As a feminist there are many times I have been called a manhater. It’s the go to put down to extinguish or disqualify legitimate rage. Rage at social injustice, at sexual assault, at murder; things that should make us angry. It’s that classic technique of using a personal insult to swing the narrative away from the subject at hand. I’m a heterosexual woman, clearly being a manhater is not in my best interests. Guess I better wash my manhatin’ mouth.
I find myself justifying my position by saying, I don’t hate men – I’m married – I have a son. Of course I love men. It’s just a minority of men that I hate; the ones that beat and kill us. I don’t know them to actually hate them personally, I just don’t understand or condone their behaviour. See how I acquiesce? Men are used to women making the world comfortable for them. We fluff the doona, we cook their food, we wash their clothes, and we sanitise our rage. We apologise for being angry at what oppression has done to us. We apologise for being angry that our sisters are murdered and beaten. Or raped. We count rapes, not rapists. We still have to fight for the agency of our voice because it’s moderated by patriarchy’s gatekeepers where hatefulness towards men will not be tolerated.
When Dolly Parton was asked if she was a feminist she said ‘No, I love men’. I was shocked when I heard her say that. That even someone as smart as Dolly, whom I have huge respect for, would sell her sisters down the line like that. That she would feed into that boring old tome that all feminists are manhaters. That she would participate in confirming the narrative that delegitimises feminist solidarity and our rage. That boring narrative that disallows us from holding toxic masculine culture accountable for the harm it has caused us.
When Dolly answered that question I know it was underwritten by her intention of never really taking a stand on anything because she has a very diverse and massive fan base – but to keep that group of femmo-fearing men, she had to put the boot into feminism. Into us. It’s sad when we sisters sell each other down the line for the approval of a tiny group of blokes who are scared of female empowerment. From the woman who sang the 9-5 anthem for women’s workplace equality, it had a certain sting. So why would Dolly do that? I actually think Dolly Parton is a feminist, like many women are, they’re just too scared to use the word. It’s the manhatin’ thing.
We are called manhaters to dilute our position. It frightens other women. No one wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with a manhater. It doesn’t bode well for how the world perceives us. Sure we can vote, and there’s lipservice to equitable pay… but we shouldn’t get so cranky about the deeply entrenched patriarchal structures that have us nailed to the floor. That’s just unhealthy.
No one wants to be a manhater. It’s yucky. It means you’re a bad woman. That your perception is tainted by rage. We are not allowed to hate men. None of us. We have to love them. All of them. No matter what.
I say I love men, but do I? I don’t think I do actually. I love the men I choose to love, but no, not all. Not the ones that pull us into a car when we are walking home at night, or punch us in the head when they’re drunk, or go onto the dark web for explicit images of children. I don’t love the men that leave us raped and bitten, covered in leaves in a public park. It’s hard to hear isn’t it? We never want to talk about it, but we need to. We need to hate that type of masculinity. If two women die every week at the hands of their male partner or their ex, isn’t it okay to be little bit manhater? Maybe more men need to start some manhating too.
Stay tuned in 2021 for my new podcast Manhater!