One of the hoary stereotypes about feminists is that we are ‘man-haters’. I suspect that most feminists are more likely to roll their eyes at this sort of thing – I find it hard to take too seriously, although of course these stereotypes don’t spring out of no-where, and they’re often a type of silencing technique.
(They’re also quite interesting in what they can tell us, I think. For example, an explanation for the man-hating myth could be that our culture is so overly focused on men, and male-privilege is so deeply entrenched, that when feminists criticise the status quo it’s read as being anti-men rather than addressing the marginalisation and oppression of women.)
Anyway, some researchers at the University of Houston decided to investigate whether it’s really true that feminists hate men. They interviewed just under 500 undergraduates, using something called the ‘Ambivalence Toward Men Inventory’.
What they found was that feminists reported less hostility towards men than non-feminists. In effect, not only does this suggest the stereotype is not true, it’s actually the reverse.
Melinda Kanner, one of the researchers, has this interesting observation:
Our work finds that, indeed, non-feminists believe in traditional gender roles such as men being breadwinners and women being caregivers. At the same time, these non-feminists actually appear to resent the confines of the traditional roles they advocate, which presents a paradox for women and men in traditional heterosexual relationships.
Obviously, as a feminist, I’d not say it was much of a paradox: in actually, traditional gender roles are limiting and constricting, and whatever way you swing it, women are not better off in a sexist society. Individual women who don’t agree with feminism are still in actually subject to the same shit as women who do identify as feminists or with feminist-like beliefs.
The study’s take on this:
Traditional women have more investment in traditional gender roles in which they are both dependent on men and frustrated and subordinated by male dominance. Glick et al. (2004) found in their 16-nations study that hostility toward men was higher among women than
among men. Also, hostility toward men was correlated with the national measures of gender inequality. Glick et al. (2004) reasoned that women in traditional nations may feel more resentment toward men for what they view as abuses of power, but that this resentment is not necessarily a challenge to gender hierarchy because it coexists with benevolent beliefs about men’s roles as protectors and providers. The more hostile men are toward women, the more women resent men and show hostility toward men. Heightened resentment of men’s hostility and abuses of power may explain why women’s reported hostility toward men was higher than that of men in more traditional cultures.