A professor from Northeastern University recently wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times entitled Why I Hate Men. It was a kind of screed outlining all of the worst traits of the male half of the population and lamenting the unfair inequality of women. The author argued that it was time for all women to begin telling the truth about the horrific treatment that they have historically been forced to endure so that much needed changes might be made. She furthermore insisted that all of us who proclaim our support for feminism stop making excuses for the males who have, according to her, held us down.
I found myself feeling increasingly uneasy as I read her arguments and wanting to debate so many of her points. Mostly I wondered what had happened to her that had made her so angry. I suspect that if truth were ever told she would have a heartbreaking story in her past that had to do with abusive treatment from a man. Otherwise I can’t imagine why she would bear such a grudge against an entire group of humans.
First of all, I was always taught that the best way of living was to learn from the past, put it behind, and then look to the future. All of this dredging up of horrific acts committed by ancestors from another time reminds me of those folks who run around in hair shirts and have whips to beat themselves as penance just for having human frailties. I’ve always found such guilt trips to be nonproductive. To quote a feminist who recently ran for President of the United States, “At this point what difference does it make?” What was done was done. Now move on with resolve to do better.
Additionally, indicting the entire other half of society is akin to those times in school when the teacher punished the entire class for something that only a handful of students actually did. I recall with great disgust the times when I was subjected to a group detention or harangue and then told by the teacher that she knew that I had not been involved. I always thought that if that was the case, then why didn’t she leave me out of the indignity of the affair? It is not just bad psychology to use such methods, it also bad science. We all understand that we are a collection of individuals, each of whom differs from one another. While we might have similar traits, it is unlikely that we will all behave in the exact same manner simply because of gender.
It is true that there have been some very bad men in the world, and there are still far too many to this very day. There are men who are violent with women. There are men who are truly sexist in their thinking. There are men who are unfair to women. At the same time every one of us know men who are kind, loving, and eager to help everyone to be his/her very best.
I frustrate my husband from time to time, but in close to fifty years of living with him he has been mostly patient and loving with me. He has encouraged me to pursue my dreams more than any other person I have ever known. He is proud of my accomplishments and does not feel the need to be competitive with me or to somehow outshine me.
Is he an exception to the rule? I think not. I can name hundreds of wonderful men like him just from my own small circle of family, friends and acquaintances. In fact I would argue that the oafs and mysoginists are more the exception than the rule. We are horrified by their behavior because it is so unlike most of the men that we know.
Certainly we need to do a better job of protecting women from anyone who would do them harm. We must take firm measures to send the message that acts of abuse are not ever to be tolerated. We might also work harder to narrow the gaps between men and women in their careers. We have already achieved a great sense of progress in sending more women to college than men, but we must be careful that those same women do not emerge with their degrees intent on wreaking vengeance on the males.
I have six grandsons who are true gentlemen. They have learned how to treat all people from both their mothers and their fathers. They have terrific role models in that regard. I would be crushed if I thought that they were going to be hated even before someone knew the essence of their character. It would worry me if I thought that they were going to be denied possibilities simply because they are male. The way to reach true equality is not to take away from one group to give to another. That just creates yet another lopsided situation. The best way to even the playing field is to provide everyone with the education and the training that will ensure that their talents will be utilized to the fullest extent.
I am who I am and where I am today because of a huge cast of both men and women who loved me, taught me, mentored me and pushed me to be the person I wished to be. There was nothing in the equations of my life that was marked with a preponderance of male domination. Both sides were kept equal by people who supported me. I encountered a few men who attempted to use their masculinity to side track me, but other men (and women) always helped me to move right past them.
I have to say in all truth that I love men because I know all too well that they are an important part of our world. We need them and they need us. Together we make a great team. I will continue to fight for more opportunities for women, but I refuse to hate men as a weapon for achieving that goal.