Misandry — or the hatred of men — is completely understandable. In fact, I wouldn’t blame women for never wanting to interact with any man because of the fact that so many of us are trash. Like, it makes sense, doesn’t it? (And for the record, I am a queer man who has contributed to the reason why women might just hate us. We all have.)
“Why would you blame all men for something some men did?”
This whole “not all men” has got to stop. If the shoe don’t fit, then quietly go about your daily business and don’t wear it, but chances are that it does fit. Let’s start at the beginning.
Patriarchy & Male Privilege 101
All over the world, even where matriarchal societies reign supreme, men still have a major — and often negative — impact on women’s lives. Societies that banish men, but are a part of a so-called “third world” country still face the consequences of the men who make decisions for imperial countries (such as the United States of America). A woman need not be near a man to suffer for or because of his failings.
So whether individual men choose to be “nice guys” or not matters, but patriarchy is much bigger than just interpersonal relationships. We assume that men are more intelligent, much stronger, more efficient, and generally “better” than women. The only thing that we commonly credit women with is emotional intelligence and maternal affection, which are attributes men can also be taught.
In defense of masculinities (because there are several, not just one masculinities) and men who embody any form of masculinities: our behavior is the result of our socialization. This does not mean that we are not at fault. We are. We continue to use our manhood to benefit ourselves, often stepping on women to get there. This does, however, mean that we are taught — and not born! — to act the way we do. Everything I’m typing today was most likely influenced by the teachings of a woman in my life.
We feel entitled to land, promotions, women’s bodies, and more because we are taught from a young age that the world is ours. Even men who identify or present as feminine still receive many of the benefits of manhood, even while simultaneously under the threat of violence for bending gender norms. Patriarchy means that men have male privilege.
Male privilege allows us to dictate laws that restrict access to reproductive health and make for decision for women without their input. Male privilege gives us the false idea that we are, in fact, “better” than women. Male privilege means that people of all genders are more likely to listen to us than to women. Male privilege perpetuates rape culture on college campuses and all over the world. And the male privilege we are the most familiar with is how our assumed superiority earns us more income than any woman:
Adding in factors like race, sexuality, disability, motherhood status, level of education achieved, and even physical attractiveness just makes the picture even worse. According to 2015 American Community Survey Data, analyzed by the AAUW:
- Asian women had an earning ratio of 90% in comparison to white men
- White (non-hispanic) women had an earning ratio of 76% in comparison to white men
- Black women had an earning ratio of 62% in comparison to white men
- Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women had an earning ratio of 60% in comparison to white men
- American Indian or Alaskan Native women had an earning ratio of 58% in comparison to white men
- Hispanic or Latina women had an earning ratio of 54% in comparison to white men
So women — in comparison to men — earned 54-90 cents on the dollar.
“Well there are a lot of toxic women!”
Yes, of course, toxic humans come in all sides. Men can be sexually assaulted, physically abused, and verbally taunted. This is all true. And still, men benefit from societies forcefully built by men. Women have typically been excluded, as we see with the “Founding Fathers” of the United States of America, and this is doubled and quadrupled for women of color. Women, and particularly women who present themselves in a feminine manner, do not have the benefit of male privilege. Even when men claim that a woman benefits from a masculine presentation or a queer identity, she is still a woman and is therefore seen as less than. Women cannot escape patriarchy.
A recent example is Serena Williams, one of the world’s greatest athletes. Period. Williams has been referred to as “too masculine.” There was once a debate over whether a horse should win “Sportsperson of the Year” over her. And just today, she was referred to as “Drake & Common’s Ex,” as if the only reason that we should care about a world-renowned tennis player is because she once dated two men. What may seem trivial to some is not actually trivial. Women cannot escape patriarchy. So let’s play a game.
Imagine living in a world where all of the power is decided by men. All of it. All of it. In this world, a woman can say “nah, forget all y’all” and still receive death and rape threats. Not just online, but in person and across the world. Multiple women have been shot just for saying “no” to a man, young women are persecuted for defending themselves and their families from the abuse of men, and trans women are killed merely for existing. These are not anomalies. The violence women face is not always physical, but the threat always exists somewhere.
But surely women have control within their own bodies, homes, workplaces neighborhoods, cities, and workplaces right? Nah. Even when women fight against the world to maintain steady control over their own lives, men pop up. We don’t stop. Even if women move to remote locations, we legislators (read: decision makers) legitimizing violence against women. And on top of the violation of personal space wherever they go, they may also come from a long line of ain’t-shit daddies, uncles, cousins, and partners. Add peepin toms, pervy bosses, and inappropriate hollering at the gas station? That’s…whew.
The world we imagined, that’s the world we all inhabit today. So yeah, I think more men need to understand why women would never want to interact with any man, whether that’s based in personal vendetta or patriarchy.
“Alright, so I’ll do better next time.”
Well, ok, listen…
First, there ain’t no way out for women, and that’s what a lot of men don’t understand. Patriarchy is a system. Patriarchy continues to reproduce itself. We have to actively work against it in order to eliminate it, and the truth of the matter is that not enough are doing that. Too many of us are busy making excuses, particularly if we are marginalized in some way.
For example, I am a Black queer man. I get flack for my Blackness, my queerness, and my mental illness. I deal with white folks, men challenging my masculinity, my own insecurities, capitalism, and much more. We all have our battles, right, so then we explore ways to reclaim that power we felt we are due. Sometimes that reclamation may involve misogyny or sexism, rather than actively fighting against our socialization. What then happens is something many men think women do all the time, “slander all men.”
But here’s the thing: it’s not slander if it just so happens to be true, and it is not untrue just because a few of us stopped or “never acted like that.”
Second, men are taught — not born — to be pieces of shit. It is not something that we naturally do from infancy. We observe gender relations in our homes, at our schools, in our churches, on TV, in films, and more. We begin to emulate what we see and what we know of what “manhood” is. This often means violence, hypermasculinites (an extreme form and/or performance of masculinity), and toxic masculinities (a particularly damaging form of masculinity). In order to unlearn what we were taught, we practice with women, and that right there is where the cycle begins.
So on our way to become “better men,” many marginalized groups have to deal with our learning process, bearing the brunt of the weight. In this case, it is most often women, femmes of all genders, nonbinary folk, and queer folks. Learning requires test subjects, and those test subjects are the recipients of all of the mistakes we have to make in order to unlearn the oppressive ways we interact with women and treat them as objects, not humans.
However, women gotta “deal with” the bullshit since birth, during girlhood, during adolescence, during youth, and in old age. So even our elders have to repeat the same exhausting cycle of learning and unlearning from their potential partners, children, grandchildren, and the random men who just keep popping up. And let me tell you, patriarchy has not disappeared and won’t disappear anytime soon, all genders are socialized into this same system that teaches men to be shitty. So even if our communities combat all of the things that make women’s lives hell, everything around us teaches us that men are better than women in almost every damn way. We learn this from a young age and it just does not stop.
This process never ends; women gotta “deal with it” their whole lives.
There might be some hope though.
Being Black and being queer does not exclude me from benefiting or perpetuating oppressive systems. But I can personally say that I am a much better man than I once was. That’s the direct result of my mom, sister, friends, formal teachers, informal teachers, neighbors, chosen family, people online, and a lot of self-discipline.
Tangible solutions for improving the wellbeing begin with listening to women first. What do they need, how can you help, and how can you act on it? We can directly pay women a fair wage for their emotional, physical, sexual, and intellectual labor. We can give them gifts and words of affirmation when possible. We can apologize for being shitty human beings. And we can listen. And we can listen and shut up. And we can listen and shut up and do better, rather than complaining about how “different” we are. And ultimately, we must remember that no dollar amount, extraordinary hug, or cheesy smile can make up for being shitty to women in the past, present, or future. Women don’t have to like us, and history shows us that they have a right to hate us.
You made it this far, so please click the heart! If you’re feeling generous, show your appreciation for a woman in your life in her preferred method (hint: cash is often nice).