectly acceptable.
3. Feminists are hysterical.
“Hysterical” is a term historically thrown at women to silence them. It dictates that any analysis or complaint raised is inherently over the top. For example, feminists who argued that rape culture is a problem that needs to be seriously addressed are often dismissed as overly emotional and exaggerating.
That occurs because feminists are exaggerating. The very data they use to declare that there is a “rape culture” suggests the opposite. Crime has decreased in recent years. This includes rape against women. So the claim that we live in a “rape culture” that engages wholesale in sexual violence against women does not hold water.
Yet this is the consistent feminist response to an issue. Whenever feminists find a valid issue to address, they exaggerate the severity of the problem. There are legitimate problems women face. Feminists do not need to turn them into conspiracy theories.
5. Feminism hurts men.
Feminism helps men. Period.
No, there is no period. Feminism has a long history of hurting men, from forcing the closure of athletic programs for college men and high school boys to blocking legislation to assist male victims of rape and domestic violence. Feminism has fostered ambivalence towards serious men’s issues such as men’s health and male suicide, and has led to the assumption that normal male behavior such as assertiveness is the gateway to abuse.
To this point, Maxwell could not get three sentences into her declaration without slapping men and boys down:
A 1981 study, “The Unintended Victims of Marital Violence,” found that “Male children who witness the abuse of mothers by fathers are more likely to become men who batter in adulthood than those male children from homes free of violence.”
Abused boys are more likely to abuse. Nicely done. Interestingly, that notion does not lead feminists to actually help boys. Rather, it leads to feminists teaching them that because they are male they are a threat to females.
6. Feminists are only women.
Yes, there are male feminists! Sure, if you ask the average American to name a feminist, they most likely will name a woman, but that doesn’t mean that feminism is only for women.
That is a non sequitur. Feminism can be only for women and have male members. It is also misleading. There are plenty of feminists who do not think men can be feminists. This is a debate that feminists have amongst themselves frequently. Pretending that this is a non-feminist argument is dishonest.
More troubling is that Maxwell, like most feminists, cannot get through her rant without throwing male feminists under the bus:
The key here is that men who are allies in the fight against patriarchy need to be hyperaware of their own male privilege. In a post over at TIME magazine, author Noah Berlatsky says, “It’s true that sometimes male feminists, myself not excluded, imagine we’re brave allies, altruistically saving women by standing up for them. … But dreams about men saving women are just another version of misogyny — and, in this case in particular, totally backwards. Misogyny is a cage for everyone. When I call myself a male feminist, I’m not doing it because I think I’m going to save women. I’m doing it because I think it’s important for men to acknowledge that as long as women aren’t free, men won’t be either.”
Even as men side with feminists, their so-called allies smack them down.
7. Feminists don’t like being moms.
Here’s a myth that gets trotted out from time to time, perhaps most recently following New York magazine’s groundbreaking feature on New York City’s first lady Chirlane McCray. McCray, often described as a strong feminist leader, was slammed by the New York Post for admitting she didn’t always want to stay at home with her daughter.
Except the Post stated nothing of the sort. The closet the article came to that assertion was, “The disclosure — bound to horrify most moms — shatters the carefully crafted image of de Blasio’s close-knit family, which helped vault him into office.”
The notion that feminists do not like being mothers comes less from outsiders contorting feminists’ statements and more from people taking feminists at their word. McCray is not the only feminist to state she had difficulty accepting the parent role. This seems to be common, particularly with older feminists and those with sons.
One cannot say that feminists do not like being mothers. However, one can argue that feminists appear to have a tougher time accepting the role than non-feminist women.
8. Feminists are anti-marriage.
[…] While feminists certainly fight for the rights of women to have autonomy in their relationships, they also fight for the right of everyone to marry if he or she chooses. This means that while many feminists are gay rights activists, they also fight for equity within a marriage as a partnership, as opposed to a patriarchal entity.
Feminists do not support marriage as an equal partnership. They appear to support it only when the marriage bucks the traditional roles. Should men and women engage in the traditional norms, feminists seem to take issue with it. It is only the the non-conformist marriage that feminists support, hence the support of same-sex marriage. But the support does not come from any concern for equality. Feminists have no problem with women dominating the marriage or relationship.
9. Feminists’ primarily care about abortion.
Feminism isn’t only about abortion. By and large, to identify as feminist a person must believe in full bodily autonomy, but abortion is only one part of the fight for reproductive justice.
Again, this is a non sequitur. The argument posed is that feminists care primarily about the abortion. Arguing that they do not care only about abortion does not disprove the initial statement.
The right to have children, the right to not have children, the right to parent the children you do have in a safe and nurturing environment, and the right to determine under what circumstances you start a family are crucial components to full social, economic and political equality. If you don’t have control over your reproduction, you don’t have control over your life.
Interestingly, this logic does not apply to men. I can only think of a handful of feminists, all them critical of mainstream feminism, who would agree that a man or boy should not be forced to create or raise a child he does not want. The notion that men and boys should have control of their reproduction is considered by most feminists to be anti-feminist.
Setting that aside, only two of the items listed in Maxwell’s rant have anything to do with abortion: the right to have or not to have children. Yet even those side-step the actual problem: the morality of taking the unborn child’s life.
10. Feminists are angry.
In conjunction with the whole man-hating stereotype, the trope of the angry feminist is one of the most often-repeated lines in the history of anti-feminism. Dating back to one or two iconic images of feminists burning bras, this stereotype has been used by men and women alike to smear the movement as emotionally driven, the same way the stereotype of the “hysterical” feminist is used.
Like the “whole man-hating stereotype,” the angry feminist is not a stereotype. We can find her. Easily. There are many, many more examples of feminists raging like that. But let me not interrupt Maxwell’s excuses:
Yes, perhaps at times feminists have expressed their frustration with patriarchy and sexism in less than cordial tones. As it turns out, continued second-class citizenship isn’t something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Let’s be clear: Feminists have a right to be angry. Whether it’s rampant sexual assault without accountability, the wage gap, the glass ceiling, gender-based discrimination in general or decreasing access to birth control, righteous indignation is certainly called for here.
No, it is not. Righteous indignation would be called for if no one took those issues seriously or made any effort to address them. It is not called for when someone points out that the anger is misdirected at half the human population, that it leads to discrimination, bigotry, and violence against that group, or that it promotes hatred and further unjustified anger. The term to describe that is passive-aggressive narcissism. Or as Maxwell points out, “compassion”:
But it’s much more than that. As Jessica Valenti noted in 2013, “We have a right to be angry, we have a right to be sad, and shocked. We have a right to be exhausted… That anger, that sadness, it can help us do what we have to do. And I am angry and sad and exhausted with you. But I also know that what brings us together is more than a confluence of hardships. We don’t do this work because of anger—we do it because of love. We do it because of compassion.”
Spoken like a true abuser. Abusers are the only people who state they hate and become angry out of “love” and “compassion”.
So I state again that the lady doth protest too much, methinks. Initially I meant that in the modern understanding, i.e. that Maxwell denies too much. However, I now include the original meaning, i.e. that Maxwell declares too much. Maxwell, contrary to her intent, reveals precisely why people do not like feminists. She reveals that her list is not made of “myths” but of straw men she created and “stereotypes” feminists brought on themselves.
Here is a thought: if feminists want people to think the best of them, it would do them well not to behave so badly.