Like all intersectional feminists who enjoy a healthy online life, I often encounter the male-identifying person who pouts and tries to have a field day whenever female-identifying feminists crack a joke about “male tears” or privileged men refusing to acknowledge their privilege.
“Misandry!” they shout at us, sometimes pointing accusatory fingers, sometimes pretending to take the high road, just helpfully explaining to us women how it feels to have their gender ridiculed.
One thing they all seem unable to grasp is the very real fact that misandry isn’t a real thing. Men have been systemically oppressing women throughout history and have been making jokes, insults, and laws that work against us without ever asking our opinion. Even today, men are systemically oppressing women and non-male identifying people, often unknowingly; yet, they still think it’s okay to claim “misandry” when a women is critical of their actions. As if centuries of oppression and forced submission is equivalent to a few jokes about “male tears.”
Many people think that just because misogyny is alive and well then misandry—its logical opposite—is also alive and well. But this isn’t true.
The dictionary does have the word “misandry” listed with a definition that is vague, at best, and could equally describe discrimination. The word exists in the dictionary as a complement to “misogyny,” wasn’t even invented until the 19th century and didn’t officially appear in a dictionary until 1952. The man behind encouraging the term is an MRA who has claimed that men are marginalized, citing the fact that it was only men who have been expected to do hard labour, or serve in the military and other notably dangerous professions.
This sounds a lot like other MRAs, who use such arguments to justify their (often violent) anti-feminist stance? They fail to take into account the fact that the reason men were expected to do all these things is because they wouldn’t let women do them. Men are the ones who made the exact laws and societies that women began fighting against. Yet, somehow men blame the feminist movement for their woes, claiming women have it easy and that any attack against men is misandry.
But misandry is only a theory, it’s not a practice.
Misandry is as real as reverse-racism is. White people, who have historically been in change and have successfully oppressed minority races, are not suddenly the victims of reverse racism just because we finally are entering in to an age in which minority races are able to loudly and accurately be critical of the history of racial oppression. White people are not suddenly the victims of reverse racism just because minority races point out the still-rampant examples of white privilege. White people are not the victims of white racism even when they are at the receiving end of slurs and insults like “cracker,” (a rare occurrence in itself).
They can be on the receiving end of discrimination, yes. There are many people who discriminate against white people and judge all white people based on the actions of some. But that is not racism; that is not oppression. A race that has systemically oppressed other races for centuries is not suddenly on the receiving end of the same oppression by members of racialized groups pointing out white privilege or calling out a white person’s racist slurs.
In the same way, misandry doesn’t exist in practice, but prejudice against men can. There are some people who truly believe that men are the problem and freely spout insults about men as a whole. But the difference between systemic oppression (misogyny) and a personal prejudice (the so-called misandry) is something that too many people fail to recognize.
Fundamentally, a group cannot be in a position of systemic power and continue to hold that position of power, then accuse the oppressed who are trying to create a fairer world that they are being oppressive. That does not make sense in any world.
Feminism isn’t looking to bring down men in some sort of savage revenge for centuries of abuse; feminism is simply looking to come to a common ground in which all genders are seen as equal in every way—where all genders have the same privileges and advantages. What feminism also asks is that men recognize their existing privilege and then use it to further a cause that is more humane. But, how is that supposed to happen if the slightest mention of any facts that prove that men have been and continue to (often unknowingly) be oppressors is met with shouts of “misandry”?
In defence of male tears jokes, I want to explain what it actually means. Some people seem to think it’s anti-feminist because it further instils the idea that men cannot show emotions. These people are missing the point, because men who have male tears thrown at them are not showing emotions that are traditionally considered feminine. They are usually angry or have had their egos bruised—both of which are trademark “male” traits. By playing the male tears card, we are pointing out that a person—usually always male—is “crying” because they have to begin to give up their monopoly on the world.
With feminism, non-males are beginning to have more and more of a voice and in order to claim the space that should rightfully be ours, men—who have held the power for so long that they are more than just drunk on it—have to give up some of their privilege. This is something that most men are just not willing to do. Calling out this behaviour is not misandry; it’s not even discrimination. It’s an attempt to further the cause of equality, and having to explain to people over and over again why misandry (and reverse racism) isn’t a thing is not only tiring, but a huge waste of resources.
We feminists don’t have time to educate people on semantics. So, take my word for it: misandry isn’t a real thing. It’s only a theory—it has never been a practice and likely never will.
Vintage anti-suffrage postcard via this article at Sociological Images.