This was supposed to be a book review, but then a man reared his misogynistic head and now it’s a response to his behaviour
TW: Violence against women, R*pe
Pauline Harmange opens her book I Hate Men with an anecdote that anyone who speaks about feminism in the public space can relate to. She writes “One day I wrote on my blog that I was fed up of men’s apathy and general lack of interest when it comes to women’s rights. Almost immediately an anonymous lurker left a comment: ‘Maybe you should ask yourself why men don’t want to talk about it. A few possibilities: the aggressive – hate-filled, even – attitude of feminists towards any man who doesn’t say “I’m ashamed to be a man! Down with men!”’ This man is essentially saying that men don’t fight for women’s rights because women hate men and that to be in a woman’s good graces, men have to hate themselves. He suggests that men do not give their time to women’s issues because of this misandry. I would argue that there are several other more sinister reasons why men do not fight for women’s rights – but what do I know?
So, it’s only fitting that I start this blog post by telling you that when I posted a picture of I Hate Men on my Instagram story I was also very quickly messaged by a person I knew from school who decided he wanted to get into a misjudged debate with me around my reading preferences and my men-hating ways (and you guessed it, he hasn’t read the book).
His counterargument was a screenshot of some anonymously written text that argues that it’s not only okay to be
a man, but it is necessary to society. It goes further to say that gratitude is lacking from the most privileged and protected people in the world (i.e. the upper-class) for all the hard work that working-class men have done and continue to do in blue-collar, labour-intensive jobs. The text goes on to say that these men work themselves to death. Whilst this argument does have some merit if you consider it from a classist perspective, the man who sent it to me sent it in response to I Hate Men, which sets his argument firmly into a misogynist one.
What Harmange’s anonymous commenter and the person I knew from school have in common is that both of their unwarranted comments place some level of blame onto women for men’s apathy, rather than looking introspectively at their own behaviour and men’s behaviour in a broader sense. In Harmange’s instance, the commenter is excusing all men from the feminist fight for equality, arguing that women are too aggressive towards men for men to want to be involved. His argument is ironic when you consider the onslaught of male violence against women that happens daily, and the very little women ask of men to make society a better place for all of us.
Harmange quotes some damning statistics in her book, including “in 2018, 96 percent of people who received a prison sentence for domestic violence were men, and 99 percent of those sentences for sexual violence were men". Whilst Harmange is “aggressive” and “hate-filled” for expressing annoyance at men’s apathy towards women’s rights, men are committing terrible crimes daily.
The person who responded to me used a different tactic to try to belittle and dilute women’s fight for equality. Without having read the book, and only knowing the title of it, this person automatically used the “whataboutism” argument to move attention away from the concept of hating men toward the idea that women should be eternally grateful to them. He does this by attempting to strip importance away from the reasons why women hate men, placing emphasis on the “good” that they do. His argument is that women should not hate men because they work themselves to death and that women should actually be grateful for their sacrifices. As I said earlier, his argument has merit from a classist perspective, but from a feminist one, it is invalid. Two things can exist at once: women can hate men for their behaviour and actions towards them, and (using this person’s example) men can also be victims of the society we live in by being made to work in dangerous and low-paid conditions. One fact does not negate the other.
So, whilst it can be said that this person’s comment did side-track me from the topic I wanted to discuss, it’s important to highlight the tactics that men use to try to belittle, undermine and dilute the fight for women’s rights. Whether it be “what about” tactics, or misplacing blame, we as women have to stick to our guns and not allow ourselves to be side-tracked by their arguments and diversion tactics.
If you want to take anything away from this blog, it should be that if a man is engaging in an argument with you over your opinions on women’s rights, is trying to dilute your argument by asking what about men or trying to blame women for their place in society, know that your argument is valid, and they are threatened by you shaking the status-quo and disrupting their comfortable space in society.
P.S. My next blog post will be on the content of I Hate Men – no more distractions from random men on the internet!
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I Hate Men by Pauline Harmange
Cover Image courtesy of Hannah Milner.
In-Article image from Instagram. Please contact us if you know the original owner in order for us to credit them.
Hannah Milner (She/Her) Hi, I'm Hannah (she/her) and I recently graduated from the uni of Strathclyde in Social Policy and English. I love reading books, am passionate about challenging social inequalities, and desperately want a pet cat.