Your guide to understanding ironic misandry

Don't we all?

Don't we all?

Whenever feminists try to discuss issues pertaining to violence against women, oppression and outright misogyny, we're often met with tedious 'whataboutery' and 'not all men' responses from people who find it uncomfortable to have their privilege reflected back at them and critiqued. But there's a special breed of person known as a Men's Rights Activist (or MRA) who likes to go one step further. These people like to talk about something called 'misandry', which translates to the not-technically-made-up-but-completely-powerless 'hatred of men'. MRAs will have you believe that misandry is:

a) rampant within the feminist community and

b) capable of causing equal if not greater harm to men than millennia of oppression and disadvantage could ever possibly do to women.

Anyone for a cup?

Anyone for a cup?

Yes, the curious logic of the MRA dictates that feminism and the fight for women's liberation has actually resulted in equal and opposite systemic harm being done to men. Cast even a cursory look over arguments between MRAs and feminists and you'll be treated to a laundry list of complaints - some genuine and some imagined - intended to demonstrate the heinous oppression apparently inflicted on men today. Misogyny and misandry are treated by MRAs as interchangeable things, with the latter being widely viewed as 'just as bad, if not worse'. As Newton discovered, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so it is that MRAs view the battleground of sexism. Or, as the little girl in It's A Wonderful Life might put it, everytime a bell rings, a family court judge kidnaps a man's children from him.

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The spurious logic of MRAs extends even to blaming women for issues quite demonstrably connected to patriarchal expectations of men, such as the pressure to be ambitious, to succeed financially, to bury their emotions deeply and to always conform to the traditional model of the stoic, unfeminine man. Feminism seeks to dismantle the patriarchy, thus liberating both women and men from its suffocating clutches. Despite this, MRAs will exploit the inarguably tragic rate of male suicide to score points against feminists, with little to no contemplation of how feminism would be responsible for those figures or why men's loss of power is somehow felt so egregiously that it would lead to such a devastating conclusion.

Humour is a vital tool for feminists lest we lose our marbles completely when dealing with the irrational and factually incorrect bleatings of people who, among other things, argue that sexual violence statistics have been made up by feminist run government agencies to oppress man's sexual nature. For internet feminists specifically, that has come via the use of one glorious phrase and a handful of beautiful associated memes.

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Recently described in Slate as 'ironic misandry', images such as the above pillory the buffoonery of the MRA movement while giving increasingly stressed out and undermined women a means of laughing at the enemy. As Amanda Hess argues in Slate, if feminists are going to be accused of such a ridiculous practice (a retort which is fundamentally distracting and designed to undermine the work that feminists do), then we may as well enthusiastically embrace it to its full extent and "compete to push the idea of a vast, anti-man conspiracy to its most gleefully absurd limits".

If the reactions of frothing, faceless MRAs who hide behind fake avatars and even faker names are anything to go by, ironic misandry is hitting them where it hurts. Nothing disturbs a man intent on retaining male power more than a woman who first laughs at him and then demonstrates his views are unworthy of her time or attention. And from my own experience, it's interesting (while being simultaneously mind-numbingly predictable) to see how many MRAs escalate their abuse at the first sign of retaliation.

When feminist writer Jessica Valenti posted a photograph of herself frolicking on a beach draped in a jumper boasting the immortal words, "I BATHE IN MALE TEARS", it didn't take long for an army of MRAs to launch a full scale attack of insanity on her. Valenti (who almost certainly and advisedly ignored every last spittle-drenched rant) was accused of enjoying male suffering, of revelling in male suicide and the deaths of male soldiers (because it's also feminism's fault that the glorious traditions of male instigated and led wars have kept women from fighting on the front lines), of wanting to separate fathers from their children and of being generally the symbol of a movement which would gleefully castrate men en masse and force them into chain gangs to build palaces for the female rulers of the fast approaching, murderous matriarchy.

There's a generally understood rule about sensitivity in comedy, and it is that jokes must seek to kick up not down. Simply put, it is funny to make sport of the people and institutions who enjoy power and privilege in the world because they have not only the means to defend themselves but also the luxury of being rewarded simply for existing. On the other hand, it isn't funny to make sport of the people on the lowest rungs of the ladder because it's like ganging up on someone smaller than you.

The beauty of ironic misandry is not just that it acts as a release valve to increasingly frustrated feminists, it also lampoons the still prevalent stereotype of the angry, man-hating women's libber. Rather than making fun of men in a mean spirited or even damaging way, it makes fun of a group of peole whose primary issue seems to be that they're no longer allowed to do and say whatever they like to and about women. Those men cry themselves a lot of tears about it, and boy, do I enjoy bathing in them.

33 comments

  • Oooh, Clementine, dare I say you have opened up the floodgates!

    Commenter
    Ms Patonga
    Location
    Cry Me A River
    Date and time
    August 26, 2014, 9:30AM
    • One person's ironic misandry or misogyny, is another's oppressive behaviour

      Commenter
      Carstendog
      Location
      Here
      Date and time
      August 26, 2014, 9:48AM
      • Great article Clem. I feel the same when I post ironic misogynic comments to professional victim feminists. I don't really want them back in the kitchen, but their reactions make it worthwhile. Can't we all just enjoy a bit of trolling?

        Commenter
        John
        Date and time
        August 26, 2014, 9:50AM
        • Bahahahha! I'll just grab a cuppa and wait for the wailing and tears to begin shall I?

          Commenter
          MsChief
          Location
          feet on desk
          Date and time
          August 26, 2014, 9:53AM
          • First they ignore you
            Then they laugh at you
            Then they fight you
            Then you win

            Kudos to the MRA brothers for successfully passing stage 2.
            I'm so pleased reading this, I'll donate avoiceformale.com another $100.

            Commenter
            Enjoyed reading
            Date and time
            August 26, 2014, 10:09AM
            • Baffled to why teenage girls don't describe themselves as feminists? Re-read this article and imagine yourself as a teenage girl looking for relevance to her life. Instead of a reasoned argument, inspiration or anything that might be impacting her now or in the future, Clem "click-bait" Ford delivers a short rant on why it's fun to ridicule certain people on the internet. Sure it might be a "release valve" to Ford who must have to deal with some crazy nutters on the internet but if this is the only article they read on feminism this week while asking, "Am I a feminist?" then I can understand why many, a few or even one young woman might reply, "If this is feminism, then no."

              Commenter
              Jane
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              August 26, 2014, 10:10AM
              • **Grabs popcorn and sits back in anticipation of the forthcoming show**

                Commenter
                UrbanDIY
                Date and time
                August 26, 2014, 10:11AM
                • Love, love, love it, Clem! I'm making that pic my screen saver :)

                  I really dug your point about sensitivity in comedy and the difference in lampooning one group and not another. I attempted to make a similar point with regard to 'reverse racism' a while ago, but didn't (couldn't) put it nearly as succinctly as this. Thank you.

                  I now await the sh*tstorm of comments this article will no doubt garner ;)

                  Commenter
                  Donna Joy
                  Date and time
                  August 26, 2014, 10:16AM
                  • I knew you wouldnt post my comment, lets be honest it was neither aggresive,sexist or rude.
                    It was just a differing opinion to the author, what a sad publication this is. And you people want to be taken seriously.. I would be embarresed if i had anything to do with this paper..I

                    Commenter
                    Chris
                    Location
                    Melbourne
                    Date and time
                    August 26, 2014, 10:23AM
                    • 'There's a generally understood rule about sensitivity in comedy, and it is that jokes must seek to kick up not down.'

                      So that's the excuse. Two wrongs do make a right!

                      I would suggest the blokes on the end of your rants don't feel very powerful in their lives. So you're kicking down whether you want to believe that or not.

                      Commenter
                      Be
                      Location
                      Constructive
                      Date and time
                      August 26, 2014, 10:25AM

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