“Why can’t we hate men?” This is the question posed by Suzanna Danuta Walters, professor of sociology and director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University, in an op-ed for The Washington Post last week. One might assume, from this title, that Walters is going to, perhaps, list a bunch of awful things men have done or said but then, with all the magnanimity of a queen pardoning her wayward subjects, proclaim that no, we still can’t hate them. Um, nope. “We have every right to hate you,” Walters proclaims. “You have done us wrong.”
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the radical feminist smackdown,” Walters proclaims. “I’ve rankled at the ‘but we don’t hate men’ protestations of generations of would-be feminists and found the ‘men are not the problem, this system is’ obfuscation too precious by half.” She admits that “male power” is “institutional, not narrowly personal or individual or biologically based in male bodies,” but still, men are responsible for the “millennia of woe [they] have produced and benefited from.” “The world has little place for feminist anger,” she rails.
It seems like the world has kind of a lot of space for feminist anger. Exhibit A: the fact that this drivel was published in a major newspaper. But also the Women’s March, the #MeToo movement, nearly every Oscars acceptance speech, myriad op-eds in The New York Times — the list goes on. What the world shouldn’t have space for is the kind of blanket sexism that Walters promotes in her article.
Here is Walters’ list of things men can do to show they really are “#WithUs”: “Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this.” Forget the fact that this would very obviously be perpetrating the same kind of institutionalized sexism that Walters claims men have subjected women to for “millennia,” it’s also breathtakingly infantilizing to women.
The big, bad, scary men are so powerful and so tough and so mean that the only way we poor, meek, mild-mannered women can get ahead in this world is if they all just go away. (We’ll cover our eyes and hide in the closet until they do.) Don’t run for office?! Don’t be in charge of anything?! Are women really so unqualified that they can’t compete with men? Are we really so useless that the whole world has to get out of the way in order for us to be able to accomplish anything at all? I’ve gotta say, Ms. Walters, you have really low expectations for our gender.
Walters suggests that it’s time for women to “go all Thelma and Louise” on men’s “collective butts.” Presumably she’s referring to the fact that Louise kills Thelma’s rapist, rather than the fact that the two women end up purposefully driving their car off a cliff. So now Walters is advocating — in a major newspaper — for the murder of all men. Do we get them to stop being in charge of everything first, I wonder, or do we kill them as a means to getting them to stop being in charge of everything? (I’m just trying to understand the plan, as I don’t want to mess up and be a bad feminist and maybe leave someone alive.)
Here’s the thing: Requiring men to atone for the “woe” they have caused us for “millennia” by handing us things they won through competition with one another is insulting to women. And using the wrongs of the past to justify angry outbursts and calls for inappropriate and illegal behavior (like the murder of rapists without a fair trial) is juvenile. (Even my three-year-old knows you don’t get what you want by throwing a fit.)
If Walters’ complaint is that men have treated women like children — claiming all the power for themselves and not trusting women to take equal responsibilities — surely acting like children is not the way to go here. “Why can’t we hate men?” Because we can’t hate women. Because sexism is wrong. Maybe Walters will learn this when she grows up.