The hyperbole “Kill All Men” is a verbal manifestation of deep-rooted distrust in the power structure that puts rapists in our courts and gender roles in our homes. Although the mainstream media often misinterprets the slogan, it’s not actually about women wanting any individual or group to die. It’s about women vocalizing their anger as a way to trivialize traumatic experiences, typically with cisgender men. “Kill All Men” should be seen as a cry for the death of the patriarchy, not as a cry for blood.
Part of processing these traumatic experiences is allowing oneself to feel intensely, and while it’s not good to spread hate, releasing tension by joking with friends does help victims. Coping with trauma through dark humor — or ironic misandry in this case — isn’t a bad thing, but emotional suppression can be. Suppressed emotions always find ways to manifest themselves, and can end up perpetuating cycles of violence.
Instead of attacking women for “polarizing political discourse,” let’s ask them why they’re motivated to use such radical rhetoric. Let’s stop victim shaming and simply listen. Why do women say “Kill All Men,” and how can we change the systems that motivate them to do so?
It’s a structural attack, not a personal one. Feminists don’t want men to die, they want the death of conventional masculinity. And it’s not just feminists who should want this. Men, women, and non-binary people should support the end of masculine stereotypes as well. We need to challenge the ideas that say men can’t have positive familial roles, that men can’t be reliant on others, and that men must be tough. These stereotypes aren’t just hurting women, they’re hurting men too. Messages of conventional masculinity, like these stereotypes, lead men to face higher rates of suicide and violence.
Feminists don’t want men to die, they want the death of conventional masculinity.
The media often claims that the slogan normalizes violence against men. By presenting an opposing example, “Kill All Women,” people attempt to illustrate issues they deem inherent to the hashtag. This argument misses the point completely. People who say “Kill All Women” have institutional power structures backing them up, whereas when women express a similar message, they are drawing from a history of marginalization and oppression. It’s easy to see that it’s a bit different.
Men often feel uncomfortable when confronted with the slogan, but its very intention is to cause discomfort. Social progress is inhibited when people are complacent, and complacency feeds off of comfort. Feminists are challenging male authority, and that can be difficult to grapple with. That doesn’t make it any less important. Our society is in desperate need of change, as is evident from having a culture that propels women to say “Kill All Men,” and that change isn’t going to happen if the people in power are complacent.
Phrases like “Kill All Men” interweave satire and ironic misandry to express feelings of distrust and spark dialogue about sexism. With friends and known supporters of the movement, it can be a way to process traumatic experiences and bring female narratives to light. Admittedly, dealing with mainstream America, especially people who haven’t been confronted with the notion of radical feminism, requires a bit more nuance.
All of this is to say that semantics shouldn’t be the base of any argument. Let’s stop tearing women apart for expressing understandable emotions, and instead start listening to them. Sometimes it feels like feminist issues are only discussed when radical rhetoric is used, so let’s change our social and political spaces so that women don’t need to shout “Kill All Men” to be heard.