By Shambhavi Saxena:
Dear crocodile-tears-MRAs (men’s rights activists), you, who have never checked your privilege, got yourself cornered by simple logic and your own outrage about these ‘non-doormatty‘ women, are very talented at crafting myths – like the one where you blame women for the army’s perceived conscription policies, even though very few countries still have conscripted armies. But blaming women for the creation of “misandry” is by far your best and most sinister one. Just think of it! A real live myth, spun and hung daily, with the sole purpose of derailing the discussion and returning attention to a male-centric world view.
The thing about words is, they don’t fall from the sky with no attached history and intent. Sure, in the end, language is an arbitrary system of sounds and symbols, but the meanings we attach to words should not be taken lightly. The same goes for a word like “misandry“.
Misandry (Greek: Misos + anēr/Andros) in very simple terms, means the dislike, mistrust or hatred of men and the masculine. It seems to suggest the existence of a system in which the social, political and economic dignity and integrity of men is constantly undermined by women, who have dominated positions of power across space and time.
The earliest use of the word “misandry” was recorded in 1803, which comes centuries after the concept of “misogyny” was introduced in ancient Greece. The term seeks to de-recognize the structures of misogyny that operate in detriment to the sexes, and particularly to females. Some people will use it to cry wolf, when women ask for the rights men already enjoy. Some think feminism is synonymous with misandry, like Shailene Woodley, whom a generation of girls looks up to, when she denies being a feminist “because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”
Let’s contrast this with misogyny – which, as Julia Serano puts it, is a “tendency to dismiss and deride femaleness and femininity.” Allan G. Johnson identifies it as the reigning ideology manifest in anything from “[certain] jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies.” Now, I’m not here to argue that women can’t be abusive, or harassers or rapists. What I’m saying is that a system which permits, tolerates, condones, congratulates and normalizes aggression and bigotry, exists in favour of men. The same cannot be said of women.
If misogyny was not the foundation of oppressive structures, then why did Marissa Alexander face imprisonment for firing warning shots to ward off an abusive spouse, when Elliot Rodger’s killing spree was justified with mental health arguments? The race angle to this was highlighted by both Ferguson and Baltimore protestors, but that’s another discussion. If misogyny was not the foundation of oppressive structures, then why does our legal system still believe marital rape is simply part of the arrangement?
Misogyny ensures there is no infrastructure ready to give women engaged in unpaid domestic labour the opportunity to choose their profession. Misogyny establishes control over women’s bodies by dictating the terms on which sexual relations and abortion are allowed as well as what spaces women can or cannot occupy. Misogyny teaches our daughters not to get raped, but doesn’t teach our sons not to rape. Try gender-swapping the last three sentences and see if it still holds true for the world we live in, go on, try it. Recently, Micah J. Murray wrote an effective, satirical piece on exactly how “misandrist” feminism really doesn’t have the centuries of ideology and customs and politics to back it up, not the way misogyny has it all down.
The emergence of the word “misandry” that happened when it did, was no coincidence. Women’s suffragette movements were flowering all over the Western world, and something as simple as the vote was ruffling the feathers of the patriarchy. The need to establish the concept of “misandry” as a threat to men is, at best, a juvenile response, an attempt to derail the argument, and indicative of the inability to recognize how misogyny harms men. Yes, you read correctly, the hatred and systemic oppression of women harms men as well. It does so by casting them as savage monsters incapable of being rational or exercising control over their physical urges, by treating them as expendable labour in hazardous workplaces, by burdening them with joint-family-sized economic responsibilities, by pigeonholing them in damaging roles of hyper-masculine aggression which stunt their personal growth, by ridiculing and punishing men for displaying lowly ‘feminine‘ traits, and more!
I think it’s time to discard this barely two centuries old word, nothing more than an illusion. It’s time you MRAs stopped screaming yourself hoarse about “misandry“. Wouldn’t it be far more productive to tackle actual men’s issues than making up words to vilify the entire female gender?
Misandry, much like reverse-racism, does not actually exist. Women being prejudiced against and verbally or physically hurtful to men does happen, yes, but is not an instance of misandry, because said abusive behaviour is not institutionalized, normalized and romanticized by our power structures and cultures. And you need to recognize that.