For a very long time, it’s been an understood social and comedic norm that you can target people with privilege as the butt of jokes or derision without it being considered politically incorrect or problematic.
For instance, our society highly values thinness. For that reason Nicki Minaj can rap, “F*ck the skinny bitches in the club / F*ck you skinny b*tches” and Meghan Trainor can sing “I’m bringing booty back, go tell those skinny b*tches that,” without a major outcry of people being offended — because it’s so socially acceptable to make fun of identities that garner privilege.
The same is true for the “I hate men” banter that pervades internet and Twitter culture. It’s commonly accepted and never deemed problematic because being a man is highly valued and garners privilege, so you can make fun of it.
good morning i hate men 💖💖😌— antonio garza (@antoniiogarza21) October 5, 2020
But as is the case with wearing cargo shorts and using truckloads of Axe, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Nor does it make it right.
The phrase has become a catch all response. “I went on a date with this guy who just talked about other girls he’d been with the whole time” and “I just got catcalled and followed home” and “This guy in my hall smells like he hasn’t showered in weeks” can all elicit the same response: I hate men.
But despite all of the comedic gold and laughs the phrase has gotten, it might just be time to lay this phrase and concept to rest. Here’s why.
On closer inspection, there are so many things about the commonality of the phrase that are anti-feminist. For the purposes of clarity, I’ll assert the definition of feminism that I’ll be referencing throughout the argument: that all people have the right to pursue the life they want and they should not be restricted on the basis of gender.
(Note: This definition is partially inspired by RBG’s definition and it’s also a more gender inclusive definition than the basic one that’s something along the lines of the fact that women deserve equality. This definition remembers that feminism isn’t only about those who identify as women, but rather seeks to get rid of gender roles and negative stereotypes of all genders because they all impact each other. More on that for a separate critique.)
The first issue with the “f*ck men” sentiment is that it sometimes acts as an incomplete response to a real issue. Take the example of a woman telling her friends she’s just been followed home or has experienced some form of harassment. The common response that we’ve all heard far too often of “Men are the worst!” or “This is why I hate men,” and while it’s definitely a fair instinctual response, it is ultimately not very different from saying “Boys will be boys.”
“I hate men” almost feels like our generation’s way of saying “boys will be boys,” except for the fact that it asserts disapproval while past generations’ “boys will be boys” seemed to simply assert neutrality. But the principle is the same; It accepts defeat and accuses that whatever wrong was just experienced is an issue so massive it almost exists at a population level.
While I can’t speak for all women, any time I’ve heard the phrase it has almost felt like an unintentional reminder that whatever I’ve experienced will just keep happening, because it’s just what men do.
The second issue with the flippant “I hate men” banter is more obvious. It’s plain mean. To take it a step further, it may also overlook a feminist issue. Going back to the definition of feminism, toxic masculinity is a feminist issue because it insists that men should avoid showing their emotions, being soft or feeling pain which, of course, is a form of denying someone the ability to be truly themselves on the basis of the gender they identify with.
The question, though, is how can you believe men should be allowed to be soft, show emotions and be sensitive, but then still say things like “Kill every man!” to your male friends? Should they be expected to toughen up and allow it to just roll off their shoulders?
That question is of course nuanced. This whole essay is nuanced. So many women have experienced trauma and abuse at the hands of men and are focused on their own healing. Their associations with men make sense! OUR associations with men make sense. I merely hope that instead of accepting this ideology and common sentiment as a given, we see it as something to question and that we ponder whether it’s right and whether it’s in line with our own beliefs.
We cannot simultaneously expect men to be sensitive while yelling at them that we hate them and telling them our words shouldn’t impact them. Words matter.
We also cannot say we expect better from men while also just moments later saying phrases that clearly denote that we don’t at all expect better. That in fact we expect worse.
Women are allowed to deal with pain and fear and trauma in whichever ways they are able to cope. This is not about what is righteous or pure or correct. It simply means that when we are closer to being fully healed, we question our behavior and its impact. We ask ourselves what we acknowledge to be right or fair. May we be thoughtful in our words and beliefs and think outside of what is considered socially acceptable.
My hands are not clean. I cannot deny that I’ve been part of more than a few circles of women talking about horrendous date experiences or strange encounters or just gross lack of hygiene experiences we’d had with men and I’ve definitely responded with “this is why men are the worst!” more times than I can count.
But this summer, I remember sitting with my brother while he scrolled through Twitter. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, which obviously impacted us both emotionally, he still saw tweets with openings like “Black men are only good for two things…” and “I can’t bother with Black men because…”
“Why is this okay?” he said, clearly impacted. And I realized, “It is not.”