A History of Man-Hating: Separatism, Lesbianism, and Misrepresentation

By Kim Adamski

Before I go any further, let me put this disclaimer out there: Feminism is NOT about hating men or making women superior to men, and the vast majority of feminists like men, romantically and/or platonically. However, today I want to talk about a small feminist minority – separatist feminists, those who believe that feminism should focus exclusively on women and girls and exclude men completely from the movement.

If you are a feminist, you probably spend a lot of time vehemently denying the existence of such a group. If you do not identify as a feminist, you might believe that feminism is inherently man-hating. In fact, neither is accurate.

Early feminist theory.

Early feminist theory.

Modern separatist feminism arguably began with the organization Cell 16. Though the organization never promoted lesbianism as part of its political agenda in favor of celibacy, Cell 16 is credited with laying the groundwork for lesbian separatism (which includes both homosexual women and heterosexual “political lesbians”). One of the most famous separatist publications is the SCUM Manifesto, a 1967 work by Valerie Solanas. The manifesto gained widespread attention when the author attempted to kill Andy Warhol for unknown reasons. Solanas presents men as “incomplete females,” genetically deficient because of their Y chromosome. She goes on to list societal maladies which she attributes to the male sex, including war, disease, conformity, and prejudice of all kinds. In addition, she calls for the elimination of men through reproducing only female children, and halting reproduction completely once men became extinct because without men, the problems of aging and death could be solved.

I see a logical fallacy here...

I see a logical fallacy here…

Surely, this point of view seems a bit crazy. However, similar separatist movements still exist today. One particularly infamous group is called Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), or as they call themselves, “gender-critical feminists.” Their brand of women-only feminism requires the exclusion of trans* women, on the basis that trans* women are really men. TERFs believe that since gender is socially constructed, to acknowledge non-physical psychological differences between men and women is to support patriarchy. This leads them to exclude trans* people from their movement, claiming things like “a mutilated male body is not a female body” and that transgenderism supports rape culture. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies TERFs as a hate group.

Even within mainstream feminism, we still see some anti-male sentiment. Especially within internet communities like Tumblr, the internet contains a scattering of bloggers who claim that men cannot be feminists, and that men are dangerous/always reinforce patriarchal ideals/can be of no help to feminism. Obviously, this is not true, but unfortunately, this is what the media latches onto. To make matters worse, many prominent feminists’ ideas are distorted, simplified, or taken out of context by the media. One well-known example of this is Andrea Dworkin. Chances are, the only thing you know about her is that she supposedly thinks all heterosexual sex is rape. In reality, this is not even close to what she actually has to say on the topic. She makes a much more complex statement about patriarchy, oppression, and consent that is supported by sociological research and knowledge, but is twisted by popular media into something completely different to discredit feminism.

There are two points I am trying to make with this blog post. The first is to always think critically about what the media is telling you, because not everything you read is true, and no media is unbiased. The second is specifically for the feminist community: Do not be afraid to question anything, even if it was said by a feminist. Do your research and come to your own conclusions so that you can support the fight for gender equality with accurate information and sound theory.


Kim Adamski co-hosts a public affairs show on WHUS called Full Frontal Feminism with DJ KBham. Find more information on their Facebook page, facebook.com/fullfrontalfeminism.