Feminists are often disparagingly called “man-haters” or “man hating bitches.” One website goes so far as to call feminism a “hate group.” I’ve never understood this reaction. The first time I came across feminism, it appeared to be eminently reasonable, and about as controversial as not being racist. It was just a straightforward application of humanistic principles of equality.
Taken at face value, calling feminists “man-haters” is nothing but incendiary rhetoric devoid of rational value. Despite the fact that it appears to make a claim about feminists – that they hate men – it is nothing more than an argumentum ad hominem, an informal logical fallacy where one personally attacks an opponent rather than his or her argument.
Seen from this perspective, calling feminists “man-haters” is just another way for a person with privilege to derail any conversation that challenges that privilege. As “Derailing for Dummies” humorously states in its intro, “Just follow this step-by-step guide to Conversing with Marginalised People™ and in no time at all you will have a fool-proof method of derailing every challenging conversation you may get into, thus reaping the full benefits of every privilege that you have.”
For some, calling a feminist a “man-hater” is straightforward misogyny, an expression of a deep-seated hatred for women. However, for many, I would argue that it is the product of an unconscious “distress of the privileged.” Men uncritically assume that their place in society is just. They fail to see their own privilege.
Therefore, when feminists challenge this privilege, when they try to remove it permanently, they are taking away benefits to which men feel entitled. Because male privilege goes unnoticed, men fail to realize that they were never entitled to the benefits they enjoy to begin with.
In an effort to explain why feminists would want to redistribute societal benefits to the detriment of men, many men uncritically and childishly assume that it is because feminists hate them. Seen from the perspective of a privilege-blind male, this makes sense. If the pie is already evenly split, and someone tries to take some more from you, it is reasonable to impute bad intent. But when you realize that you’ve always had more than your fair share, then the goals of feminism are simply the goals of justice.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that “man-hater” is not the petulant whining of a spoiled child. How does it stand up to criticism?
First, it is Feminism 101 that the vast majority of feminists don’t hate men. They hate misogyny. In this light, feminism is not a threat to one’s existence as a male, but a challenge to be a better person, a challenge to overcome the unconscious ways one harms women. If a man refuses to accept this challenge, he deserves to be hated and reviled.
Second, and more subtly, “man-hater” completely misses the entire tradition of anti-essentialism in feminist theory. Anti-essentialist feminists don’t critique biological males but the cultural constructs that turn biological males into oppressors. Feminists hate these cultural constructs, not men themselves.
Therefore, “man-hater” fails even the most cursory analysis, making it clear that it is just childish whining and willful ignorance.