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.
- 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.
- 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).