Editor’s Note – In this passionate opinion article, Mariam makes the case that feminism has been portrayed in an unfair and untrue light, and should distance itself from the popular misconception that it is related to misandry.
Are Feminists ‘Man Haters’?
The misconceptions surrounding feminism are something I find very alarming. The number of people who are unaware of what feminism means or represents is shocking, and this has led to the miscommunications of its ideas and values. By far the most popular misconception is the idea that feminists are misandrists. This is simply untrue. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feminism is “a belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”. Misandry on the other hand is defined by the oxford dictionary as an “ingrained prejudice against men”. These two definitions show that the two sets of beliefs are not only different, but also mutually exclusive. A feminist cannot be a misandrist, so why are people so confused, and where does this link between feminism and misandry come from?
In some dictionaries feminism is also interpreted as the support for women’s rights and it is this definition that is responsible for a lot of confusion. The two definitions have vastly different meanings, one supporting equality between the sexes and the other siding with women only. In short, the feminist movement comprises of a collection of perspectives, some of which contradict each other. Misandry has become just another perspective on feminism that no feminist, by its definition, identifies with. This has led to the mislabeling of misandrists as feminists and consequentially the link has been formed.
Misandry has now, to an extent, been normalised within feminism through humour. It has become a joke that women are supposed to identify with. For example, a common phrase associated with the feminist movement you may have heard is ‘ban men’, and you can even buy T-shirts and bracelets with phrases such as these or the word ‘misandrist’ printed on them. Whilst these phrases hold little truth and are often expressed in retaliation to misogynist views, the irony and humorous element is all too often lost. However well intended the use of misandry is, its inherent meaning is hatred, and the justification that the right type of man will understand is simply unconvincing. If men were to start wearing T-shirts with the word ‘misogynist’ printed on them, there would most likely be outrage, so why are we not only allowing but welcoming misandry?
Feminists don’t hate men. What feminists truly hate is the patriarchy, the systemic oppression of women, and to overcome this obstacle and achieve equality more people need to be involved. Telling half the population that we hate them is no way to do that. In fact, it is entirely counterproductive. According to a poll carried out by Huffington Post, only 16% of men would describe themselves as feminists, and surely even fewer would find misandry funny or appealing. The toxic attitude that has started to grow within feminism is only preventing the feminist movement from reaching its sole aim of absolute gender equality. Appealing to the sense of humour of a minority is a great way to alienate the majority and cause a miscommunication of beliefs and values. This is what has happened within feminism. This has not only led to the stigma surrounding the word and the reluctance to be associated with it, but in fact nearly a fifth of people use ‘feminist’ as an insult, according to the Independent.
The use of misandry within feminism has damaged its reputation and how others view it. This in turn has prevented the growth of a very important movement. The two ideas need to be completely separated. Having misandry come under the label of feminism has caused confusion and contempt toward a perfectly acceptable notion. I believe it should have no place in the movement if it is to progress.