Soon after I published “Why We Don’t Need Feminism” on Thought Catalog, the comments started flooding in and all I could think about was how much I wanted to end my life. What have I done? I asked myself. Why didn’t I just keep my big mouth shut? In tears, I called my professor, a respected historian and feminist, at her house. She read the article and the comments. At first she was filled with dread. Then she pointed out that the bulk of the comments were merely vitriolic spew. This wasn’t like getting a bad grade on a test for which I’d failed to comprehend the material and was scolded with constructive criticism. It was just a bunch of angry people making awful and hurtful assumptions about my identity, intention, and work.
The most popular comment, with 217 upvotes, said: “This is the worst article I have ever read on this website.” Beneath it, someone added: “This author is evil and deserves to die a painful death.”
The next comment, with 193 likes, was neutral. “We need feminism so that men aren’t only perceived as violent and aggressive apes.”
I agree; who wouldn’t? The linguistic gulf here is just superficial semantics. You say we need feminism. Other people think we need post-feminism. Other people just general democracy. And so on.
With 139 likes, the next commenter notes:
Masking internalized misogyny and patronizing rhetoric towards your own gender by flippantly trivializing the male psyche and lumping them all into the neanderthal category therefore absolving men of any responsibility and making the systematic oppression of women their own fault. Wow, how original. NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. Bravo, you’re an example for us all.
I don’t “trivialize the male psyche” anywhere in the article. I just offer a quick summary of the general consensus in evolutionary theory about why men tend to be more violent than women across all cultures. The answer is one detailed at length by Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, who believes men tend to be more violent than women because of innate (non-cultural) genetic wiring. Scholars with feminist perspectives like Barbara Smuts, Sarah Hrdym and Patrica Gowaty use this intellectual framework to understand men’s behavior too. Moreover, it does not follow that just because you are born with a certain tendency you must act it, nor that your aren’t responsible. In fact, it means the opposite: being aware of certain tendencies can help us overcome them.
With 129 likes: “I am constantly baffled as to why feminists are seen as ‘man-haters’ when the author legitimately just compared men to violent chimpanzees.”
Is one also a man hater if one simply states the very true statistic that men commit 88% of all murders in the United States? Or that humans are related to chimpanzees? Why are we so incapable of dealing with uncomfortable facts?
With 125 likes: “:( This article actually proves the opposite.”
Why the sad face? Of course it does and that’s the whole point. The title is a rhetorical move, not a logical one; one of the best ways to empower something or someone is to critically challenge it. I mean, telling a kid don’t think about sex. Don’t do drugs is only going to make them hornier and more interested in getting high. Same with this article: what forbids, titillates.
With 73 likes: “This is a joke article right? It’s not possible for anyone with a brain to be this stupid or ignorant.”
The next page features some of the best comments on the article (in my opinion) that got buried in all the hooting and hollering. Click here.
I’m sure if I met any of the people who called me names, made fun of me, or wished that I die a painful death – in person for a coffee and we chatted about the intersection of biology and sociology, gender, the intricate link between war and progress – we might disagree at times, but we would have a wonderfully stimulating conversation, and we both could learn things from each other. But there is something regressive about comments. Something that just makes us want to yell. Which, I suppose, should be expected because, after all, we are just animals with clothes on.