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“I hate men”: What does it really mean?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KCL chapter.

The phrase “I hate men” seems to come up on our social media feeds every now and then. It’s a big statement. And with great statements comes great controversy.

At first glance, the declaration is abrasive, isolating, and downright hateful. Are we as women waging a war against men? Do we truly despise all men? Is the future of feminism misandry? Let me give you a very quick and very clear answer: NO. Of course not. The emotions behind this statement will be different for every woman and personal to them. So I am only speaking from my perspective, I cannot talk for other women. Now, let’s unpack the possible meanings that underpin this statement, and delve into the history and reasoning behind it …

I have most definitely uttered the phrase “I hate men” a few times. I’ve heard it come out of my friends’ mouths too. Sometimes, we band together in that sentiment of frustration and annoyance, sometimes it just rolls off our tongues. But not once, when I’ve said it, have I actually felt that hatred in my gut that the statement declares. For me, it isn’t spurred on by feelings of loathing or hatred for individuals. When I truly explore the source, it actually seems to derive from a place of despair and fear.

I don’t “hate” men for simply being men. I don’t even hate men, not in the slightest. I hate the history of sexualisation, objectification, diminishment of, and violence towards women that carries through to our current day. I hate that myself and practically all of my friends have a story to tell about harassment, assault, or persecution at the hands of a man. Just one story of that kind of experience is one story too many.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

Margaret Atwood

The need to vent the words “I hate men” comes from years of feeling scared to walk alone at night, being sure to lock the doors as soon as I get back into the car, constantly looking over my shoulder when I’m out by myself. Most women live in a continuous state of fear or at least alertness. That paranoia and reflex has been drilled into us our whole lives. If we’re not being taught it from the very real actions and behaviours of men, we’re being taught it from other women. From a young age, our mothers, older sisters, teachers, and aunties preach to us cautionary tales. Paranoia surrounding us and being ingrained in us polices our subconscious, to the extent that even the most mundane act – like going to the bathroom in public by yourself – is paired with fear and anxiety. I don’t “hate men”. I hate that we have to be wary, that we have to be constantly alert. I hate the perpetuation of fear and of the very real hatred that does come from some men, that forces us to have these hyper-alert mindsets, and to take precautions to remain safe.

There is also a great difference between a woman saying they hate men in this manner, and a man saying he hates women. Misogyny is still very much alive and thriving in our modern society. In a consensus formed by the World Economic Forum in 2020, it was found that six women are killed by men every hour in a “global pandemic of femicide”. (The full article can be found here). There is a very real and very dangerous threat of violence behind a man’s statement of his hatred of women. Whereas, when I have uttered the phrase “I hate men”, it has been spurred on by a chronicle of oppression and violence, and has been said out of frustration and exhaustion at our current situation and imbalance of power. To be frank, I’m fed up. And rightfully so.

I certainly know not all men are out to harm women. But the thing is, we can never be certain that one won’t. It’s the world we live in, the world men made. Where women are killed at the hands of their husbands, abused by male family members, overhear male friends joining in with “banter” with their other friends, laughing and making jokes at the expense of women. As a guy, I do see how you could take offence to the (at first glance) polarising statement: “I hate men”. However, it’s important for you to think about maybe why women are driven to feeling this way. Listen to women. Take the time to really hear what they’re saying and see how you personally might contribute to the kind of world that makes women feel so defeated and resentful.

When I talk about this topic, most of the trusted men in my life don’t get defensive. They know that when I exasperatedly sigh and say in defeat, “I hate men”, that I don’t hate them. They don’t feel the need to say “Oh, but not all men”, because they have taken the time to listen and empathise, and they know that the statement does not apply to them. Whilst I am not explicitly referring to them however, there are still ways they can fight for a better world with us and for us.

Misogyny has a strong grip on our society, whether we realise it or not. Throughout history, it has been woven into the fabric of our systems, our mindsets, and our everyday lives. The phrase “not all men” becomes redundant when the fact is that all men grow up in a world designed by and that caters for them. Yes, you personally may not be violent or hateful towards women, you may not make women feel threatened with your physical actions, but “subtle” misogyny will be ingrained into all men’s mindsets. It is something every male will need to unpack and unlearn, and even some women. So, in that regard, it is “all” men … your behaviour and words, what you talk about and how you talk about not only the women in your life but all women with your male friends, all contributes towards the kind of structures you either are upholding or trying to dismantle. It will take great self-awareness and mental effort to ensure in your everyday life that you are working towards the latter.

The smallest things make a great impact. And we, men and women alike, hold a lot of power with our words, actions, and behaviours. Together, we could all put in the conscious work to make genuine progress. To achieve a society in which no woman fears for her life due to simply being a woman. To ensure that our future children (both boys and girls) can grow up never having that fear or hatred instilled in them. So that maybe the next generation will never have to hear or utter the words, “I hate men”.

A third year English Lit student at KCL. A bookworm who goes through reading slumps 75% of the year. A girl who loves dance, her dogs, making extremely specific spotify playlists, 5am existential conversations, harry potter, gilmore girls, and criminal minds, and writing about anything that piques her interest.