Warning: This Feminism Will Hurt
I recently watched a viral TikTok that posed the question, “why would any man listen to a feminist when all they do is villainize men?” The creator blames “angry feminists” for the popularity of social media “stars” and podcasters like Andrew Tate. We make men feel bad, and apparently the logical choice that follows is to flock to any misogynist with a microphone.
Aside from the fact that the hateful and factually inaccurate rhetoric these “men” spew is dangerous because it incites violence against women, it also oozes male privilege and entitlement. We are calling you out for abusing us, raping us, killing us, and taking away our bodily autonomy — to name just a few of the many injustices perpetrated against us — but you don’t want to listen because it makes you uncomfortable? God forbid a man feel discomfort. Discomfort and fear are for women only — we must simply get on with things, adapt, carry our keys as weapons and exercise only in daylight — but men? Men deserve to be made comfortable.
Hopefully it’s obvious to many (or women, at least) that the video’s creator fails to acknowledge that the actual cause of both women’s anger and the rise of toxic masculinity is the patriarchy, but there’s much more to unpack here. The creator calls for feminists to present their arguments in a way that are palatable to men —in other words, don’t be so meeaaannn. He fails to see that this directive is emblematic of living in a patriarchal society where women are expected to be meek and empathetic, and only men get to be angry. It’s also a classic case of tone policing — men dismiss the ideas being communicated by feminists because they don’t like the way the way in which those ideas are delivered. I’d argue that this man, though supposedly trying to “help” feminists by encouraging a “kinder” approach to men, is unaware that he holds an unconscious bias against women because he grew up in a patriarchal society that tells him female rage is wrong. Women telling men what to do is wrong. Men must not be made to feel less than. Subservience is a space for women.
The thing is, our whole way of life — this society that we must exist in — has been designed for men. Everything is made with them in mind, as if being a man is simply the default. Our language shows us this. Our businesses show us this. Our government and institutions show us this. And now, some other male creators are posting responses to this video about “what’s in it for men” if they become feminists and help dismantle the patriarchy. Unsurprisingly, they’ve even managed to make feminism about them. Apparently it’s not a good enough reason that women are dying as the result of the patriarchy to care about it, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t give a flying f*ck about how I make you feel. The work of writer and radical feminist Audre Lorde also comes to mind here:
“Whenever the need for some pretense of communication arises, those who profit from our oppression call upon us to share our knowledge with them…The oppressors maintain their position and evade responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.”It’s not the job of the oppressed to teach the oppressors. I will not ask nicely to be treated as a fully-fledged human worthy of dignity and respect, deserving all of the same rights as men. Men act as if feminist scholars have not dedicated decades of work to the topics of feminism, misogyny and the patriarchy for them to understand these nuanced issues by reading objective quantitative and qualitative studies — divorced of those pesky emotions that make them feel icky. Not only can men no longer be allowed to feign ignorance in the modern age where we have access to the world’s knowledge at the flick of key on a keyboard, but they must also not be allowed to demand even MORE of our emotional labor. We already do the lionshare of this work in our everyday relationships, and this leaves men in the same position of power they have always occupied and never earned — they get a free education on their terms, and all we get is the hope that they might finally decide to understand the plight of women.
Thanks, but no thanks. Afterall, do mice concern themselves with the feelings of cats?
If you’re a man and you actually want to do better, support the women in your life and dismantle the system that hurts us all, why don’t you start acting like it? Call out overt misogyny and abuse from other men like the Andrew Tates of the world. Call out more insidious biases perpetuated by men like the aforementioned TikTok creator, who fail to see the proverbial forest through the trees. Do your own work — go to therapy, read a book, attend a gender studies course. Listen to women, and if their anger and accusations make you uncomfortable — don’t run from it. Instead, interrogate it; ask yourself why that might be. Sometimes, we have to be uncomfortable to grow, and I will not put my feminism in a spoonful of sugar. It’s a jagged little pill I want you to feel going all the way down.