The stereotype of the man-hating feminist is quite pervasive in contemporary American culture, as exemplified in this brilliant cartoon, Straw Feminists.
But do feminists really hate men? How can we find out?
Turns out that empirical research will go a long way toward dispelling such stereotypes. A study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly [pdf] reported on college students’ attitudes toward men, as measured with the Ambivalence toward Men Inventory (AMI). The AMI is a series of questions, divided into hostile and benevolent sections, to determine whether one holds sexist attitudes regarding men. This operates on the principle that even benevolent sexism (positive attitudes toward men that are stereotypes) is still sexism.
That authors found that, contrary to the mainstream stereotype, feminists expressed lower levels of hostility toward men than non-feminists in the study did. This is big news, and I wish it had been reported more widely (which is part of the reason I’m writing it up here!). The authors point toward media exaggerations of feminism as one factor in distorting popular views of feminists. They also point out that people might be confusing feminists’ systemic and sometimes abstract critiques of patriarchy with a hostility toward individual men and concrete interpersonal relationships.
So let’s do away with the man-hating feminist stereotype. It doesn’t really serve anyone, except for those in power, who benefit from downplaying the importance and accessibility of what is, essentially, a movement about equality.