Is the feminist movement actually misandrist? This article aims to examine this view, one which is routinely applied to feminists who share their views and beliefs. Whether feminism itself is necessary, and whether women are really oppressed in the West will only be touched upon, as it is an issue in itself. What is important here is whether or not feminism as a movement and concept is oppressing men.
Overview: prominent feminist organisations and general definitions.
Here are the mission statements of a few prominent feminist organisations:
- “We aim to shift our culture to end the everyday violence, discrimination, and marginalization that people face due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, class, size, ability, and other social differences. We seek to create a more just world where we can accept ourselves for who we truly are, where we respect each other’s right to self-determination, and where we nurture and are nurtured in loving communities.” – EverydayFeminism, US based feminist online magazine.
- “UK Feminista supports people to campaign for a world where women and men are equal. Why? Because despite massive advances in the status of women, gender inequality remains rife in the UK and across the world. We believe that political, economic and social equality between women and men is possible – and it is a world that will be better for all.” – UK Feminista, founded in 2010 and now a major British feminist voice.
- “Engender has a vision for a Scotland in which women and men have equal opportunities in life, equal access to resources and power, and are equally safe and secure from harm.” – Engender, a specifically Scottish feminist organisation. The website also notes: “Social expectations and assumptions rooted in historical gender relations influence all walks of life, for women and for men, and compromise the equality that has been achieved on paper.”
- “All members are concerned to ensure women gain access to their human rights, and to make equality between women and men a reality. Its diverse membership includes: single issue to specialist organisations, faith groups, health centres, arts-based organisations and others offering services and campaigning across a range of women’s concerns.” – National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO), which encompasses 100+ individual groups in the UK, Europe and worldwide.
- “We believe that as a society we will be stronger, healthier and happier when all people, women and men, enjoy full equality and respect.” – Fawcett, leading UK feminist charity.
As is evident from the above, prominent feminist organisations certainly claim that their work will benefit both men and women. This is quite a strong indicator that feminism does not aim to perpetuate hate against men – misandry – however it could certainly be argued that these organisations, being relatively prominent and mainstream, cannot explicitly express hateful views against men that they or their members may hold.
Therefore, let us examine the beliefs and actions of radical feminist organisations and individuals:
- “Goal: Complete victory over patriarchy…to ideologically undermine the fundamental institutes of patriarchy – dictatorship, sex-industry, and church – by putting these institutes through subversive trolling to force them to strategic surrender.” – FEMEN, international radical-feminist organisation that protests through ‘sextremism’, a “non-violent but highly aggressive form of provocation”.
- “Radical Feminist theory analyses the structures of power which oppress the female sex. Its central tenet is that women as a biological class are globally oppressed by men as a biological class. We believe that male power is constructed and maintained through institutional and cultural practices that aim to bolster male superiority through the reinforcement of female inferiority… Radical Feminists also critique all religions and their institutions, and other practices that promote violence against women…” – radfemcollective, a UK group set up in 2014 who run workshops, talks and other events on radical feminism.
- “I believe we must remove men from the community and place them in their own specific sections of society, akin to subsidised or state-funded reservations, so they can be redefined. We can make not only men safer, but women as well. By subsidising said reservations through the state we can provide men with activities, healthcare, entertainment, shelter, protection, and everything that one could ever require in life. This will remove conventional inequality from society. By reducing the number of men to 10 percent of the total population, their socio-biovalue will be raised. They will live out their lives happily and safely, and male disposability will be a thing of the past.” – The Femthiest, a radical feminist who supports the eventual creation of a world where the M:F ratio is 1:9. Her creator, Krista Milburn, claims the Femthiest was a satirical character, and she herself does not identify as a feminist. This, of course, is impossible to verify.
- “”Life” in this “society” being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of “society” being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.” – Valerie Solanas, radical feminist, 1936-1988. This is taken from her ‘SCUM manifesto’ and has been deemed satirical by some.
Assuming that all views expressed here are genuine, there is unquestionably evidence of misandry in radical feminism. There is notably also far greater intolerance in general within these groups: specifically of religion and of the sex-industries, both of which some of these groups class as bastions of male power. However, it should be noted that FEMEN does not portray itself as anti-male, and arguably neither does the radfemcollective: they state that generally women are oppressed by men, but no claim is made that this is a) men’s fault specifically or b) that every man oppresses every woman. Of course, the Femthiest and Valerie Solanas are, if genuine, inexcusable pieces of hate speech that advocate genocide.
However, before one uses them to condemn the feminist movement as a whole, there is an important issue to address in specific relation to Solanas’ work. Firstly, feminists and those who teach women’s studies and suchlike tend to avoid talking about SCUM even if they believe it to be satirical, because if read seriously it perpetuates a number of stereotypes about feminists that the group want to avoid, for example, the hatred of men. Although not the best way to deal with possibly unsavoury history, it does heavily imply that feminists who avoid talking about the work do so to distance their own ideologies from Solanas’. That is: feminists do not want to eliminate men, or be associated with those who do. This point is amplified by the fact that anti-feminist groups do reference the SCUM manifesto to support their arguments. Although ‘A Voice for Men’ does argue well that the work may influence some radical feminism today albeit in a more diluted form, it does not begin to prove that Solanas has any real impact on non-radical feminism. Therefore, if feminist groups avoid a particular work but their opponents latch onto it, the most logical conclusion is that it has been associated with feminism but is not representative of it in its current form.
More generally, it is very important to recognise, in deciding whether or not feminism perpetuates misandry, that feminism and radical feminism are two different things. The dictionary definition of feminism, borne out by the views of the more moderate organisations mentioned above, is thus: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” However, the dictionary definition of radical feminism is: “Advocacy of radical left-wing measures designed to counter the traditional dominance of men over women; the movement associated with this.”. Therefore, one could argue that even the definition of radical feminism is misandrist as it assumes male ‘dominance’ within its definition – therefore allowing for no debate on the subtleties within this. However, the definition of feminism specifies ‘equality of the sexes’, something which is hard to oppose without being either a misogynist or misandrist. This does not mean non-feminists have to be misogynists or misandrists, but it does mean that anti-feminists could be. Of course, one might hold the opinion that neither women nor men are oppressed in any way, and this might cause one to view feminism as obsolete. However, even if one believes that men, not women, are the oppressed party, then the belief that feminism is misandrist is still not a logical conclusion, because feminism promotes women’s rights with a view to equality: therefore, feminists do not seek rights for women that exceed the rights of men. Radical feminism can be misandrist, or construed to be misandrist, but feminism itself is demonstrably about equality.
Feminism applied in the real world that helps men.
1. Feminist and judge Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has systematically targeted U.S. laws that promoted gender inequality, including Moritz v. Commissioner which overturned the law that single men could not get dependent-care tax reductions where women could, and Craig v. Boren, which made the legal drinking age the same, regardless of gender. On the latter case, she is quoted as commenting that the: “familiar stereotype: the active boy, aggressive and assertive; the passive girl, docile and submissive…[is] not fit to be written into law.”
2. The Feminist Majority Foundation campaigned for an alteration of the FBI definition of rape through their ‘Rape is Rape’ campaign. This has now been implemented, and means, among other things, that male rape victims are no longer excluded from the definition.
3. Jackie Speier has been a prominent voice in the U.S. in creating awareness and lobbying for change regarding the issue of sexual assault in the military. This has included co-founding group ‘Protect Our Defenders’. Speier, among others, want to change how sexual assault cases are dealt with within the military. Although some of her rhetoric seems to focus on women, given that more men are sexually assaulted in the military than women, this will rightly benefit men disproportionately anyway.
4. Feminists have been credited with being integral to the Pentagon’s decision to allow women to serve in roles previously closed to them. For men, this ultimately means less pressure to fill these roles and, presumably, less men dying or being injured in action in comparison to women.
5. Feminist organisation ‘The Representation Project‘ demands that the media and society alter how gender is represented in the media. This includes depictions of men and masculinity that demand aggression and foster a society where men are not allowed to show emotion or be intimate with one another.
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list, or indeed are all (or any) of these campaigns perfect. However, again, they contribute to the argument that feminism is not about misandry, and that in fact feminists naturally include men in their campaigns.
As Justin Dennis explains in her video for Everyday Feminism, there are a number of things that feminists ‘hate’ that are not men, but which could conceivably be misconstrued and seen as extensions of misandry. These are: toxic masculinity, the patriarchy, gender roles, sexism, male privilege, and misogyny. All of these can be perpetuated and maintained by men and women alike, and as such the denouncement of them is not misandrist.
Dennis also notes that feminism, as a movement, is not organised or regulated: anyone can call themselves a feminist, and that is the reason why definitions, be they from dictionaries or in the manifestos of specific organisations, are important. Furthermore, calling oneself a feminist does not prevent one from saying ignorant or bigoted things that can hurt men, women or indeed any other group of people.
Nonetheless, there is evidence that feminism, and by extensions feminists, do not intend to incite hatred against men. In this limited space there has been demonstrated to be a considerable number of feminist organisations that claim to want equality, and who explicitly claim to involve men in that search for equality. Furthermore, there are a number of feminist campaigns that benefit men and fight specifically for men’s rights. Of course, some radical feminists might hate men. Some people might be misandrists and mislabel themselves as feminists. Some toxic corners of the internet might spew anti-man propaganda. However: organised, proactive, accepted feminist organisations do not attempt or want to spread this hatred, and have defined feminism in a way that is echoed widely – as a movement for equality of the sexes.
If men feel hurt by certain feminist ideas, empathy should of course be exercised, and a solution to the issue found if possible. However, feminism is demonstrably not about hating men. It just isn’t.