Not Anti-Male

June 17, 2008

During the opening session of the recent National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, attendees were asked to stand up if they agreed with different statements. This exercise brings out many of the similarities and differences among the group of 500 college women leaders present. Two of the statements were “I consider myself a feminist” and “I don’t consider myself a feminist.” I was surprised by how many attendees stood up for the latter, clearly stating to the group that they would not self-identify. Christy Jones discussed in her blog post “The ‘F’ Word” how some people see feminism as a dirty word, but I still thought that at a women’s leadership conference, nearly all attendees would identify as feminists. From where I was sitting, however, it looked like nearly half the room did not.

I don’t believe that half the attendees are upset that they can attend college, vote, have their own credit card, expect to work in any job field they choose, play on sports teams, and be leaders on their campus. All these choices are possible because of feminists: women and men who simply want women to have the same opportunities and rights as men.

Indeed, no one who spoke cited a belief that women shouldn’t have those kinds of choices as their reason for not being a feminist. Instead, not being anti-male was the recurring theme. I was surprised that the stereotype that feminists are anti-male persists so widely, especially among college-educated women.

What can be done to educate people that feminism isn’t a bad word and doesn’t mean being anti-male? How do we inform people that if they support issues like equal pay and sexual harassment laws, they are being feminist? On the other hand, should anything be done? Does it matter if people embrace the title of feminist as long as they, like every woman I met at the conference, are making strides toward equity for women?

Holly Kearl By:   |   June 17, 2008


  1. A.Y. Siu says:

    Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do apart from encourage feminists to be outspoken about their feminist status and show they’re also not anti-male.

    I’ve never met or read an anti-male feminist. The only one I even theoretically know of is that woman who wrote the S.C.U.M. manifesto and shot Andy Warhol.

  2. steffan says:

    I haven’t met a feminist who was not a hypocrite. They claim to want equality yet the only way to maintain female privilege and gain the benefits that men appear to have argue for equity. If a feminist wants true equality then you need to argue for the same responsibilities men have. How many of the women attending the leadership conference had to register for the draft as a condition of receiving financial aid ? If you want true equality THEN TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITIES ALONG WITH THE BENEFITS. Until then — yes feminism means being antimale.

  3. Valerie Connors says:

    I do agree that the word feminism, even today, carries a stigma because, unless you take a Women’s Studies course or stumble upon the word’s meaning during your life’s journey, you may never truly encounter the “real” meaning of feminism. I also noticed that the women who did not consider themselves feminists and told us why, spoke from a Christian point of view. From this religious perspective, these women believe that men are the head of the household, that women are lower hierarchically than men, but do not feel that this diminishes their status whatsoever. I found this to be quite interesting. At the end of the day, though, I do believe that if these women are working toward equity for other women, then that is what truly matters above everything else.

  4. alan says:

    I don’t think it matters much what labels or names people are called or call themselves….the bottom line is results, and happily there are many accomplishments of the women’s movement that holly has pointed out, and sadly there are many goals that have not yet been realized. Upward and onward!

  5. Holly Kearl says:

    Thank you everyone who has contributed to the discussion so far.

    I agree, A.Y. Siu, I haven’t met a feminist yet who is anti-male, yet the idea persists. I consider myself a huge feminist, and two of the most trusted and beloved people in my life are my dad and my male partner.

    Steffan, it’s unfortunate you haven’t had good experiences with feminists and think that being a feminist means being anti-male. You have posted on this blog before and seem to have a lot of anti-women views …

    Valerie, thanks for your comment and I completely agree with you. I noticed the theme of religion in the responses of those who didn’t identify as a feminist but couldn’t figure out a way to put it as well as you did. As you note, those who shared that perspective didn’t seem to think having a man as the head of the household diminished their status as a woman. Hopefully that will remain true and they can be autonomous.

    Alan, thanks for your comment and you’re right, there are many goals to go towards equality and it will be with the help of men like you that they are achieved.

    • Tyler says:

      I am all for Women’s Rights and gender equality but not sure about “feminism”. It can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, college campuses seems to be where it gets the most warped. It should be a struggle for justice against the suffering and injustice so many women endure, but often it becomes an individualist entitlement. Young women from privileged backgrounds(usually white) learn that they are “victims” oppressed and at the same time superior to men just by virtue of being born a woman. They’re not particularly concerned about the plight of single mothers and massive budget cuts that will cause them to suffer, like I said earlier they are young privileged and devoid of responsibility. The fight of feminism is social and political but it should not be totally personalized. All the men in the world don’t attend a secret meeting to plot how to oppress women, men don’t even get along with each other, we’re constantly killing each other. We basically have no group consciousness. I took a Womens literature class in college, I was one of two guys in the class. Much of the class was interesting but some of it made no sense. We read some book about a woman who committed suicide, the point according to the teacher was that it was all some mans fault. I felt sorry for this(fictional)person but I honestly didn’t feel like her situation was suicide worthy and like you could really blame it on someone else. Victimhood as sometime to aspire to is a big part of this dysfunctional wing of feminism. It ties into another phenomenon identity politics. Identity politics divides into smaller and smaller groups based on a combination of conditions we are born into race sex sexual orientation etc, usually not social class because the ideology of identity politics sort of doesn’t recognize the existence of class. This phenomenon ended up splitting feminism in many cases into lesbian and straight white and non white etc. It may be therapeutic to sit around with a small group of people just like you but it accomplishes nothing. I recall hearing at one university the womens studies group put up posters with pictures of male students that said potential rapists, pictures they had taken without their permission. How disgusting? How about a lot of feminists refusal to believe that somewhere sometimes a women might make a false accusation of sexual harassment. You gotta wonder if some of these extremist feminists the ones that say “women should about male fetuses and not allow little rapists to suck on your teat” just had a real jerk of a dad or a dad that left them or an asshole boyfriend, idk I had a pretty mean girlfriend that cheated on me and manipulated me I try not to assume other women are necessarily anything like her. Also feminism seems to be unwilling to admit that other factors like class race etc means some women are more privileged than some men. Some Mexican man is picking the food for most American women right now, is he ruling over you as a “patriarch”. I don’t write this to be anti feminism just to explain the fringe group of overly intellectual out of touch “radicals” who end up giving feminism a bad name.

  6. kathryn says:

    The best line I have read on the subject is “Women are more afraid of being called a feminist – a slur right up there with b**** in modern vernacular – than of being objectified or discriminated against.” (from everydaycitizen)

    If you don’t think that that women take responsibility, you are wrong. Women are serving in the armed forces at higher rates than ever before (voluntarily). We take responsibility for our families, our jobs and our education. We don’t have a choice. And speaking of that financial aid, women have to pay back our loans making 77% of their equally qualified male counterparts. If you don’t see that as a problem, maybe you are anti-woman.

  7. saltlord says:

    Here’s your chance to define feminism. Habladora from The Feminist Underground has put out a call for definitions of feminism. She’s looking to

    “…gather some feminist readings of feminism, and some feminist perspectives on what it means to be a feminist.”

    The deadline is Thursday, June 19, so get those responses in quickly. Complete details are available here. Should make for some interesting reading.

  8. badteeth says:

    The name carries some baggage like any other political movement.
    -anti-male sexuality
    -anti-free speech

    Some of it dates back to the feminists of the 70’s. Some of it to the feminists of the “academic speech code” 90’s. Some of it persists today. Some of it is due to the media, some of it
    is due to feminists reluctance to distance themselves from their extreme fringe. And some of it is just due to the nature of ideleogical movements. Face it, when you’re purpose is to change the way people think and feel about certain issues you’re basically saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” You ain’t always going to get hugs and kisses in return.

  9. Tree says:

    Well I will try to take this as a chance to offer some feedback for you to consider.

    First, I’d like to say that whether a feminist comes across as anti- male probably depends on which country they are from and which feminist micro-culture they are involved in. I have met some feminists who were, well, pretty rude, and I have met others who are quite kind. In the US, I sometimes had the feeling that some feminists are just not very friendly and I didn’t really feel comfortable around them.

    I would definitely say that a person has to be much more cautious when talking to a feminist. Anything you might say could be cause for criticism. So sometimes I feel more relaxed around women who are not feminists because I don’t have to tiptoe around.

    It also seems to me that some feminists are intolerant of other viewpoints about gender- related issues. I have thought about gender issues a lot, and I don’t always agree with feminists, and yet I often feel that if I express my point of view I will be subject to censure. I think feminists need to understand that men have very different experiences and that leads them to have different points of view, as they are subject to different socialization and pressures.

    I don’t think that gender issues should just be the domain of feminists and their sympathizers, and I think that any attempt to make gender issues their “territory” is wrong, and will ultimately backfire in some of the attitudes you are addressing.

    I might also add that I sometimes wonder if the women’s movement has not created a sense of entitlement in women. In the last year I had some very negative experiences of being mistreated by women, who were probably also influenced by feminism. Their attitude seemed to be that they could just treat me however they wanted to, without consideration of ethics or morality- its a kind of “me- first” attitude.

    I know that you probably think that women have been taught to be self- sacrificing, and so they need to be encouraged to put themselves first, but there are times when I think that this is taken too far. Feminists may want to emphasize to their cohorts that although sometimes its necessary to be assertive, this doesn’t entail being unkind, even cruel, to others.

    At the same time, I’d also like to give the women’s movement credit for what they have accomplished in terms of bringing justice to many people and helping to improve the conditions of women who are clearly subject to unfair treatment.

  10. Karen says:

    Historically “feminism” and “feminist” are juxtaposed with “masculinism” and “masculinist. The objective is challenging masculine domination, masculine privilege – which does not at all imply being anti-male. The terms originated in France in the late 19th century and quickly spread all over the world.

    For more, check out my article from 1988, “Defining Feminism: A Comparative Historical Perspective” in SIGNS, and more recently my book European Feminisms.

  11. Zerodash. says:

    There are plenty of anti-male feminists, and they ruin things for both men and women. My sister, mother, and girlfriend are all educated, successful proffessionals. None of them consider themselves to be Feminists- because they like men.

    Here’s one example:

  12. Susan says:

    Hello everyone. I have been a lurker on this for a while now. I did feel compelled to throw my two cents in. I looked at the web site that Zerodash left for the link of how all men are rapist because women are so controlled by men that they can not concent to sex. This type of logic does worry me because if we women are seen as so “brain washed” that it’s not possible for us to see pass the brain wash and see reality, I’m afraid people might say, if they are not component to decide something as simple as this, we had better “protect” them for the really hard stuff.

    Lets ban them from public office because that’s why too hard and compliacated. And let’s take them out of the military because they are so easily brain washed. Next thing we know, “for our own good” we could be at a point here we are not allow to do anything. I would rather be seen as component and capable myself.

    What I found interesting on that web site was a link to another thread entitled “My Infamous Advocacy of Male Infanticide” where she advocates aborting all the male children until the male population is marginal at the lest. I couldn’t help, when reading the title, of my own 2 ½ year old son. Suggesting we kill (not allow to be born) a human being simply because he has a penis, isn’t this sexist in the extreme?

    This was the woman defending her belief of male infanticide:

    “Oh, boy. Here we go again. mAndrea is right that, while the presumption of a natural male inclination toward violent subjugation of females has indeed been used to justify women’s oppression, it can also easily be used to justify extreme efforts toward our freedom from them.

    We could do this by refusing to be mothers to males. Even in places where abortions or other adequate birth control are lacking, women could refuse to nurse male neonates. You may wonder what horrible tragedies would befall the poor women who didn’t give men the sons they demanded. Might they be beaten? Might they be raped? Might they be killed?

    Women are being beaten, raped, murdered, sold, and dehumanized right now, in torture porn and elsewhere. I’d rather die fighting as one of the last generation of women to suffer at the hands of men than to live a life of patriarchy-provided comfort, at the expense the generations of daughters to come.

    Now, perhaps once male numbers were manageable enough, once we’d stopped allowing them an automatic and entitled suckle at the female teat, we could consider the possibility of educating the brutality out of them. In the meantime, it is ridiculous to think that after 6000 years of this shit, a people who comprise 49 percent of the population, hold 98 percent of the wealth, and possess a greater physical strength than us are just going to start treating us like humans out of the kindness of their hearts.

    I’m not trying to get into it with the mothers of sons, but I refuse, on a supposedly radical feminist forum, to pretend as if it wouldn’t have been better for most males never to have been born. Whether you choose to comfort yourself by including your own Nigel Jr. in that near non-existent minority of men who do not actively benefit from the oppression of women is your own business, and it’s certainly not relevant to radical feminism.

    Oh, and just to cut certain complaints off at the bud, I’m not attacking anyone, merely pointing out the fact that any feminist discussion of men, let alone a radical feminist discussion of them, is necessarily, at least theoretically, about all men, including the ones you love. If we can expect men to come here and not whine about how different they are from the men with whom we take issue, then surely we should be able to expect the same from the women here with regard to the men in their lives.

    The theoretical (and sometimes real) implication of all males, even loved ones, must be recognized. Even the most heinous of rapists, traffickers, and abusers have women in their lives who love them.”

  13. Berisha says:

    A.Y Siu do you live in the United States. I think anti male feminists exist, they are a minority but they exist. I guess they are incapable of seeing a system patriarchy or whatever you wanna call it and individual men and seperating the two. We are all human being in my view and gender is important but we are human first, I believe we all have a soul that transcends all that.

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