Well, well, well. It seems the latest thing feminism is fighting about is the phrase “kill all men”.
So, before I launch into this defence, let me point out that nobody is actually planning to kill all men. Not even some men. It’s just a phrase, an expression of rage, a rejection of a system which is riddled with violence.
“Kill all men” is a shorthand war cry, much the same as “ACAB” or “tremble hetero swine” or “die cis scum”. It represents a structural critique, presented in a provocative fashion. While my focus here is on “kill all men”, and therefore in relation to sexist oppression specifically, these points are applicable for all oppressors and all victims of oppression who dare to feel angry.
Patriarchy harms men, it’s true, but it oppresses the fuck out of women, and there are few, if any men who are not complicit in this oppression. Most men are not rapists or abusers, but many are complicit in perpetuating this violence by spreading rape apologist myths, by failing to stand against violence against women and girls, and by simply not nailing their colours to the mast and acting as allies.
I remember once being at a reading group where we were discussing the SCUM Manifesto. It was a mixed group, and we had loads to chat about. If you haven’t read SCUM, I’d well recommend it, as while its conception of gender is kind of rooted in its time, there’s a very astute analysis of how patriarchy and capitalism interact to produce a system which oppresses women. There’s also some very clever satire of the thinking of the time, flipped and reversed on its head to present a biological argument as to why men are inferior. In fact, the whole thing just inverts this system in which violence against women and girls is endemic, and exaggerates the problem to its logical conclusion. It’s really a very good text, whether or not its author truly believed what she’d written.
Part of the power of SCUM is the effect it has on men. At my reading group, the men present were allies, and I remember vividly one saying “I don’t think she went far enough at the end, letting some of the men live and act as the Men’s Auxilliary”. All of the other men nodded along. They got that this idea is just fantasy, just a satire.
On the other hand, it’s pretty difficult to mention SCUM (or indeed just cry “kill all men”) without the misogynists crawling in, crying misandry.
And this is because misogynists completely fail to understand how power works. They miss the fact that in this society, violence against women and girls is rife, that it is an everyday occurrence which is seen to at best utterly unremarkable and at worst funny or aspirational. Saying “kill all men” and violence against women and girls are completely different. There is no serious threat of the women rising up and actually killing all men, all the while the hum of background noise of another women raped, murdered or beaten by a man. That this culture of violence is gendered, and the system is set up in favour of keeping things that way.
So is it any wonder that sometimes women are angry enough to express a wish to see their oppressors dead? And that this violent revenge fantasy remains just that–a revenge fantasy?
I suppose it is hardly surprising that utterances of killing all men draw such ire, even from feminists. Under patriarchy, violence is the domain of men. It is no coincidence that when women fight back, it is seen as disgusting: it allows the system to thrive. This is why more column inches are given to women who kill their partners who have abused them every day; this is why we see such sexualised depictions of women being violent in films, defanging the raw aggression; why patriarchy freaks the fuck out over Rihanna or Christina Aguilera singing about vengeance. And it’s why even merely uttering “kill all men” is seen as so shocking: we’ve internalised this sentiment, and the idea that women are not violent or angry. It is unthinkable that we can think violent thoughts.
So no, we’re not actually advocating killing all men, but what we need is for men to understand why we might. A secondary function of this powerful little phrase is to seek out allies. Some men simply cannot fathom that we might be this furious. And they cannot help us as allies, as we need.
And of course, all men are not deserving of death. In fact, most of them aren’t. I can think of a fair few I do wish painful, violent death on, although this remains but a fantasy. Patriarchy would destroy me were I to ever touch a hair on their head. Patriarchy already tries to punish me for merely expressing these thoughts, because they are unbecoming of a woman.
Remember, we are born and socialised into a culture of violence. Is it any wonder we may entertain violent fantasies against our oppressors at times?
reblogging this because the right of non-male people to express shit like this needs to be defended. Unlike with “ACAB” “Kill Whitey” and “Die Cis Scum” I’ve seen a surprising amount of whining/blacklash against “Kill all men” specifically from white, radical leftist and anarchist men. The premier argument is “that’s fucked up because some men are people of color.”
Newsflash: some cis people are people of color, some cis people are women, some cis people are disabled. All of these classes of people are people who are oppressed, discriminated against and frequently have violence perpetrated against them. But no one ever pointed to “Die Cis Scum” and said “your hyperbolic expression of rage and a desire for violent self-liberation from oppression is fucked up because intersectionality.” Most of the radical white dudes who I’ve heard complain about feminists saying “kill all men” are the same ones who have supported me and my right to say “Die Cis Scum” and support the right of people of color to say “kill whitey”, and who think “Eat the Rich” is perfectly fine too.
So why is it that “kill all men” is less okay than “kill whitey”or “die cis scum”? Because realistically they all present the same problem when viewed through the lense of intersectionality: some people who have privilege on an axis which you do not may not have on an axis which you do. In other words, we are not just our privilege or our oppression, because most of us have a mixture of both in our lives.
I think the obvious answer to why these white radical men are more bothered by “kill all men” than any of the many other hyperbolically violent expressions is because they refuse to check their male privilege and treat sexism and misogyny as equally valid and important oppressions to be fought. End of story. They had no difficulty understanding the hyperbole in any of its other forms, so why here?
To be perfectly clear, I’m not suggesting that any of these phrases should be removed from our collective vocabularies because of the questions they present in light of intersectionality. To me, it is vitally important that they stay, alive, well and in frequent use. As people of varying oppressions who acknowledge intersectionality and respect each others experiences I think its important that we give each other space for venting our rage and frustration with our oppressors even when the person venting is sometimes both your oppressor and the victim of an oppression you perpetuate.
For Example: if you’re a cis man of color screaming, “kill whitey”, I (a white, female-percieved trans* person) am not gonna be like, “hold up, I’m trans* and thats fucked up because cis people like you have perpetrated a lot of violence against trans* people like me.” No. fuck that. I need to shut the fuck up and realize that its not about me, its not about MY oppression for once, its about someone elses, and if the context of the conversation is “white privilege and fucked up things white people do to POC.” Then I should just keep my goddamn mouth shut, respect this other persons experiences with oppression and not make it all about me.
I have to be able to see my whiteness just as clearly as I see my trans*ness. I don’t get to just be trans* because thats more comfortable. We don’t get to just be the oppressed parts of ourselves because that’s easier. Fighting oppression demands that we look with equal energy and focus at the privileged aspects of our identities, that we acknowledge those parts of ourselves (and the ways in which they can be harmful to others) just as much as the parts of ourselves that are oppressed. People forget that, or ignore it, becuase confronting our own privilege is a lot more uncomfortable than confronting someone else about theirs.
If we cannot even for a moment stop focusing so goddamn hard on our own oppressions and respect the fact that other people have other oppressions which we might be complicit in perpetuating then we need to go the fuck home.
So My Questions are: Why the hell do men seem to have such a hard time doing this (not making it about them and their oppressions) when the conversation is “sexism, misogyny and fucked up things men do to women and other non-male people”? Why is male privilege so much harder to check than other types of privilege? or more precisely, why is checking male privilege less important than checking other types of privilege? Why do men think they get to have a voice in critiquing feminists/feminism when we seem to have taught white people that they don’t get to critique Critical Race Theory, straight people that they don’t get to critique Queer Theory, and the wealthy that we don’t give a shit what they think about our class analysis?
your are not just your oppression, you are also your privilege and its time men had to own that just like the rest of us.