[Content warning: description of rape, misandry, misogyny.]
Occasionally, lists of “horrible feminist quotes” go around the Internet. Inevitably, these quotes turn out to be misrepresentations, quotations out of context, or simply sourceless. I have been increasingly annoyed by this and thus I have identified a representative list and decided to fact-check them.
Anti-Marriage Quotes In General
I was repeating myself a lot, so I decided to just say this bit once.
In 1979, Louisiana was the last US state to repeal its “head and master” laws, which permitted the husband to have the final say regarding all household decisions and jointly owned property without his wife’s knowledge or consent. In 1993, marital rape became illegal in all states of the US; in many states well into the twenty-first century, nonviolent marital rape continued to be legal, and marital rape continued to have lighter punishments, shorter reporting periods, or both compared to nonmarital rape. Even today, South Carolina has not criminalized marital rape without excessive force or violence. In many parts of the world, marriage legally requires consummation and a marriage without an act of sexual intercourse is invalid. That is, the state requires one person to have sex with another specific person– regardless of their opinion on the matter– in order to be validly married.
You can find a lot of quotes that say that feminism should focus on attacking marriage, that feminism requires the breakdown, of the nuclear family, that marriage is slavery, or that the foundation of marriage is legalized rape. However, nearly all such quotes come from a time in which it was perfectly legal for a man to hold down his sobbing wife and have sex with her as she begged him to stop. It seems to me this context makes these quotes somewhere between “understandable hyperbole” and “a reasonable, rational description of the facts on the ground.”
“As long as some men use physical force to subjugate females, all men need not. The knowledge that some men do suffices to threaten all women. He can beat or kill the woman he claims to love; he can rape women…he can sexually molest his daughters… THE VAST MAJORITY OF MEN IN THE WORLD DO ONE OR MORE OF THE ABOVE.” An extremely clever use of ellipses in this quote by Marilyn French. The full quote:
As long as some men use physical force to subjugate females,all men need not. The knowledge that some men do suffices to threaten all women. Beyond that, it is not necessary to beat up a woman to beat her down. A man can simply refuse to hire women in well-paid jobs, extract as much or more work from women than men but pay them less, or treat women disrespectfully at work or at home. He can fail to support a child he has engendered, demand the woman he lives with wait on him like a servant. He can beat or kill the woman he claims to love, he can rape women, whether mate, acquaintance, or stranger; he can rape or sexually molest his daughters, nieces, stepchildren, or the children of a woman he claims to love. The vast majority of men in the world do one or more of the above.
This seems to me to be a quite reasonable statement. I certainly know quite a lot of men who have failed to support their children, demanded to be waited on, or extracted labor from women without paying them equally; since the world includes many, many places in which sexism is far worse than it is in the San Francisco Bay Area, those places raise the average. (How many men in Saudi Arabia do you think want their wives to wait on them like a servant? More or less than ninety percent?)
“My feelings about men are the result of my experience. I have little sympathy for them. Like a Jew just released from Dachau, I watch the handsome young Nazi soldier fall writhing to the ground with a bullet in his stomach and I look briefly and walk on. I don’t even need to shrug. I simply don’t care. What he was, as a person, I mean, what his shames and yearnings were, simply don’t matter.”– This is from the novel The Women’s Room. It is generally considered to be poor form to present quotes from fictional characters as if they represented the considered viewpoints of their authors.
“All patriarchists exalt the home and family as sacred, demanding it remain inviolate from prying eyes. Men want privacy for their violations of women… All women learn in childhood that women as a sex are men’s prey.”– Marilyn French. I have not been able to find this quote in Marilyn French’s work; however, it seems like the sort of thing she would say. This does not seem totally unreasonable to me, however. The “all” is perhaps inaccurate, but I do recall learning in childhood that I might be raped as an adult unless I learned self-defense techniques, never walked alone at night, and watched my drink, and I do not think this is an uncommon female experience. And it is a common feminist critique that a norm of not airing one’s dirty laundry provides cover for abusers.
“All men are rapists and that’s all they are.”– Marilyn French. Again, this is from the fictional novel Women’s Room.
“We live, I am trying to say, in an epidemic of male violence against women.”– Katha Pollitt. The source is here; in context, she is clearly not saying all or even most men commit violence. Her article is perhaps blameworthy for not noticing that we also live in an equally tragic epidemic of male violence against men.
“All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.”– Catherine MacKinnon. According to Wikiquote, this is a false attribution. While MacKinnon believes that sex and rape are difficult to distinguish, this is a belief that is also common among many of the people spreading this quote (namely anyone who believes that people can rape others by mistake or that saying “no” without meaning it without a safeword is a common part of sex). As a general heuristic, I recommend that any time a person quotes Andrea Dworkin or Catherine MacKinnon, you Google the quote; nearly always, it turns out to be misrepresented in some tremendously important way.
“I believe that women have a capacity for understanding and compassion which man structurally does not have, does not have it because he cannot have it. He’s just incapable of it.”– Barbara Jordan. I have tracked down a source which claims she said this at the Leadership 2000: Investing In Our Future conference, but I have not been able to locate a transcript or any further information about the conference or the context of the sentence. I feel that, whether or not she said it, it’s probably wise to use better-sourced quotes.
“The traditional flowers of courtship are the traditional flowers of the grave, delivered to the victim before the kill. The cadaver is dressed up and made up and laid down and ritually violated and consecrated to an eternity of being used.”– Andrea Dworkin. Context. To be honest, I am not certain why the person quoted this sentence when they could have instead quoted, “Night licenses so-called romance and romance boils down to rape: forced entry into the domicile which is sometimes the home, always the body and what some call the soul.” Anyway, this is completely fair and Andrea Dworkin is batshit.
“The media treat male assaults on women like rape, beating, and murder of wives and female lovers, or male incest with children, as individual aberrations…obscuring the fact that all male violence toward women is part of a concerted campaign.”– Marilyn French. Context. This is my favorite subgenre of quote, the ellipse that elides half a page. For the record, the thing that obscures the fact that all male violence against women is part of a concerted campaign is that statistics are not kept on male violence against women as a whole, not anything about the media. I don’t mean to point this out to be like “it completely changes the meaning of the quote!”– it doesn’t– but what kind of lazy-ass person do you have to be to not just quote the sentence that your checkmate-feminists line is in?
“Probably the only place where a man can feel really secure is in a maximum security prison, except for the imminent threat of release.”– Germaine Greer. In context, means the exact opposite of what the out-of-context quote is going for and is actually pretty anti-sexism-against-men:
Probably the only place where a man can feel really secure is in a maximum security prison, except for the imminent threat of release. The problem of recidivism ought to have shown young men like John Greenaway just what sort of a notion security is, but there is no indication that he would understand it. Security is when everything is settled, when nothing can happen to you; security is the denial of life. Human beings are better equipped to cope with disaster and hardship than they are with unvarying security, but as long as security is the highest value in a community they can have little opportunity to decide this for themselves.
“Men who are unjustly accused of rape can sometimes gain from the experience.”–Catherine Comin. Source. This is obviously a reprehensible quote, but the assistant dean of student life at Vassar is not exactly a prominent feminist thinker.
“Men renounce whatever they have in common with women so as to experience no commonality with women; and what is left…is one piece of flesh a few inches long, the penis. The penis is the man; the man is human; the penis signifies humanity.”–Andrea Dworkin. Source. In context, Andrea Dworkin’s claim is that boys recognize that being a woman under patriarchy really fucking sucks, and therefore choose to emulate other men; she points out that this is perfectly natural and girls would become men if they could. This process of emulation involves cutting themselves away from their own humanity. Andrea Dworkin herself is never particularly compassionate towards men, and can be faulted for her lack of sympathy towards men’s position here.
“You grow up with your father holding you down and covering your mouth so another man can make a horrible searing pain between your legs.”– Catherine MacKinnon. In context, this quote is clearly part of a vivid description of sexual abuse which is obviously not intended to refer to every woman who exists. MacKinnon’s description is intended to help pro-porn men understand the anti-porn feminist position through vividly putting them in anti-porn feminist shoes, and I feel like that is praiseworthy.
“Man-hating is everywhere, but everywhere it is twisted and transformed, disguised, tranquilized, and qualified. It coexists, never peacefully, with the love, desire, respect, and need women also feel for men. Always man-hating is shadowed by its milder, more diplomatic and doubtful twin, ambivalence.”–Judith Levine. While I could not find the context of the quote online, it appears to be from Levine’s My Enemy, My Love, a book which comes to the conclusion that man-hating is bad and people shouldn’t do it and that patriarchy is not going to change unless people stop hating men.
“Men’s sexuality is mean and violent, and men so powerful that they can ‘reach WITHIN women to fuck/construct us from the inside out.’ Satan-like, men possess women, making their wicked fantasies and desires women’s own. A woman who has sex with a man, therefore, does so against her will, ‘even if she does not feel forced.'”–Judith Levine. This is another quote from My Enemy, My Love, and it is astonishingly disingenuous:
In the spring of 1987, a friend gave me six photocopied, stapled-together pages from a group calling itself A Southern Women’s Writing Collective: Women Against Sex (WAS). It was a manifesto, written in hermetic language and tortuous syntax, as if transcribed from a middle-of-the-night brawl between pixilated philosophy students. But its tone was ferocious, and the world it depicted was one of terror and rage, male conquest and female surrender.
In WAS’s world, men’s sexuality is mean and violent, and men so powerful that they can ‘reach WITHIN women to fuck/construct us from the inside out.’ Satan-like, men possess women, making their wicked fantasies and desires women’s own. A woman who has sex with a man, therefore, does so against her will, ‘even if she does not feel forced.’
That is literally the OPPOSITE of what Judith Levine believes.
“‘To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo.”– Valerie Solanas. While Valerie Solanas did indeed say that, I think it is quite reasonable to not hold the beliefs of an attempted murderer against feminism as a whole.
The next two quotes are about advocates of repressed memory theory calling the False Memories Society child molesters. I am not sure what this has to do with misandry in feminism, as opposed to pseudoscience in feminism; as far as I am aware, the False Memory Society includes many women among its ranks.
“The male is a domestic animal which, if treated with firmness…can be trained to do most things.”– Jilly Cooper. The author claims that Jilly Cooper was a SCUM member, which does not appear on her Wikipedia page and seems rather unlikely given her career as an author of silly romance novels. Jilly Cooper does not, in fact, appear to identify as a feminist: when asked if she was anti-feminist, she said, “I’m not anti women doing brilliantly and running the country. I loved Mrs Thatcher, I adored her; she was very very nice to me and one tends to take as one finds. I’m not anti-feminist. I just think stridency is unattractive. I hate bullies and people being aggressive and horrible to each other. Men have had such a pasting, they seem to get so sad.” The quote is from a humor book, Men and Supermen, and does not appear to be a serious belief about men. While I agree it is bad for anyone to write books of sexist humor, I would like to point out that feminists seem to be much less likely to write books of sexist humor than anyone else, and perhaps this list-writer’s time could be better used criticizing Dave Barry.
“Women have their faults / men have only two: / everything they say / everything they do.” Apparently a popular feminist graffiti. I am not sure what makes this particularly feminist, any more than me singing “girls go to college to get more knowledge, boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider!” in third grade was feminist.
“I feel what they feel: man-hating, that volatile admixture of pity, contempt, disgust, envy, alienation, fear, and rage at men. It is hatred not only for the anonymous man who makes sucking noises on the street, not only for the rapist or the judge who acquits him, but for what the Greeks called philo-aphilos, ‘hate in love,’ for the men women share their lives with–husbands, lovers, friends, fathers, brothers, sons, coworkers.”– Judith Levine, My Enemy, My Love. Judith Levine does not think that misandry is a good thing. She is admitting honestly that she feels misandry. It is somewhat douchey to take people’s admissions of their flaws which they are working to overcome and be like “see! See! Evil!”
“There are no boundaries between affectionate sex and slavery in (the male) world. Distinctions between pleasure and danger are academic; the dirty-laundrylist of ‘sex acts’…includes rape, foot binding, fellatio, intercourse, auto eroticism, incest, anal intercourse, use and production of pornography, cunnilingus, sexual harassment, and murder.”– Judith Levine. Wow, this guy REALLY hates Judith Levine, for some reason. Anyway, this is talking about the Women Against Sex document, which Levine disagrees with. It includes a comment that she is summarizing the WAS document, but I am sort of confused by the person didn’t just quote the document in the first place. Why are feminist quotes about how misandry is bad on your list of feminist misandric quotes?
“All men are good for is fucking, and running over with a truck.”– Apparently a quote made by a feminist administrator to Richard Dinsmore. I have found an article about Mr. Dinsmore’s case which does not include the quote; the suit appears to be about whether his due process and free speech rights were violated when he was fired for harassment, not about anything a feminist administrator did or did not say to him.
“I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.”– Andrea Dworkin. Once more, this is from the fictional, fictional novel, which is fiction, Mercy by Andrea Dworkin.
“”Men are rapists, batterers, plunderers, killers; these same men are religious prophets, poets, heroes, figures of romance, adventure, accomplishment, figures ennobled by tragedy and defeat. Men have claimed the earth, called it “Her”. Men ruin Her. Men have airplanes, guns, bombs, poisonous gases, weapons so perverse and deadly that they defy any authentically human imagination.”– Andrea Dworkin. Source. This is from the same chapter as the quote I’d discussed earlier about boys separating themselves from their humanity to become men. This quote is describing how masculinity is constructed in a sexist society.
“On the Left, on the Right, in the Middle; Authors, statesmen, thieves; so-called humanists and self-declared fascists; the adventurous and the contemplative, in every realm of male expression and action, violence is experienced and articulated as love and freedom.”–Andrea Dworkin. Source. Again, from the same chapter, and I think in context relatively clear:
Men develop a strong loyalty to violence. Men must come to terms with violence because it is the prime component of male identity. Institutionalized in sports, the military, acculturated sexuality, the history and mythology of heroism, it is taught to boys until they become its advocates–men, not women. Men become advocates of that which they most fear. In advocacy they experience mastery of fear. In mastery of fear they experience freedom. Men transform their fear of male violence into a metaphysical commitment to male violence. Violence itself becomes the central definition of any experience that is profound and significant. So, in Love’s Body, philosopher Norman O. Brown, a sexual radical in the male system, posits that “[l]ove is violence. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, from hot love and living hope.” In the same text, Brown defines freedom in the same way: “Freedom is poetry, taking liberties with words, breaking the rules of normal speech, violating common sense. Freedom is violence.” Swim in male culture; drown in the male romanticization of violence. On the Left, on the Right, in the Middle; authors, statesmen, thieves; so-called humanists and self-declared fascists; the adventurous and the contemplative; in every realm of male expression and action, violence is experienced and articulated as love and freedom. Pacifist males are only apparent exceptions: repelled by some forms of violence as nearly all men are, they remain impervious to sexual violence as nearly all men do.
“I was, in reality, bred by my parents as my father’s concubine… What we take for granted as the stability of family life may well depend on the sexual slavery of our children. What’s more, this is a cynical arrangement our institutions have colluded to conceal.” –Sylvia Fraser. Sylvia Fraser has recovered memories of her father abusing her. I am not sure what is objectionable about a woman who sincerely believes that she was raped by her father saying that she was. I have not been able to find context on the last two sentences and I have no idea what she’s going for.
“We are taught, encouraged, moulded by and lulled into accepting a range of false notions about the family. As a source of some of our most profound experiences, it continues to be such an integral part of our emotional lives that it appears beyond criticism. Yet hiding from the truth of family life leaves women and children vulnerable.” –Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women. This appears to be from this report, which I have been unable to find online to figure out the context of the quote. In the absence of context, it is perfectly plausible that “the truth of family life” is “while most families are happy, some are touched by violence or rape.”
“I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them.”– Robin Morgan. Source. In context, Morgan is clearly separating hatred of men as a group from hatred of all men, and points out the existence of men who are traitors to their class. However, this can still be considered fairly misandrist, as men may object to being considered ‘one of the good men’. (Although do consider the tremendous progress that feminism has made since Morgan wrote.)
“I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire.”– Robin Morgan. Source. This is actually a pretty common feminist definition of rape– it’s basically enthusiastic consent/”if it isn’t fuck yes, it’s fuck no”– and the quote is not particularly out of context. (She does later clarify that she means ‘initiator in tone, if not in action’– I’m not precisely sure what that means, but given my knowledge of other radical feminist writing I’m guessing that she doesn’t mean to say that women who enthusiastically have sex with men are raped.)
“And let’s put one lie to rest for all time: the lie that men are oppressed, too, by sexism–the lie that there can be such a thing as ‘men’s liberation groups.’ Oppression is something that one group of people commits against another group, specifically because of a ‘threatening’ characteristic shared by the latter group–skin, color, sex or age, etc. The oppressors are indeed FUCKED UP by being masters, but those masters are not OPPRESSED. Any master has the alternative of divesting himself of sexism or racism–the oppressed have no alternative–for they have no power but to fight. In the long run, Women’s Liberation will of course free men–but in the short run it’s going to cost men a lot of privilege, which no one gives up willingly or easily. Sexism is NOT the fault of women–kill your fathers, not your mothers.”– Robin Morgan. Source. This does seem to be a fairly quoted and expressing a common feminist belief (albeit one I happen to disagree with in the case of men).
“Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women’s bodies.”– Andrea Dworkin. She never said it; she did, however, say “Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men’s contempt for women” in Intercourse. Man, that’s just sloppy. Why are you misquoting someone when they literally said the exact thing you want them to say? Anyway, in context she’s clearly talking about intercourse-the-cultural-concept, not intercourse-the-thing-people-do-with-each-other’s-genitals (a few sentences later, she mentions that making intercourse one of many possible sex acts people can do together would fix the problem). But on the other hand she is saying that men as a whole hate women, which is pretty terrible.
“In a patriarchal society, all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.”– Catherine MacKinnon. This is a summary of MacKinnon’s beliefs from a book called Professing Feminism, which conservative columnist Cal Thomas mistakenly attributed to her. MacKinnon does not believe that all heterosexual intercourse is rape, although she believes that much of it is.
“And if the professional rapist is to be separated from the average dominant heterosexual, it may be mainly a quantitative difference.”– Susan Griffin. Source. In context, she’s not saying that all men are rapists, but she is saying that according to the scientific studies available at the time rapists tended to be normal, well-adjusted men who are different only in that they have a greater tendency to express rage and violence. (My understanding is that more recent research has shown that this is not true.)
“The institution of sexual intercourse is anti-feminist.” –Ti-Grace Atkinson. While Atkinson’s The Institution of Sexual Intercourse does not appear to be online, I suspect from my knowledge of her beliefs that this is an accurate reflection of them, whether or not it is an accurate quote. Atkinson believed that, because PIV does not usually involve clitoral stimulation and does involve risk of pregnancy that falls disproportionately on the woman, the institution of PIV was harmful to women as a whole and the only reason they did it was because of patriarchy.
“[Rape] is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear”.– Susan Brownmiller. Context. Brownmiller is not saying that all men are rapists or that all men are conspiring to rape women. She’s referring to the social role of rape: she theorizes that the origin of patriarchy was that, because women in prehistoric times could be raped by men and were not strong enough to defend themselves, they would have to each find a single man to protect them from all the other men.
“When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticizing her own oppression…”– Sheila Jeffreys. As best as I can tell, this quote does not appear in any of Sheila Jeffreys’s books. Is Sheila Jeffreys so lacking in batshit quotations that you have to make them up?
“Clearly you are not yet a free-thinking feminist but rather one of those women who bounce off the male-dominated, male-controlled social structures. Who cares how men feel or what they do or whether they suffer? They have had over 2000 years to dominate and made a complete hash of it. Now it is our turn. My only comment to men is: if you don’t like it, bad luck–and if you get in my way I’ll run you down.”– A 1996 letter to the editor from the Boronia Herald-Sun. Unfortunately, its archives do not appear to be online, so I cannot find context. I will point out, however, that “at least one member of this ideology has sent a dumb letter to the editor” is true of every ideology that has more than ten thousand adherents.
“If the classroom situation is very heteropatriarchal–a large beginning class of 50 to 60 students, say, with few feminist students–I am likely to define my task as largely one of recruitment…of persuading students that women are oppressed.”– Joyce Trebilcot. This quote appears in Who Stole Feminism? by Christina Hoff Sommers; while it has a citation, that is not visible in Google Books and I don’t want to buy a copy of Who Stole Feminism? to check it. However, this does not seem that unreasonable to me. Joyce Trebilcot presumably believes it is an objective fact that women are oppressed; she has spent her life studying it. Introductory-level courses are usually for teaching things, not for debate; an economics professor may very well see his task as persuading students that free trade is a good idea, or a climate science professor that the earth is warming.
“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation, and destroy the male sex.”– Valerie Solanas. Seriously, guys, she tried to kill Andy Warhol, stop holding her against the rest of feminism.
“Men, as a group, tend to be abusive, either verbally, sexually or emotionally. There are always the exceptions, but they are few and far between (I am married to one of them). There are different levels of violence and abuse and individual men buy into this system by varying degrees. But the male power structure always remains intact.” and “Considering the nature and pervasiveness of men’s violence, I would say that without question, children are better off being raised without the presence of men. Assaults on women and children are mostly perpetrated by men whom they are supposed to love and trust: fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, step-fathers.” These are quotes from something called ‘FEMISA’, which is apparently an email list. The only FEMISA I have been able to find is a group advocating for fibroid embolization, which I assume is not the one these quotes are coming from. The apparent source says they were in response to a posting asking for people’s best arguments that men are not necessary for raising children, because the person was writing a paper about why men are necessary and wanted to counter them. For that reason, it seems at least plausible to me that both of these quotes are playing devil’s advocate and do not reflect the actual beliefs of the women writing them. Without the whole posting, it would be impossible to know.
The next two are apparently considered ‘heterophobia.’ This confuses me, because neither of them even mentions heterosexuals, and it’s not like there aren’t a bunch of really truly heterophobic feminist quotes to get mad about. (I would suggest beginning with lesbian separatists and continuing from there.)
“At Brandeis I discovered Feminism. And I instantly became a convert… writing brilliant papers in my Myths of Patriarchy class, in which I likened my fate as a woman to other victims throughout the ages.”– Heather Hart. This is a quote from Christina Hoff Sommers’s Who Stole Feminism, in which Hart is talking about her disenchantment with academic feminism. This does not necessarily imply that Hart believed that all women were victims when she was writing the papers, just that that was the spin she put on it now. Also, I think it’s kind of much when your misandry sampler keeps including quotes from other people talking about how misandric feminism is. Shouldn’t we be hearing from the misandric feminists themselves?
“Ninety-five percent of women’s experiences are about being a victim. Or about being an underdog, or having to survive… women didn’t go to Vietnam and blow things up. They are not Rambo.”–Jodie Foster. Context. Jodie Foster is an actress, and not a feminist theorist; she is discussing how she has a hard time finding movies to star in because she likes ‘heavy dramas’, which involve serious life-or-death issues but aren’t about being powerful like Wonder Woman. I’m going to guess that she probably meant “women’s experiences” to mean something like “women’s experiences involving life-or-death dramas of the sort I am interested in acting in,” rather than “women’s experiences in general”.