Silencing Black Female Voices: The Difference Between Misandry & Critique

To say that I have an active twitter life would be an understatement as many of you who read my blog know. I use my twitter to address alot of different topics and to critique politics and social interactions that deal with race, class, weight discrimination and gender. When talking about the African American community I often address the ways in which black men oppress black women and how patriarchal masculinity effects black men. For some reason any and all critique of black men or men in general is read as a HATRED of men and I think it is unfair that any time male sexism is called onto the carpet, men are allowed to declare that you simply hate all men and dismiss what you have to say. It’s not pretty,describing the ways in which men contribute to a culture that excuses things like rape, female objectification etc. but pointing things like this out should not be labeled as hatred. There are alot of things in our society, in our culture, that are atrocious and that are upsetting. There are people who are complicit in maintaining the oppressive status quo, why then is it considered hatred to address those people? What I find interesting is that black men seem to believe they are above reproach. They will agree with you when you talk about how white men are complicit in white supremacy which in turn oppresses people of color and drives capitalism but dont you dare mention how black men contribute to the gender based oppression of black women. Calling cultural critiquing “hatred” silences and redirects a conversation that MUST be had, not only to the benefit of those suffering under the oppression but those who are perpetrating that oppression. It is especially hard to reach men of color because they experience oppression based on their race and that victimization seduces them into believing that they cannot in turn victimize but black women know this is not true. Does black male patriarchy mean every black man is a horrible person, does black male patriarchy render solidarity between black women and men impossible? NO. But it is not up to those who profit/perpetrate a system of oppression to silence those that are victims of it. Progress in the black community is seriously stunted when an open and honest discussion about sexism and patriarchy cannot be had and the opinions of black women are continually dismissed as misandry.

There is a difference between hating men and critiquing men in an effort to improve the lives of those oppressed under male rule and the lives of the men contributing to patriarchy. Bell Hooks talks about the ways in which patriarchal masculinity effect men in her book “The Will To Change: Men Masculinity and Love”. According to Hooks, patriarchal masculinity robs black men of their humanity, it alienates them from their loved ones and encourages them towards behavior that slowly kills them, like violence. Patriarchal masculinity shows men that being vulnerable and expressing any emotion besides anger or lust makes you subject to losing your manhood and those privileges that come with manhood.The way that bell hooks critiques patriarchal masculinity is out of love, a desire to show men how their version of masculinity contributes to their own unhappiness. We cannot always critique patriarchy from a standpoint of “this is how patriarchy is damaging men” because patriarchy also has ill effects on women, ones that are more immediate. Pointing out these ill effects in conjunction with the ill effects of patriarchy on the men who are supposed to be profiting from it, makes for a holistic critique of a damaging social system. The problem is that even when we take this holistic approach to critiquing sexism in the black community, those old ideas about sexism come back up. There is a belief that if anyone critiques black men they are not for black communal freedom from racism. There is a belief that if you critique black men you are showing the world their weaknesses and thereby betraying your own community and exposing yourself as a man hater. The labels that come with critiquing black men can seriously silence black women who have something important to say! There is also the idea that a WOMAN cannot critique black men because her opinion will be biased. Women and men alike will be biased regardless of whether or not they are critiquing their own gender or another gender, it is human error. This does not mean that what they have to say is not legitimate or cannot be used for the betterment of the community. We have to get past this belief that calling out patriarchy is hatred for the patriarchs. Not every feminist/womanist talks about patriarchy from a holistic point of view, not every advocate for female social justice uses language that makes men comfortable but it is important to remember that victims of oppression do not HAVE to ensure the comfort of those they are critiquing! Some of us do because we know that progress will come easier if our words are like honey but it should not be a requirement. You can aggressively talk about male oppression and be speaking generally and that NOT be HATRED. For some of us it is hard to sound nice when we feel a foot on our necks and being in a position where you are critiquing the people that hurt you is difficult. But again, there is a difference between genuinely hating men and angrily critiquing them. Misandry is the hatred of men, hatred is extreme dislike or ill will towards someone, is exposing patriarchy and suggesting a better way for both men and women HATRED? No. Sometimes what is said sounds aggressive or angry but the content of discourse will indicate the difference between a critique and misandry.

“Fuck men, all men are alike, they are all rapists and vile violent pieces of shit”……yeah, thats misandry. that is hatred, Cut and dried, obvious……”Fuck patriarchy! It tells men that they are entitled to female bodies if they are violent enough, and dehumanizes the men that are supposed to profit from it”…….do you see the difference? both are angry statements but one is about hatred and one is a frustrated statement about a system of oppression. Why then does the second statement silence the voices of social advocates? If men … especially men of color, for the purposes of this post, are really interested in racial solidarity with black women, then SEXISM has GOT to be discussed and addressed. It is not possible to have this discussion without a little bit of anger and even bitterness or resentment by those who have been oppressed but these emotions do not stem from hatred and associating them with hatred is counterproductive to growth. I think it is time we stop calling every critique of patriarchal behavior, HATRED, and start calling it a CRITIQUE. I know that these critiques often sound like accusations and that is why they are hard to stomach and easy to file away as hatred but the introspection called for by these critiques are beneficial to all. All knowledge and understanding that requires you to change is hard to stomach but it doesnt mean it is negative.

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13 thoughts on “Silencing Black Female Voices: The Difference Between Misandry & Critique

  1. Not only your opinions about masculinity are seen as hatred. Every woman giving her opinions qiuestioning masculinity is seen as a hater. There is a nasty trick of patriarchy in turn a problem women who question the given normativity about.

    1. this is so true Nasreen, it is one of patriarchy’s defense mechanisms but we must continually expose it for what it is, even at the risk of being silenced.

  2. Excellent writing. I love that you explained the difference between misandry and valid sociopolitical critique of patriarchy. It’s hard for people to accept that intersectionality is the embodiment of both the proliferation of privilege and the endurance of persecution, but we must if we expect anything to change.

    1. thank you for reading! 🙂 its funny because reading your comment I was like “i did all that with this article?” i still feel funny around academic language lol

  3. It is just so annoying to try and reason with a man, who you’re trying to meet halfway, and all he does is attempt to silence you. And don’t get me started on women who are comfortable with sexism and try to keep one quiet too.

    1. oooooooo yeah …I should write an article about those kinds of women…nothing makes me more furious than a woman who readily and happily encourages patriarchy!

  4. Fantastic article. Years ago, when i first identified as a feminist I found myself subconsciously holding my tongue or rather, holding back my frustrations on societal inequalities because I somehow felt that my anger would manifest itself into the “hatred” category you talk about. I didn’t want to be the a “feminist cliche” and as a result, my politics (or the impact they could’ve made) suffered. Societies with power imbalances never want to feel guilty or take responsibility and silencing its rebellions is one of those tactics. It’s the same thing that happens when people of color question white privilege; they’re “reverse racists” or “angry radicals”. Now, of course, I am crazy outspoken in my critiques of patriarchy. My blog analyzes American culture through black feminist perspective, stop by when you get the chance.

    1. Some feminists come to feminism through anger ….I did. I was raped and I hated and feared men and feminism helped me to deconstruct that fear and understand it and the social conditions that were lending to my personal pain. I immediately wanted to share what I’d learned with the men in my life who automatically shut me out thinking I was accusing them….and in some cases thinking I meant to change them …and in a way I did. Human beings in general hate correction…they are afraid of it but mostly they are too proud to believe that they need correction and men especially have a hard time with correction because they are supposed to know everything, to run everything, they are supposed to dominate and they love that role….any suggestion for anything else is seen as a threat, feminists are a threat even when we approach with soft words and sincere hearts …so we always have to explain our intentions…over and over again even when most of the time we will still be silenced as a threat

  5. This is a great article. Inequalities and inequities exist w/in all groups and all groups are generally responsible for supporting them in some way – women continue to be paid less than men in many top jobs; men are still spoken of as “stupid” and incapable of deep, emotional thought and multitasking; gay people are limited in rights; straight people are seen as being so entitled; black people are profiled; white people are profiled, too (none of these comparisons are dichotomies, but demonstrative examples of wider spectra of diversity). i think privilege is a word that is a word that has both positive and negative flow-on: positive in that it shows historical power relationships; negative in that it ignores diversity amongst the assumedly privileged and unprivileged identities, and generalises w/out exception. It’s a phrase we’re perhaps better to understand as not a simple statement of fact, but one that is emotionally charged in itself.

    i think to be effective in our approach to equality we need, absolutely, to be aware of (for example) gender inequalities in our global histories; but we’re also dealing, as i said, w/ emotionally-charged terms, including privilege, and also in gendered terms. Misandry and misogyny both exist, but we should focus more on the over-arching concept of sexism; absolutely both need to be focused on, but sometimes we can focus on one to the apparent dismissal of the other (unintended or not). In that case, one group remains w/out advocation, and so a polarity emerges – us versus them. i regard myself as an equalist: this term recognises misogyny and misandry, i feel, w/out being in itself a gendered term. i am a proponent of the aims and goals of feminism, but i also recognise that the word itself still polarises and segregates along gender lines, which counteracts its greatest aspirations: to achieve ultimate equality and equity between the genders (which we should really be recognising as multitudinous, rather than dichotomous). i suppose in that regard, it’s comparable to the perspective that the solution to an oppressive patriarchy is not matriarchy, either in name or practice; the solution is equality. Someday i hope to see a world in which we aren’t looking to polarise (again, unintentionally or intentionally), but coming together, freed of terms that promote that polarity, and building a future which respects and promotes fairness and equality for everyone.

    1. I dont think that the term “privileged” is emotionally charged, not when you can clearly show examples that are social and institutional, these are more factual phenomenon then the way someone is FEELING. It is important to remember that privilege doesnt = racism or sexism or any form of bigotry but it cannot be ignored either. As I stated in my article the approach to addressing patriarchy (which has an ill effect on men and women alike of all orientations and identities) should be done holistically so as to avoid dichotomies and rivalry because the problems cannot be solved by focusing on one group and not the other; however the oppress effects of patriarchy are more immediate for women and that is why i approach it the way that I do. No one is suggesting a matriarchy or any ruling replacement simply that the voices of the most vulnerable should not be silenced out of an unwillingness to hear or out of fear of critique

  6. Great article – so important to maintain reality when defining these terms. ‘Feminism’ doesn’t = ‘misandry’, it = anti-‘patriarchy’, which in turn, doesn’t = ‘men’. So simple, yet so many have such trouble with this.

  7. Hey ladies! Hope all is well. As an African American, I read this article and am just curious. Exactly, how would you define patriarchy? What would be the opposite? What are your expectations from men of color? And what do you feel are your obligations to them?

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