Never underestimate the ability of any movement to be hijacked by people who know nothing about it. A couple years back, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is practically the global face of modern feminism, faced some backlash when she was asked if she believes trans women are women, to which she stated that she believes trans women are trans women. There have also been clashes between feminist groups for even more petty things. Years ago, there was a stir all over social media, in which self-identifying feminists practically launched a campaign against what they branded as “white feminism”. I think I saw someone call it “Taylor Swift feminism”. From all of these incidents, it’s safe to conclude that feminism — as a movement, isn’t a monolithic one. People within the movement often disagree with each other. This is tough for me to write, as a guy who identifies as a feminist because I’m basically walking on eggshells — a metaphor for how inherently close I already am to being accused of mansplaining. If it’s any consolation, I’m not here to explain feminism; I’m just jotting down some patterns I’ve spotted that I think are toxic within people who attach themselves to this movement.
1. The patriarchal roots of moral superiority in women
The foundational rhetoric of most faux-feminists or even actual feminists is, “how come when men do this…, but when women do the same…”. This is understandable and agreeable if one is to be honest. But, one cannot pretend this is a coincidental phenomenon that was just recently discovered by observers. No. It was created.
The ancient world and even pockets of the world today, have long had a fascination with the virginity of women. This has manifested on all fronts from sociocultural, to sociopolitical, and even religious fronts. The idea of a woman’s virginity has long been connected to the idea of her purity — thus her morality. Women have always been expected to aspire to be virgins and their worth — for marriage, or even for sacrificial/religious purposes in some cultures — have always been measured with this. Essentially, women have always been expected by the most patriarchist of systems to be morally superior to men. No one agrees that women are morally superior to men more than a patriarchist.
Social media, the internet, and just about every communication medium is looming with people sharing their relationship experiences and outcomes. This is done predominantly by women, and it’s done disproportionately by women who have had negative experiences with men. Medium, this very platform — as a woman pointed out when she responded to one article I was reading — has become a “repository” of angry, bitter women spewing hate rants about their exes and the men they’ve encountered. There are hateful articles everywhere disguised as empowering, feminist messages for everyone to learn from.
Today, the most toxic and unregretful women can get on the internet and rant on about a bad experience in which they were perfect saints and the men involved were as devilish as they come, and people would believe them, without question. Why? Because society has become soiled in this idea that “women are good and men are bad!” I think this is ironic because when one considers the true roots of this idea, it might become clear how patriarchal it actually is.
There are plenty of toxic and unrepentant women out there who do bad things. This shouldn’t come across as an accusation when one considers that women are actually human and are thus capable of both good and bad. The countermeasure of this patriarchal obligation to live up to impossible and unrealistic moral double-standards can’t possibly be to keep pretending women are already living up to it. It should be all about humanizing women by showing they’re just as much flawed human beings as men are.
2. The maturity false-equivalence
Another quite annoying rhetoric I keep seeing in these conversations is that women mature sooner than men. This is something that people say so often that it has just become taken as self-evident and no one bothers to question it anymore. It’s false. The way that said “maturity” is always measured always centers around priorities. When a woman, for instance, in her early 20s is ready to settle down and start a family and has completed school, when she can’t find men within her social group and her age group who want the same things she does at that moment, the conclusion is that “men my age aren’t mature”. This has become a mantra for many women. In reality, people’s priorities have more to do with where they’re coming from and less about where they are. A young woman who wants to start a family in her early 20s could be someone one who grew up in an incomplete home and has always dreamt of having a family. This is a very personal thing. The ironic thing is, when we look closer at why priorities are always so mismatched between the sexes in similar age groups, we’d find that it actually has to do with privilege.
It’s no secret that women date “up”, in the sense that women tend to prefer men who are doing better than them in just about every measurable, abstract or concrete factor. Women want a man who is taller, wealthier, more fit, more educated, more intelligent, more experienced, physically stronger; they want an all around more accomplished guy. Most men aren’t as in a haste to get to this position, and the reason for this is that men don’t impose on themselves the biological clocks that women do on themselves. This is actually due to understanding what most women want.
It’s hard to trace where it all started from, but what I can speak to is what one can observe now. Because men now understand women always want a man who is already established and already doing better than them — a man through which they can acquire, sustain, or upgrade their social status, a man can take his time chasing his goals because he knows once he gets to a good place, he’s always going to have a pool of younger women looking for an older, already-established man like him. This should really make you rethink how privilege works.
Privilege isn’t always about what people take for themselves. It’s not always about expectations. It’s not always about what’s given to a certain demographic. In this instance, privilege isn’t about what society gives to men. It’s about what society doesn’t take from men.
By design, the expectations and requirements women impose on men ensures that mostly only older men are able to meet them. Realistically, gender-based privilege has limitations. The world is still a place where less than 1% controls 90% of the wealth and we’re all scrambling for wealth. This includes men, so acquiring enough accomplishments to reach these standards and expectations take a while for most. Because only mostly older men are able to be what women want, women have also given men that privilege of always being able to date much younger women. A man could drift through life aimlessly and lazily for most of his 20s, achieving nothing and just skating by. Once 30 hits and he successfully executes a 5 year plan to finish school, launch a career, and get himself established, at 35, that same man can date, hook up with, or even marry a 25 year old (or younger) woman, who is complaining about how immature men her age are. This happens quite a lot. I think it’s neither a bad thing nor a good thing. I do think it’s interesting how preferences of women are always accepted (as they should), but those of men are always questioned and politicized.
The bottom line is that in this particular context of age differences in dating, by design, their preferences and standards of women give older men privilege.
3. The misogynistic undertones of agreeability (or “men are dumb”)
Another annoying symptom of pseudo-feminism is the amount of patronizing phrases they are out there reminding men the importance of agreeability for the sustainment and survival of a relationship, and the approval of women. We hear phrases like “happy wife, happy life” a lot. Today, society has taught men that they’re supposed to always be ready to agree with women.
Outside of the gender and feminist context, there’s already an issue or snowballing and gaslighting in sociopolitical or sociocultural debates. Nowadays, most thinkers and commentators or influencers have to tread on eggshells because people aren’t really listening to understand. When most people are uncomfortable with an argument or perspective, they do something hilariously equivalent to mathematical rounding of numbers. They round the opposing argument to the nearest buzzword or label they can find and then accuse their opponent of some sort of bigotry. Though this isn’t done by only pseudo-feminists.
Women often say that men are dumb. Society has come to agree — especially in socioemotional conversations. I’d counterargue that this isn’t the case and that what’s really going on is that men have become afraid of thinking and analyzing topics in ways that may end up in social scolding or backlash. It’s clear that women have created a voice for themselves and have learned to leverage social movements to their advantages, but I fear that this has become — on the downside — rather a weaponization of fear than a pursuit of truth and a driver of true societal transformation.
We can draw parallel to the shock that America demonstrated once Trump’s first presidential campaign launched and his regime took power. When Trump supporters began coming out of the woodwork, America learned that there were still people like that in the country, which is silly because of course there are still people like that in the country! The lesson here is that silence and invisibility aren’t the same as absence. I think in the near future there will be a blowback of patriarchal and misogynist rhetoric and incidents across America and parts of the world and many women who haven’t been paying enough attention will be shocked.
The way that selective feminism manifests in debates is that many women are often unable to withstand being challenged intellectually by men. If this is a confidence thing having to do with past experiences or personal attributes, then that’s understandable and can be improved on through personal strategies. However, it’s important to understand that getting men to willfully submit to things they don’t authentically agree with isn’t a victory for women. I can argue that a man wanting to have an intellectual debate with a woman and argue with language and critical thinking is a sign of respect. Pseudo-feminism often causes women to turn these clashes into gaslighting and finger pointing. “Agree with me or you’re a misogynist who hates women”. This is neither victory nor feminism; it’s condescending.
4. Selectivity and Inconsistent Rhetoric
This is probably my favorite one. Selective feminism is the foundation of all levels of pseudo-feminism. It manifests in the factor that often times, the expectations that women impose on men — and the justifications thereof, don’t always apply to women. This happens so often that it’s become invisible. As I’ve discussed, women date upwards, in the sense that they mostly give preference to a man who is doing better than them in all measurable factors — financially, academically, physically (fitness), etc. For a woman, acquiring partnership with such a man, is an “upgrade” — by their own definition and intent. But, the inverse of a woman getting such a man (who is better on an fronts) is that the man acquires a woman he’s already better than on all fronts. So then, what does this man stand to gain from this relationship? When one asks this question, things become dicey.
I heard Japanese-American comedian, KT Tatara, joke about this. The truth is that this standard of needing to be better on all fronts, creates room for a problem in which a woman becomes only valuable for her sexuality. We can argue that a woman can be there for emotional support, company, partnership, and other more abstract and socioemotional factors. This shouldn’t even be an argument. It’s true. But, the problem is that this brings out the ugly tail of this double standard. If a woman should be valued for the emotional support, company, partnership, and immaterial contributions she can provide, why shouldn’t a man be valued for this? Why shouldn’t a man be enough when this is all he’s bringing to the table? Realistically, a man still has to bring all of these things, but also has to be — again, better financially, stronger physically, successful professionally, and so on. There’s a gaping inconsistency here because this actually reinforces gender roles. Physical fitness, financial stability, professional success, are all measures and indicators of a man’s ability to provide. Do women want to get rid of gender roles or do they not? Pseudo-feminists want to get rid of gender roles on their end but not for men. That is absolutely not feminism.
5. The Retaliation Brand of Feminism
No one is more feminist than a woman or a girl who has just been through a bad relationship or breakup. Sorry, scratch that. No one is more pseudo-feminist than a woman or a girl who has been through a bad relationship or breakup. I don’t need to go into detail to show why this is problematic. If a woman is coming out of a bad relationship, and this is her sudden wake to feminism, she is coming in with anger and vendetta and a stark view of her ex. If she’s made this about her gender (hence her sudden drawing to feminism), she’s also made the experiences, outcomes, and faults of her ex about his gender. Essentially, all men have become her ex and she’s inherently void of objectivity. The world and social media is full of such women. The feminism movement has almost been completely hijacked by such women, though, thanks to the likes of brilliant, fellow Nigerian, Chimamanda Adichie, one can still find some rational and objective source.
Feminism is absolutely not about revenge and it’s not about your bad experiences with Tom. Every man isn’t Tom. If every man seems like Tom, it’s because every man you’ve attracted is Tom, in which case, you should really take a break from dating and begin to evaluate what exactly it is about you that could be attracting such men to you. Pseudo-feminists often use feminism as a pass to overlook personal flaws or even personal barriers like traumas, emotional baggage, toxic behaviors, self-inhibiting patterns, and more. The worse part about this is that other women with such mindsets are always available to validate and reinforce this position.
The retaliation brand of feminism is the birther of what I would call “Hi-five feminism”. This type of feminism is the one in which many women take the slightest bit of interaction or encounter with men and automatically turn them into underdeveloped, overreaching thought-pieces they can write out for the internet for cheap likes and clicks. This relies on the foundation of “men are bad and women are good”, and this one is responsible for many of the horrible articles on Medium about gender matters. My favorite one on Medium is the one in which a woman explains how she decided to start “emailing like a man”. I read that and saw many of the factors and communication styles she was delegating to men, and as someone who works in healthcare, particularly in an area that’s predominantly ran by female professionals, I recognized the way most of my female colleagues’ email. The article was completely thoughtless and it’s disturbing the amount of claps and responses she received.
Please stop making other women develop pessimistic, unrealistic, fearful, and dangerous perspectives towards men just because your relationships haven’t worked out. That’s not feminism, that’s just misery being in need of company.
6. Men as Deflection
There are so many toxic behaviors amongst women that are under-discussed or aren’t addressed at all. I was watching a video on Instagram of a woman dancing in an aisle in the middle of a store. She was wearing a sweater and jeans and face mask — practically covered from head to toe. I saw in the comments, another woman pointing out that the dancer was wearing a spray tan. I was amazed by this observation because, again, this women was practically covered from head to toe. The observer, another woman, pointed out that if one looks closer, up the sleeves of the bulky sweater, one would see traces of inconsistent color. When I saw this, coming from another woman, I was quickly reminded of how much women shame and criticize each other. But, I was also reminded of how much men don’t actually know what to look for if they really wanted to shame or criticize a woman. I’ve seen, in so many instances, women criticizing other women in ways that I didn’t even know a person could be criticized.
Outside of this problem, women are also notorious for having a clubhouse mentality. When I think about this, I have to fight off drawing a conclusion that women don’t really care about men and men are just pawns in games that women play with each other. There was a time I worked as a temp at a place, and on my first day there, I met a girl who was also starting that same day. We introduced ourselves and began talking. We worked close to each other and really interacted on and became work friends. This girl was really pretty. She was, in my opinion — and actually, apparently, the opinions of everyone else — the prettiest girl there. People began to assume I and her were into each other.
Now, this became a problem. Because she was the prettiest girl there, I hadn’t realize that my interactions and proximity to her also brought about some validation for me. All of a sudden, other girls at my workplace wanted my attention (but not really). They began to compete for my attention. I, admittedly, felt like ‘top shit’ and my ego was through the roof. But, one day my work friend stormed out of the work area and to the bathroom, then I was told by another girl that she was crying in the bathroom. Upon investigating, I was told that she heard the other girls who worked there saying things about her. This was when it began to click for me. These girls weren’t getting close to me because they cared about me, they were getting close to me because they felt that she thought she was better than them and she’d been using the fact that she had my attention to spite them. So, they wanted to prove they could also draw my attention away from her.
When women speak of their ill-fates with relationships, they often talk about being cheated on by guys who have the attention of multiple women. If we look closer, I think we’d find that the reason many guys are able to be players is because most women don’t want a guy who no other woman wants. Most women need other women to want their men so they can feel like they’ve won a highly valued item. Men are guilty of this too, hence the lust after pretty women and ‘trophy wives’, but women are arguably more tenacious.
I remember reading an article as a teenager — one of those online “how to get girls” guide, and the author explained that when a guy is at a party or a club, if he notices a girl he likes, he shouldn’t just go talk to her. He should first observe and search for the leader of the pack. Basically, by picking out the leading girl who seems to be the head of the group, and first going to talk to her, the guy could potentially earn her approval. Once the other girls see that she’s approved of him, they would become more open to interacting with him. He could them make a move with an increase probability of success. I’ve seen this play out on so many instances and different but equivalent situations.
The truth is that women don’t listen to men; they listen to other women. They’re influenced by other women, and I think this makes it strange that most of the time, men are made to bear the blame for problems like body shaming, guilting, and social pressure. Women endlessly compare themselves to each other, and often times, when a woman feels inadequate, a man is made to bear the burden for it. I can’t begin to imagine how many relationships female, Instagram influencers have ruined with the amount of inauthentic body, beauty, and lifestyle standards they peddle to other women.
It’s clear that women are aware of these problems amongst their own selves, and I’ve seen many attempts at conversations on these topics, but they hardly ever go anywhere; they get shut down almost immediately by women who would rather find a way to trace it back to men. This is a counterproductive approach because the truth is that most men don’t have half a clue about the amount of toxic competition that take place amongst women.
7. The Two-Dimensional Man
The internet, the entertainment industry, the media, are all notorious for portraying men in such over-simplistic ways. In just about every literature, movie, TV show, video game, etc., boys and men are hardly ever complicated. The challenges, the barriers, the decisions, the plots, and the circumstances they have to navigate are always what are complicated. The male characters are always basically swappable archetypes that inhabit roles and are flat in contrast to their female counterparts.
I see so many blogs, vlogs, articles, and conversations regarding matters between the sexes, and a lot of times I’m forced to conclude that a disturbing amount of people within society really still believe that men are just a bunch of brainless jocks from the 1970s movies who sit around telling sexist jokes, drinking beer, and hi-fiving and farting at each other. I’ve seen many conversations in which men attempt to explore emotionally complex topics but get shut down instantly. Men have been made to seem like these robotic beings who aren’t entitled or expected to have complex emotions and inner dilemma. We’re just always supposed to be thinking about our penises all of the time.
As someone who underwent rape at the age of 6 (by a fully grown adult woman), and as someone who has also had several instances of interactions with women that would be considered sexual harassment and assault if the roles were reversed, I can attest to the dangers of this rhetoric. For Heaven’s sake, please stop thinking every single guy is just always ready to have sex with you. Please stop teaching all women that men are all sexual predators just slobbering at the mouth and waiting for their next fix. Please stop encouraging a world in which women feel completely open towards offering sex. The truth is, if men talked about their encounters with such uncomfortable, unwanted and offensive incidents — (not that they’re being muzzled or stopped), I can almost guarantee the rates of occurrence wouldn’t be that different compared to women.
Stop reducing the complexity of men so you can invalidate or ignore their humanity.
In conclusion, let me say this: look for the humanity in everyone you encounter. It’s that simple. We have to humanize each other. If I meet a woman who approaches me with demands for financial support, all in the name of proving that I’m a man, that would seem normal and common. But, if I stop seeing her as a woman, and see her as a person, I’d see a complete stranger I just met, who is attacking me with demands and a sense of entitlement towards things that don’t belong to them. From this view, this is probably not the kind of person I want to get close to and form a relationship with. We must humanize each other. This brings clarity in ways that gender won’t. That’s the only true route to equality amongst the genders and sexes.
Try this: next time you find yourself wondering if a man is good man or if a woman is a good woman, ask instead, if the person is a good person. The thing most people don’t think about is that when we assess people for whether they’re “good men” or “good women”, we’re actually measuring how good they are at living up to the subjective expectations we have for their genders. A good man is assessed for how aligned he is with societal expectations of a man, and a good woman is assessed likewise. A good person is a much more profound way to look at people. If a guy is a horrible person, he probably won’t be a good man; if a woman is a horrible person, she probably won’t be a good woman. Let’s stop assessing people we want to share portions of our lives with by how good they are at playing the gender roles we want them to play. Instead, let’s look at the contents of their character and the way their proximity influences us. In doing so, we’d find much more reliable predictors of relationship outcomes, and instead of lamenting endless of how horrible men are, we’d instead talk about how horrible people can often be — a thing of which we already know.
-Emasculative language when losing an argument.
This is a problem because emasculation measures a person by the sociocultural and sociopolitical impositions of their gender, which is likely the same thing the pseudo-feminist is complaining about.
-Making new rules on a whim.
Feminism, like racism, civil rights, and all other conversations pertinent to ethics and humanity, should be discussed with consistent, objective language. Making new rules based on how one feels at any given time creates inconsistency and reinforces selective/convenient feminism and trivializes the movement for those who may be curious or interested in partaking — and is disrespectful to those who already are. It validates the false idea that most feminists aren’t really after equality and are instead just angry women who hate men.
-Not every counterargument or male perspective is “mansplaining”/
The way debates work is that someone says one thing, and then another person responds. Having a label for everything that challenges or makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean you’re entitled to being agreed with. Different perspectives don’t disappear when you mis-label them.
-Templatizing individual experiences instead of acknowledging them as one’s own personal outcome. Again, every man isn’t your ex, and every woman isn’t going to face the same outcome you do. Women who have purposely wrecked or attempted to wreck homes aren’t doing so because they care about exposing bad men; they do it because they haven’t healed from their own personal traumas.
Thanks for coming to my TEDTalk