by Thaddeus Blanchette
Anti-sexist, pro-sex blogger Figleaf brings up an excellent point about the male origins of "feminist" male-bashing:
Kind of funny how many of the bitterly anti-male slanders, slurs, and stereotypes commonly attributed to "radical feminism" predate feminism. Sometimes by centuries. Occasionally by millennia! They were already highly common in American and English male-only dance halls and similar entertainment venues back when "mainstream feminism" meant the possibility of women owning property and "radical feminism" was the crazy idea that women might someday be allowed to vote.
I bring this up in no small part due to allegations that these are feminist in nature. And I bring that up in no small part because those allegedly feminist characterizations of men are nettlesome to men in general and extremely nettlesome to men's rights activists and their allies.
M'kay, and now, confronted with that sort of incontrovertible proof that sexist and/or "reverse sexist" stereotypes about men predate feminism and, indeed, often originate with men themselves, a lot of guys who are still nettled will say things like "yeah, well, some feminists still propagate those stereotypes so feminism is still all about hating men".
What's always bothered me about the "anti-male feminist myth" is precisely this point: the people perpetuating male-hating rhetoric are, in their great majority, not feminists at all
Again, I get to hear this sort of crap all the time in my fieldwork here in Rio, where gringo men constantly complain that "feminism" has turned European and North American women into greedy, self-absorbed bitches with an agenda who only want to take men to the cleaners. Typically, these guys say this while holding two prostitutes on their lap who, while generally not bitches, are very much women with an agenda which involves siphoning the maximum amount of money out of the guy's pockets.
And time after time, these guys tell me about how I "don't know what it's like up there" and how it's "impossible for a guy to get laid these days without risking his life and liberty in the pursuit of happiness". And every one of these post-modern Lotharios claims to have met legions of man-hating feminists.
Now, what bothers me is that when I lived in the U.S. back in the 1980s, I was a student at the U.W. Madison in the sociology department. One would be hard put to find a higher concentration of sho' 'nuff man-hating feminists than that time and place and it was hard to run into them even back then. These women had exactly ZERO impact on my sex life. They also had pretty near to ZERO impact on the campus cultural and political life. Mostly, they ganged together in their own café and bookstore, debating whether or not homosexuality was indeed the practice of feminist theory. Most of the lesbians in the community couldn't stand them, either. One only occasionally had to deal with them when they came out of their empowering lavender and pink "girls only" clubhouse for large community events like "Take Back the Night" or the anti-apartheid rallies.
Seriously, even in feminist-friendly, radical 1980s Madison, I would have been hard pressed to point to a more marginalized and irrelevant group than the radical man-hating feminists. These weren't folks that even a co-op-living, feminist-supportive, commie-loving, sociology major boy like me were likely to run into, but yesterday's fraternity Biffs and dormer Billy Bobs are now saying they've met literally tens of thousands of young would-be castrators...?
Do tell, boys.
Now, I'm not saying man-hating feminists didn't have any influence at all. Pretty much every woman I know went through a "man hating" stage at some point - usually for a week or two during their first women's studies course - but that was more venting than anything else. And I do find that a lot of women will sort of unconsciously fall back on this stereotype when confronted with what they feel is an egregious example of male chauvinist pigism. Because of my work with prostitutes, I get to see a lot of American and European womens' knees jerk in precisely this fashion.
But this attitude is actually a good measure of how UNATTACHED these women are from today's feminism. The typical college educated American woman of my generation hasn't thought of feminism in theoretical, philosophical or even practical terms since her school days. ("Prostitutes' rights? What's that?") This is why you'll often the 30 to 50 set reaching for Andrea Dworkin when confronted with male behavior they don't like. It's reflexive form of defence, not some sort of deeply thought out political position and it's certainly not a plot to diminuish men. They just go for the largest rhetorical brick in their arsenal when a male does something they classify as "anti-woman".
That's why I agree that the people keeping the myth of the man-hating feminists alive are generally anything but feminists. Alot of the women who do this sort of thing are actually quite sexist and homophobic and "strategically remember" only those things about feminism that are contextually, rhetorically valuable to them at the time. Sort of a "pick and choose" version of feminism.
You want to see full-on, Dworkin-style man-hating feminist rhetoric? Don't talk to a feminist: talk to a 40-something, middle-class soccer mom with a BA in Comparative Lit (or Anthropology), 4 kids and a bills-paying husband. Tell her that you think that trafficking in women is by-and-large a moral panic and not a multi-billion dollar industry the way the media plays it out to be. Or say that you frequent prostitutes - whether you do or not, just say it. THERE'S your instant "man hating feminist": the woman who's lifestyle is maintained by a male's labour, who would be tossed into penury in an instant if she lost her mate and - worse - who is smart enough to know full well the bind she's gotten herself into. That's the most commonly encountered kind of woman who spouts "man hating rhetoric" these days, if only occasionally. A woman who considers Hillary Clinton to be the greatest statesperson of the age and Princess Diana to be the next step over from Mother Teresa. Someone who once dreamed of a fulfilling career for herself, but who became a professional mom through the force of circumstance of living in a country where the labor of raising a family is considered to be a "private" (read female) responsability.
And who can really blame her?
But dude, if THAT'S the kind of woman you've gone and married, then you've got a big load of blame to shoulder yourself, don't you? After all, you could've done the male version of Lysistrata a long time ago and simply insist that all the women you date pay 50/50 (or at least propostionately based on salary) for your common life together. You didn't do that and now you're bitching that women treat you like an ATM machine and it's all the "man-hating feminists'" fault, is it?
See this, man?