Editor’s Note: This month, that is September 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Boys, Men and Masculinities, where we invite various articles to highlight the different experiences of masculinity that manifest themselves in our everyday lives and have either challenged, subverted or even perpetuated traditional forms of ‘manliness’. If you’d like to share your article, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Open Letter to The Men in My Life
Men in my life, I have made you uncomfortable. I have called you out for every little action bearing offense and unapologetically deemed all men as trash. Of course, you’ve been offended. Many of you have. And I can see why; but here’s why this, none of this, is about you personally.
As much as I hate to admit it, it is terrifying to be a woman in a patriarchal world. As the order of contemporary society goes, men are given default dominance over all non-men. This structural power has been abused time and time again as evidenced by the lack of representation of women in everything from Forbes lists to rural classrooms, the painful statistics of sexual violence against women, and even the structural microaggressions that women face as a consequence of their mere existence.
Dear men, I am sure you knew all this. Why did I take the time to remind you? Well, if you take a look problems faced by women – sexual abuse, domestic violence, workplace discrimination, unsafe streets, etc. – the common denominator is men, and well, ideas of masculinity. Fueled by, as we put it in feminist theory, the patriarchy. Patriarchal influences are everywhere from the bedroom to the boardroom, painting anybody that does not identify as a straight, cis male as an imposter in spaces that were never designed to accommodate them.
However, as my Twitter trolls have repeatedly reminded me, saying this would make me a ‘bigoted misandrist.’ While I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, let’s clear this up.
What is misandry?
Well, it can roughly be defined as the “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men.” It has recently been wielded ruthlessly against women speaking truths of our oppression, against non-men rallying in solidarity.
I would love to throw around the phrase that men have been using to gaslight me my whole life: “it’s just a joke.” However, the overall sensitivity of discourse would leave some very insecure ‘equalists’ and ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ pining for attention.
So let’s establish: misandry isn’t real. Just like unicorns and heterophobia, misandry is a myth because it isn’t systematic or systemic. Unlike misogyny, cis men don’t face oppression purely based on their gender. While they may encounter instances of racism, homophobia and ableism, they are not dehumanised as a function of their gender identity (read: cis privilege).
Women are underrepresented in higher-wage jobs; women are expected to provide far higher rates of unpaid labour in the home; women have less access to education, particularly at higher levels; etc. It is a result of a lifetime of internalised misogyny represented in a film industry that sexualises women, toys that reinforce the gender binary, traditions that may deem us as ‘impure’ or ‘inferior’, and more that doesn’t show up at the top of my head. The oppression that non-men face is a function of the society we live in. Cis men, however, are often privileged, not oppressed, due to their gender identity.
Misandry, as unreal as it is, wants to dismantle systems that reduce masculinity to a narrowed worldview of anger, violence, and the inability to be emotionally vulnerable. The patriarchy encourages and rewards men for behaviour that is damaging to the entirety of our contemporary fabric. If I call myself a misandrist, it is against the gender binary that reinforces the patriarchal subversion of non-cis men. Not against men itself.
To put it simply, neither I nor women want to literally ‘kill all men’ or banish them off the face of the world. While that would be a fantastic cure for toxic masculinity and misogyny, it is not the one we want.
So, men in my life, as I said, this is not about you. While it isn’t personal, it is based on personal experience with the patriarchy (0/10 do not recommend). Like I said earlier, it is about a little bit of discomfort. As ‘professional misandrist’ Jess Zimmerman says it, “making you uncomfortable — not afraid or hurt, but just a little bit discomfited — is part of the point.” Discomfort breeds change and it is the ruthless, lighthearted solidarity among women that will dismantle terrible definitions of masculinity.
Become part of the resistance, men in my life. Recognising the issue with the reductive definitions of masculine existence is part of the solution. It is time to start hating on men-as-a-whole and starting celebrating the men that you are.
Because at the end of the day, feminists need men. Whether it’s because you wield structural power or because we genuinely value your existence, we need to band together to destroy ‘men’ because men are trash, but you, if you made it to the end of this, are probably not. Prove me right.
Featured Image Source: When In Manila