I walked along the street on my way to a Barrett, the Honors College event with a good friend when she asked me out of the blue, “So is feminism just man-hating?” A little caught off guard, I patiently explained that feminism is not about hating men but about equality between the sexes. It surprised me that my friend would ask me that question because I talk about feminism often enough that I assumed she knew my sentiments.
The definition of feminism is simple: the theory of political, social and economic equality of the sexes. However, recent third-wave feminism has developed a negative association to the word “misandry.”
Misandry, the opposite of misogyny, is a hatred of men. I can see why people might think that misandry equates to feminism. With phrases like “Down with the patriarchy!” and “All men are pigs!” it puts down men aggressively. However, feminism is not the same as misandry.
It seems that a substantial amount of both adult men and women see feminism as man-hating. The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a national telephone survey about feminism. The study included 1,122 women and 488 men, all 18 years and older, chosen at random. A surveyor asked a series of questions about the feminist movement.
One of the questions asked if it was true that “the feminist movement unfairly blames men for women’s challenges.” The results show that 41 percent of females said it was true, and 52 percent of males said it was true that the feminist movement unfairly blames men.
The misconception about feminism comes from a lack of understanding what feminists' goals are.
“I don’t think they understand feminism as well,” said Lauren Barnes, president of the Barrett Feminist Club. “I think that there’s obviously with any movement there are some people who are radical, there are people who just misunderstand things, and they don’t hear what the real definitions are or what the real movement is.”
The goal of feminism is to achieve gender equity in all aspects. Becoming misandrists doesn’t help move the cause forward; rather, it discourages the dialogue that men and women need to have in order to address issues of equality.
“Feminism is trying to counteract that and to give equality for everyone and to allow everyone to pursue their own careers and live their lives as they believe. Not in some sort of constraint under some gender roles,” Barnes said.
Empowering women is also not synonymous with devaluing men’s power. Feminists don’t necessarily want to take men's positions' power; they want the same opportunities as men have to achieve those positions.
“I think a lot of people think feminism is supposed to take power away from men or say that women are inherently better than men, but it’s just because men are so used to being in power that women being equal to them can seem as a threat, and they don’t understand that it’s also supposed to empower men,” Barnes said.
"There are positive effects for men as well. “It benefits men because they would no longer feel confined to their role as a man, can openly have feelings, be a stay-at-home dad."
That’s not to say that man-hating feminists don’t exist, but it’s not completely accurate to say that a woman who hates a man is automatically a feminist. Simply disliking men doesn’t mean a woman helps advance the movement to attain social, political or economic equality. I can respect and work with men while simultaneously working toward gender equity.
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