So I’ve been getting e-mail, and troll comments.

You know, apparently I hate men. To quote just one of the blighters, I appear to be running an “anti-male hate site” which is counter-productive cos, gee, “that kind of sheer hatred against men does nothing for the women’s movement“.

This kind of response isn’t unusual, in that pretty much all feminist blogs anywhere seem to get accused of man-hatred at some point, although it did take me by surprise. I didn’t know I had anonymous readers at all (woo-hoo, readers!), never mind virulent anti-feminist ones…

Well, I’m not going to try and justify myself to anti-feminist creeps by setting forth my non-man-hating* credentials here. However, I do want to talk about the difference between hate and anger.

[*For anyone who knows me IRL, the proposition that I do not hate men would be too silly and self-evident to even bother stating; and for anyone who doesn’t, well I guess I just don’t care what you think.]

To me, hate is a necessarily destructive force. The hated object is seen as worthless, contemptible, loathsome, repulsive, evil and without redeeming qualities. Hate is essentially a pessimistic emotion, in that it does not imply the possibility of healing.

Anger, on the other hand, need not be destructive. It can be, particularly when allied with hate or despair, but it is not an essential characteristic of anger that the object of indignation should be hated. Indeed, in my experience, the object of anger is often loved rather than hated.

Anger can be a cleansing emotion, particularly when it is expressed and owned, rather than hidden and repressed.

Anger can help us, as I said in a recent post, to deflect pain and blame outward so as to protect our souls from the wear and tear of daily indignities.

Anger can move us to do good things. We don’t get out and change the world unless something in the world upsets us enough – makes us angry enough – to get off our privileged bottoms and act. Anger can be a great motivator.

Anger can be an expression of disappointed but undaunted optimism – we thought you could do better, we hoped you would do better, you have let us down but we still think it worth responding to you, still think it worth reacting because we still believe in the possibility that you could and should and maybe one day will do better. The anger has been provoked by a failure to meet our expectations: how often is our anger sparked by loved ones – friends, partners, children – who have let us down by being less than we know they can be?

So, unlike hate, anger can be a positive force in our lives. It can be optimistic, it can promote cleansing and healing, it can prompt us and those around us to better ourselves and our world. It can be empowering.

As it happens, I don’t hate men. I do not think that men in general, or even any of the men that I personally know, are worthless, contemptible, loathsome, repulsive, evil or without redeeming qualities.

I am, however, quite angry.

I am angry at certain specific men who have treated me personally rather badly – but more particularly I am angry that our culture (woo-hoo, patriarchy!), which is perpetuated by women and men for the benefit primarily of men, both accepts and condones this bad behaviour.

I am angry at intelligent men who can continue to make sexist jokes and hold openly sexist views about “what women are like” even in the face of evidence to the contrary – but more particularly I am angry that good old patriarchy rewards and encourages this bad behaviour through, for example, old boy networks and the aggressive promotion in the media of stupid sterotypes.

I am angry at stupid men who think it is OK to invade women’s spaces with their big fat sense of entitlement, wilfully misinterpreting everything in sight, and dishing out offensive misogynist insults without so much as a by-your-leave – but more particularly I am angry that You Know What thinks that this bad behaviour is both laudable in the name of free speech and actually quite a funny joke. Ha Ha.

I am angry at these things and more besides.

But this isn’t hate.

Because it isn’t eating me up inside and making me want to go into men’s spaces to spew unprovoked insults and generally stir things up. For a sick laugh.

Because even as I make my sweeping generalisations and have my little feminist jokes, even as I rage impotently into the ether, I am honest, and open, and try to be as respectful as I am critical – and I don’t leave my integrity or self-respect at the door.

And because, come on guys, we aren’t fooled. We do know you can do better – and you know that we know. So quit pouting and crying “you hate me!” whenever you don’t like what you hear. That’s what five year olds do, and you are a Grown Up now. Deal with it. Or clear off.