As an academic writing tutor, I read essays every day on different topics. These topics range from scientific to cultural to business-related. For the most part, I enjoy learning and engaging with viewpoints that differ from my own. However, in recent years I noticed a trend in the rise of the Anti-Feminist: “I Hate Feminism”, mainly students writing about feminism, how they hate it, and their belief of how “misandrists” destroy the family unit. Though some of the students arguing this were men, most of the students saying, “I hate feminism” were women.
It was during these sessions that I learned about a newly coined term called misandry. Mexico, a dictionary powered by Oxford University, defines it as “a dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men.” Some may say that this belief arose because of feminism; unfortunately, this invalid argument has been on repeat since “the dawn of the women’s movement: By empowering women, critics argue, feminists are oppressing men.”
Initially, I thought my tutees were influenced by their Middle Eastern (ME) and Desi upbringing (I tutored at a university in the ME). However, as I researched the term and the concept of misandry further, I realized that anti-feminist communities exist worldwide. What is more shocking is that women were once fierce feminists (such as Erin Pizzey), denouncing feminism, saying that it has become far too radical. They claim that in its quest for equality, feminism discriminates against men.
For a while, I struggled to comprehend why people, especially women, could believe such a theory. The more I talked to my friends and family about the topic, the more I realized we defined feminism differently. For me, feminism is “the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes,” but they (meaning my friends and family) defined it as “the advocacy of women’s rights and sexual liberation.”
They seemed to have associated sexual immorality with feminism. The women in my family argued that a woman’s role is to take care of the children; they asked, “how can she do that if she is having sex with every man in the community?” The men agreed and further argued that the family unit is destroyed due to her sexual immorality. Their definition of feminism enables them to believe that it is purely about women. As such, it must be destructive. With how widespread feminism has become, I had expected that people would be up-to-date with its development. I was wrong to assume so. I wondered, though, how many people still believed feminism only advocated for women’s rights?
A Definition Change
Many of us were taught that feminism is a social justice movement that fights against women’s patriarchal oppression in society. Although feminism did start as such, it has drastically changed over time.
For instance, as our society progressed, it became apparent how patriarchy negatively impacts men. As such, the scope of who feminism fought for expanded to include men’s rights and needs, with feminist figures like Betty Friedan advocating for their rights.
In her book, “The Feminine Mystique,” argued that men are not villains. They, too, were victims of the patriarchy, which haunts women. She explains that the societal pressures to provide negatively impacts men. As a solution, she posits that women in the workforce help to alleviate that pressure.
Consequently, the working definition of feminism used now is this, “[feminism is] the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.” Note how it says “the sexes” and not just “women.” This definition is not only inclusive of men, but it is also inclusive of the rights of people who choose to identify as gender non-binary and trans. It is too vague enough to include advocating for queer rights.
But this change is either not known to these so-called “anti-feminists,” or they deem it minuscule or performative at best. Merely stating that you advocate for men’s rights and doing it are two different things.
Radical Feminism and Patriarchal Ideology
The perceived existence of radical feminism has derided the feminism message and fight for gender equality. The Rise of the Anti-Feminist: “I Hate Feminism” is only the result of the misinformation. As a result, hundreds, thousands, and possibly even millions of men and women self-identify as anti-feminists fighting against “misandry.”
Those who advocate for eliminating misandry fail to recognize the sovereignty of patriarchal ideology in our society. These anti-feminists also fail to understand how pervasive and normalized patriarchal ideology is. To further explain, hegemonic ideology is normalized to the point where we do not consider our choices as ideological; instead, we deem them natural and a part of our everyday life.
This failure leads to faulty arguments about gender bias in custody battles. I do not mean to devalue their concerns. However, the argument mentioned above is a result of patriarchal ideology and misogyny, not misandry.
By gender stereotypes, women “are” caretakers and nurturers, so judges may be more inclined to give women custody of their children rather than their fathers during a divorce case. However, one can say that since men are not expected to raise their children, they may inadvertently form stronger relationships with their mothers. So if the time ever comes, the likelihood of choosing to live with their mother is high.
The Rise of the Anti-Feminist: “I Hate Feminism” and The Internalized Misogyny
As a result, misogynistic beliefs regarding parental and gender roles distance men from their children. This distance and lack of emotional availability also disadvantage them during a custody battle. Can we afford both men and women a sufficient degree of flexibility to feel at ease in their roles, as well as negotiate household and childcare arrangements that best suit their families?