Friday, March 23, 2007

On the Distinction Between Feminist and Man-Hater

I had to write this post today because I take deep offense at women who call themselves feminists when all they really are are man-haters. It happens. Let's admit it and confront it. I am not sure that this real phenomena is responsible for the pop culture view that feminists=man-haters, but I'll leave that for someone else to figure out.

To make my point, I am going to use anecdotes (look I am a phenomenologist, if you want to hear what the "facts" are then go read a sociologist's blog).

Case #1: A female faculty member with vaguely conservative politics (anti-welfare, anti-African-American studies or Latin American studies, etc.) styles herself a feminist before inhumanely and harshly cutting down the male faculty in her department. Every man in her department is, necessarily, a sexist pig out to ruin her life and must be castrated. She in no way participates in any Women's Studies programming, she does not ally herself with progressive movements that want to fight sexism, racism or classism. She abhors colleagues with children and complains that they are getting "extra" compensation that she isn't because they are "breeders."

Case #2: A woman in a marriage with a man, who is perhaps passive or a bit oblivious. She doesn't respect his choices, ridicules his flaws (without consulting how she herself might be flawed), and proclaims that whenever he disagrees with her that he is a sexist. She conveniently uses "sexist" as a way of gaining power of a rather ineffectual husband. This case is particularly dangerous if such a woman conveys this sort of attitude toward her children. A man is not a sexist if he disagrees with your, or points out when you have been unfair or mean. A man is a sexist iff he is trying to control you out of a sense of his inherent superiority.

Perhaps some of you can think of other cases. My basic point here is that there are indeed women who have gained control over men, unfairly and ruthlessly, by asserting that the men were sexist pigs. When women do this they are no friends of the feminist movement. They also send very harmful and damaging message to younger people about inappropriate ways of treating men.

I have written about this before, but by embracing feminism, I am not embracing a worldview that sees all women as pure victims of maniacal males. Being a feminist does not mean all women are off the hook for what they do. Being a feminist does not prevent me from pointing out (see above) that some women are ruthless.

Feminism should mean that women are no better or worse than men are. In the pre-feminist days women were either the eternal feminine or chattel. Neither option left women with much humanity. Feminism should be about restoring humanity, including all the foibles and weaknesses, in our pictures of women. Women are not ruthless because they are women, from a feminist stance, they are ruthless because they are.