“Kill All Men” Is Only Killing Feminism

Kill All Men Is Only Killing Feminism

Kyan Baker, Contributor

“Kill All Men.” I was clicking through Instagram stories when I first came across the hashtag. My first thought was how offensive a phrase like that was. I later learned about how the phrase was used as a joke by women coping with trauma. It is largely aimed to attack the system that keeps men in power. I agree with this sentiment that our system needs to be looked at with a critical eye. We do live in a patriarchy that puts systems in place to make it harder for a woman to succeed. Despite this, I continue to disagree with the use of the phrase.

When looking at any social issue, it is important to understand the history. Although “Kill All Men” is a relatively recent hashtag on social media, the ideas are nothing new. SCUM, or the Society for Cutting Up Men was an idea based on the manifesto of the same name that was released in 1967. At the time, it had been described as satire or parody, until the author attempted to murder Andy Warhol a year later. Rhetoric encouraging the death of men, or any group for that matter, has always existed and always been harmful. 

There are advantages to identifying as male. However it is not a choice. There are many men who participate in misogynistic culture, there are also many who want to do the right thing. Some argue that men only appear to be progressive in a performative way. In a movement that encourages men to do the right thing, allies’ actions must not be dismissed as performative activism. 

Since KAM is something mainly being talked about by Gen Z today, I spoke to some students to gather their opinions. SRHS senior Leila Leibert said, “It’s just misogyny skewed the other direction. It’s definitely a turn off to begin with. It sounds more like it comes from a hate group.” She went on to talk about how the best way to spark change is to include people, and how a movement toward equality would be more effective. “This is hate speech, and not something that should be accepted by society. If a guy started yelling “Kill All Women,” people would be enraged.” 

When asked about what he sees as the best course of action, senior Kailash Shah said, “Feminism should be made more inclusive and less exclusive. Instead of ‘killing’ them, you can make men feel responsible for helping out.”

SRHS senior Rayan Zouai said, “When people excuse me from the phrase because I’m gay, it’s like they don’t see me as a man.” No matter how you see men, gay men and trans men are still men, and they should not be ashamed of that identity. 

I polled the LINK Crew class in order to see what upperclassmen who have an influence over freshmen believe. Almost all participants had first heard of KAM from social media in a supportive, but jokingly context. Many of the participants agreed that the phrase does not help, but also that it does not need to help. LINK Leaders have an influence over freshmen. If they were to spread rhetoric like KAM to younger students, it could ultimately influence them to believe in it. The underclassmen boys that LINK Crew works with could end up feeling attacked, the very opposite of LINK Crew’s purpose.

SRHS junior LINK Leader Omarion Beard said, “Making double standards will not help. Men can be held at a higher standard without damaging their emotional state. People just pass it off as a joke and say, ‘He can take it.’’’

I’ve heard the point that killing men can be joked about because it is not a real problem. Men account for 79% of homicide victims, and two thirds of suicides. Some have also made the case that the use of young men in war is a form of androcide (systematic killing of men). The death of boys and men is not a joke, the same as how sexual assault against men and other issues that disproportionately affect women should not be treated as a joke. Even if a problem is talked about less, that does not mean it is not a problem at all.

This brings me to the “Not All Men” hashtag. I find this phrase equally as backwards as “Kill All Men.” Both phrases have the effect of excluding men from the feminist movement, defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the genders. “Not All Men” dismisses real issues affecting women and disregards them because not all men participate in those issues. Although they are on opposite sides of the spectrum, “Kill All Men” is similarly dismissive of men who try to fight misogyny themselves. Instead of creating an “us vs. them” mentality, the best course of action is to let all genders work together in the fight. The patriarchy is something that hurts everyone, not just women. 

The patriarchy is what tells men to hide their emotions. It is what discourages them from going to therapy. It is a major reason why men’s mental health is so underrepresented. All men are not responsible for this, but it is instead a cause for men to dismantle the patriarchy. If equality is to be achieved, we must focus on all issues that the patriarchy is causing, rather than targeting the other half of the population. 

When young men are depressed, their feelings are disregarded. They are told “Boys don’t cry,” or “Be a man.” A comment from the UC Santa Barbara newspaper says, “If you’re pressed by KAM, you’re part of the problem.” I can’t help but find this similar to those who say that boys need to “toughen up.”

I talked to the Santa Rosa-based therapist Elizabeth Schrieber about how phrases like KAM affect mental health. “Boys will feel attacked by the phrase, and there is not enough consideration on how it affects people,” Schrieber said. She went further into talking about the disregarding of men’s feelings. “Men’s mental health is not being fairly represented. Stigmas are still present, and not enough men are in fields of psychology,” she said. When asked about effective ways to dismantle misogyny, she said, “Getting men into therapy would be a good start. Men need a place to learn about themselves.” 

I’ve heard the point that “Kill All Men” does not have to be productive, as long as it helps women process trauma. With trauma recovery being the biggest argument in favor of KAM, I asked for a professional opinion from Dr. Schrieber. “Going to extremes does not help in processing trauma. Jumping one way does not get you to balance. When you laugh off trauma, it does not go away,” she said. 

To call a man a sexist and dismiss his allyship simply for being unwilling to take insults is both harmful and counterproductive. Despite my issues with rhetoric like “Kill All Men” or SCUM, it’s not going to stop me from being a feminist. As I have learned more about the phrase, it does not make me feel as uncomfortable anymore. I know that the discomfort I feel is less than what women face at the hands of misogyny. However, I know that not everybody will be so understanding. When people feel that they are backed into a corner, they will fight back. It will not help them examine their own internalized misogyny, it will make them defensive. Preventing men from learning about their identity will cause them to misconstrue it as toxic masculinity. When masculinity becomes toxic, this is what leads to misogynistic behavior. Therefore, KAM is not going to end misogyny, it will only make it worse. 

I spoke to Karyn, a Marin parent of three boys who asked to have her last name redacted. When asked how her sons would feel about the phrase, she said, “They would feel unfairly attacked. They don’t like whenever whole groups are labeled when it depends on the individual.” When asked about her views of the effects of KAM, Karyn said, “It is not geared toward problem solving. It breeds fear and distrust, and makes it impossible to form relationships.”

If violence against any other demographic group was joked about to such an extreme, the backlash would be immeasurable. If anyone created the hashtag, “Kill All Women,” they would rightfully be labeled as a misogynistic extremist. It’s strange to see that there are people who disagree so strongly with the opinion that it is wrong to insult people for things that they cannot control. While it can be argued that these are different because one refers to the “oppressor,” and the other the “oppressed,” I find a phrase like “Kill the Patriarchy” to be more effective in getting that point across. If they do not mean “Kill All Men,” why say it at all?

Another counterpoint to my argument is that it is similar to the “Blue Lives Matter” movement, which was created in response to Black Lives Matter. Although I believe police lives do matter, it is often only used to dismiss black lives. This is why I condemn Blue Lives Matter. The main difference between that movement and my point is that men do not choose to be men, while cops choose to be cops. Cops put themselves in a position to be perceived as an oppressor, while men are born that way or transition later in life.

The male identity is something that has largely lost its meaning. I had the chance to talk with veteran SRHS English teacher Bill Allan. If you’re a young, white, heterosexual man, it’s really hard to feel like you’re not the problem,” he said. Allan also explained the misconceptions surrounding gender roles. A veteran of the Scottish Navy, Allan said, “In any military, the first thing you learn is how to clean before you learn to kill. I say this because I do the cleaning in my household.” This goes to show that the misogynistic stereotype of the homemaker mother is being dismantled. He went on to talk about the role of fathers in the household. “I think about the men who are my age who are fathers, and I think about their fathers, and they were never there. They were the absent figure,” Allan said. He mentioned how today, fathers are often as involved as mothers, if not more so. When asked what would be a better way to combat misogyny than KAM, Allan said, “If men start to think more about their own identity, it would help a whole lot more. How can we change if we don’t learn about our identity, and if we do try to learn about our identity, we are met with hostility of “Kill All Men.””

The students and professionals I have spoken to have made it clear that “Kill All Men” is the wrong way to achieve gender equality. Ultimately, the only way to make productive steps toward this goal is by working together, not shaming half of the population for something they can’t control. Allowing men to learn about their own identities and continuing to educate others on how the patriarchy hurts everyone is a good start, because to change the system, everybody will have to be on board.

Publisher’s Note: After a meeting with LINK crew members, one paragraph has been updated three days after the story’s initial publication.