When first hearing the phrase “kill all men” said jokingly in the context of friends or otherwise, you’ll probably think it’s funny, just like I did. You may look up the term, possibly finding the Twitter hashtag “#killallmen.” The comments there will range from decently insulting: “if u don’t support #killallmen then we cannot be friends </3,” to outright disturbing: “my father could die right in front of my eyes and i would not feel a flicker of emotion. #killallmen.”
At this point, I sincerely hope you’ll reconsider the statement’s meaning, or begin to see it in a different light. According to several adamant supporters and defenders of #killallmen, the phrase was born from the resentment that many women carry after centuries of sexism and discrimination brought on by the patriarchy. Even though these feelings in response to oppression are justified and can be relatable, retaliating with the same acts of persecution can be just as harmful.
Unsurprisingly, under the hashtag #killallmen, several other members of the Twitter community quickly responded by posting equally insulting comments such as, “This is why I hate women,” or, “#feminismiscancer.” These blanket statements start a cycle of hate — even if unintentional — which in the end do nothing to progress the feminist movement.
The other feeble argument in favor of the expression “kill all men” is that it’s rarely ever used in a serious way. Many men are supporters and allies of the feminist movement, and the phrase is more often reserved for rapists or misogynists. The statement is a joke, and it’s meant to empower women, right? The thing is, there are millions of men of color, gay men, or other oppressed males that have not only faced similar adversity, but are also proud feminists.
What if someone jokingly said “kill all women” online? There would be an uproar of fury at this statement, and understandably so. So why is it that the men on social media who protested #killallmen were called “sexist” and “part of the problem”? Regardless of context, the phrase is spreading hate, and normalizing hate against one group doesn’t change the fact that the hate still exists.
Furthermore, if the “casual joke” meant by “kill all men” is already insulting, then the instances where someone sounds remotely serious takes it much too far. In early 2020, the Australian “feminist” Clementine Ford tweeted “The coronavirus isn’t killing men fast enough.” During a time when many have lost husbands or fathers and given that the coronavirus has killed men at higher rates than women, calling this tweet insensitive is the understatement of the century.
Feminism at its core is about securing equal rights and an equal chance at happiness for all genders. Anti-feminists misrepresent the movement as radicalist and misandrist, and they only have to look so far as author Marilyn French’s quote, “All men are rapists, and that’s all they are,” to self-righteously proclaim feminists as man-haters and discredit their ideas without a second thought. The #killallmen trend feeds this ignorance and provides more excuses to discredit feminism and define the movement by the harmful words of a few. Comments such as “kill all men,” said in the guise of feminism, reinforce misconceptions such as the idea that the femisist movement is just for women, or that it’s meant to further a divide between women and men.
Instead of making these hyperbolic statements and condemning a group of people for the actions of a few, why not condemn the act of sexism itself? If the purpose of “kill all men” is to combat misogyny and sexual harassment, wouldn’t a more appropriate statement be “kill all discrimination”? Time and time again we’ve been taught that the things we say have an impact, and even in jest, statements can be harmful. Spreading the phrase “kill all men” perpetuates the idea that has been so widely fought against for hundreds of years: that people can be divided by something trivial like their gender or race. So before you tweet #killallmen, decide if the cheap laughs are worth the very real consequences for the feminist movement.