By Alexia Palletier
We have all heard it one too many times: “men are trash.” This familiar sentiment has become an all too natural phrase spewed out of the mouths of girls and women everywhere. Is it warranted? Maybe. Is it productive? Probably not. When we talk this way we not only promote gender inequality, but we also perpetuate the cycle of male misconduct by setting a low standard for men. Thus, it seems that constant complaining about men goes against the goals of true feminism.
In order to adequately understand this phenomenon, one must define both “misandry” and “true feminism.” Misandry is defined as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men (i.e. the male sex).” Phrases like “men are pigs” and others that put down men is a form of such hatred towards men. True feminism, defined as true by the dictionary definition of feminism, is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” Feminism was founded on this idea: that social equality of men and women is essential. Therefore, based on these definitions, most would agree that misandry and feminism cannot coexist without one contradicting the other. The initial goals of feminism will never be achieved so long as verbal and attitudinal bashing of men endures.
The belittling of men takes on many different forms. The root of it is generalization. People tend to make broad claims about the characteristics of men as a whole. These are oftentimes negative generalizations, and while the reason they are spoken can probably be traced back to the poor behavior of individual men, they are not productive. For example, making general statements that men are “cheaters,” “incompetent,” “pigs,” “careless,” “emotionally unavailable,” or “useless,” probably comes from one’s own experience with men where they acted in these ways. Other cases may be due to herd mentality, but one would hope that most come from experiences where particular men have lived up to these brands. While it makes plenty of sense why people would use these statements to describe their experience, or even their perception of men, it doesn’t make sense that one would use these statements to generalize to all men, especially if they expect change. Furthermore, the main issue isn’t even that claiming “men are incompetent pigs,” is a generalization, but that it defeats the purpose of making such a statement. The reason people make these claims is that they aren’t happy with the way men currently behave and they wish men could be different. It, therefore, makes no sense to constantly attribute negative qualities to all men, and it actually goes against the very aim for equality of the sexes.
The reason that man-hating promotes gender inequality is simply that to have equality, each sex should be treated and respected impartially. To put men down verbally displays both unequal respect and treatment towards the male gender. There simply cannot be gender equality if the majority of the world accepts verbal bashing of men, while vehemently opposing any presumed disrespect toward women. This mentality is in direct opposition to everything feminism was meant to be. Some might argue that men deserve this sort of hatred and that women are being heard by finally addressing it. However, nobody can argue that all men have earned this. Thus, by making these generalizations, the good men are put in the shadow of those who fall under the generalizations. Therefore, by participating in direct man-bashing, one puts characteristics on those who are undeserving we almost give them an excuse for their behavior. If individual men aren’t the only ones behaving in a poor or disgusting manner, but the whole group of them are, then maybe it’s not so bad. However, if we change the way we speak about men, then aversive behavior committed by individual men is no longer commonplace, but it becomes rare, wrong, and deviant. It is in this way that men are instead encouraged to behave with the good qualities that any human, whether male or female, should possess.
An active way to instead speak up about the issues they have experienced with men would be to instead isolate one’s speech to an incident. It means not name-calling or generalizing, but accurately describing an event or experience. This not only would prohibit the use of hateful generalizations that aren’t helpful, but it would also provide a platform to give factual information about feminist issues. When a woman has a poor experience with a man, or even men generally, it would be beneficial to describe the experience with those men in particular. In addition to this, women should never stop talking about the respectable moments they have with honorable men. The same goes for men, lifting up the women they respect. The goal is to promote equality, not drape characteristics that describe few onto the many.
Vehemently opposing speech or attitudes that put down men allows women to begin to truly fight for and accept gender equality. Individuals must choose not to take part in the generalizations of men as a whole gender due to an experience with an individual or specific group of men. It is only by expecting appropriate, virtuous behavior from all people, and not flaunting poor behavior, that true feminism can be realized. That is not to say that there is no accountability, no remembering of some of the heinous things done by men in the past and still today. However, feminists must remember, uplift, and promote men who set the standard of what a man should be and never put someone down because of their gender, whether male or female. This is true equality.