This is a bit outside of my usual remit, but I’m going to post it anyway.
You know the meme of “Ironic misandry”? It’s very clever. Basically, you write a tweet/post/status that says “Men are ugly and smell bad” or “Men are stupid” or “Men are fucking disgusting” or “I wish that all men would just vanish, forever” or “Kill all men” and then nobody is allowed to criticise you because it’s ironic and it’s just a marginalised person letting off steam. Any complaints about the post are responded to with “Lol delicious male tears” or “Fragile baby male ego”, and the complainers are judged as hating women and being basically everything thats wrong with society.
That’s exactly how it works, by the way. I’m disabled, so every now and then I can just smack an ablebodied person at-random in the legs with my cane, and nobody is allowed to tell me that I’m being a prick. Enough ablebodied people have hurt me over the years, so I’m allowed to just scream obscenities at them en masse because, hey, they must all be guilty, right?
You make an ironic misandry post which says “Men are worthless”, and nowhere does it actually say that you don’t really believe it, or that it’s just a joke. The meme of “men are worthless” is often a running theme through the blog/feed/timeline of the person saying it, so it’s very easy to believe that the person saying it really believes it. Justifications are usually either “I’m saying it because I’ve been hurt by so many men and thus fear them!” or “I’m only joking, nobody really hates all men, it’s just an expression of frustration at the patriarchy. Nothing to do with you.”
But, no. If I said “Dogs are worthless” you could reasonably assume that I don’t like dogs, rather than that I was annoyed by the social convention of dog ownership. If I said “Neckties are worthless” you could reasonably assume that I really disliked ties, rather than that I was just bothered by the need to wear them on formal occassions. Shouting “Men are gross!” and then retreating back to “I didn’t mean it like that!” when you’re pulled up for it is nothing but intellectual dishonesty – Either be clear in the first place (these posts are so rote that they obviously didn’t just happen to phrase it badly, they picked their words) or don’t post at all.
So why does it bother me so much?
They put up their post that says “Men are worthless”, and lean back in their chair, satisfied. “Ah,” they say “I have made myself feel less trapped by the patriarchy for a couple of seconds, and I haven’t really hurt anyone, because under patriarchy men are not oppressed therefore cannot structurally be harmed by my writing”.
The post is read by men.
By disabled men, who already know that they’re worthless because they’re not physically strong, or cant hold down a job, or don’t have families of their own.
By mentally ill men, who already know that they’re worthless because they cry over every little thing, or can’t be the pillar of emotional support that they’re meant to be.
By trans men, who already know that they’re worthless because they’re about as far from the “ideal man” as it’s possible to get.
By gender-non-conforming men, who already know that they’re worthless because they have to hide their non-conformity to varying degrees.
By non-white men, who already know that they’re worthless because they’re attacked by racists all the time.
By poor men, who already know that they’re worthless because worth in our society is basically always measured in pounds sterling.
By men with low self-esteem, who already know that they’re worthless because that’s basically how low self-esteem works.
“Ah!” you say “But none of these people are attacked for being men! They’re attacked for being disabled or non-white or trans, et cetera, so it’s fine.”
A thought experiment: You’re blonde, and you’ve never been bullied for being blonde. Its always been thought of as either neutral or vaguely desireable. You are, however, gay, and have been bullied for it for your entire life. Being blonde, though, that’s something that you’re happy and comfortable with and you never really have to think about it, even though the rest of your life is a bit of a minefield. You come home one day to find that your entire internet community – The community that’s supposed to be progressive and accepting, not the community of shock-jocks and 1970s bricklayers – is making blonde jokes. Constant blonde jokes. Blondes are stupid, blondes are gullible, blondes are morally-bankrupt golddiggers, blondes are basically no better than animals. Do you say “Oh well, at least they’re not calling me a fag!” or is it just one more bit of upsetting pressure in a life that’s already basically full of it? Even if the reasoning was “Oh well, blondes never have to buy hair bleach, so we’re just venting frustration at that!” would you not feel a little bit irritated and probably want to ask them to stop it?
In saying “Don’t get offended by it, you’re not oppressed for being men, you’re oppressed for being disabled” you’re basically saying “Don’t identify with the fact that you’re a man”. Which, well, is kind of what the patriarchy says to “failed men” as well. Crippled? Ha, forget about being thought of as male, you’re now a sexless lump in a wheelchair. Mentally ill? Isn’t that kind of effeminate, bro? Trans? You’re a woman really. I could go on.
For men that are struggling to cling onto their masculinity – Which is an important part of a lot of men’s identities, just like how being a woman is an important part of a lot of women’s identities – being repeatedly told by the social stratum that they’re part of that men are disgusting and pointless and horrible and should all die is really damaging.
You may note that I keep saying “Their social circle” or “The demographic that they’re part of”, and that’s because I keep wanting to talk about the kinds of people that make blanket statements about gender. We all know that “I hate all women” and “All women are manipulative and evil” and things like that are really common memes, and they’ve had far-reaching effects in society for a really long time. But things are getting better – It’s now widely held that saying that sort of thing is a sign of being a complete swine, and people end up taking sensitivity and diversity courses if they get caught doing it too often, and just generally losing friends. It’s a mark of being retrograde and, in most circles, of being bigoted.
The problem is that ironic misandry is largely practised by well-educated, young, often safely middle-class, often white feminists. People who claim to be all about being progressive, about moving society forwards, about making the world a better place just by being in it. These are people who raelly dominate in online feminist discourse. And thus when anyone wants to spend time in feminist circles, they have to contend with a constant barrage of (ironic!) hate, negativity and bigotry that they’re not allowed to respond to (Because male tears are just delicious, amirite?).
So feminist discourse is being overran by people who, for basically their own amusement, are making people suffer for no good reason, and are making feminism inaccessible to any man that doesn’t live up to the (very old, very patriarchal) stereotype of “Ha, men don’t have insecurities, they can just shrug it off”.
And no, that’s not “Only an ally with conditions, therefore not an ally”. That’s just common-sense “If someone is trying to understand your point, and supports your movement, don’t deliberately make it more difficult for them to join your movement.”
I’m pissed off, I’m hurt, I’ve spent most of the day in a morphine fog and throwing up into a saucepan since I woke up at about a 9 on the pain scale, and I’m sick of seeing basic bigotry being thought of as sparkly funtimes for everyone that matters. Because that’s basically saying that I, and people like me, don’t matter.
I’ve probably got more to say, feel free to argue the toss in the comments.