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FAQ: Aren’t feminists all lesbian man-haters?

Short answer: No. Feminists come from a variety of backgrounds, with a variety of values and opinions, and (among other things) are in no way uniform in their sexual preferences. Some feminists identify as lesbian, some as heterosexual, some as bisexual, some as asexual, etc. As for the “man-hating” moniker, it has more to do with a backlash against women speaking out about oppression than it does with true incidents of “man-hating” perpetuated by feminism/feminists (see this FAQ entry on conflating the alleged actions of an individual with the ideology of a group).

Feminists as lesbians

Myth#3: Feminists are bitter because they are ugly, hairy and lesbians.
Why would any good consumer be bitter over saving gobs of money by rejecting the billion dollar beauty industry, aimed at manufacturing stepford wives?

What’s wrong with being a lesbian? Let me guess:you think its unfair competition for heterosexual men with little foreplay skills? I say, competition is a good thing; it allows the best lover at the lowest emotional drain to win the girl.

As you can see by the above quote, the “all feminists are lesbian” myth is often coupled with the myth of all feminists being hairy legged/flannel wearing/mannish/ugly. Neither of which, it’s noted over and over again, is a bad thing. The problem is that these attributes are 1) being used as shorthand for “bad” in a way that allows the speaker to casually dismiss the group and its members, and 2) being forced on people in the group who do not subscribe to them, thus creating effectively erasing their experiences.

Beyond the individual level, however, it’s also important (especially for heterosexual feminists) to recognize that lesbianism has had played a significant and positive role in shaping modern feminism. Notably, Lesbian feminism(Wikipedia link), for all of its flaws (especially regarding its erasure/rejection of trans* people, identity, and issues), called out mainstream feminism on its homophobia and heteronormativity. As the qlbtq article on Lesbian Feminism states, “Indeed, one of the most significant accomplishments of the lesbian feminist movement was to facilitate a network of social and political support that helped lesbians cope with the isolation, stigma, and legal problems that many homosexuals battled.”

Feminists as man-haters

Unlike the “all feminists are lesbian” myth, the “all feminists are man-haters” myth would be a very bad thing if it were true. Good thing, then, that it’s not (this is discussed in more detail in the Why do you feminists hate men? FAQ entry).

Beyond the fact that the “man-hating” myth is, well, a myth, it’s important to note that it has roots in homophobia:

The idea that feminists hate men seems to be based partly upon media representations of 1960s and 1970s radical feminism, especially the horror of lesbian separatism. Here we have a very marginal, but radical, aspect of feminism highlighted and made representative of the entire movement. This claim also compounds the homophobic link between feminism and lesbianism…

[Winter (Mind the Gap): Springing the Traps: On Countering Anti-Feminism(Article no longer available).

]

Indeed, mainstream feminists in the past hoped to distance themselves from the “man-hater” stereotype by distancing themselves from lesbians/lesbianism:

[Betty] Friedan, and some other straight feminists as well, worried that the association [between lesbianism and NOW/the emerging women's movement] would hamstring feminists’ ability to achieve serious political change, and that stereotypes of ‘mannish’ and ‘man-hating’ lesbians would provide an easy way to dismiss the movement.”

Of course, the “threat” to men inherent in both lesbian and feminist thought is that women need not, and should not, position men as the center of their lives:

The Woman-Identified Woman‘s] authors claimed that lesbians and lesbianism are of central, rather than peripheral, importance to the feminist movement. The woman-identified woman, they contended, undermines patriarchy by withdrawing her energy from men, by affirming a connection with other women, and by validating women on their own terms, independent of men. So long as women seek the approval of men and male institutions, they argued, they cannot become autonomous human beings.

Related Reading:

Introductory:

  • Melinda Kanner and Kristin J. Anderson: “The Myth of the Man-Hating Feminist” in Michele A. Paludi [ed.] (Praeger, 2009): Feminism and Women’s Rights Worldwide: pp. 1-26.
  • glbt: Lesbian Feminism.

Clarifying Concepts:

  • Claiming man-hating as a distraction technique:

    It does not really matter whether or not a few individual feminists “hate” men (I haven’t met one yet but I promise I’ll tell you if I do), for accusations of misandry constitute yet another distraction technique. When encountering this statement, don’t go on the run and start talking about your lovely boyfriend and men friends who you (obviously) don’t hate. There’s no way you can prove that feminists don’t hate men to someone who believes this to be the case and, anyway, the argument is again a strategic one. Ask them what man-hating feminists have they met? Can they direct you to references to man-hating feminist articles and books? You’d be interested to read them. Or, if you want to be really provocative, ask them if they understand why some women have good reason to have issues with some men? I mean, if my husband beat me, I might not hate all men, but I might justifiably be very frightened of them. Ask them what they think could be done to stop women feeling frightened of men and feminists from being angry?

    [Winter (Mind the Gap): Springing the Traps: On Countering Anti-Feminism(Article no longer available).

    ]

  • Addressing the homophobia of the myth:

    Where women are concerned, the line taken is “I don’t want to be a feminist because feminists are all lesbians.” Calling upon homophobic stigma, this claim also presumes lesbianism to be a bad thing with which one does not want to be associated. When young women calmly express the view that they don’t want to be feminists because feminists are lesbians, I am most concerned that these young people are still so comfortable with their own homophobia. Is the existence of lesbians within feminism enough to render the movement disgusting? Are lesbians really considered such socially abject creatures? As a lesbian feminist, the idea that my identity is a source of revulsion to young men and women is not a little disconcerting. There is no point in giving them examples of heterosexual feminists and to do so is again to implicitly disavow all the lesbian feminists. Instead, I would just tell them I find their homophobia utterly repulsive. If they don’t consider themselves homophobic, this might shake them up a bit and open to the way to an actual discussion. If, however, they are happy homophobes, you might be better off finding someone worth talking to.

    [Winter (Mind the Gap): Springing the Traps: On Countering Anti-Feminism(Article no longer available).

    ]

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17 comments on “FAQ: Aren’t feminists all lesbian man-haters?

  1. [...] Comments FAQ: Aren’t fe… on FAQ: Aren’t feminists ju…FAQ: Aren’t fe… on [...]

  2. I’ve always thought the “man-hating lesbian” thing was odd. You would have thought lesbians’ main motive was liking to go to bed with women, more than anything else. I mean, homophobes and misogynists can grasp that gay men love cock, why not that gay women love fanny? Textbook case of phallocentrism I suppose.

    • It’s just another example of how women aren’t allowed any sexual agency of their own, according to the sexist narrative. Female sexuality has to be defined in terms of men. Straight women are women who like men (which is fair enough). Lesbians are women who hate men. Bisexual women are women who like men and are willing to have MFF threesomes and make out with other women at bars for male titillation. Trans-women are trying to ‘trap’ men into sleeping with them or just mistaking them for cis-gendered women briefly.

    • Most gay women have not chosen to be so because they “hate men”. However, prominent feminists have promoted lesbianism as a means of emancipation from heterosexuality ( ie. sex with men ) which some feminists view as a patriarchal constraint on women rather than a woman’s natural sexual preference or choice. Lesbianism & feminism share an ideological bond that male homosexuality & men’s issues simply does not…this is where the “lesbian man haters” cliche comes from.

  3. I love your post. Every time I tell someone I am a feminist I always get the man-hating myth thrown in my face, urgh. But when I was a lesbian feminism came to me in forms of insight and magazines. So I became a feminist perhaps because I was a lesbian.

  4. i am a college student.and here ‘male’ sports like wrestling,baseball,football were BANNED..i repeat BANNED because feminsts evoked “title 9″..what the law meant was to make available equal opportunities for men and women.feminists on our campus misused exactly that…and you wonder why feminists are seen as man hating…

    • Nick, you’ve fallen for somebody else’s lie. What actually happened is that your college administration refused to give the same funding to women’s sport as required by law, and then blamed feminists pointing out the law for the administrators deciding not to run with those traditionally male sports any more.

      All they had to do to continue having wrestling, baseball and football was give equal funding to women’s sports as well. They decided not to do it that way. Perhaps you should ask your college administrators why they decided that no ‘male’ sport was better than sharing the funding for all sports.

      P.S. one evokes a memory or emotion, one invokes a law

      • Then why not give equal funding to “Men’s Studies” as is give to “Women’s Studies”?

        I have never understood why it is necessary to spend proportional amounts one sports for men and women, but schools are not required to spend proportional amounts on mens studies when they have women’s studies departments. The loophole seems to be changing the name from “womens studies” to “gender studies” …which is intentionally misleading.

      • Or else the change in terminology is an accurate reflection of changing social attitudes. You do realise that Title IX would be just fine with co-ed sports teams, don’t you? The only reason most schools don’t offer co-ed teams is because they are tied up in fostering elite sports for men for other social reasons, not because of anything in the language of the law itself.

        Now, Women’s Studies: not that long ago, the contributions of women to other fields of study were simply disregarded, so the standard faculties were all de facto Mens Studies departments who simply pretended that gender didn’t matter because the consensus was that only men did things worth studying. Since originally only women seemed to think that how society treats men and women differently was a subject worth studying, the departments dedicated to that area were called Women’s Studies.

        Now that feminist activism has forced a general recognition that gender does matter, and thus general faculties now do acknowledge the contributions of women to the field, we find that men have become more interested in studying how society treats men and women differently, so it makes sense to acknowledge this social change by giving the department a more inclusive name. Since the subject matter is still how society treats men and women differently, then why would it make any sense at all to duplicate the department? What college/university finance department is ever going to be persuaded that two separate departments studying the same thing is a good idea?

      • The site doesn’t (yet) have a post to answer “If feminists do something to help women and not men, isn’t that unfair to men?” but it was pretty well addressed in the comments here. A really good metaphor from that thread states “If your right arm gets injured and requires surgery, you’re actually doing your left arm (not previously injured) a disservice by giving it surgery also for equality.” by ubuntucat.

        I have another metaphor of my own, albeit more convoluted. Say you have two kids, Bob and Alice. You tell them they will each get a cookie after dinner. You inadvertently give Bob two cookies but you give Alice only one. Alice says “Hey! If Bob got two, can’t I have another one too?” Do you then tell Alice “Sorry, sweetie, but I can’t give you another cookie unless I give Bob another cookie too. Otherwise it wouldn’t be equal”?

        In short, if Party #1 already gets more than Party #2, then it is not unfair if someone gives something solely to Party #2 in order to balance them out.

    • Wow. Your college would rather cancel sports than let girls play them. That’s even worse than the lesbian prom tux thing.

      • to all the people who say i was mislead by someone else’s lie..the answer is a short but respectful ‘no’.i’ll tell you what happened here…we had a wrestling team(all men) and then some femisits came up and accused us of being misogynists and demanded that women be allowed in the sport and eventually what was decided was this-there would be 2 women in the team.unfortunately no woman came up.so they had to disband the team because of insufficient ‘team members’ while at the same time we had at least 20 applications from male students.
        and this isnt happening in my college .its happening all over america.i would advise you to check the facts out before accusing me of falling for someone’s lies.

      • nick, if that is what the administration chose to do in response to the situation you describe, then the administration is confused about what Title IX does and does not mandate. Nothing in the legislation as it is written, as I understand it, required them to disband the team.

        If your school’s administration preferred to believe urban legends rather than actual proper legal advice, how is that the fault of women protesting a perceived inequality?

  5. Wht s fmnst? – rsntfl, bllgrnt nd qrrlsm. Thy r ls slly gnrnt nd msnfrmd wth wk slf cntrl. Thy s t b clld ‘mn htrs’ nd ‘trblmkrs’. Thy hv lwys bn rnd thrght hmn hstry nd thr mn ntnt s t crt ll wll, bd flng, nd mlc btwn mn nd wmn.

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    Mtr nd wll blncd ppl rcgns th prblms nd cntrl thr nstncts nd mtns sng bsc scl sklls nd Chrstn prncpls, prtclrly th Tn Cmmndmnts – whch r n bvs gd fr scl stblty nd sfty.

  6. “As for the “man-hating” moniker, it has more to do with a backlash against women speaking out about oppression than it does with true incidents of “man-hating” perpetuated by feminism/feminists”

    I thought exactly the same until I actually acquainted myself with feminist theory via various feminist sites. I was surprised & saddened by many of the views expressed by feminist women. I’d say the ratio of people who describe feminism as “anti male” is balanced by those feminists who actually ARE “anti male” ( or at least express views that can be construed as misandric ). It’s naive & disingenuous to say that feminism does not embrace misandry, in the same way that anti feminists embrace misogyny.

    • Cite please?

      By which I mean, please link to these man-hating blogs that you have found, I would be genuinely interested to read them.

      I would also suggest that if it is just a case of views that ‘can be construed’ as misandric, the man-hating may be constructed (however innocently) by the person doing the construing, rather than the author herself. If you are unclear, perhaps you could comment and ask the author for clarification? Alternatively, you could link me here and get the opinions of others on what you have read as well as your own.

  7. I really love that this post is geared towards educating individuals about feminism as it is seen now. This helps people to look past the myths and to create a better understanding of what it means to be feminist I would like to add to this by eliminating the myth that feminism is only for women. This is far from the case. It is important that society have men involved in this movement to increase support from all different perspectives. Although the root “feme” in “feminism” does allude to women, further varied knowledge will let one know that it is a movement involving people of all genders, races, cultures, socioeconomic status and sexual orientations. Feminism is not just a “women’s issue”, is truly is one of social justice and equality for all, not excluding anyone. It is up to each individual who labels themselves as a feminist to break the stereotype of feminism by simply letting others know what you will stand up for and what you will not stand up for. It is not a matter of persuading people to think the same way as you. It is a matter of expressing your opinion in a respectful and non-threatening way.

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