It was only about two years ago when I was first introduced to mangoes.
They’d often been a touch out of my price range up until that point – kind of still are – but a mango enthusiast friend of mine finally brought one over so I could try it.
When it was time to cut, I pretty much shouldered my friend aside, took out a butcher knife, and declared I was going to cut it right down the middle and that’s how we’d share it.
Friend: Don’t do that, James.
Me: Why not?
Friend: Mangoes have pits.
Me: No they don’t.
Friend: Yes they do.
Me: No they don’t.
Friend: Yes they do.
Me: No they don’t.
Friend: Yes they do.
This went on for longer than you’d expect two grown adults would allow it to.
It didn’t matter how many times my friend told me that he pretty much ate mangoes on the daily or how much I knew that I’d never had a mango in my life – I still knew I was right. And to prove how right I was, I went ahead and cut that sucker right down the middle.
If you’re familiar with mangoes, you know what happened. And for those of you unfamiliar with mangoes, well, let’s just say things didn’t exactly go my way.
Now, there are two ways I could have responded to my friend’s smug grin: 1) “Um…sorry about that. I guess mangoes really do have pits. I need to back away and let you have at this beast like I should have from the start.”
Or 2) “This mango is a lie. You did this because you hate me, you son of a bitch!”
I chose response number one. Because I knew – finally – to keep my mouth shut. Because I not only knew I was wrong, but knew stepping aside meant I could still have mango on that fine, fine day.
But if I stood there with my arms over my chest, shaking my head while saying, “Nope, nope, nope. Mangos don’t have pits. This mango is just an exception. It’s a rogue mango. This mango lied. This mango didn’t try hard enough.
This mango shouldn’t have looked so tasty if it didn’t want me spilling its awful, pit-filled secrets. This mango just wants to take over bananas as the supreme fruit. I don’t care how many mangos you show me that have pits, mangos don’t have pits,” I wasn’t going to get any mango.
Like, ever. Because my friend would’ve taken about 30 seconds of my bullshit before throwing up his hands and leaving, calling me the most irrational creature on the planet for refusing to acknowledge the proof that was right in front of my face.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m making an analogy here.
Declaring feminism to be man-hating – and therefore not at all worth anybody’s time, no matter what argument or fact feminism brings up – is the earliest, laziest, and longest running defense people have had against the movement for identity equality.
When people won’t listen to feminist movement goals, refuse to momentarily put their preconceived notions aside to truly try and see an issue from someone else’s angle, or falsely engage in feminist conversations and topics just so they can tell feminists how wrong they are (instead of, you know, taking advantage of an opportunity to potentially learn something), they are as irrational and illogical as if I’d stood with my friend and still declared that mango to be pitless.
Seriously. You sound that ridiculous.
Only instead of a simple, little fruit, it’s some major problems. Problems that would leave everyone – yes, everyone – better off if they’d finally recognize, admit to, and contribute their part in rectifying them.
The reasons people accuse feminism of being man-hating fall into three basic categories:
1) to distract non-feminist people’s attention from the real problem (inequality) by having them focus instead on the feminists themselves, 2) to waste feminists people’s energy as they try to defend themselves just as much as call out inequality, and/or 3) because non-feminist people don’t understand feminism and refuse to acknowledge that they don’t understand feminism.
The fact of the matter is: Feminism is a movement geared toward dismantling toxic patriarchies. It is not about hating men, dominating men, or making women the supreme rulers of the planet.
And anybody who believes that is – quite frankly – so stuck in a patriarchal mindset that they have no clue the world could exist beyond one group dominating another. (Also, side note: You’re seriously missing the mark about how many identities feminism actually concerns itself with.)
Patriarchy teaches us domination.
And when those reaping the benefits of patriarchy feel threatened they’ll be taken down, they not only worry about losing the long end of the stick, they worry about being stuck with the short end instead. Because that’s how they’ve always treated everyone else, right?
So they get scared.
Thus the desperate, wildly-grabbing refutes of feminism being a man-hating enterprise run by cackling witches.
But anybody who would take a moment to truly give feminism a try would see that its purpose isn’t to become a role-reversed patriarchy.
It’s here to be anything but.
So let me tell you what feminism is really about.
1. Feminism Is Against Certain Actions, Not Certain People
That truly is the long and short of it.
Just like feminism is against patriarchy and not men, feminism wants to stop certain actions, not certain people.
Taking down a system that just so happens to disproportionately reward and push ahead men in ways they don’t deserve (more than anybody else) or haven’t earned (more than anybody else) is not the same as man-hating.
It’s calling out the obvious.
Right now, men’s general mindset is they’ve earned everything they’ve ever had and deserved everything they’ve ever received and totally have the right to whistle at that young woman in a skirt and leave a threatening letter on that gay guy’s window and refer to that gender fluid person over there as an “it” and tell that homeless person on the corner to get a job and…and…you get the idea.
But it’s not men as some sort of independent group that we should be bashing on in order to make things right. It’s actions like those I just listed.
It’s the nature of this patriarchal beast that allows certain people to view and treat all the others as something other than human.
Those certain people just happen to be men.
2. Feminism Is the Great Equalizer Among Political Identities
Feminism isn’t focused on the benefit of (cis) women – although a lot of people mistakenly (frustratingly, oppressively) think that.
It’s focused on improving the lives of anybody who’s being held down by this toxic system of ours, including, but not limited to: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people; trans gender, gender non-conforming, and gender fluid people; asexual people, polysexual people; people of color; alternatively abled people, physically, mentally, or otherwise; people of less-than-livable economic status; and a ton of other folks.
Do plenty of these categories include people who identify as men? Yup. Which is exactly why, once again, feminism isn’t about hating men.
Feminism is actually here to help men just as much as anyone else, even the ones who currently think they have it made with all of their privilege. Because in the end, patriarchal mindsets are a killer.
This constant pressure to perform, act, appear, and live in incredibly specific ways puts unnecessary amounts of stress on men who try to succeed in these expectations.
That’s why so many breadwinners died by suicide during the Great Depression. It’s why “be a man” is a terrifying mantra to boys. It’s why men are still afraid to admit when they love to bake cookies or watch wedding shows or indulge in anything that’s considered the slightly bit feminine.
Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to deal with any of that bullshit?
3. There Are, Indeed, Some Misguided ‘Feminists’
Okay, so I’m going to admit to a sad truth: There are a select few self-proclaimed feminists out there that really do hate men.
They frequently work to put cis men and trans women (!) down, treat trans men like sisters (!), and put together highly exclusionary events and activities that pretty much makes everybody but themselves feel like shit based on how they’re run. *coughhackMichFest*
Basically, they’re just as bad as the patriarchy when it comes to gender stereotypes and the binary, which is kind of—you know—one of the big no-nos the patriarchy has had going on this whole time.
It’s a primary reason so many people suffer these days, trying to be stuffed into these little squares. Why the hell would women’s liberation think mimicking it would be a good idea?
But that’s not all. These man-hating groups also frequently put out all of the other identities suffering at the hands of the patriarchy. People of color, people with unlivable incomes, dis-abled people – everyone.
While this isn’t exactly a comforting thought to know that they actually disregard everybody who doesn’t fit into their own, highly selective category, it still shows that despite this small group of individuals that prominently spits at the male identity, feminism isn’t about hating men.
Because what these white, well-off, cis women are doing isn’t feminism.
If you haven’t figured that out yet, please start this article over again.
Because this group of individuals is actually just a different version of the patriarchal mindset.
They want to be on top, to have other identities under their thumbs for once, to feel validated in their identity by forcing other people to validate them. They’re quite often racist, transphobic, and generally lack awareness to support anybody who isn’t exactly like them.
To be fair, these types of groups are all ultimately out for the same goal of a better future. But some of them get kind of sidetracked from the real problem.
Anger is a very real, very potent, and very valid response to a lifetime of oppression. But sometimes people become consumed by their anger instead of being able to use it as a fuel to fight for a better tomorrow.
But with our intentions as a great equalizer, feminism must include all oppressed identities, not just a couple because it’s convenient to those particular people.
So there’s one last thing you should know about mangoes: You’re probably going to end up really, really liking them once you try them. And then you’re going to be hooked.
It can be a bit of a lifestyle shift to incorporate mangoes into your life. You may find yourself keeping track of mango news in social media to know immediately when mangoes are in danger, occasionally rallying to try and reduce mango prices so all people who want mango can have it, and using your absolute best dedication and patience to explain to mango-haters why they can’t just cut a mango right down the middle and be done with it.
P.S. That was another analogy.
James St. James is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He works as a transcriber for super-duper secret projects, tends to keep to himself, and is currently pitching a novel that scares agents. He uses his experiences as a way to reach out to others, usually by way of not keeping his mouth shut. When he’s not busy making cis gender people uncomfortable with his trans gender agenda, he likes to play vintage video games and eat candy. You can praise him on Twitter @JamesStJamesVI. Read his articles here.