That's not your call, feminists | HBR Talk 125


One of the more difficult hurdles involved in discussing men’s issues is the knee-jerk reactions we get from feminists. This is, in part, due to an aversion to having their political and social power challenged. As the self-assumed arbiters of human rights considerations, they get very heated about any criticism directed at feminism, regardless of any evidence the critic presents.

In general, the movement’s grassroots is quite disconnected from their academic and political leaders. They’re heavily dosed with victim narratives in classes influenced by interdisciplinary studies, books they’ve been advised to read by their feminist peers, and pop culture media, which is being increasingly re-shaped around spoon-feeding political correctness to the public, but they never seem to be able to explain the underlying logic behind any of it to a nonfeminist.

Most of these folks know little to nothing about their movement’s history, changes organized feminist groups have lobbied into law and how those changes have impacted the public, or even the origins of the nastier bits of rhetoric the movement has normalized among modern women, and the damage that rhetoric has done. 

Of course they can’t articulately explain it to you. They’re just loyal to the label, and they will remain so, because that allows them to feel as though there is a set of prejudices they’re justified in harboring, while still considering themselves righteous and virtuous. As I pointed out in my article, “‘Nice’ feminism: How a hate movement uses its grassroots against men,” this behavior is due to that human tendency to care more about perceiving oneself as right rather than actually being right. It’s a loyalty you see in politics all the time, treating an ideology the same way one treats their school athletic teams. They’re not feminists – they’re supporters of team feminist, many of whom don’t have any real grasp on the mechanics or method of the game.

When exposed to information that contradicts their blind devotion, many of these loyalists respond by getting stuck in a repeating loop of shock, denial and anger. They are unable to move past that reaction to examine the information they’ve been given, so they label the messenger a blasphemer the only way they know how: By accusing him of misogyny.

Another contributing factor to this reaction is that feminists don’t understand practical compassion.

They treat compassion as a zero-sum game in which every measure of it that is afforded to men must be taken away from women. This is partly due to their treatment of social expectations around personal responsibility as a lack of compassion for the individual. Therefore, when compassion for men means recognizing that women can and do engage in malicious or careless acts, and those acts affect the people around them, feminists respond as if they are allergic to the discussion. Again, they’ll turn to allegations of blasphemy: If what’s bad when men do it is not ok when women do it, you’re a misogynist!

That attitude couldn’t be more wrong. Exempting an individual from expectations of personal responsibility is a cruelty, not a kindness - one which dooms her to spend her entire life making the same mistakes with the same results over and over, while unable to identify the reasons behind her lack of progress toward her life goals, or why she can’t maintain healthy relationships. Caring about adversity faced by the individual doesn’t preclude helping her recognize her own part in it. It requires doing so in order to provide her with some very important tools. Practical compassion involves knowing the difference between supporting an individual’s successes, and enabling her repetition of unnecessary failure by preventing her from learning from the consequences of her own choices. 

Another factor that feminists miss is the individual’s relationship to her community. A big part of the importance of personal accountability is that within a community, every person’s choices have the potential to impact on other community members. Even if the individual were to not care about that impact, it, in turn, has social consequences for her. Nobody wants to work with, befriend, or even live around an inconsiderate asshole. Habitually being one can cost an individual the majority of the benefits of being part of a community - social engagement, working relationships, and family relationships all suffer, leaving the asshole more isolated, and less likely to be trusted, valued, and considered for assistance initiatives or work opportunities. Coddling someone’s lack of consideration for everyone around her out of pity for her aversion to criticism might enable you to brag about being the only person qualified to handle her, but do you really want to trap her under the label “asshole,” and yourself in the dubious position of asshole wrangler? Practical compassion means knowing the difference between supporting an individual’s self-esteem, and enabling her to maintain a set of character flaws that prevent her from effectively connecting with the community around her.

The complete picture of compassion is one of consideration for the individual’s needs without smothering personal agency, personal accountability, and healthy community engagement. A compassionate friend or ally doesn’t always do another person’s restoration or advancement for her, but instead mostly helps her gain the tools she will need to restore or advance herself. This is practical compassion.

Once these factors are recognized as vital parts of the equation, it becomes harder to fall for the zero-sum illusion. There is no limit to the exercise of practical compassion, and no reason why it cannot be applied to both sexes with equal enthusiasm. Feminists, view this phenomenon through their ideological filter as “giving men a pass,” and “blaming women.” Of course, they label anyone with that attitude “misogynists.”

Because they lack concern or consideration for anything our movement does that doesn’t involve them, these really are the only ways most feminists have to interact with us. As a result of their own misconceptions and faulty logic, they end up proclaiming misogyny (as they see it) to be a central pillar of the men’s rights movement, and a major defining feature of antifeminism. From there, it’s only another short step for them to label anyone they encounter who says anything they don’t like a misogynist, and therefore an antifeminist or men’s rights advocate. 

Feminists get very upset when their movement is criticized over anti-male discriminatory law and policy that exists because of its organized initiatives, like the National Organization for Women’s opposition to shared parenting, or because of academic feminist lies like the gendered rape culture narrative based on manufactured statistics from Mary P. Koss’s deliberately biased research. Whenever these things are discussed, many feminists’ first response of is to vehemently deny association with these aspects of their ideology’s impact on society, often while simultaneously citing the same deliberately biased sources to excuse the law and policy for which they deny responsibility. Rather than take the opportunity to oppose such discriminatory conditions, they will play victim of the critic’s awareness of feminism’s connection to them, and angrily demand that he cease talking about it, or at least stop calling its creators, the academic and political leaders of the second wave, “feminists.” 

Meanwhile, they label every random guy they deem guilty of thoughtcrime an MRA, claim those “examples” prove that the movement is misogynistic, and use them as excuses to continue demonizing men, promoting anti-male discriminatory initiatives, and ignoring the very real issues the men’s rights movement exists to address.

But feminism is TOTALLY not about hating men, or imposing a victim identity on women, right? 

Become a patron to

Unlock 772 exclusive posts
Be part of the community
Listen anywhere
Connect via private message