Blogs > Liberty and Power > Does It Matter Whether Some Feminists Actually Hate Men?

Jan 14, 2005 2:58 am


Does It Matter Whether Some Feminists Actually Hate Men?



Here is how Roderick Long explains the use he and Charles Johnson have made of the phrase"Lavender menace rhetoric":

The phrase is explictly introduced in our paper to pick out the rhetorical strategy of"[dividing] the feminist world ... into the 'reasonable' (that is, unthreatening) feminists and the feminists who are 'hysterical' or 'man-hating' (so, presumably, not worthy of rational response)." This strategy we chose to call, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the"Lavender Menace" approach. We also said explicitly that McElroy and Taylor show" considerably more understanding of, and sympathy with, classical feminist concerns than the anti-feminists who employ this strategy" -- in other words, we were not atempting to lump them in with anti-feminists or lesbian-baiters, but merely pointing to ways in which we thought their approach made unfortunate concessions to that enemy.

I find that Roderick's explanation leaves several questions unanswered:

  • Do some feminists, in fact, hate men as a class?
  • Should anyone, feminist or otherwise, hate male human beings as a class?
  • If some feminists do hate men, and hatred of men as a class is not justified, might those feminists who do not hate men have valid reasons to avoid alliances with those who do?
  • Must feminists who do not hate men as a class show solidarity with feminists who do hate men, simply because anti-feminists also dislike feminists who hate men?
  • Do lesbians all hate men, and are all women who hate men lesbians?

In regard to the last item, I don't think anyone expects all gay men to hate women, or thinks that all men who hate women are gay.




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Kirsten Tynan - 1/14/2005

"however: individualist feminism promotes the above view, but also the view that the only substantial barriers to following one's dreams are the coercive measures of the state, and that private structures of oppression or intolerance are something one should not be concerned with."

I would like to add to the comments- I see no basis for this claim, but on the other hand I do see evidence of just the opposite. Where are you getting this? Can you quote anything from an individualist feminist to back this up?


M.D. Fulwiler - 1/14/2005

Thank you Aeon for your good comments. Well said.

And btw folks, I am finished with my name calling tirade against Dworkin. I've had my tantrum and am prepared to move on. :-)

I'm a libertarian because I'd like to eliminate governmental coercion. That's it. Trying to get people to behave more nicely towards each other is a good goal, but it is outside the realm of libertarianism.


Aeon J. Skoble - 1/14/2005

This: "individualist feminism promotes the above view, but also the view that the only substantial barriers to following one's dreams are the coercive measures of the state, and that private structures of oppression or intolerance are something one should not be concerned with." is a caricature of libertarianism. No libertarian, feminist or otherwise, says this. What's sui generis about state coercion is that there's no remedy for it. If I get beat up by my neighbor, our legal system offers a redress, backed up by general social sentiment. If the state threatens me or violates me, it's presumptively legal and generally perceived as right. Private parties may be rights-violative, but they can't be oppressive, since there is a remedy. Saying that "only the state is oppressive" isn't the same as saying that "only the state does wrong things to people." The former is probably analytic (I'm not wedded to that), but the latter is silly, and not the view of anyone I have ever heard of.


Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/14/2005

I'm not clear on why individualist feminism can't include an understanding of the negative effect of nonstate power structures. Perhaps it hasn't adequately done so in its modern libertarian incarnation, but need that necessarily be so in the future? I do believe that is the point of the essay, for libertarian (individualist) feminism to learn what is of value in 19th century and radical feminism without losing its libertarian character.


Jeanine Ring - 1/14/2005

Well, I can;t speak for Msr. Long, so the above are simply how I myself would address these issues.

but: I am an *individualist* in the sense that I think people should think for themselves and follow their dreams as individuals.

however: individualist feminism promotes the above view, but also the view that the only substantial barriers to following one's dreams are the coercive measures of the state, and that private structures of oppression or intolerance are something one should not be concerned with.

If one believes, as I *very* do, that nonstate structures of power can crush and limit an individual's dreams as much as the coercive restrictions on the state, and that patriarchy is one of these structures, then the conclusion becomes that one *individualist* grounds, *individualist feminism*, demanding the minialization of a critique of social sructures of oppression, is very unsatisfactory.

such at least my own views.

More generally, I should note that when "individualism" is taken to not simply to mean independence of spirit but a positive belief that ther only significant harm done to oneself is the coercive, and thus collapses all intolerance, bigorty, prejudice, and exclusion, into others' 'personal preference', than I think "individualism" may itself be a troublesome concept and political program.

regards,

Jeanine Ring
)(*)(


Aeon J. Skoble - 1/14/2005

I'm not as much worried about feminist hatred of men as feminist hatred of (politically opposed) women. Try offering a course for Women's Studies featuring Ayn Rand some time, see how many friends you make. Here's what I still don't get about Roderick and Charles' paper: according to them, or at least to Roderick, individualism is correct. Why, then, doesn't it _follow_ that individualist _feminism_ is correct?


Jeanine Ring - 1/14/2005

Hmmm.... I much agree that 'hatred of men' is usually used to dismiss feminisrs and especially radical feminists (those who desire systematic social change), and most unjustly. This should stop, and some of the most radical feminists- such as Emma Goldman, Simone de Beauviour, Shulamith Firestone, and Ellen Willis, are utterly guiltless of hatred for men.

Nevertheless, I think there are strains within feminism that advocate forms of sex essentialism which, while not always expressed as hatred, have encouraged a portion- only a portiuon, not the majority, of radical feminists to indulge in hateful forms of identity politics. And even if 'man-hating' charges are usually false and I have no wish to give credence to them, simple truth requires saying that there is an identifiable group of radical feminists who do hate men.

I know this personally because the same segment of the women's community has actively persecuted transgenders, sex workers, BDSM women, femme (and sometimes butch) lesbians, and the same intolerance sometimes extends to straight women and quite often to men.

Janice Raymond, for instance, who is on the board of the SF Womens' Building, wrote a book titled 'the Transgender Empire' claiming that transgender people are creations of patriarchy and just men trying to dilute the womens' movement with a poisonous alien presence- as a result some lesbian empoyers and organization adopted 'womyn-born-womyn' policies excluding transgenders. Others have denounced sex worker rights activists such as Annie Sprinkle, Carol Leigh, Carol Queen, and Robyn Few as servants of undefined male 'pimps', in some shockingly dishonest smear campaigns- one of which likely stopped a recent quasi-decriminalization initiative in Berkeley. Adrienne Rich's discussion of compulsory heterosexuality, while valuable in many respects, also denounced straight women as not properly 'woman-identified'; this 'sleeping with the enemy' principle is quite seasoned in the movement. The dislike for femmes and butches as politically impure due to their psuedo-conventional personality types goes back at least to Ti-Grace Atkinson. And feminists of a Wiccan or Pagan bent, particularly eco-feminists, portray women as innately more connected to the Earth and less expolitive and aggressive than men; Dianic Wiccans specifically worship a female figure in strict exclusion of male presence. Ass to this a generalized but real influence of postmodern philosophy which performatively essentializes gender as 'women's ways of knowing' or such and one has a precise formula to encourage an attitude of us vs. them, which continual purges of purity of the 'us'.

This strain is NOT identical with radical feminism, and is thankfully definitely receding here in its womb of San Francisco, but PC feminism did terrible witch-hunting within the Women's community as well as outside it.

Right wingers did not make up the stories of intolerant feminists, even if they both exaggerate and illogically association opposition to patriarchy as such with some feminist' bigotry. The reason is that when people such as Adrienne Rich, Mary Daly, or Janice Raymond *have* cultural power- within the Women's movement, they have encouraged a culture of intolerance. Theirs is not the only voice within feminism or radical feminism, but it is there- and the same people who really do accuse men blanketly of being oppressors are quick to accuse those not suitably pure enough within their own ranks.

The existence of revolutionary Terrors does not justify the defenders of monarchy or the aspiring Bonapartes, or even the Edmund Burkes- but still, the Terror is real and is a serious evil to grapple with.

As for Dworkin herself- I would say that for the most part her theoretical premises are actually quite formally univeralist, but in terms of the substance and general sense of address in her writings, she does bear some serious responsibility for the kind of intolerant politics that have surfaced in the feminist movement. That doesn't mean that all of her theories- such as her analysis of rape, female beauty, sexual intercourse, or right-wing reaction, are wrong. I see Dworkin much as I see conservative libertarians with a technically good basic philosophy but a lousy cultural attitude. In both cases, I would like to see the ideas taken more seriously, but without the unclean cultural baggage.

my regards,

Jeanine Ring )(*)(


Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/14/2005

"I see no evidence of systematic hatred of men in the feminist movement."

Not even among a subgroup of the feminist movement? In any case, I am inclined to suspect that the case of man-hating feminists is overblown. They aren't the ones I'm worried about though; it is the feminists with collectivist, egalitarian, and liberal agendas that I'm worried about. And it is because of them that it will take me a while to warm up to any particular feminist. I wouldn't say these kinds of feminist are unworthy of rational response though; it is precisely these that require rational libertarian responses.

Though I sympathize with the feminist movement and I have even found value in some of their work (including in Long's and Johnson's essay, most of which I like and agree with), much radical and liberal feminist rhetoric makes me uncomfortable. In a number of the quotes cited by Johnson from radical feminists such as Dworkin, I have seen overblown and unsupported sweeping generalizations that almost beg to be interpreted as collectivist statements. Similar sweeping generalizations made by libertarians also tend to make me uncomfortable. I would rather both movements avoided such imprecise rhetoric as much as possible.


Roderick T. Long - 1/14/2005

> Do some feminists, in fact, hate men
> as a class?

Who knows? Maybe. There are a lot of feminists out there, and I don't know them all. But the charge of "hating all men as a class" that is so often raised against feminists is, in my experience, generally based on uncharitable and exaggerated interpretations of what feminists actually said. I see no evidence of systematic hatred of men in the feminist movement.

Can you find feminist remarks that could be interpreted as hatred of all men? Sure, in the same way that you can find libertarian remarks that could be interpreted as hatred of all government officials. But would it be a charitable interpretation? Do most (even many) libertarians hate all government officials as a class? Do you, e.g., hate your local probate judge? I doubt it. All I'm asking is that libertarians apply the same charity to feminist rhetoric that they would want applied to their own rhetoric.

> Should anyone, feminist or otherwise,
> hate male human beings as a class?

Of course not.

> If some feminists do hate men, and
> hatred of men as a class is not
> justified, might those feminists
> who do not hate men have valid
> reasons to avoid alliances with
> those who do?

Of course.

> Must feminists who
> do not hate men as a class show
> solidarity with feminists who do
> hate men, simply because anti-feminists
> also dislike feminists who hate men?

Of course not.

But all those questions are relevant only on the assumption that there's a substantial faction of man-haters in the feminist movement, and I regard that assumption as ungrounded.

> Do lesbians all hate men,

Of course not.

> and are all women who hate men lesbians?

Of course not.

I'm not sure what those last two questions are meant to be getting at.

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