A year or so ago, my friend was talking on the phone with her friend. They were having a bit of a spat. She was upset that he wouldn’t hang out with her other friends. My name came up. “Why would I want to hang out with Phoebe?” he asked. “She’s a man-hater.”
Well, I hadn’t hated him before hearing this, but I sure did after. It’s not the first time I’ve been called that. It’s always been by men, though, and it’s just an easy way to discount any critiques I have of particular men or the patriarchy as a whole: “Oh, she’s just a man-hating, crazy, bitch dyke.”
The thing is, I’m not a hateful person. I think I’m pretty chill. I tend to let people get away with too much. I dislike many things, and people, but honestly, if anything, I’d say I give people more credit than they deserve. For a pessimist, I sure do tend to see the good in people.
So, no, I don’t actually hate men. Not at all. I’m just fucking terrified of most of them.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with my parents. Living at home as a 20-year-old and not being able to directly interact with anyone other than your parents … well, it fucking sucks. But my parents are the shit, so it’s alright. My mother is a therapist, and she’s into family systems, so she would probably say something like, “a lot of your feelings towards men come from a young part of you.”
I’ve always had a pretty strong idea of what was right or wrong. When I was in the second grade, my teacher gave us all graduation awards and I got Please-and-Thank-You Queen and Peace Keeper. I have always hated conflict. I seldom involve myself in conflict, which is in some ways bad, because it means I don’t stand up for myself. And I do not like disrespect or meanness. That has, at times, made being a young person very difficult, because often a cool, mean indifference is the ideal attitude. In some circles, to get to the “top” you must prove you care the least by being openly rude and disrespectful, gaining the most clout by making the most fun of someone or something.
For young men, I think a cool, mean indifference is often a social necessity. I’m sure it’s not pleasant to have to pretend you don’t feel anything. And it’s sure not pleasant to be around.
I was at a Dunkin’ drive-thru the other day (because I am a New Englander, after all). There were two lanes that merged into one to get to the window. A car with two men, probably a little younger than me, pulled into the opposite lane and cut me off. So I mouthed to them that I was there first, and the guy in the passenger seat started yelling at me. He twisted his face into this terrible, mean, threatening mask and shouted, “Shut the fuck up, you dumb bitch!” Then he turned to his friend and started laughing as they inched their way toward their Munchkins.
I’m lucky that I don’t get catcalled, pretty much ever. But I have young men pull up on me in cars every couple months or so. They’ll have their windows down and yell something intended to make me feel stupid or small or ugly or like a faggot they could beat up if they so chose, and then drive away laughing with their buddies. They always win. It’s fucking hilarious to them. But it scares the shit out of me.
Those boys at Dunkin’, for example — that scared me. It reminded me of being a young kid again, the intense scrutiny of young girls’ bodies by middle-school boys, the homophobia, the implied threat of violence, the entitlement, the reminder that it’s ingrained into young men that they have a perfect right to threaten or possess anything in sight. And it makes me so sad. It triggers that young part of me that doesn’t understand how people can be so intentionally cruel. Honestly, maybe I’m a little jealous of it. I can’t even make an accidentally rude remark without replaying it in my head for the next six months. I can make myself miserable all on my own, thank you very much. I don’t need any boy’s help.
So to all the people who pull shit like this: Fuck you. You ruin my day. You ruin my week. You make me hurt for myself and for you and for the world. You make me worried and sad and weak and small. You can do this stuff and forget about it the next second, but this shit sticks with us. You’ve inserted yourself into my life and you don’t have the right.
I’m not a man-hater. I hate the greedy and the mean, and that’s pretty much it. If that makes you think I’m a man-hater, well, you said it.