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Salon resident feminist: “I’m trying not to hate men”–but actually, I can’t stand them

January 4, 2015

They’re scary!


Author Bogart: I can’t abide ’em even now and then

Before I could ever know anything different, this was maleness: aggression and protection, equally awful. Something cowardly and brute, something that hit you with its belt and pulled you beneath your favorite Lion King blanket and stuck its fingers into your vagina. My mind was still a dark house, waiting for positive moments—happy memories in the making—to light up each room. My father took a hammer to the circuit box, left me to wander the rooms of that dark house; and the neighbor boy who made “a secret game” of putting his hands under my dress while we sat on the couch, watching videos of Disney princesses whose happy endings came in a man’s kiss, pulled me into the basement.

Sometimes I still wake up with that copper-penny taste in my mouth, only this time, it’s not just fear—it’s anger: Every day brings some fresh Hell of sexual and gender-based violence. In her book “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit writes, “Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.” And in an interview with Democracy Now after the shootings in Isla Vista, in which Elliot Rodger spread terror across a college campus, Solnit elaborates, “Every woman, every day, when she leaves her house, starts to think about safety … women are so hemmed in by fear of men, it profoundly limits our lives.”


I am not alone here. A perfunctory glance at the trending section of any Facebook feed shows the bombs still dropping in the War on Women: schoolgirls kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, or shot in the head execution-style on a crowded bus; young women gunned down on a college campus, or cold-cocked in elevators; activists threatened with rape and death, driven out of their homes for challenging sexist tropes in video games. And women around the world responded to these traumas with their dispatches from the front lines: Reading response pieces, following Twitter, talking to friends, it seems like #YesAllWomen have suffered because of some man, somewhere.

These stories are remarkable because they’re not remarkable: Anticipating—and enduring—violence is part and parcel of being a woman. The batterers and rapists, terrorists and trolls may not be all men, but, by and large, they are men. As Kate Harding writes, “Of course it’s not all men. The idea that anyone might be talking about all men when talking about those who commit violence against women is ludicrous on its face … It’s not all men. But listen, you guys, it’s men.” My mistrust can become a siren of sorts: It curls its finger and sings linger in your fear. Let all men be the father who beat you with his belt, the boy who molested you, the cab driver who grabbed your one friend, and the then-boyfriend who pushed another friend against a wall.

Elliot Rodger–who he?

Oh, right, he was that skinny nerd in California last May who couldn’t get a date so he went psycho and killed six people. Only two out of the six were women–but what the hay? Rodgers became an instant #YesAllWomen symbol of how every man on earth is a potential murderer-misogynist who yearns to eradicate the female sex.

Look, I’m sorry that Laura Bogart has profound father issues–and she doesn’t care much for her mother, either. And some neighbor kid went way over the line and apparently escaped unscathed.

I also give her credit for recognizing what few of her fellow feminists recognize: that it’s not “society” that makes men different from–and more aggressive than–women. It’s testosterone, plus all the other physical and psychological elements that distinguish the sexes from one another in ways that only an ideologue can pass over. Yes, men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violent crimes.

But really! How about that “protection,” the other side of the aggression coin?

Bogart in her essay rails against her mother for not telling anyone about that neighbor boy’s sexual misdeeds: “Your father would kill him.” You know, that’s exactly what my father would have done–or wanted to do. Not because he had anger issues, but because he was a father. Any man who’s a real man would gladly slay any man who dared to lay a molesting hand on his young daughter. What’s “awful” about that? Maybe if Bogart’s father had had a chance to exercise some actual “protection” and read the riot act to that little creep, Bogart would have some appreciation for men’s physical strength and their powerful attachment to the women and children to whom they bond–instead of licking her wounds of grievance until the threshold of middle age.

Meanwhile, if anyone you know insists that “feminism doesn’t mean hating men,” point her to Bogart’s essay.

Posted by Charlotte Allen


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