A man-hater is someone who is described as “disliking men”; generally due to a negative history with men or a relationship that went sideways. These negative experiences then transform into a bias against the entire gender. As I was reading through my “Why I’m a Feminist” post yesterday I noticed that in a few areas, my tone gets a little intense.
I’m aware of the fact that that can make me come off as a man-hater. So just to be clear from the gate, I’m not. However, my desire to explain the source of my intensity serves as the inspiration behind this post.
If you’ve read my other posts then you well know by now that I’m an abuse survivor. As most of you can imagine, these experiences did in fact severely distort my perception of men and really, all human beings for a period of time. The things I endured at a young age led me to believe a number of things. These included but weren’t limited to:
- If someone was nice to me or helped me, they wanted something.
- Every person in my life had an ulterior motive; it was just a matter of finding it.
- Men were not to be trusted. If they weren’t trying to fuck me or kill me then I would spend my time searching for what they did want (see above).
- It was normal for men to have a dark side and it would surely appear once we were behind closed doors.
As you can see, my perception was severely distorted. Maybe I believed this because I was abused continuously from ages 5-7. Maybe it was because the next “father figure” in my life passed his time by being mentally, emotionally, and physically abusive. Maybe it was because the one after him waited 3 years (until he had gained my trust) to slide his hand down my pants while I was sleeping. Really though, I believe it was because it was just one after another. A never ending parade of sick men. It’s worth noting that there was one amazing man, in between the first and the second, named Lars. He was a good guy who always treated me with love and kindness. But my mother dumped him. Irony at its finest, I suppose.
Hopefully you can understand why by the age of 12 I had my guard up and trusted no one. I believed that older men were all harboring some form of sickness because at that point in my life, with my history, that was my truth. It was pure, unadulterated survival instinct for me to be wary of men. It wasn’t that I was some “man-hating bitch” because one guy cheated on me or because I decided to grow up and be a sexist. No. For me, my distrust and uncomfortability with the older male population was a necessity. It was what was required to survive. Having that wall up saved me from having even more bad experiences to tell you about today. I was able to see and avoid many very real threats because I was acutely aware of the energy that pedophiles, rapists, and women beaters gave off. Yes, I know that sounds like some psychic bullshit; but it’s not. When you grow up surrounded by snakes, you learn which ones are venomous. Our bodies are intrinsically designed to adapt to our environment and how to best survive within it. When you’re environment is sick men, you learn what to look for.
Moving forward, while this survival instinct did help me, it also had it’s downside. It made me distrustful of boyfriends and older men. Sure, I could almost completely avoid sick men; but that didn’t mean I had any clue what a good one looked like. My mother dated shitty men, and I continued the cycle. I was always uncomfortable when alone with older men; even if they were good people. I knew good men existed due to the example of my grandfather and Uncle Gerald but I didn’t know how to find them. I pushed away good people. I questioned everyone’s motives. I kept the world at arms length and I didn’t let anyone catch me with my guard down. I went through a period where I wouldn’t let a man close enough to me for me to hate him. I was suspicious of them and due to my personal experience I believed the majority to be selfish, ulterior motive toting, sex abusing, cheating, lying scumbags. This theory was helped along by my own inability to identify a good man. I thought they existed but because I didn’t know what one looked like, I always settled for who I thought was good. They rarely were.
Time moved on and I dared to raise my standards. My foster mom kept assuring me that actual good men existed and told me what to look for. She married one of the good ones. I started choosing better boyfriends. I grew up. I had faith in my ability to protect myself and use discernment enough that I would let people just close enough that I could attempt to get to know them. I made some really great male friends. I saw how they treated their girlfriends. I watched my foster mom’s husband treat her with respect, kindness, and love. I was in his company alone and he never once made a pass at me. He never put his hands on me. He never talked down to me. I feel safe when I’m with him. This man, among a few good ex-boyfriends and friends, and a current amazing boyfriend showed me that good men do exist. They showed me that some people truly only wish to share their lives with you and do not want something in return. I know today that I can allow someone to pay for a date without worrying what they’re going to expect for it. I know that the sickness of a few does not define the character of many. I broke the cycle.
I do not judge people based off of their race, gender, religion (or lack thereof), or sexual orientation. I judge you by how you treat me. I judge you by how you treat your waitress, your mother, your friends. I’ll give you a chance, without judgement or unfair expectations, to show me who you are. Then I’ll decide whether or not you’re someone who belongs in my life. That’s the best I can do for anyone.
I am not a man-hater. I’m just cautious with who I allow near my heart and my body. However, I refuse to sugar coat how I feel about the men in my past for fear that I’ll be perceived as a man-hater. I’m just a woman who did the best I could with the cards I was dealt. I don’t believe that you have to hate men in order to support women; because you don’t. We’re all incredible. We’re all unique. The mistakes of a few do not define the character of many. It’s our job to support our fellow human beings without putting others down in order to do so.
by Ashley Hebner
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