Do We Hate Men?
What does it really mean when a woman says she hates men?
Written by: Lauren Koleszar
We live in a society that relentlessly favors the male over the female, and it is this inequality of the sexes that is the subject of female hatred and has spawned the phrase “I hate men.” Rape culture, female objectification and gender roles constantly disadvantage women and only benefit men, the latter of whom are frequently brainwashed into behaviors that allow this social order to self-perpetuate. Simone de Beauvoir writes in “The Second Sex,” “One of the benefits that oppression secures for the oppressor is that the humblest among them feels superior.” When women casually or seriously say “I hate men,” they are referring to this same oppression, and the way it advantages men and dictates the standards set for men in society.
Saying “I hate men” voices the frustration faced by every woman who must navigate a world that calls her too sensitive and that asks what she was wearing. It is easier to say “I hate men” than to list every way in which society allows and favors toxic masculine behavior. Though men are responsible to identify and unlearn misogynistic ideas, as all human beings are responsible to correct themselves, it is also not anti-feminist to acknowledge that men face challenges as a result of a society that favors them. Their struggle is hardly comparable to the one faced by women, but it often goes unsaid that men are constantly pressured to conform to standard ideas about how they should treat, perceive, and think about women. Rather than feel attacked by women’s frustration, men should feel similarly frustrated that toxic masculine behavior is standardized, for the sake of both men and women. There is immense pressure among men to compare sexual partners, assert themselves onto and over women, and play the part of the hero. These have detrimental effects on women, who live in constant fear of being objectified, assaulted and patronized. Though women are clearly the victim of oppression, the harmful ideas taught to men that perpetuate misogyny should not be swept under the rug. For all the harmful ideas society has about male behavior, men alongside women should be saying “I hate men.”
A toxic ex-boyfriend or a mansplaining professor are not individuals totally indicative of a group —
“I hate men” is not a personal attack against every man, though many men still seem to take it this way. One of the most damaging obstacles to gender equality is the defensive stance assumed by men who take any statistic or statement about women’s rights or misogyny as a personal attack on them, birthing the “not all men” defense that has stunted progress for both men and women in terms of equal treatment. The sociological idea that men and women exist on opposite ends of a binary has led people to internalize men and women as opposites in every way, making it impossible for them to ever stand on equal ground. Without getting into differences between sex, gender, and societal gender roles, or how arbitrary or biological any of it is, the simple fact remains that “not all men” is a self-centered defense that comes from someone who takes things too personally. Beyond this, the defense is simply illogical. No, not all men are “like that,” but yes, all women have to guard themselves in a world where it is more standard for a man to be “like that” than not. In her Academy Award winning script for the 2020 film “Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell writes a scene in which a male character expresses that “It’s every guy’s worst nightmare getting accused like that,” to which the film’s female protagonist dryly responds, “Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?” In two lines of dialogue, Fennell shuts down the “not all men” defense — the logical fallacy exposed.
As for throwing around the phrase “I hate men,” women have a similar responsibility to not take things so personally. A toxic ex-boyfriend or a mansplaining professor are not individuals totally indicative of a group — nor should they be excused on account of mindlessly perpetuating toxic gender stereotypes that reinforce a power imbalance between men and women. Author of “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan, writes that “Men weren’t really the enemy — they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.” Now, don’t run with this quote out of context and start calling men “victims,” but understand the point Friedan makes: a patriarchal society causes negative effects for both men and women. Rather than be upset by the “I hate men” sentiment, men should be similarly upset by a society that standardizes toxic behaviors traditionally ascribed to men. If men and women can understand that feminism is not a war between sexes but rather a shared battle against society, they have a common enemy and progress can become streamlined.
— nor should they be excused on account of mindlessly perpetuating toxic gender stereotypes that reinforce a power imbalance between men and women.
Men as human beings are not to blame; there is no psychological basis for demonizing men. Rather, overpowering social norms have shaped male behaviors into toxic, domineering traits that hurt women. We cannot make this into a generalization that displaces all negative social behavior of men onto a patriarchal society; it is naïve and narrow-minded to excuse human beings from negative behaviors, comparable to excusing toxic personality traits to one’s family life or personal temperament. We are each responsible for ourselves, and knowledge of these societal structures allows us to unlearn toxic behaviors and thinking patterns — the feminist mindset is one that purports the ability of a human being, regardless of gender, to take full responsibility for oneself, learning and practicing equal treatment and understanding of all human beings. When we say “I hate men,” we mean we’re frustrated that this understanding is given to men first, women second.