Man haters?

// 3 October 2012

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 Last week, 16-year-old Alice Dunn wrote a blog for the Independent asking “Can feminism survive the next generation?”. It’s fab that Alice is a feminist at such a young age and I really don’t want to criticise her personally at all, but I do want to address her core argument, which is that feminism has an “image problem”:

It is an image that prevents the movement being much larger than it already is; an image that is pushing the date of total equality further and further into the faraway future.

This image is, of course, that feminists are man haters, and “the vast majority of teenage girls just aren’t going to sign up to a movement if their perception is that it involves hating men”.

Well of course they’re not. As we grow up, women learn that we need to please men. We must seek validation from men by being constantly attractive, by laughing at their jokes, by shutting up and listening when they speak, by getting their attention in whatever way we can. This is further complicated by the fact that many women are sexually attracted to men and want to have relationships with them. And if getting the man you fancy means putting up with sexism rather than challenging male privilege, feminism is not initially going to seem like a very attractive option.

Feminists have always been accused of hating men because it is a very effective way of silencing a very threatening movement. In a society where women’s value is based on our ability to please men, and where men hold almost all the cards, the worst possible thing we can do is hate them. So when feminists point out and object to the oppression, abuse and discrimination perpetuated by men against women, this is framed as man hating in an attempt to silence us, in an attempt to ensure that we are vilified and ignored by the rest of society, so that male oppression of women and male privilege can continue unchecked.

No matter how we frame our arguments and no matter what kind of image we seek to project, as long as we highlight, object to and fight misogyny, feminists are going to be called man haters.

So I’m not going to waste my time trying to prove that I’m not.

Instead, I’m going to continue to highlight, object and fight, and trust that once Alice’s peers come into contact with feminists and feminist thinking, they will be able to recognise for themselves that there is a clear difference between hating misogyny, oppression and inequality and hating half the human race.

Feminism is not, as Alice states, in crisis. In the last decade, a wealth of new feminist groups and organisations have sprung up all over the country as a mass of new activists have discovered feminism, very often online. It’s true that we still have a lot of work to do – so let’s focus on that work, and let’s not allow our debates and our activism to be moulded by patriarchal propaganda.

Feminism doesn’t have an image problem; society has a misogyny problem. The idea that we feminists hate all men is just a distraction.

Comments From You

sianmarie // Posted 3 October 2012 at 9:51 am

well said on every point!

Wendy // Posted 3 October 2012 at 10:42 am

Laura, we women still have a long way to go when you see other women blogging stuff like this woman does – have a read and feel your hackles rise! she believes women are selfish and causing male unemployment – how dare we work and earn our own living!!!

LauraB // Posted 3 October 2012 at 12:45 pm

I think it’s fair enough if you don’t choose to spend your energy battling the manhating trope, but I don’t think it’s always a waste of time and I quite enjoy it sometimes. It depends on whether the conversation is with a troll or with someone genuinely interested in intelligent communication and it’s usually pretty easy to tell the difference!

Elliehutch // Posted 3 October 2012 at 2:19 pm

Completely agree with Laura B, sometimes it is pretty useful to have those conversations, you know straight away where someone is coming from when they talk about feminists being man haters or whatever. When it comes to internet trolls I see it as a badge of pride, if that’s all they’ve got, they’ve got nothing. It’s such a straw argument so you can kill it pretty much instantly.

tom hulley // Posted 3 October 2012 at 5:24 pm

Great post, Laura. I have never met a man-hating feminist but I have met far too many men who hate feminists irrationally and even seem to hate or demean those women they claim to admire. Society certainly has a growing misogny problem. What is most worrying is when women start hating themselves even in small ways. Don’t let the bastards bring you down! I hate the attitude of many men quite a lot and I am one.

Clodia // Posted 3 October 2012 at 5:30 pm

Great post. You don’t have to hate men to hate the results of patriarchy and oppression, and I agree that such labelling is meant to make feminists less powerful.

KillClaudio // Posted 3 October 2012 at 5:39 pm

Very well said, Laura, I agree with everything. I’m sick and tired of the ‘man-hating’ trope, and also sick and tired of multiple articles suggesting that feminism fails to appeal to younger generations, even though all evidence suggests that the feminist movement is stronger than ever. This is yet another idea designed to undermine the movement, and if Dunn really want to help feminism then she should stop giving this rubbish column inches.

It seems only natural to me that there should be more older feminists than teenage ones. Many teenagers are only just starting to consider these things, and it takes a while to sort through all the arguments and your feelings about it. Many teenage girls are only just beginning to experience some forms of discrimination, or only just being made aware that they are discrimination. I didn’t become a feminist until my early twenties, when all sorts of feelings I’d had about what was and wasn’t fair coalesced into a kind of realization. I’m sure that ten years from now, many of the girls in the interviews who expressed support for equality for women will be identifying as feminists.

Jarrah Hodge // Posted 3 October 2012 at 6:29 pm

Thanks, Laura. Well-said. I still think it’s worth fighting the misconception at times, but it can certainly be frustrating to deal with the same responses over and over (as evidenced by the comments on my YouTube video on the subject ( We definitely need to focus on the bigger issues, but if the stigma prevents people from aligning themselves with us, it can be hard to do real organizing.

Yakoub Islam // Posted 4 October 2012 at 8:14 am

Are we allowed to mention Valerie Solanas? Or the people she influenced, such as Mary Daly? Or what about the feminist groups criticised by Janet Radcliffe Richards in ‘The Sceptical Feminist: A Philosophical Enquiry’? Rather like al-Qaeda and Muslims, a fringe minority of fruit cakes are sometimes used to represent the entire feminist community, but let’s not pretend there aren’t feminists out there, in the past and today, who are anti-men. Half of humankind have suffered exploitation and marginalisation from public life for centuries, if not millennia, on the basis of a social constructed piece of nonsense called gender. If a few feminists get exceptionally pissed off about that, it’s understandable.

nick // Posted 4 October 2012 at 9:07 am

what would hating men actually achieve anyway ?

I’m guessing that some feminists are happily married to men, have sons, brothers, uncles.

Abusive relationships obviously not so happy.

hating what some men do is one thing , but just hating men is very negative.

how would you go about your daily life avoiding men if you hate them so much ?

Laura // Posted 4 October 2012 at 9:58 am

Thanks all!

I totally understand those of you who want to engage in debate on the issue on an individual level. When I said it was a waste of time, I was referring more to this idea that we need to focus our energies on dealing with feminism’s “image problem” in order to make progress and reach out to people who currently don’t define as feminist.

Yakoub – You’re right that some feminists have and do claim to hate all men, but so do some non-feminists. I can understand why some women would end up taking that stance if they have experienced nothing but victimisation from men, but I think as a feminist standpoint it is fundamentally misguided and defeatist, because it views men as being inherently oppressive and abusive, rather than recognising that this behaviour is learnt and can therefore be unlearnt. A system has developed whereby men have become dominant, but we can dismantle that system.

Yakoub Islam // Posted 4 October 2012 at 10:23 am

Hi Laura – actually, I continue to recommend Solanis and Daly to people interested in feminism. I disagree with some of the things they say, and in case of Solanis, I regret I can’t quite bring myself to agree with the idea that most men should be exterminated. But they both have some remarkably insightful and intelligent ideas that are worth engaging with. In particular, Mary Daly was an extraordinary writer (who had 7 PhDs) and wasn’t afraid to shoot down a few male “saints” for their risible attitudes towards women, including (quite deservedly) Ghandi – whom she quite rightly called a psychic rapist (read Ghandi’s own autobiographical writings and I suspect you might well agree with her).

Milda // Posted 4 October 2012 at 11:05 am

This is so wonderfully put, I want to print it out, frame it and hang it on my wall!

LauraB // Posted 4 October 2012 at 4:36 pm

I read Alice Dunn’s article and one bit got my back up a bit, she seemed to conflate hating men with ‘refusing to shave your legs’. I don’t *refuse* to shave my legs because that would imply it was a duty that I insubordinately and selfishly refusing to fulfill, because I’m a hater. I choose not to shave my legs because they’re MY legs.

I hate all that stuff – yanno, that people think feminists are all ugly, hairy, fat lesbians so quick – let’s distance ourselves from that and rehaul feminism so that the world knows you can be slim, hetero, shaved and utterly acceptable to the male gaze *and* be a feminist. Let’s do it all on the patriarchy’s terms! That will *totally* empower us. Let’s abandon our hairy, fat, lesbian sisters so that men will like us more and maybe, after we’ve made them a sandwich and passed them their copy of Zoo, they might give us some rights perhaps… if we’re good.

Big hairy bumholes to it, basically.

Lucy // Posted 4 October 2012 at 6:17 pm

I really liked your post, Laura – this particular stereotype of the backwards, man-hating uber-feminist is probably as old as the movement itself. What really bothers me is the notion of feminism somehow having to ‘be sold’ to younger generations. The problems women are faced with on a daily basis are, sadly, much the same as before. I think one of the crassest things that ever happened to me was a male colleague asking me if I had ever had my testosterone levels tested, simply because I have a degree in Engineering and I like motorbikes. And it wasn’t even a bad joke, he was absolutely serious.

I don’t think I even have to mention things like the pay gap and this constant pressure on women to spend their lives trying to be merely decorative, when they could be so much more. I don’t think these concepts have anything to do with age; and the notion that to be a feminist means being some man hating old hag is simply ridiculous.

Rosalind // Posted 4 October 2012 at 10:14 pm

Wendy, thanks for that link – been reading the posts and despairing.

Laura, good blog, though I would point out to anyone who says feminists are “man-hating” that patriarchy is bad for men too.

Mr. Rude Word // Posted 5 October 2012 at 5:29 am

Feminists are considered man haters in much the same way as critics of Israel are considered jew haters. You can be a feminist & not hate men, but there is bound to be a degree of antipathy towards men per se by feminists. Of course many radical feminists DO “hate” ( if you want to use the word ) men & make no apologies for it. It is inevitable that some women who identify themselves as femininsts will, to a lesser or greater degree, feel antipathy towards men…it is after all male, not female, ideas, values, prejudices, etc. that feminism takes issue with.

The problem feminism faces is that it takes on a force that can & will say & do anything it likes to discredit feminism. As long as there are men & women who are hostile towards what they believe feminism to be, feminism will always have an “image problem”…in much the same way as men will always have an image problem. What group of people don’t have an image problem? The problem is created not by the group itself, but by the hostile observers of the group.

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