No, We Don't Literally Want to Ban Men - But 2014 Was the Year Women Got Even
This was a big year for man-hating harpies. We drove an innocent young man to kill through the deliberate denial of sex! We ruined the entire videogame industry, forcing developers to replace all current and future titles about sexy women with games about lip gloss and menstruation! We rose up in a frothing bloodrage simply because we didn’t like a man’s clothing choices, which were entirely without wider resonance! We totally invented rape, which only happens in our minds! We even destroyed ethics in journalism.
At least, that was our year according to the minds of the whiny, brittle men who genuinely believe “misandry” – the institutionalized hatred of men – is a powerful force in the world. Here in reality, misandry had a big year, too, but it looked a little different. For us, it was a tool to help create a less oppressive future.
Frustration with men became as vocal in 2014 as it’s ever been – especially online. Instead of commiserating behind closed doors, women and sympathetic men started increasingly bringing our anger to social media. Ban men, we said when tweeting a link about the latest rape apology or nude photo theft. #KillAllMen. Launch men into space. I can’t wait until we send them all to Dude Island.
We were joking, sort of, but we were also very serious. A lot of feminists are very fond of individual men, but it’s hard to ignore that men as a group are responsible for an ongoing parade of offenses – indignities at best, violence at worst. And while recent circumstances have demanded that many of us take a break from banning men in order to ban white people instead (it’s an emergency), 2014 demonstrated that “ban men” could be a rallying cry, a banner under which we could mass and direct our frustrations.
This year contained the usual litany of indignities against women: rape and rape apology, violence and harassment, powerful men legislating our bodies or treating them like public goods. But with the half-serious whisper of “ban men” starting to raise to a willful roar, we found that being angry together was so much better than being scared alone.
In May, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured 13 in California before killing himself, explicitly, he wrote in a manifesto, because of his anger at women and their lack of interest in sleeping with him. In response, a Twitter user (who at the time asked me to identify her as “a young woman of color who would rather avoid personal attention”) started #YesAllWomen, a hashtag – increasingly the online version of a protest chant – where women could talk about and demonstrate the everyday harassment, aggression and dehumanization that we’d all learned to take for granted. The result was both mundane and powerful, as women who had accepted fear and danger as our birthright finally started to say “this is not an acceptable status quo”.
Is it wrong to respond to sickening violence against women by saying “ban men”? Plenty of men said so in 2014 – and plenty of men will next year, too. The most popular response I see to online misandry is something along the lines of:What would you think if I said the same thing about women?The answer, of course, is: You do. And this year was certainly no exception – swarms of profoundly unhappy men (and a handful of opportunistic sociopaths) were everywhere, hounding female game developers from their homes, denying the existence of street harassment, publishingerroneous information about rape victims.
If women were mad, the women-haters were, if anything, madder. But as much as they might like to believe that “put men in a box and put the box in the ocean” is a threat, they never had anything to fear from misandrists. Women don’t have the power to send all men to an island, or launch them into the sun, or even forcibly oppress them into giving a tiny bit of unearned ground in the name of equality. We won’t beat men into unconsciousness and then say it’s their fault. We probably won’t even publish their information online. All we have is the power to say that we’re angry and fed up, and to nod in recognition at the others who feel the same. That’s what misandry is about: the power of recognizing shared anger. And that small amount of power was a bright spot in a cruel year.
What will 2015 bring for misandry? My hope is that, eventually, we’ll drop it. Not because it hurts mens’ feelings, or because I imagine some kind of gender-equity utopia is just around the corner and we’ll all get to lay down our arms. You guys have too much work to do. But defining ourselves as misandrists means we are still defining ourselves relative to men, even when avowing that nobody needs ’em. I’m not interested in making men comfortable: men have been comfortable long enough, reclining happily on cushions that just happen to be made by (and from) women. I am, however, interested in making men irrelevant to my self-concept as a woman. I’d rather identify as something that celebrates the togetherness we’ve found under the “#KillAllMen” banner. Maybe a witch.
Realistically, though, the main 2015 application of the term “misandry” will probably be dudes making “ballbuster” jokes about Hillary Clinton. Ban men.