The man you love to hate

Life is not simple. A bewildering maelstrom of choices, motivations, mistakes, emotions, demands, desires, fears, confusions. It's not comfortable; often frightening: we don't want it to be that way. So throughout history, as Sam Keen and others have documented [1], there's been one ever-popular 'solution' to the problem: invent an enemy - any enemy - and then blame that enemy for everything that we fear.

We declare ourselves to be the source of all that is good and righteous in the world, and the enemy to be the source of all evil. Any mistake, any problem, is the fault of the enemy, an act of deliberate malice against us; the enemy, always described as a perversion of humanity, is the denial of that shining light of humanity which we alone represent. The complexities of life are thus reduced to one simple issue: the just, true, necessary, holy crusade against the evil of the enemy - for only when the enemy is defeated will good triumph, and heaven on earth come to pass.

There's only one catch: it's dispowerful. It's an invention, based on an illusion, a denial of our own involvement. So it doesn't work: it can't - because what we're actually fighting is our own shadow, the projection of our own fears onto some 'other'. To maintain the illusion, an adversary is necessary. But any adversary will do: capitalists, commies, yids, gooks, spics, wops, niggers, honkies, the ungodly, the infidels - and now, of course, men. The maelstrom of life is blamed on a 'malestorm': the subhuman malice of maleness, the enemy of humanity - "aggressor, atheist, barbarian, liar, feelingless, automaton, sadist and rapist; greedy, beastly, death-oriented and conspiratorial" [2]:

From prehistoric times to the present, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more nor less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear. [3]

The actions of individuals are assigned to the entire class of 'the enemy'; and all actions are assumed to be grounded in deliberate malice - "a conscious process of intimidation" and so forth. Men blame women for their fears in much the same way, though perhaps rather less publicly: but in neither case is it either true or useful. Blaming the fear entirely on another conceals the reality that only we can be responsible for facing our own fear; and since, as Starhawk says, "where there is fear, there is power", we actually disempower ourselves by blaming - we discover our power by facing fear, not by blaming it on someone else. The fear is real; the blaming - especially of an entire class - is an arbitrary invention. There are ways to be powerful in the face of fear, but this isn't one of them...

More seriously, like all dispower, this trick of inventing an enemy is highly addictive: when it achieves no result - as usual - the hatred and the blame escalate, until obscenities are presented as being justifiable necessities, or a Final Solution:

At least three further requirements supplement the strategies of environmentalists if we are to create and preserve a less violent world. I) Every culture must begin to affirm a female future. II) Species responsibility must be returned to women in every culture. III) The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10 percent of the human race. [4]

Only in the most twisted confusions of dispower could someone seriously suggest that the systematic and continuous murder of almost half the human race would be "a less violent world"... The 'war of the sexes', of malicious men against blameless women is, for the most part, an invention: and its primary purpose is to maintain the illusion that women are not involved, are not in any way responsible for the evils of the world. That last may no doubt be how it feels to women, but it simply is not true; and in any case, being based on dispower, it actually makes things worse, increasing the general sense of futility and powerlessness. Sadder still, the myth of 'man as the enemy' makes it impossible for some feminists to acknowledge the very real support they do have from many men - the tendency instead is to interpret all offers of support as a covert form of attack, reinforcing the sense of being under siege almost to the point of paranoia. This doesn't help anyone - men or women...

But perhaps the greatest problem we face, in our search for a masculism that would complement what is valid in feminism, is that one of the key concerns of much self-styled 'feminism' has been to teach women to hate - and to tell them that this hate is justified and holy. A few years ago, for example, I heard a broadcast by Mary Daly, talking to a group of lesbian women in San Francisco: I can only say that my flesh crawled - 'hate with a smile', a great deal of laughter used to conceal some of the nastiest dispower-with that I've ever heard. [5] Or, to take another example, an extract from a much-syndicated article by Germaine Greer:

Male hostility to women is a constant; all men hate all women some of the time; some men hate all women all of the time; some men hate some women all of the time. Unfortunately, women cannot bring themselves to hate men. [6]

"Unfortunately"? A strange word to use, from someone who claims to be trying to resolve a war - especially someone whose own work is so characteristically filled with malice. (Not always towards men: I remember a television piece she did several years ago, targeting Margaret Thatcher as 'nanny', arrogant authority without responsibility. At the time, I applauded Greer's salacious savagery; it was only much later that I realised just how addictive is her brand of dispower-with.)

It's also noticeable that the description of 'male hostility to women' fails to mention that men's support of women is equally constant - all men support all women some of the time; some men support all women all of the time; some men support some women all of the time. And the hostility of women towards men - and towards each other - is equally real: a cursory glance at any of the 'women's magazines' would provide any number of gleeful descriptions of jealousy, revenge and spite, often praised and rewarded as 'sensible' behaviour. But it's not sensible at all: it's dispowerful. It's dependent on disempowerment of 'the other' to provide the illusion of power: its only real power, though, is to eat away at the soul...

Hatred and the desire for revenge are human traits, human problems: they're by no means exclusive to one gender or the other, just as they're not exclusive to one race or another. Rereading a statement with the race or gender reversed - describing hostile women rather than hostile men, for example - or with a different trait substituted, as in that rephrasing of Germaine Greer's statement, is an old trick, but a useful one. If it makes sense either way round - as it does here - then it's clear that the writer is using the 'faces of the enemy' delusion to promote dispower-with in the guise of power-with: arbitrarily assigning 'good' human traits to 'the righteous', and 'bad' human traits to 'the enemy' - in defiance of the reality that, as humans, we all share all these traits to a greater or lesser degree.

The (self-)delusion is dishonest; it's also extremely common. As feminists correctly point out, it was used throughout the Middle Ages by churchmen and others to blame women for all the world's ills; and then - when simply blaming women didn't resolve the discomfort - to justify the murder of untold numbers of women as 'the agents of the Adversary'. But inciting women to repeat the same kind of behaviour doesn't make up for the 'Burning Times': it just repeats the same old problems in a different guise. Blame is dispowerful; it's addictive; it easily escalates into hatred. Once it gets to that stage, it takes real power to stop it... a power that is characterised not by its force, but by its gentleness.

Two images come to mind to illustrate this. One is a description of many of the old women I know: that 'the cracks are there to let the light out' - their faces shine with an inner power, an inner calmness, that belies their physical frailty. The other is an incident during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles: a white reporter found himself trapped in his stalled car in the middle of a stone-throwing mob. Another car starts bumping him from behind; people are laughing, jeering at him; until he realises that he's been pushed clear of the mob. An old black man gets out of the car behind, walks slowly up, says "The freeway's next right: best you get out of here. I'm sorry about my neighbours' behaviour, but you'll understand how they feel...". A riot is dispower-with, and of itself achieves little other than destruction; in contrast, the attitude and action of the old man, like that of the old women, is power-with, a quiet sharing of 'ability to do work' in ways that actually do work.

Power-with and power-from-within exist as expressions of each person's natural truth; dispower, by contrast, thrives on propaganda, especially where it relies on the mythology of 'the man you love to hate'. Where dispower dominates, the entire language becomes distorted: as with Orwell's 'NewSpeak', it becomes impossible to say anything good about 'the enemy', or to express any criticism of 'the good guys' without it being somehow re-ascribed to 'the enemy'. Clarity of thought becomes impossible - which is largely intentional, because with that clarity comes the reality of responsibility. Instead, it seems much easier to hide in a swirl of confusion, and blame 'the other' for that same confusion. As Neil Lyndon commented, describing the tortuous inversions of early feminist ideology:

Now, erecting their own wall and parading their banners upon it, they were going to say that reaction was change, that the tyranny of sexual stereotyping (the one they chose) was emancipation and that hate was love. [7]

As Lyndon suggests, we could call this chaos 'Sisterspeak'. In this sense, Mary Daly would represent Orwell's 'Ministry of Truth' in the 'feminazi' end of feminism: a lifetime's-worth of distortions of language to promote the delusion that dispower is power, and that hate is, indeed, love. [8] Where a feminist writer like Gloria Steinem will ask for "new language that breaks down boundaries between women and men" [9], Daly instead expressly sets out to create barriers, walls of blame - such as in her book "Gyn/Ecology", which even in its title asserts that only women care about ecology, and that men care only to destroy it. In her zeal to overcome the inherent dispower of what she describes as 'patriarchal' language, she creates language in which it becomes impossible to express any concepts other than rigidly-divided stereotypes such as these:

Men are naturally violent; women are naturally peaceful Men destroy; women create
Men compete; women co-operate
Men are insensitive; women are empathic
Men manipulate and dominate; women share power
Men are the problem; women are the solution.

Some 'men's rights' activists would simply re-invert the list, repeating the old religious-fundamentalist assertion that "women are the problem, men are the solution" - which is equally dispowerful, and equally pointless. What is far more useful is to follow Steinem's suggestion, and construct language which actually does "break down barriers between women and men".

At the least, we need language which breaks the 'faces of the enemy' habit by insisting on symmetry between the genders. We need, for example, to assert that masculism is exactly complementary to feminism - not that one is 'good' and the other 'bad', but that both have their validity and their problem areas. Masculism is far more than an atavistic backlash against feminism; and feminism is far more - and far more important - than the thuggery of the 'feminazis'. And although self-styled feminists may rail against 'the patriarchy', we cannot assume, as they do, that a 'matriarchy' would be any better: women, being human, share exactly the same traits as men - a fact which becomes all too clear in the practice of politics.

Some word-pairs already show a gender symmetry: both 'maternal' and 'paternal' indicate somewhat different forms of a nurturing which can sometimes become an intrusive overprotectiveness. It's true, as Mary Daly says, that 'patriarchal' language - 'he' and 'man' used as the generic, for example [10] - tended to make women invisible: but we need to complete her process of bringing women back into language by acknowledging their less-than-'nice' behaviour too. Some of the words that we'd need for this gender symmetry simply don't exist: so, like Mary Daly, but with Steinem's request at heart, we need to invent them.

For example, we know how annoying it is to be 'patronised': so what is it to be 'matronised'? We know what the patronising behaviour of the classic chauvinist looks like; so surely we would describe the arrogant 'mother knows best' attitude as being equally 'matronising'?

And we know what a 'patriot' is: what, then, is a 'matriot'? One who fights for the Motherland - such as Mother Russia, or Mother Nature - much as a patriot might be fighting for the Fatherland?

In some feminist literature, men's fear of women is termed 'gynophobia' - literally, 'of-women fear' - something for which men are blamed, rather than simply to be acknowledged as fear. Yet the same literature - perhaps misunderstanding Starhawk's comment that "where there is fear, there is power" - has gone to a great deal of trouble to manufacture an artificial 'androphobia', a fear of men, which has trapped many women in a cycle of dispower and self-disempowerment bordering on paranoia - despite having little or no actual connection with reality. [11] We could hardly describe this as helpful...

In the same way, the unpleasant counterpart to misogyny is 'misandry' - a despising, or even a hatred, of men. We don't have to look far in feminist writings to find this - we've seen enough examples already... Both misogyny and misandry are equally dispowerful; but we do need to be careful to distinguish this from the very real power that can come from valid anger. Not every man who's angry at women is a misogynist; not every feminist is a 'ball-breaker' for the sake of it; in both cases their grievances may well be valid. But the power of anger needs to be focused into a form which is constructive and empowering for all - even the 'enemy' - before it collapses into the debilitating, dispowerful cycle of hate and self-hate, and all its power is lost.

A child, of course, won't want to do anything for 'the enemy': what the child wants is revenge, to see the enemy hurt, punished, humiliated - and also for the child to deny involvement, responsibility. It feels powerful to do so - to have 'power over' the enemy - but it doesn't work. It doesn't achieve anything other than to gnaw away at the soul: it's dispowerful. Fair enough: to go past this kind of attitude takes more maturity - more awareness and acceptance of the weird weavings of Reality Department - than we would expect of a child: which is why we call it puerile. But 'puerile', literally, is 'boy-like': once again we need a word to provide gender-symmetry - which in this case would be 'puellile' (Latin puella, 'girl'). And which we can use as a term to describe that puerile dependence on the myth of 'the man you love to hate': not puerile, but puellile.

In fact, that's one way to distinguish between what is valid in both feminism and masculism, and what is not. If we go back to that original description of feminism, that of 'a woman fighting for the rights of women, a woman seeking to express herself as a woman', we can see that it's something very different than this dishonest blaming of 'the enemy'; whereas the term 'masculist' was being used to describe the puerile behaviour of someone trying to retain power-over others. We need to find ways to break free from these battle-lines of dispower: in particular, we need to find words that encourage some sense of balance, instead of these unnecessarily adversarial rôles. So once again we need language that promotes gender symmetry, that breaks down the artificial barriers between women and men: and to define masculism solely in those negative terms clearly does not do this.

So the suggestion I'd make is that 'feminism' and 'masculism' describe the way we each aim, from the perspective of our gender, to live our choices as 'a human fighting for the rights of all, a human seeking to express our humanity'. Their focus is power: power-from-within, shared with all as power-with. Where men fight against women's rights, it is, literally, puerile; where self-styled 'feminists' fight for the rights of women against men, it's not feminism at all: it's puellism, using dispower to claim the rights of an adult but the (lack of) responsibility of a child. The puellist and puerist would like the pretence of being a feminist or masculist, but without having to do the work that goes with it - and thus act with a dependence on dispower in one form or another. Hence the many valid feminist complaints about men's childishness; but also men's equally valid complaints about the dependence of 'feminism' - puellism - on the dispowerful myth of 'men as the enemy'.

But here we have a problem. As Neil Lyndon documents in some detail [12], the vast bulk of modern feminist political theory - from Kate Millet and Germaine Greer in the late 1960s through to Rosalind Miles and her ilk in the present day - is based on a repackaging of Karl Marx's concept of revolution against the 'notorious crime of the whole society':

A class must be formed which has radical chains, a class in civil society which is not a class of civil society, a class which is the dissolution of all classes, a sphere of society which has a universal character because its sufferings are universal, and which does not claim a particular redress because the wrong which is done to it is not a particular wrong but wrong in general. [13]

Early feminists such as Kate Millet maintained that the 'universal suffering' they experienced as sexism was not a 'particular wrong' - an abuse of women as individuals - but 'wrong in general' - an abuse of all women, women as a class. Sexism is 'wrong in general': few would argue with that. Likewise racism: equally 'wrong in general' - which is why Eldridge Cleaver and others of the Black Power movement, following the same Marxist path, had earlier declared 'white culture' to be 'the class enemy' of humanity. "For one class to represent the whole of society, another class must concentrate in itself all the evils of society, a particular class must embody and represent a general obstacle", wrote Marx: so for the feminists of that period, in the 60s and 70s, the class which represented 'all the evils of society' was men - all men. Men were to blame for all the troubles of the world: "emancipation from this sphere appears as a general emancipation" - hence women's liberation would bring about liberation for all.

It was easy to believe that that's what 'women's liberation' would lead to - even for me, as a supposed member of this 'class of evil'. Liberation for all, I was told, would come about only if I took full responsibility and blame as 'the oppressor': which was difficult, as there was nothing I could see in my actions that was oppressive - quite the opposite, in fact. But somehow, like most pro-feminist men of that time, to speak was considered 'intimidation'; to be silent was 'manipulative'; to be courteous was 'chauvinism': our very existence was deemed to be 'oppressive'. It was not an easy time...

If a woman's place was, emphatically, no longer in the home, then it was clear that a man's place was, equally emphatically, to be in the wrong. And since whatever any man had done was, by definition, 'wrong in general', this supposedly justified 'redress in general' - which was taken to mean that retribution for any perceived wrong could be demanded from any man. [14] The concept of 'redress in general' makes life very simple: whatever we dislike is automatically the fault of 'the enemy' - and since they're all the same, it doesn't matter which one we lash out at... any one will do, but preferably one who won't hit back... [15] So the whiplash was wielded without cease, and without mercy, but especially at those men who'd set out to be supportive of 'women's liberation': and anything done to a man, no matter how cruel, no matter how undeserved, was declared not to be an assault, but a praiseworthy act of revolutionary struggle against 'the enemy'. That the individual man had done nothing wrong, had demonstrated in every possible way that he was not 'an enemy', was irrelevant: the mere fact of being male was enough to prove him so, and justify any 'punishment' for that crime against humanity.

To the women, this was 'consciousness raising'; to the men, the women we knew, respected, loved, suddenly became angry, vicious, insanely self-centred - all those things which they accused men alone of being - simply because Marxist-inspired feminist theory told them that this was 'being powerful'. It wasn't, of course: all it did was produce an entire generation of angry, confused women and much-abused men. What is surprising, in retrospect, is just how powerful - in a real sense - those men must have been, given the amount of abuse they took before they cracked... but in the end everyone felt powerless. We don't have to look far to see the results today: an all-pervading atmosphere of hopelessness, disillusionment and blame, and a total absence of political courage to change it. [16] That's Marxism - that's all it's ever done.

Over the decades every variant of Marxism has proved, in practice, to be a classic example of the old adage that "for every complex question there's at least one clear, simple, easily understood wrong answer". What it promotes is dispower, not power: it doesn't work. Marx himself may have been looking for something deeper than dispower: but his followers most certainly weren't. (Even Marx supposedly acknowledged this, towards the end of his life: there's an apocryphal tale in which he's alleged to have said, "personally, I'm not a Marxist".) Yet Marxism recurs as a philosophy in every generation of college students - not only because it makes life seem so simple, but also because Marx appeals so strongly to the arrogant vanity of the young:

For one class to be the liberating class par excellence, it is essential that another class should openly be the oppressing class. [17]

Every Marxist-inspired student wants to expose someone else as 'the oppressing class', so that they can themselves claim to belong to 'the liberating class par excellence'... But it doesn't work: it can't work, because it's dispowerful. It depends, totally, on having an enemy to fight, an enemy to blame. If there isn't an actual 'oppressing class', we have to invent one... and as each 'general wrong' is addressed, more and more 'oppressions' have to be 'discovered', or else the whole illusion of 'the fight for liberation' breaks down. If liberation is achieved, there's nothing to fight for... or fight against. The 'revolutionary struggle' becomes an end in itself: a struggle which is actually against ourselves...

True feminists such as Starhawk have always known this - as she warns in "Truth Or Dare":

Bonding together against the enemy is one of the easiest ways for a group to form, but it cannot bring liberation. Real wrongs and grievances exist to be redressed, but we need to be aware of ideologies that turn some group into the enemy of the other, even when that group has historically been our oppressors. For casting them as the enemy locks them into the oppressor's rôle, while approaching them as allies shifts onto them the responsibility to change. [18]

Yet even this is not quite right. It should be 'a responsibility', or 'co-responsibility', not 'the responsibility': we all have 'response-ability' to change. It's much easier to point the finger at others than to acknowledge that, being human, we share exactly the same faults: and the real function of all this 'revolutionary struggle' is to conceal that fact, from ourselves, and from others. It's far easier to say what we're against, especially in others, than to say what we're for, especially in ourselves; and it's far easier to demand that others should change, rather than for us to face the fears and the work involved in changing ourselves. But ultimately that's where our power comes from: "where there's fear, there's power".

And no-one else can do it for us: any attempt to pass the fear to someone else, to make someone else face it for us, is not only dispowerful, an act of violence, but disempowers us too - for it assigns to 'the other' the power which only we can express.

It's not easy to see that there is no 'oppression' as such: no 'general wrong', but many, many 'particular wrongs', each of which do need 'particular redress'. There is no 'oppressing class': no classes at all - only individuals, none of us perfect, all of us human. Each 'class of evil' is an arbitrary choice, an arbitrary labelling of others for purposes that are rarely honest; yet another variant in the perennial hunt for someone other than ourselves to blame. And even if, like many pro-feminist men, we declare ourselves to be the 'class of evil', it's still dispowerful: and disempowering ourselves does not, of itself, help anyone else at all. It simply doesn't work.

We're all, collectively, to blame for the mess in which we live: the 'oppressor' is ourselves, and all of humanity; and the face of the enemy is our own.

It's not a comforting fact. If we're honest, we'll admit that it always feels more comfortable to blame someone else... As suffragist Alice Paul used to comment, "the one who holds the power to change a situation is responsible for it" [19]; yet to be responsible is the last thing which a child wants to be. In the childish search for the comfort of irresponsibility, puellists and puerists assign the power to change to others - and then complain about powerlessness, oppression.

Each gender has developed its own myths to blame the other: puerist men rely on biblical stories of women's 'original sin', while puellist women promote the myth of 'the man you love to hate'. It has to stop: unless we acknowledge this childishness for what it is, and challenge it, the invented 'war of the sexes' will continue to be disempowering for all, men and women.

But central to this is one word which perhaps occurs more than any other in feminist - or puellist - literature: patriarchy. The grievances this word denotes are real, but the word itself describes a puellist fantasy of blame, another variation on the theme of 'the man you love to hate'. Before we can move on, we need to dispose of this myth: and "break down the barriers between women and men" by giving it another name - one which reflects its true source and its truly childish nature.

[1] See Sam Keen's book and PBS television series "Faces Of The Enemy".

[2] A list of characteristics invariably assigned to 'the enemy': from Sam Keen, "Fire In The Belly", pp.199-200.

[3] Susan Brownmiller, "Against Our Will", p.5 (italics in the original).

[4] Sally Miller Gearhart, 'The Future - If There Is One - Is Female', in Pam McAllister (ed.), "Reweaving The Web Of Life" (New Society, 1992), quoted in Keen, "Fire In The Belly", p.199.

[5] Some feminists, fortunately, are far from happy about this: as one young woman put it, "Mary Daly hurt us when she spoke here. She was angry, harsh, her jokes were almost all at the expense of the other gender. As a woman who doesn't want to hate men, I felt I was being made to choose, like she was saying, 'If you're not with me, you're not a feminist, and you're everything that's making life hell for us women'" (quoted in Naomi Wolf, "Fire With Fire", p.69).

[6] Germaine Greer, 'The Male Backlash: myth or malice?', in "The Age" [Melbourne], 9 May 1992.

[7] Neil Lyndon, "No More Sex War", p.88.

[8] See Mary Daly, "Gyn/Ecology", or, especially, Mary Daly and Jane Caputi, "Webster's First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language" - a masterpiece of Sisterspeak which is striking in its self-congratulatory arrogance and artificial manufacture of blame.

[9] Gloria Steinem, 'Foreword', in Hagan (ed.), "Women Respond To The Men's Movement", p.ix.

[10] Interestingly, 'man' is the correct generic in English: what's incorrect is its use to mean 'male'. In early English, the two genders were distinguished as 'wer-men' (male) and 'wif-men' (hence the still-current word 'wife' - which simply means 'female' - and why 'women' is pronounced 'wimmin', not 'woamen'). Somewhere through the centuries the male 'wer' prefix was dropped, perhaps because there's so little that's 'male' - unlike that which is 'female' - that is not common to both genders; it survives only in the archaic word 'werewolf'.

[11] For a more realistic view of some of the issues behind androphobia, see Carol Lee, "Talking Tough" - especially chapter 8, 'Give a Dog a Bad Name ... And Shoot Him".

[12] See Lyndon, "No More Sex War", especially chapters 3, 4 and 5.

[13] Karl Marx, "Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie Einleitung", 1844, quoted in Lyndon, No More Sex War", p.61 (italics in the original).

[14] For a detailed description of one man's experience of that time, see chapter 3, 'Personal', in David Cohen, "Being A Man' - his experience was by no means unusual. If, after reading it, you can still view his partner's behaviour as acceptable feminism, re-read it, inverting the gender - the intensity of the violence will become all too evident...

[15] Note that this is one of the common - and valid - feminist complaints about men: but the source of the problem is not 'maleness' (as puellists would argue) but immaturity - which may apply to anyone.

[16] See, for example, Lyndon's summary in chapter 6, 'The failures of feminism: personal and political', in his "No More Sex War".

[17] Marx, in Lyndon (op. cit.), p.61.

[18] Starhawk, "Truth Or Dare", p.146.

[19] Quoted in Starhawk (op. cit.), p.316.