A couple of weeks ago, the murderer of Zara Aleena was sentenced to a lifetime in prison for taking her life in a brutal attack that resulted in 49 separate injuries including sexual assault. He didn’t turn up for her sentencing because HE couldn’t relive the crime, can you believe that shit? For Context, Zara was murdered by this man, while she was walking home in Ilford, East London, in June this year. She was a law graduate who had her whole life ahead of her. He was a convicted abuser who was just nine days out of jail and labelled a danger to all women. He was a misogynist who hated women, had prior convictions for violence against women, and who set out that night to attack ANY woman and achieved his goal, although other women had managed to escape him that same night. A young life is once more lost to violence against women, at the hands of a man who hated women and set out to act out on that hatred to its most tragic end.
That same week, I had a rather emotionally charged debate with someone over feminism; what it is, and isn’t, and in the course of that debate, the other person asked me if I was aware there were women who were misandrists. I laughed at this, and asked them if they realised that not once in history has a woman gone on a shooting spree, murdered men or tried to control men’s sexual and reproductive rights because they’re ‘misandrists’? The simple answer is no. Calling women misandrists is like saying black people have reverse racism, which is just dumb. People can be prejudiced, sure, but real issues like racism and misogyny are upheld by systems designed specifically for the oppression of another group, by a more powerful one. And so while I can concede that there are women who definitely hate men for a various number of reasons, none of these women have the backing of society, the law or systems that enable them to deliberately make the lives of men difficult nor treat them as second-class citizens. Bringing up misandry in a debate on feminism is therefore a red herring.
As a gender activist, I will never deny that I have zero objectivity where women are concerned. My activism centres women;
always have and always will and I will not be apologising for it. But does that mean I hate men? Well, there will always be someone on social media, in my personal circles, etc. who will think so because there’s nothing easier than pointing fingers at someone when you’re faced with actually confronting all the ways in which patriarchy is harmful and oftentimes downright dangerous to women. Then again, I am not just a feminist activist, I am also a survivor of SGBV and still believe that dismantling patriarchy will benefit both men and women equally because even if the system is skewed towards men—and I’m not holding brief for them— it is just as toxic for them. What I will not stand for is an attempt to derail conversations by pointing out that women can be misandrists too because you’d rather be lazy in your approach, instead of taking advantage of all the resources at your disposal to educate yourself more on a topic that is so technical as to leave room for doubt.
We have countless instances where women have lost their lives because a man hated women. From the link between Incel culture and mass shootings in America, misogyny in the police force which led to the rape and murder of Sarah Everard in the UK, to the misogynistic rapes and murders of women in South Africa and Kenya, amongst countless others, the common denominator here has been violent men who hate women. When we talk about all the ways in which women experience violence at the hands of men, I know the “not all men” brigade gets really uncomfortable but they are also the ones who are likely to remain silent when their friends make nasty jokes about women, or would overlook all the ways through which men cause harm to women. It’s normal to feel a certain way about generalisations but when those are rooted in facts that are easily verifiable, then the question needs to be “what can we do to change this narrative?” instead of “not all men”.
Zara lost her life to a misogynist. This week, I’ve seen at least three posts from Usikimye, a Kenyan-based organisation that shelters women and children fleeing from domestic and sexual abuse, about rape, murder, and mutilation at the hands of men. I am yet to hear a story about a man being sexually assaulted, beaten, or losing his life because of a “misandrist”. It’s time to focus on the real issue, which is male violence, state-sanctioned violence, and harmful patriarchal norms, and leave misandry out of that conversation because there are no institutionalised powers that legitimise misandry the way it does misogyny and we both know that telling gender activists they hate men is a low hanging fruit.
Well, maybe I hate men after all! Sigh.