This is a post I’ve been trying to write for a little while. I’ve been wrestling with my own ideas about what men really think about women, what they feel about us, whether it is really hate, whether it is only some men that hate… Trying to get my head around it. The recent news about US soldiers raping women in Iraq have been a spur to get this down on my blog right now.

Do men hate us?

Clearly some men hate all women all of the time. The rampant, self-confessed, unfathombale misogynists hate all of us under all circumstances.

But they don’t interest me much because they are if not rare then at least outside the mainstream. Most men, if accused of woman-hatred, would feel the wellling-up of righteous indignation. They would feel shocked, the victims of misplaced prejudice and injustice. They don’t consciously hate women. At least, they don’t think they do. Of course, that isn’t good enough. For men merely to not consciously boil and simmer with loathing is not what I want from them. But the fact that it isn’t good enough doesn’t mean it’s hate.

hate 1. a. To feel hostility or animosity toward. b. To detest. 2. To feel dislike or distaste for: hates washing dishes.
v.intr. To feel hatred.
n. 1. Intense animosity or dislike; hatred. 2. An object of detestation or hatred: My pet hate is tardiness.

What do men feel about women?

They have contempt for us. They do not feel that our views and feelings are worthy of consideration. They do not feel that we are entitled to fulfillment of our wishes or preferences. They do not think we are really real people, fully human. They think that what makes us different from men makes us abnormal, deviant from the standard model. They fear that if they give us the chance we will try to control them with our womanly wiles. They secretly fear that, given free rein, we will overtake them in every masculine sphere. They loathe our natural bodies so much that they oblige us to reduce them and shave them and soften them and hide them, simultaneously fearing that we will use our bodies to stimulate their manly desires and twist them to do our bidding.

What do these things add up to? Do they add up to intense animosity, dislike, hostility, distaste? Do they add up to hatred?

I say: I need to have autonomy over my body, to make decisions about reproduction free from state interference. The man says: We need to interfere to stop you from murdering an unborn child – the life of that foetus is more important to me than your mere wishes and preferences.

He does not think that he hates me. He thinks, in fact, that he is acting out of love, love for the unborn child. Me, he does not hate, he merely disregards. I am nothing. My views, my choices are not important enough to be worthy of his respect. He cannot trust me to make my own decision because I am too selfish to be trusted with the life of my own unborn child. Does he hate me? Does he hate women? Or is he just (“just”!) supremely indifferent to and contemptuous of our personhood and the validity of our own choices?

I say: I don’t really see the point of all this dieting, it’s just a stupid waste of energy and so annoying, I’d rather just stay a bit podgy. The man says: Well it’s for your own good, isn’t it? You’ll look so much better if you shed those extra pounds. Why don’t you try that new [insert fad here] diet and see if you can stick to that one? Or maybe get some more exercise.

He does not think that he hates me. He thinks that he is good-naturedly trying to find a solution to my “problem” that I don’t like dieting. The idea of just letting the fat stay where it is goes over his head – unthinkable. What I really need is a new, better way to reduce my size and comply with the standards. Not comply with the standards? Unthinkable. Oh, and it’s my own fault anyway, because it’s me that doesn’t stick to the diets, me that doesn’t get enough exercise, me that doesn’t try hard enough to comply.

My fault, my fault, my fault.

Does he hate me / my body? Does he hate women? Or is he just not interested in my own views about how I want to live my life and use my limited resources of energy and effort? Does he just assume that my energy can have no better outlet than working off a bit of fat?

I say: I’m struggling to cope with the baby on my own, I need you to help me more and make a bit more of an effort to get involved. The man says: (with hurt expression) But I do help [insert list of recent chores completed here]. It’s not my fault if you don’t notice what I do round the house, you’re just being selfish and unreasonable.

He does not think that he hates me. He thinks he is doing his bit, some washing up here and a bit of shopping and cooking there, even a nappy sometimes. The fact that I would have welcomed a half-hour break to do some cooking instead of looking after the baby continuously all day is something he just doesn’t comprehend. The fact that if he’d done what I wanted him to, instead of what he felt like doing, it would have been better received, he cannot fathom. The fact that he takes two hours to do something I could have done in ten minutes – and then thinks he has saved me two hours of work! – he just does not get. He is helping. I should be grateful for that instead of looking his gift-horse in the mouth.

It is me that is at fault.

Does he hate me? Does he hate women? Or does he just refuse to understand me? Does he just refuse to accept that I might have a valid point of view if only he would stop for a moment and actually listen to how I am feeling? Or do I matter so little that it is not worth the time needed to understand how I feel? Does he genuinely not get that a bit of shopping and cooking and such are in no way equivalent to taking 24-hour responsibility for a newborn baby?

I say: Don’t make sexist jokes in front of me, please, it makes me feel really uncomfortable. The man says: Haven’t you got a sense of humour? It’s just a joke! Does he hate me? Does he hate women? Or is he just oblivious to the harm that sexism does and the harm that he does in perpetuating sexist stereotypes? Has he never heard anyone explain to him why women can both have a sense of humour and find sexism both unfunny and unappealing? Has he ever thought to ask, or has he just assumed that if a feminist thought of it then it can’t be worth hearing?

Do they hate us?

I think that most men have a huge amount of unconscious hostility towards us.

I think they are so full of their own preferences, their own mindsets, their own entitlements that they never think for one moment that another preference, another point of view, another person with different opinions on entitlement might be valid even if it is different from, even if it is in conflict with, their own. They just assume, in that entitled way that they have, that if it is different then it is wrong – worse than wrong, it is beneath consideration.

I think they fear us, the unfathomable Other.

There is a special hostility reserved for feminists, because they think that we are trying to take away what is theirs, their entitlements. We are trying to take away the fun that they can have when they are sexist. We want their lives to be joyless and worthy and sexless.

Is that hate?

I don’t know. But it is at least the stuff from which hate is formed. These hostilities and fears, this regard for Self over Other – if it is not hate, then it could turn into hate at the flick of a switch.

And that makes it scary enough for my blood.