A few years ago, my mother sat on my bed and told me that I shouldn’t hate men.
“Some men are bad, honey,” she said, “But there are also great men out there. You shouldn’t hate them all.”
At the time, I was frustrated. I had just got done telling her about Anita Sarkeesian’s “Women in Gaming” series, which I had binged that day, and it had awoken my mind to a big, giant, societal problem that I had never been able to bring into context the way she could. Suddenly, for the first time, someone else understood what it was like to be a girl wanting to see herself reflected in the culture she consumed. A girl who wasn’t a damsel, or a hardened (but still sexy) badass, or a flimsy love interest. Just. A hero. A main character. With agency and flaws and a story everyone could relate to.
But still I understand her point. Yes, okay, not all men are terrible. I know from experience that this is true. And to believe that all men are terrible doesn’t really help anything, it just makes my own existence harder since no matter how much I might “hate” them, I’ll still have to interact with them.
But also, I don’t hate men.
I don’t! I don’t hate them. I’ve met too many good men to hate them all. My dad, my friends, and many public figures I look up to – there are so many examples of good men.
But here’s the problem: I have to explain that to people.
That has to be the caveat. “I think women are systematically oppressed by a masculine-focused society BUT I don’t hate men.” That “but” has to be there. I can’t focus on women’s struggles without also bringing into account how men feel about those struggles, or else I get labelled as a crazy man-hater.
I don’t hate men! But you know who constantly pushes my capacity not to hate men? Men.
No wait, not men in general. No, a very specific kind of men.
You see, nine times out of ten, the people who encourage women to hate men are not women. Perhaps this is different in other people’s experience, but every time I’ve struggled with my “I don’t hate men” stance, it’s not been because of a woman’s view on how men are, but rather a man’s view of how men are.
Take for example a recent term I discovered. The “nu-male.”
Nu-males, according to Urban Dictionary, are “men (with “men” being used as loosely as possible) lacking self-respect who are completely devoid of any masculinity and will jump at any moment to defend women online for feminist brownie points while falsely believing that in return, they’ll receive sexual favors.”
I discovered this term in the comments section in a video of one of my favorite Youtubers, Folding Ideas, and it, at the time, terrified me. I’ve always liked Folding Ideas not only for his interesting and in-depth analysis of media, but also for his respect not only for women but for all quote-unquote “minorities,” often criticizing media for disrespecting them. That being said, his entire channel does not focus on feminist and socially conscious readings of media – that’s just an occasional topic.
Still, from the look of the comments section, you would think he talks constantly about feminism, and for only one purpose: to gain sexual favor from women.
Perhaps, for men, this idea is not terrifying. In fact, definitely for men it’s not terrifying. “Nu-male” is just a joke, a “witty” and cynical observation or a way to put down other men they disagree with.
However, for me, it just creates this world where every man wants nothing more than to have sex with every other woman. It creates a world where no man truly wants to treat women with respect, they just want to get into their pants through any means necessary.
I know that isn’t true. I don’t believe all men are like that. But so many men seem to believe it.
I mean, look at the idea of the “friend zone.” That popular notion that anytime a man is friends with a woman, he’s losing out on something. He’s missing his chance. “Poor guy, friend-zoned like that.”
Or, related, the “nice guy,” only being kind to women to pursue a romantic or sexual relationship with her.
Or, when I was young, my father telling me that all boys are terrible and that I should never trust them.
“But, dad, you’re a boy!” I would say.
“Doesn’t matter,” he would say.
And so with all these terms, it’s obvious to me that the negative stereotypes about how men treat women come just as often, if not more often from men themselves. And yes, it’s more often than not in a joking manner, but its still indicative of a culture where men accept these stereotypes as unchangeable fact. And yet they are confused why women react negatively to the idea that no man will ever respect her as a human being.
Feminism, as a movement, doesn’t hate men. In fact, many feminism ideals benefit men as well, freeing them from their own gender roles and expecting decency and human empathy from them.
But those women who do hate men aren’t taught to do so by other women. No, there’s a litany of men out there who do the job for them.