If you are someone even fleetingly interested in women’s rights, gender studies, or current discussions of that ilk, you are most likely familiar with the term misandry. Regardless, I’m going to be pedantic here for a moment and start my essay by defining a word: in the Oxford Dictionary, it is defined as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men.” Though less widespread than racism or sexism, it is nonetheless a repellent and ignorant attitude, one that has been taken up by some fringe militant groups.
Be that as it may, Reddit boards and online comments sections, (bastions for open-minded discussion that they are,) have become rife with blatant and accusatory misuse of the word; it has become a catch-all response for certain men to essentially shout down feminist issues or concerns. In many corners of the internet, it has become a genuine issue.
If you suggest men largely actuate both rape and domestic violence, you’re a misandrist. If you say that the marginalisation of women is a more prescient issue than the marginalisation of men, you’re a misandrist. While making a point on any subject, from stay-at-home moms to western beauty standards to the pay gap or contraceptive access, you must choose your words carefully, or be characterised as a champion for the SCUM Manifesto.
It has become a blame-passing token for many defensive men; a tool to effectively silence women’s voices while allowing more privileged perspectives to dominate the discourse.
Of course, If I characterise all men as potential rapists, as Andrea Dworkin once did, I might very well be a misandrist. Even if I thoughtlessly roll out the long list of cliches about men; that they don’t listen to their wives, that they’re all insensitive and uncommunicative, that they’re only interested in sex, that they must be nagged to get anything done – you know, the kind of boring dross that you often find staring up at you from women’s magazines in grocery stores – I would still be in the wrong. I would be making careless, lazy platitudes about half the human race, and that is not excusable. But is it misandry?
What if I make a generalisation about men that is tied to their innate privilege? If I say that they often fail to recognise the lack of female subjectivity in the media, or that there are certain specific situations, expectations, and pressures that come with womanhood that they may not have considered? I’m not – and haven’t been – trying to say that men can’t be feminists; but there are particular experiences that remain unique to women. And yet, there has been a real failure to recognize the nuance in such a statement; when I have voiced similar concerns in the past, I have been accused of “reverse sexism”.
You see, as far as “reverse sexism” is concerned, it registers on my list of important issues right before checking under the bed for the boogeyman. Misandry does exist, at least; “reverse sexism” is a frankly insulting phrase, used casually in response to hundreds of years of systemic, institutional discrimination against women. As I have seen so many weary activists, liberals, and young people explain repetitively: you cannot reverse traditional, ingrained power dynamics by saying ‘Men are bastards.’ It might be an ignorant stereotype, but it is not comparable to hundreds of years of oppression, mistreatment, and stigmatization.
I don’t intend to be flippant about the concerns facing young men, and the many pressures that traditional masculinity as a construct entails – but the fact remains that the argument about misandry has become a weapon for traditionalists and anti-feminists.
It has become a way of narrowing the argument so that feminist issues exist in a vacuum, with no contextual historical or social background. The reactionary accusations of “reverse sexism” speak of a conservative desire to slow the progressive tide; a general feeling that men have made enough concessions. ‘You’re getting to be too bothersome, too loud. Your marginalised voice is now shouting louder than mine, and I feel threatened by that, so you’re now oppressing me.’
I know it’s been said many times before now, but this is garbage. What I would say to such men, who feel that the women’s movement has gone ‘far enough’, who feel that feminism is synonymous with radicalism and misandry, is this: do some reading.
Pick up a few books, do a little bit of research. Try to listen to the other side, the side you so virulently dislike and mischaracterise, and see it from a different perspective. Until then, your personal feelings about the rights of men being trodden on are, I must admit, of little interest to me.