what births this malicious hate from Men to women (GBV)
Written by Qello Mapanya on July 9, 2020
By Roy Gluckman
Let me guess… not all men, right? Noted, thank you. Now please do continue reading (gay and bisexual men included) …
With the increase in publicity (not occurrence of) violence against women and feminicide in South Africa, the male-led government has released the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. Another beautiful plan that details the Gender-Based Violence (“GBV”) turnaround strategy for South African 2030 (remember the NDP 2030? Lol). Anyway, this plan now exists. Read it here. While this plan is an important political move, it fails to address one of the core drivers of GBV: men’s hate for women.
See, women have always known that men hate them, yet in the last 18 months there has been a growing awareness by men that this might be the case too. Now before you get all worked up, I am not talking about a hate for women’s bodies, or your mother and sisters. No. I am talking about the hate for all things feminine. Men hate the feminine! In the late 70s, a researcher by the name of Robert Brannon, in a project designed to codify masculinity, identified four phrases that capture the construction of the archetypal “real” man. These included:
- “Be a Big Wheel”: Masculinity is measured by power, success, wealth and status
- “Be a Sturdy Oak”: Masculinity is calm, reliable and holds emotions in check.
- “Give ‘em Hell”: Masculinity characterised by aggression and assertiveness
- “No Sissy Stuff!”: Masculinity is the relentless repudiation of the feminine
The very notion of “manliness”, the aspirational archetype of young developing men, remains without clear guidelines, but for one: do not act like a girl. Encoded in our socialisation as men is the repudiation, rejection and hate of anything feminine. You don’t believe me? Here are some examples: I was bullied as a child. Like many other young queer men, I was called ‘gay’; a term used as a slur, rather than a descriptor of my perceived sexuality. What I now understand about the use of the word ‘gay’ as a way to ostracize, is that it had nothing to do with my perceived sexuality, but rather about the “effeminate” presentation of my male gender. I know now that it was not homophobia that underpinned this bullying alone, it was femmephobia. Why? Because men hate the feminine. Remember when salmon golf shirts were “ok’ed” by the Council of Fashion-Wearing Men (not a real council)? Before then, wearing pink rested solely within the ambit of the ‘feminine’ which men, or “real” men, were not allowed to access for fear of judgment from other men. Why? Because men hate the feminine. Within the gay and bisexual male community, whose occupants have already betrayed masculinity by owning a palatable version of the feminine, we still find ways to reject and shame femininity. Men who are deemed to be more ‘femme’ are often judged as less attractive, or off-putting. Why? Because men hate the feminine. Shall I continue? Ok. The socially institutionalised disgust reaction that men have toward female menstruation; the disgust reaction men hold toward the ‘aging woman’; men hate mothers who stay at the office too late (bad mothers!); men hate mothers who don’t work late enough (not committed); men hate powerful women; men hate being rejected by women; and the list continued ad infinitum. Take a moment now, if you are a man, and think of all the things about femininity you hate, reject, are frightened of, and actively suppress when you are in your role as a man.
Rhea Ashley Hoskin defined ‘femmephobia’ as the “systematic devaluation of femininity … that operates by policing feminine behaviour, movement and expression, thus maintaining women’s subordinate status which upholds societal male dominance. Femme = the feminine. Phobia = fear, aversion, and revulsion. The revulsion of women. The hate of women. Gender-based violence is an expression of men’s revulsion of the feminine, of our femmephobia. If I see something as less valuable, I don’t have to care for it. In fact, I can do whatever I want with it. Violence has no consequence when directed toward that which we do not inherently value. This devaluation of the body we see when it comes to black and brown bodies, queer bodies, poor bodies, mentally and physically disabled bodies, foreign bodies, and animal bodies. We just don’t care and that’s the bottom line.
Until men begin to interrogate our inherited socially constructed hate of all things feminine, and begin to see how we support this construction in our everyday behaviours, words, actions, lurking stares at women’s bodies, shaming comments on private WhatsApp groups, anachronistic illustrations of the “good woman” in our religious institutions and aspirational (read: masculine) notions of “leadership” within our workplace, we will never get rid of GBV in our world. Ever.
For me, the eradication of femmephobia within our society starts with men accepting that in each of us lives a trapped, suppressed, hated and feared femininity. Men hate women because women reflect back to us the parts of femme-selves that we have been taught to hate and shame into hiding. Men hate women, because men hate themselves.