Resisting Masculinity: The Importance Of Feminism To Men

By Robert Jensen

Published in XY online; ZNet · February, 2002

[First published in ZNet Commentary, February 22, 2002.]

Feminists hate men. How do we know this? Because it is repeated over and over in the media and by right-wing politicians and other so-called guardians of the moral values of the society.

If feminists hate men, then it stands to reason that men should stay clear of — or do their best to attack — feminism and feminists.

I have been involved in feminist politics and scholarship for more than a dozen years. I have known a lot of feminists, many of them radical and many of them lesbians. One thing is true of all the feminists I have known:

None of them hated men.

These women want to hold men accountable for their behavior. They often are critical of patterns in male behavior, especially sexual behavior. They want to change society to eliminate men’s violence. But none of them hated me. None of them hated men.

Why not? Because feminism is about the liberation of women, not hating men. And in the liberation of women, feminism offers men a shot at being human beings.

Although men often talk tough and try to be masculine in the way the culture defines it — competitive, aggressive, dominant. But underneath all that, I believe that most men yearn for something less masculine and more human, for a different way to connect to others and be in the world.

I believe the best route to abandoning masculinity and claiming our humanity is feminism. Men can start by reading what feminists say about feminism. Marilyn Frye’s essays on “Oppression” and “Sexism” in THE POLITICS OF REALITY are a good place to begin.

Read also what feminists have to say about men. Andrea Dworkin, a radical feminist writer and activist who has spent her life working against sexual violence, is often portrayed as the most man-hating of feminists.
But listen to what she said to, and about, men when she addressed a men’s conference and asked them to work for 24 hours without rape. In her book LETTERS FROM A WAR ZONE, she writes:

“I don’t believe rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.”

Dworkin is called a man-hater not because she hates men but because such slurs are a way to marginalize her work. In that same speech, she went on to challenge men to take responsibility for themselves:

“[Women] do not want to do the work of helping you to believe in your humanity. We cannot do it anymore. We have always tried. We have been repaid with systematic exploitation and systematic abuse. You are going to have to do this yourselves from now on and you know it.”

We do know it, and it is time to act on that knowledge, not just for women but for ourselves.