Suzanna Danuta Walters, a professor of sociology and director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University, is the editor of the gender studies journal Signs.
Seen in this indisputably true context, it seems logical to hate men. I can’t lie, I’ve always had a soft spot for the radical feminist smackdown, for naming the problem in no uncertain terms. I’ve rankled at the “but we don’t hate men” protestations of generations of would-be feminists and found the “men are not the problem, this system is” obfuscation too precious by half.
But, of course, the criticisms of this blanket condemnation of men — from transnational feminists who decry such glib universalism to U.S. women of color who demand an intersectional perspective — are mostly on the mark. These critics rightly insist on an analysis of male power as institutional, not narrowly personal or individual or biologically based in male bodies. Growing movements to challenge a masculinity built on domination and violence and to engage boys and men in feminism are both gratifying and necessary. Please continue.
But this recognition of the complexity of male domination (how different it can be in different parts of the world, how racism shapes it) should not — must not — mean we forget some universal facts.
Pretty much everywhere in the world, this is true: Women experience sexual violence, and the threat of that violence permeates our choices big and small. In addition, male violence is not restricted to intimate-partner attacks or sexual assault but plagues us in the form of terrorism and mass gun violence. Women are underrepresented in higher-wage jobs, local and federal government, business, educational leadership, etc.; wage inequality continues to permeate every economy and almost every industry; women continue to provide far higher rates of unpaid labor in the home (e.g., child care, elder care, care for disabled individuals, housework and food provision); women have less access to education, particularly at the higher levels; women have lower rates of property ownership.
The list goes on. It varies by country, but these global realities — of women’s economic, political, social and sexual vulnerabilities — are, well, real. Indeed, the nations in which these inequities have been radically minimized (e.g., Iceland) are those in which deliberate effort has been made to both own up to gender disparities and to address them directly and concretely.
So, in this moment, here in the land of legislatively legitimated toxic masculinity, is it really so illogical to hate men? For all the power of #MeToo and #TimesUp and the women’s marches, only a relatively few men have been called to task, and I’ve yet to see a mass wave of prosecutions or even serious recognition of wrongdoing. On the contrary, cries of “witch hunt” and the plotted resurrection of celebrity offenders came quick on the heels of the outcry over endemic sexual harassment and violence. But we’re not supposed to hate them because . . . #NotAllMen. I love Michelle Obama as much as the next woman, but when they have gone low for all of human history, maybe it’s time for us to go all Thelma and Louise and Foxy Brown on their collective butts.
The world has little place for feminist anger. Women are supposed to support, not condemn, offer succor not dismissal. We’re supposed to feel more empathy for your fear of being called a harasser than we are for the women harassed. We are told he’s with us and #NotHim. But, truly, if he were with us, wouldn’t this all have ended a long time ago? If he really were with us, wouldn’t he reckon that one good way to change structural violence and inequity would be to refuse the power that comes with it?
So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.