Rethinking Men

What masculinity means in the 21st century.

Why Some People Have Issues With Men: Misandry

Misandry is not in everyone's dictionary but it's out there.

The word misandry may not be in everyone's computer dictionary, but the reality is out there. A reality without a name, however, is largely invisible.


We are all familiar with misogyny: the hatred of women. This has been well-researched for decades. We are less familiar with misandry: the hatred of men, or more broadly, the hatred, fear, anger and contempt of men. It is worth some consideration, especially since misandry is by no means restricted to women. Indeed some of the most male-negative people out there are men.

There are several levels, dimensions and causes of misandry which we need to separate, though they tend to be all stirred up and muddled together in any given discussion.

1. Reality: First we must acknowledge that misandry is partly reality-based to the degree that it is in part a reaction to misogyny, and to the real or perceived oppression of women by men. It's Newtonian physics and the Marxist dialectic: the harder you hit your head against the wall, the harder it hits you back. Misogyny generates misandry.

2. History: Misandry is also based in history, or herstory, or a misreading of history. Most of the major villains of the last century have been male: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Charles Taylor, Ceaucescu, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But the misreading of history is three-fold. First, their villainy was a matter of power not gender. Second, women with absolute power have sometimes been absolute villains too. Third, we cannot ignore the male heroes, including those who fought against the tyrants and eventually deposed them, or died trying. It is poor scholarship and short-term politics to portray men as solely villains and to ignore the evil women (no names mentioned) and the good men.

3. Today: About 90% of all murders in North America are committed by men. The Top 10 on the FBI Most Wanted List are usually all male. Most of the corporate CEOs and CFOs arrested recently from Enron to Bernie Madoff have been men; Martha Stewart was a lowly exception. So there seem to be real grounds for misandry. But this is the Cyclops syndrome: to see with only one eye, in only one dimension and only half of reality (as with #2 above). Cyclops people stereotype the male by the actions of a minority, define the exceptions as the rule, ignore the majority, and ignore too the minority of female villains for a cleaner, clearer (supposedly) picture. Most murderers are male but most males are not murderers, and some women are. This is not rocket science. But misandry is less about reality than politics.

4. Personal: Some misandry is likely to be grounded, like misogyny, in bitter personal experiences. Many women say that that they have had unpleasant personal experiences with men: fathers, brothers, lovers, co-workers, bosses etc. But I suppose that we have all been hurt by members of the opposite sex, and by members of our own sex too; however, to extrapolate from a minority to the general is surely unfortunate, even if understandable.

How prevalent misandry and misogyny are today in Euro-America is not clear. I have not found any gender attitude survey statistics. It is also not clear whether misandry is grounded more in historical understanding or personal experience or gender politics; but certainly misandry is deep-rooted in our culture.

5. Political Demonization: This new sexism, reverse sexism, is widespread in feminist and pro-feminist literature - or propaganda, one might say, - but largely ignored. One does not criticize feminism! But a fair number of feminists have criticized men in sexist terms. Marilyn French called men "the enemy." Germaine Greer wrote that that: "women have no idea how much men hate them." Betty Friedan, amazingly, referred to suburban domestic life as a "comfortable concentration camp" for women, and to their husbands a SS prison guards. Rosalind Miles described men as "the death sex." Valerie Solanas wrote "The SCUM Manifesto", the Society for Cutting Up Men, and Robin Morgan obligingly publicized this hate literature. Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" won the Pulitzer and is totally misandric, as are the best-sellers by Terry MacMillan. The movies were also were also very popular among women. Misandry sells. Why these black women should demonize black men, compounding sexism and racism, I don't know. It just reinforces racism.

6. Angelization: The political demonization of men is complemented by the angelization of women in a moral bi-polar totally sexist evaluation of gender: women/good and men/bad. Elizabeth Cady Stanton stated in 1848: "In my opinion, he [man] is infinitely women's inferior in every moral virtue." Maria Montessori: "Perhaps...the reign of women is approaching, when the enigma of her anthropological superiority will be deciphered. Woman was always the custodian of human sentiment, morality and honor." And as I noted earlier, it is not just women who are male-negative. The anthropologist Ashley Montagu explained that: "Woman is the creator and fosterer of life; man has been the mechanizer and destroyer of life...Women love the human race; men behave as if they were, on the whole, hostile to it...It is the function of women to teach men how to be human." His emphasis. Women as human: men as subhuman, again. Then again, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, the President of Liberia, was asked recently: "Do you think Africa will be peaceful and war-free if it has more women in leadership positions?" She replied in classic male-negative vein. "I have no doubt of that...[women have]
a sensitivity to human-kind. Maybe it comes from being a mother" (Time 11 May 09:6).

7. War: Misandry escalated in the 1990s.The battle of the sexes became the war against women. Susan Faludi subtitled "Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women." It was mostly about media criticism of feminism - the "war" was sheer hyperbole - but it won another Pulitzer. Marilyn French went further and wrote "The War against Women." In Canada after Marc Lepine killed 14 women in a school shooting, the federally funded Committee on the Status of Women submitted a report entitled "The War against Women" citing the 117 women murdered in the previous year but ignoring double that number of men murdered in that same year. Misandry again, ignoring male victims for political purposes, and the downstream consequences for men and women have to be serious....as in:

8. Law: The homicidal war against men kills mostly men. Men are the principal victims of homicide. But never mind reality. Politics is all. The U.S. government passed the "Violence against Women Act in 1994, and this was followed soon afterwards by similar legislation in Canada. Forget the far greater violence against men and, especially in the States, black men, and in Canada First Nations men. There is a massive disjunction between legislation and need, thanks in part to our double standards and the Cyclops syndrome of selective perception...and also the failure of men to "man up." It is not only the Criminal Justice system which discriminates against men, so does the health system, the education system and the welfare system. It is all consequential to this same misandry. (see references below)

9. Popular Culture: Misandry is now institutionalized in popular culture. Joke books, fridge magnets, T-shirts, coffee mugs, newspaper cartoons, TV sitcoms all deride all men all the time. There is no equal opportunity contempt, which in some respects is probably a good thing, but one wonders about the need for contempt. T-shirts say: "Women Rule. Men Drool" and "Boys are smelly. Throw rocks at them." - an advocacy of violence which would be unconscionable were the sexes reversed. "Dead Men Don't Rape." Nor do most living men, of course. "So many men. So little ammunition." "What do you call a man with half a brain? Gifted." And so it continues. One joke book is titled "Men and other Reptiles" and another is "101 Reasons why a cat is better than a man." The consequences of such male-negativity are not clear, but such negative affirmations seem likely to have, and to have had over the decades, a negative impact on both sexes: self-loathing and/or a resistance-generated misogyny among men, and contempt for men among women.

10. The Media: Our sit-coms portray men as bumbling fools and idiots and usually overweight, with the women as sensible, together and attractive. Everybody might love Raymond, but he's an idiot. The same idiots are re-played every night: Beavis and Butthead, Trailer Park Boys, The Simpsons, Home Improvement...We may laugh at such sexism, not recognizing it as such, but we do not laugh at racism nor sezist misogyny. To appropriate Jean Kilbourne's film on advertisements that objectified women, they are "killing us softly." We are all constantly being bombarded with messages that men are stupid and it would be surprising if we were not internalizing them. Sit-coms may be comedies but watching them is like going to school: we learn the values and attitudes being taught.

11. High Culture: Sit-coms might be defined as low culture, but misandry is everywhere. Dr. Phil (Ph.D.) put on a show recently: "What's Wrong with Men?" and he found some pretty miserable specimens of manhood to destroy and despise in public, almost entirely a female public. But surely equity demands equal time for "What's Wrong with Women?" He has had some pretty miserable specimens on his show occasionally. But no. This is misandry for fun and profit. Equity might also demand a show: "In Praise of Men!" But no.
Similarly Time Magazine published these jewels from their journalists: "we have plenty of examples of...economies in which women do all the arduous work while men sit around smoking and pontificating in coffee houses and barber shops" (Caldwell, 24.8.09:23); and another is talking about the new fMRI machines which scan brain activity: "it may be that boys are cads because they are not wired to be the other way" Cloud, 17 July 2009). So brain functions are morally bad for males, cads all, but good for women: angels all. And both these journalists are men.

12. Sexism: Michael Kimmel, who owns Men's Studies in the States, is particularly misandric, opening his book "Manhood in America" (1996) with a long list of male villains - not a hero, hard working man, good father, Nobel Peace Prize winner, not a useful Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein, Gandhi, Mandela, King, Carnegie Medal winner in sight. It's amazing. Then in "Men's Lives" he adds more villains and this suggestion: "Perhaps we should slap a warning label on penises across the land. WARNING: OPERATING THIS INSTRUMENT CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR AND OTHERS' HEALTH" (2004:565. His emphasis). One wonders if he is wearing this label on his own penis. Does he practice what he preaches? Oh well. But such is the "scholarship" on men these days: dehumanizing.
More: two of the more misandric and dehumanizing observations are the University of Toronto, which hosts the Institute for Women and Gender. Hmm. A number of other universities demonstrate the same misandry. And in March 2009 I received an invitation to attend the Canadian Conference on the Prevention of Domestic Homicides; but it was hosted by the Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children - no mention of men except by implication as committing all the violence but never the victim. Back to the binaries again: men bad, women good; and no awareness that women commit about 10% of all homicides, and 15-25% of the domestic homicides and that (Canadian) mothers commit the majority of domestic homicides of children under 12.

To conclude: misandry is everywhere, culturally acceptable, even normative, largely invisible, taught directly and indirectly by men and women, blind to reality, very damaging and dangerous to men and women in different ways and de-humanizing. This post is to help make it visible and to deal with it - as we have dealt with, or tried to deal with, misogyny, racism and homophobia.

For references, please see my "Re-Thinking Men: Heroes Villains and Victims" (London: Ashgate, 2009); and especially the major works by Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young "Spreading Misandry" "Legalizing Misandry" and "Sanctifying Misandry"(Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001, 2006, 2010).

 

 

 

 

 

Anthony Synnott, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Concordia University in Montreal.

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