On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, I was reflecting on the concept of malus masculinum, or the “evil male.” Could it be that men are inherently corrupt in their nature, a “bad gender” that helps create babies but also terrorizes those women and children?
As a cis-male, I have been submerged in my own gender since birth as well as being mostly surrounded and influenced by women. How could I hate or mistreat the gender that treated me so lovingly — my grandmother, my aunt, my mother, my sister, my friend, my colleagues, my partner, my daughter? How could I become a malus masculinum and oppress these women? Or the other women who cross my life — friends, colleagues, even random women?
My father, now passed, truly enjoyed the company of women when he could flirt with and flatter them. If they enjoyed his company, he thrived on the attention from those women. Yet he was also emotionally manipulative towards the women who were closest to him, such as my mother, and he could become an icy knife when they didn’t please him.
I was, however, raised by my mother and maternal grandmother, and I grew up with a younger sister. Most feminists would remind me that my family experiences with women do not make me a feminist nor do they qualify me as an expert on women, but, truthfully, I have witnessed so much persecution and abuse of these precious women in my life that I can hardly think of “women’s issues” or “feminism” without a deep, emotional reference to memories of what they experienced or what they shared with me in confidence.
When I read news stories about rape, child abuse, murder, I find it horrific and repulsive…but then, the average person usually does. That’s not a valid measure of my empathy for women. A better measure can be found in my own awareness of women’s experiences and in their endless, day-to-day challenges — the doctor who tries to shame them by judging their sexual activity, the man on the bus who leers and them and feels free to say offensive sexual remarks, the boyfriend who tries to control who they talk to or associate with, the anonymous man online who suggests they are sluts, or the random driver on the road who screams at them “You f—-ing bitch!” because they weren’t driving fast enough for his liking.
An article I read recently addressed how most women must constantly be cautious and aware, wherever they go, check in with friends or family when they arrive home from a night out, or record details about a man they are meeting for business or social reasons in case he later turns out to be a harasser, abuser, stalker or even killer. Men don’t have to do that. We breeze through life never knowing what it’s like to have to be constantly fearful that the opposite gender may destroy your life psychologically and maybe even physically.
Men have been terrorists against women and girls. Not all men, but men are the chief offenders. I don’t even have to support this claim with statistics. Google even the most optimistic numbers and it’s still agonizingly clear that men have been terrorizing women and girls for centuries. And things should be better in the “enlightened” 21st century. But they’re not. There are pockets of decency in our world, in different places, during different periods, but the lives of women have not significantly improved at all, even though we may point to the feminist movement and to women in the workforce and in traditionally male professions. It’s still a frightening life for women and girls in this rape culture we live in. I have a young daughter, and every day I am aware that her life and her heart could be mutilated forever by the actions of men.
Women are taking action. Women are raising their voices more loudly than ever, and the #metoo movement was a brave and bold example of activism for women who decided they could be silent no longer. Many men supported #metoo and, realistically, many men in this world are not manipulators and abusers and rapists and killers. If we were all that way, the human race couldn’t have survived this long under such relentless gender tyranny. But the problem of cultural sexism and systematic violence against women cannot be solved by the women’s movement alone. A sea change has to transform the hearts and minds of men.
Here’s an observation. In the 21st century, there’s a growing cult of disaffected, disenfranchised heterosexual men, most of them in their youth, who have proudly labeled themselves “incels” (involuntary celibates). Their delusion is that they are decent, worthy men who have no relationships with women because most women are shallow and choose worthless male sexual partners who ultimately harm them. The “incels” are a paradox because they seem to desire women and yet they openly loathe women and attack them verbally and even physically. Their mission doesn’t seem to be about convincing women to be with them but rather to “expose” women, label them hypocrites, and hurl abuse at them. The majority of incels appear to be angry, bitter, immature men who are indiscriminately projecting their feelings of failure and frustration on the entire gender of women. If the “incel” movement could be plotted on a graph chart along with the rise of feminism in Western society, you would see that modern feminism predated it by at least 60 years or more. So why is this confederacy of malus masculinum only appearing now? Plot the rise of social media on the same graph chart and you’ll see the connection. Men who are disconnected not only from women but from other men as well, finding common ground with other isolated, delusional men only through the virtual threads of social media.
And it’s not only the “incels.” That would be letting the male gender off too easily. We’re all responsible for ourselves as a gender, and although it may feel distasteful to most men, we’re also responsible for the behavior of the child-men of the “incel” movement. We need to step up, man up, and speak up for women, and unite against fanatics such as “incels” as well as against extremists such as abusers and killers. And before we become too self-righteous when we stand against the ideological and pathological misogynists, let’s look at one another and also examine ourselves in the mirror to understand how our own behavior is affecting the women in our lives.
There’s no disgrace in being a man; the only disgrace is in allowing ourselves and other men to degrade our gender by oppressing our mothers, daughters, partners, friends, colleagues and neighbors.