I was looking at sexist commercials on YouTube and noticed that one of the suggestions in the drop-down search bar pertained to sexist commercials with misandry. Then, out of (potentially morbid) curiosity, I searched this. I have no qualms about admitting that commercials can be sexist toward men in ways, you guys know that. The “bumbling idiot” man of commercials is tiresomeand problematic, and I don’t deny that. But I tend to prickle when I hear people (usually guys, yeah) the word “misandry” around.
Here, first let me give you a little history of Misandry And Me: I honestly did not hear the word until a few years ago, when I started being of the internet. I recently said it to my mother and had to explain what it meant. The spellcheck both on my internet and in my Microsoft Word don’t even recognize “misandry” as a word. It’s not really a thing that they tell you about in school or anything, and I don’t recall having heard it in films or television hardly at all.
Yet in certain circles, “misandry” and “feminism” are related and interchangeable, and that… poses a significant problem. (Even the definition given by Google links the two: “The hatred of men by women: ‘her feminism is just poorly disguised misandry’.”) On the one hand, there are people who legitimately seem to believe that all feminism is misandry; I can’t even count the number of times someone I go to school with has said something along the lines of “don’t all feminists hate all men?” or “don’t feminists think women are better than men?” Some of the YouTube videos in that search say similar things in the comments. I’ve also gotten “but isn’t it just equality/humanism if you believe in being equal?” and variants thereof. Well, no.
More Google definitions:
feminism: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”
equality: “1. The state of being equal, esp. in status, rights, and opportunities. 2. The condition of being equal in number or amount.”
humanism: “1. An outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. 2. A Renaissance cultural movement that turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought.”
Feminism is equality, but it is specified as feminism because men as a group have not had to partake of that advocacy. (And let’s not get into men’s rights stuff; from Wikipedia, “The SPLC noted about websites, blogs and forums related to the movement that ‘while some of them voice legitimate and sometimes disturbing complaints about the treatment of men, what is most remarkable is the misogynistic tone that pervades so many.’”)
Feminism and misandry sometimes coincide, but the two are not mutually exclusive. And the opposite issue exists too: the minute feminist and/or anti-misogynistic speech is presented, someone might cry misandry. As if proclaiming belief in the rights of women inherently challenges the rights of men.
Hint: it doesn’t. Not inherently. And a lot of “misandry” is… well, here. Another quote from Wikipedia:
In the 2007 book International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities, Marc A. Ouellette directly contrasted misandry and misogyny, arguing that “misandry lacks the systemic, transhistoric, institutionalized, and legislated antipathy of misogyny.”Anthropologist David D. Gilmore argues that while misogyny is a “near-universal phenomenon” there is no male equivalent to misogyny. He writes:
Man hating among women has no popular name because it has never (at least not until recently) achieved apotheosis as a social fact, that is, it has never been ratified into public, culturally recognized and approved institutions (…) As a cultural institution, misogyny therefore seems to stand alone as a gender-based phobia, unreciprocated.
Gilmore also states that neologisms like misandry refer “not to the hatred of men as men, but to the hatred of men’s traditional male role” and a “culture of machismo”. Therefore, he argues, misandry is “different from the intensely ad feminam aspect of misogyny that targets women no matter what they believe or do”.
And going to go back to my original point: yes, there is sexism against men in the media too. And it’s also bad. But let’s think about the Bechdel Test, which I was referring to on Thursday. “A work passes the test if it features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man,” Wikipedia says, and it is plainly sad on several levels. One, it’s sad that many works of fiction don’t pass this test; two, it’s sad that this test even has to exist at all. It’s perfectly common to have a movie, or a play, or a TV show, with a cast that is almost entirely male save one or two token female love interests or periphery characters. But a movie, play, or TV show with an almost entirely female cast? Well, for one it’s going to almost definitely be considered “niche” in one way or another, and likely criticized much more than its all-male counterparts (Sucker Punch springs to mind, though I won’t go into that further); for another, it’s almost never going to happen. (Exactly one of the musicals on the list on Thursday was with an all-female cast. And it was obscure and off-Broadway.)
I won’t lie. Sometimes I have days where I am feeling a little misandristic. I know it’s not good to generalize, and usually I can stop myself and go “no, I don’t hate men, I just [as said above] hate the ‘culture of machismo’ sometimes.” (But then, I have misanthropic days, too. Which are similarly broken down into “no, I don’t hate people, I just hate the behavior of people as a unit sometimes, usually in a groupthinky context.”) And I’m lucky to never have been explicitly called a “man-hating feminist” or a misandrist in the negative sense (at least to my face), I suppose. But I’ve gotten to the point in my life where, well, I’m not exactly going to take it as an insult if someone ever does call me those things. Instead, I’m just going to calmly smile and paraphrase the contents of this essay and also others I have read and will read in the future (I know this is by no means a fully comprehensive piece; it isn’t meant to be). And if they still think it’s an insult after that, well, too bad.
–your fangirl heroine.