The Year in Male Tears
2015 was the year misandry went mainstream, and that's a good thing.
Photo via Getty Images
2014 was the year that misandry became chic. That January began with the reminder from Madeleine Holden, creator of Critique my Dick Pic, that "dick is abundant and low value," a Tweet that resonated with the power of a 140-character manifesto. The movie release of Gone Girl and Taylor Swift's video for "Blank Space" made misandry aspirational. Etsy samplers emblazoned with "men are scum" and Café Press mugs reading "male tears" proliferated. The year ended with feminazis opening their 2014 Misandmas presents with glee, finding copies of Bitch Planet and Bad Feminist.
Then there were the thinkpieces analyzing the new misandry chic. Amanda Hess claimed that "ironic misandry functions like a stuck-out tongue pointed at a playground bully" in Slate. Jess Zimmerman took up the cry and informed men that they needed to get with misandry jokes because "not everything is about men's comfort, not anymore." And Time's Sara Begley voiced the backlash, telling us, "inherent in this word 'misandry' is hatred," as if that's a bad look.
On the whole, however, 2014's misandry was flavored with wry bemusement and detached irony. We women joked around a lot about liking men like we liked our coffee—ground up and in the freezer—but we didn't seem serious. We splashed around in kiddie pools filled with male tears, and we wore our "misandry" nameplate necklaces; we held hands and chanted "ban all men" at our coven meetings; later, we recited the Misandrist's Prayer while looking at pictures of cats.
But in 2015, misandry changed and chic got real. Misandry isn't as simple as hating men. Just as misogyny is less a dislike of women and more a network of practice built on the oppression of women, misandry is a seething rage against patriarchal power, not just a dislike of men. And maybe it was born in irony, but it has hardened with
It's hard to put a finger on exactly what made misandry go from fun, fearless flirtation to feminist praxis, but Bill Cosby helped. For Americans who were born in the 60s and 70s, Cosby's animated series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids epitomized innocence in its antic, faintly hallucinogenic primary colors. For those born in the 80s and 90s, the Cosby Show was inescapable. And if you missed those shows, somehow, you knew Cosby from his idyllic enjoyment of pudding pops. It was all good, clean, safe fun.
At least two generations of women had grown into adulthood calmed by Cosby's colorful sweaters and soothing voice. No matter our backgrounds, skin color, family situation, or geographic location, we saw protection in the Cosby persona. Whether the animated universe of the Cosby kids or the cosseted bosom of the Huxtable household, we recognized a place that was a better version of home. But by the end of 2014, about 20 women had come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault. By July of 2015, the number had grown to 35, and by December of this year, it had swelled to 55. Cosby has denied it all.
As every new accuser told her Cosby story—that she had been slipped a drug; that he had spiked her drink; that she had woken in his bed, confused; that he had forced her to her knees; that she had been raped—women across America felt the airbag illusion of safety deflate. Our hearts hurt for the victims; our pain turned to rage. It's all fine fun to make #killallmen jokes on Twitter, but Cosby's betrayal of our trust eroded any irony with each new iteration.
Less prominent was the example of Charlie Sheen, who announced his HIV-positive status on the Today Show, blaming "the companionship of unsavory and insipid types." That interview showed NBC's Matt Lauer repeat Sheen's "unsavory and insipid" and Sheen lob it back; it wasn't enough that Sheen, a man with a robust history of allegations of domestic abuse, tell us that he's HIV positive; he had to blame women when he did it.
And then porn's "boy next door," James Deen made three. Thanksgiving weekend, Deen's ex-girlfriend and sometime scene partner Stoya, performer, entrepreneur and essayist who has written for VICE, alleged that Deen raped her in a pair of tweets. Within a week, eight more women came forward to say that Deen had sexually abused them, too. Deen gave his side of the story to Aurora Snow; the interview reads like a long, sloppy soul kiss to a man whose love of rape jokes is well documented.
So what's a chick to do when she sees a man she'd looked up to, a man she'd thrilled to, and a man she's fapped to betray women? She looks around, and she fears every man, for every man feels implicated in the blank-faced denials of these famous men. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to misandry. And misandry leads to some pretty amazing social action, not to mention some great pop culture.
Writer and sex worker Charlotte Shane expressed her frustration with the limitations of jokey misandry in Matter, saying, "For me, the insistence that misandry is mostly only a joke undermined its most potentially subversive quality: women's unequivocal assertion of their own rage." Misandry-as-meme, Shane suggests, lets people off the hook because of its jokiness, its exclusivity, and its ironic impotence. But Shane sees a future for misandry as praxis: "My larger hope," she says, "is that we find a way of engaging with each other that uses misandry's cathartic power, condemnation of masculinity, and emphasis on female strength towards a more long-term restorative end."
Twitter answered this call. While Twitter may appear to be a microblogging platform, it's really a petri dish for growing movements as disparate as Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter illustrate. Building on this history, Twitter users LaurenChief Elk, Yoeshin Lourdes, and Bardot Smith devised the hashtag and the movement #GiveYourMoneyToWomen, a radical—and controversial—concept that women deserve to be paid for emotional labor. The idea behind it, Chief Elk explained in a VICE interview, arose from her activist views that abusers be financially responsible to their victims. Chief Elk explained that the idea "came out of just thinking about what women have to do all day every day, whether that's in marriages or relationships or work environments."
What misandry Twitter wrought, pop culture celebrated. Gone Girl may have ruined men, but Mad Max: Fury Road killed them, and Imperator Furiosa never once concerned herself with being a "cool girl." All steely glare and useful strength, Furiosa embodies the radical notion of indifference to masculinity, but Fury Road is one part in the misandry double feature of 2015. The second movie in this double feature is Magic Mike XXL. Because here's the thing: A straight woman in the audience of MMXXL gets to feel like a straight guy in every movie. She is pandered to. She gets to ogle the beautiful outside and the caring inside, wrapped in the pneumatic skin of a stripper buddy movie. Above all, MMXL shows that real misandry means making men feel bad about their bodies.
Music and television also clad themselves in misandrist armor. Rihanna drenched her video for "Bitch Better Have My Money" in the blood of Mads Mikkelsen; in her video for "High by the Beach," Lana Del Rey made shooting down a paparazzi helicopter with a gun look languid, disaffected, and cool; Taylor Swift's squad goals in her "Bad Blood" video included kicking men in the throats and groins.
Misandry is nothing new, even if the word has only been in common use since 1946—also the year that the first season of Agent Carter, which debuted on ABC in January 2015, takes place. Agent Peggy Carter's superiority to the men around her is a given, as is her long-suffering attitude. This superiority is echoed and amplified by The Fall's Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, played by Gillian Anderson, known feminist; Jezebel called The Fall the "feminist crime show we've been wanting." Netflix offered not one but two series about toppling the patriarchy: the subtle and optimistic Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the obvious and brooding Jessica Jones. Both of these shows kick powerful men to the curb, Jones literally.
Misandry, 2015's rich, bitchy, delicious evidence suggests, is not a fad. It's in your music and on your television; it's at the movies and in your Twitter stream. It's shaping culture and it's influencing women. If your #MasculinitySoFragile that you've got a problem with that, let me refer you to Hillary Clinton's near-audible eye-rolling at the Benghazi hearing, to Ex Machina's sweetly homicidal Ava, or to New York City's 2015 manspreading misdemeanor. Misandry's here to stay, boys. Get used to it.
Chelsea G. Summers writes for Adult Magazine and many other publications. Follow her on Twitter.