I drink from a coffee mug that says “Male Tears.” Female friends sign off emails to me with “ban men” or “kill all men.” In at least three people’s phone contacts, my name is followed by an emoji depicting a man with a big red slash through him. When I have the loathsome task of submitting an author bio, I frequently describe myself as a professional misandrist.
And yet the boys love it. My Twitter bio — “cool and nice internet misandrist of note” — is a quote from a man. A male friend once called me “misandrist Jesus,” which I am not sure what that means but it’s the best. Another said I was “the Temple Grandin of misandry” for the gentle, understanding way in which I lead men to the slaughter. I am not just a misandrist; I am a Man Whisperer.
How’s that work? How can I hate men and still like men, and even more, have the men (mostly) LIKE that I hate men? How can men not just find my misandry jokes funny, but take them to be genuinely good news? Well, listen up while I whisper you, boys: Misandry is on your side.
You may have read my friend Amanda’s terrific piece about ironic misandry at Slate, in which I am obscenely proud to be heavily quoted. (If you haven’t, go do that now — it’s worth it.) In it, I say that men who have a problem with misandry jokes are “universally brittle, insecure, humorless weenies with victim complexes.” However, in the weeks since Amanda interviewed me, I had a male friend — not a humorless weenie but a person I cherish even though he sometimes says things like this — complain that the “misandry thing” gets to be “a bit much.” (I did say they MOSTLY like it.) Also, since the article came out, several people have half-jokingly asked me “wait, your misandry is IRONIC?” So I feel I have some stuff to add to Amanda’s thorough and thoughtful account.
NO, NONE OF US LITERALLY WANT TO KILL ALL MEN.
I mean, even leaving aside the legality of it, and issues like weapons acquisition and storage space for bodies, who has the TIME? Feminists got shit to do.
Here’s what we do want to kill: the concept of masculinity. And you should want that, too.
Fear not, men: even if feminists genuinely, fiercely desired to permanently banish you all to Dude Island, we simply do not have the resources. Even supposing we had a line on an island that could fit half the human population (I guess Australia could handle it, at sufficient density) there’s no way we could afford it — especially not after all this time being underpaid, passed over, glass ceilinged, or sidelined onto the mommy track. Ironically, the very oppression that would make us want to banish you to the Island makes us incapable of purchasing one that can fit you jerks. That’s what this has all been about, right? Well, pat yourself on the back, you won.
Also, more seriously, I can’t believe how often I have to say this but LOTS OF MEN ARE GREAT. Here’s something you might not know, but I feel the rest of the coven won’t mind my spilling the beans: Every time, literally EVERY TIME we daydream privately about life after you leave for the Island, one of your girlfriends or wives or fiancées asks for a day pass or an exemption. I’d like one for my dad, too, and I bet I’m not the only one. Feminists love individual men ferociously.
But let’s be honest: the more time you spend thinking about the patriarchy, the more you’re genuinely like UGH DUDES AMIRITE. Because the thing is, patriarchal culture actively trains men to be awful. They’re not born thinking that they’re in charge of women’s bodies, or that their opinions hold more weight and should get more credit, or that orgasms are their birthright! They have to get poisoned with those ideas by steeping in a culture that uses individual men as a tool to advance male supremacy.
Part of the reason misandry jokes take off, and part of the reason men who see the patriarchy matrix are some of the most enthusiastic misandry jokers, is that men are encouraged and rewarded for behavior that is, on the face of it, downright awful. Once you see through that horrible joke that patriarchy is playing on you, individual men start hating men-as-a-group in the same way that feminists hate them — not a way that encourages automatic hostility towards members of the group, but a way where you want to see the group disbanded and its charter destroyed and cast to the winds and forgotten.
Joking about misandry is a way of saying “guys, look what you’re supposed to be like. BAN THAT.”
To my male friends who have complained — gently! Respectfully! But still infuriatingly — about the “misandry thing”: I do not really want to send you to an island. I do not want to light you on fire, or send you into space, or put you in a box and put the box in the ocean. I do not need to drink your tears to live.
But I do think the concept of “manliness” needs to be taken out and shot. And when (not if, but when, because this is how privilege works) you slip up and do something sexist, when you shout down a woman who knows more than you or act like her body and clothes are designed for your pleasure or just ignore the inequities around you because you can, because you were told all your life that this was okay and only learned recently that it isn’t and you have to fight to remember that and it’s hard, that’s the guy I want to banish. I want to banish That Guy so you can be the generous, just, compassionate human being you are, and one day when all of Those Guys are banished we can be human beings together.
Also, because as much as I relish my role as Man Whisperer and genuinely want to help good-faith dudes along, it must be said: I am sorry if I made you feel unsafe because you weren’t sure whether I was really going to do the ocean box thing. That does sound like something I’d realistically do in real life, so I can understand why you were confused. But JOIN THE FUCKING CLUB. We’ve been listening to rape jokes and wife-beating jokes and smiling and gritting our teeth since forever.
At least you get to feel mildly wrong-footed by jokes about something that is not happening literally every day.
I’m not going to stop with the misandry jokes, because they make women laugh and feel united and if they make you squirm a little, well, not everything is about men’s comfort, not anymore. And I won’t lie: making you uncomfortable — not afraid or hurt, but just a little bit discomfited — is part of the point.
But we don’t want to kill or banish you, guys — after all, we need your help. You’ve given yourself the money and the political power and the ability to make men sit up and take notice; you’ve stacked that deck so thoroughly that unless we genuinely did want to kill you all (and I stress: ain’t nobody got time for that), we need some of you on our side.
Luckily, we’re on your side too, because we think better of you than patriarchy does. Help us work towards a day when we can say “The men are dead. Long live the men.”