Otherwise known as benevolent misogyny, the good men misogyny is no different from your everyday misogyny. However, it has been branded ‘benevolent’ because it is perpetrated by the self-proclaimed good guys who keep drawing a line between themselves (good guys) and others (bad guys) to accommodate their own bigotry.
Let us start from the basics. Misogyny is the hatred of or prejudice against women. We see this hate/prejudice expressed in many ways in our very patriarchal society but we are so used to ‘clear cut’ and outright misogyny that many people, especially women ignore or even allow misogyny to thrive simply because it comes from the ‘good guys’. Still on the basics, a self-proclaimed good guy is that guy who admits that patriarchy exists and that society (men) deny the humanity of women but never admits that he could be one of these guys. According to the good guy, he is different, special and should even be appreciated for not being a bigot. He believes in gender equality even though his contribution to the fight for equality begins with “we need to protect our women” and ends with “we need to do better”. However, like most men, the good guy is still misogynistic and just as harmful.
A few months ago, there was a conversation on social media about the place of men in feminism and a lot of women (feminists) gave the opinion that men had no business being called feminists and that even the term “ally” was not for them to confer on themselves. They further explained that men calling themselves feminists gave the impression that they (men) had the power to differentiate between “good guys” and “bad guys” but the reality is that it is not a man’s place to determine whether or not he is a bigot. This makes a lot of sense because it is human nature to want to be seen as good. Even some of the worst criminals that the world has seen described themselves as good people and if you give people that power to determine the line between good and bad guys, they will keep adjusting the line to ensure that they never cross it. We can draw perspective from the conversation about race – just as it is not a white person’s place to say whether he is or isn’t racist, it is not a man’s place to say whether or not he’s misogynist.
Another reason why benevolent misogyny is very harmful is because it fails to recognize that misogyny is driven by a patriarchal system. It neglects the fact that the system is oppressive and instead tries to sway us with tales of “few bad eggs”. It makes us believe that the system is equal but ‘some’ men are just bad or creepy. In the words of comedienne Hannah Gadsby “Men are not creepy. Rejecting the humanity of women is not creepy. It is misogyny.”
As women and as feminists, we should not attempt to classify men as good and bad while ignoring the oppressive system that denies our humanity from which ALL men benefit. It should be our focus to completely dismantle this oppressive system and if men decide to join the movement, good for them – it’s for our collective good anyway.
Chisom Anastasia Nwaezuoke is a physiotherapist, writer, public speaker and yogi. She is also a sexual health and reproductive rights advocate and volunteers for HandsOff Initiative.