“Kill All Men”: On Humor and Trauma

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Sofia Lyon

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Content warning: sexual assault

Resentment or anger towards men composes much of the popular “relatable” content online. The issues encoded in those messages can speak to irritating nuances of gender dynamics and misogyny, or bring attention to more serious, persistent problems in our world. Many of these emotions of fear, anger, or contempt are encapsulated in the phrase, “Kill all men.” While it can certainly appear crude, the phrase is ultimately a humorous method of coping with trauma or the prevalent possibility of it in women’s lives — and inappropriate responses from men only further embolden the issue.

The phrase began as a punchline for many women’s complaints about the idiosyncrasies of everyday misogyny. Twitter user @memorablehoe demonstrates a popular use of the phrase by posting: “To all my ladies out there: play him before he plays you #killallmen.” 

Another user, @uwu_kinny, uses the hashtag to vent: “Just argued with a guy for an entire hour about why u have to ask for consent and I lost all hope in the male species #killallmen.” In its popular, colloquial usage, the phrase has never been understood as a literal call to action, despite many men’s rights activists believing so to further invalidate feminism. 

So the humor and irony of the phrase are clear, but its purpose runs deeper than comedic catharsis. It exposes the unnoticeable nuance of misogyny that pervades the lives of all women. Further, it shows how deeply misogyny is embedded into the fabric of our culture, and how men and women are socialized alongside those beliefs. Perhaps some of the most dangerous elements of any form of prejudice are the insidious ways in which it bleeds into everyday life. 

“The phrase began as a punchline for many women’s complaints about the idiosyncrasies of everyday misogyny.”

While mostly appearing online satirically, the phrase has attracted negative attention from the MRA and incel communities respectively. They understand it as a personal insult, as a sentiment meant to attack every man on Earth individually. Some have even retorted with their own phrase, namely “#rapeallwomen2020.” Though the problems with this response should be evident, the issue lies in how it trivializes the very subject the original phrase aims to expose. The reality of targetted sexual violence against women already exists.

This response is especially distasteful considering the rate at which sexual violence continues to occur against women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women have experienced completed or attempted rape in their lifetime. Moreover, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 13 percent of women have admitted to being sexually coerced at one point in their lives. It is important to consider the amount is likely higher due to anxieties surrounding reporting an instance of sexual assault.

What is more troubling than the phrase itself are the defensive responses many men express online. Rather than examining the context of womens’ concerns, a common deflect is to immediately rise to one’s defense and proclaim their progressive ways. Or, many invalidate and attack the feminist movement itself. Seeing as the phrase is meant to humorously call out real issues women face daily and problems in society writ large, this response overstates its relevance to each individual man.

Of course, people of all genders can be victims of sexual violence — and in all cases, the issue ought to be addressed seriously. Any act of sexual misconduct is harmful and wrong. However, the particular issues comically pointed out by #killallmen seem to be more interested in demonstrating how misogyny plagues everyday life, and how it is taught, encouraged, and accepted by the world we live in.

“To the men offended by the phrase: why ought you be offended in the first place?”

Even beyond issues of sexual misconduct, insidious, harmful beliefs about women pervade the ways men and women interact. Beauty standards, representation, academia, and beyond — all symptoms of an ultimately misogynistic group-think we are socialized into. Overcoming those biases, as with any implicit bias, requires education and awareness. 

To the men offended by the phrase: why ought you be offended in the first place? Why do you not have confidence in your treatment and respect for women? If you know you are respectful, if you know you are above the insidious misogyny of our culture, where does this offense stem from? It is meant to bring attention to a vast social problem, not attack any individual. 

Given the often quick and witty format of communication offered by social media, this phrase’s humor and irony should be obvious. The hashtag itself provides a venting ground of sorts for those who simply need the space to complain and commiserate with others. 

18 COMMENTS

  1. When is hate speech that encourages killing people on the basis of immutable characteristics ok?
    When Sofia thinks it’s funny.
    So pleased that’s all sorted out.

  2. Very well spoken. Thank you.

  3. I personally disagree with this article, the #KAM is discriminatory against men that are genuinly trying to help as well as sexist pricks, although it started as a joke it has evolved into more. When you say kill all men you are refferring to the sexist men but are saying all men, including feminist men and trans men and others who want to support women. It also causes problems and puts the concept of feminism in a negative light.

    • Painiselfchosen

      But there is no sub culture or even tiny city bitty group that even thinks we should kill anyone, even the sexist ones.

      But you have the incels coming out with a retaliation hashtag of #rapeallwomen2020, but the issue is, some ncels truly believe rape of women is justified and shouldn’t be illegal. And they’re NOT joking around about their hating women or seeing them as only objects.

      Why are those who claim to be out male allies NOT getting their boxers inappropriately bunch over this? Not screaming about how insane and awful it is?

      • And people aren’t joking with kill al men. It’s a 2 way thing. So stop acting like your a god and shut up. We don’t need KAM. Wanna know what we need? For man and woman to work TOGETHER to solve problems. For man and woman to HELP each other and not RUIN each other.

      • we love men but hate sexist thats it

  4. Charlie Mcquillan-Martin

    Y’all are taking about hate but what I find funny is all of these comments are saying extremely hurtful things to this person… I don’t recall her saying she hates all men.. she literally have you the definition of it?

    • Painiselfchosen

      👏👏👏👏

  5. Y’all really miss the point of the article. Additionally, y’all fail to recognize the part where #RAW is used to combat #KAM. No one is commiting male genocide, but there are men rapping women. And it may have STARTED as a joke, it’s not a joke anymore. If you’re pressed by KAM, you’re part of the problem, because I gotta restate the article, IT’S NOT A CALL TO ACTION.

    • am i the only one laughing?

  6. Painiselfchosen

    👏👏👏

  7. You know why I’m mad. I’m mad cause even if I say I’m sorry for what happened an I actually care. Rape is a big issue and anyone who does it is a bad person. But I got called a pig and numerous times I’ve been told by women that I should die without an actual valid reason. I didn’t do nothing except being a boy. This have all been told to me on tik tok when I asked if the girl was ok. Apparently women didn’t care that I gave a fu**. So yeah I am in my right to be offended by that phrase. Stopping misoginy with misadrism isn’t the way. Even if it is classified as a joke it’s still not right. Stop hating on eachother people

  8. kill all men 2021. Yes I want them all dead😃

  9. “Kill all men doesn’t actually mean kill all men” first of all, it’s a menace that could be interpreted the wrong way. If I say kill all woman, I’m sexist, stupid, uneducated and mean. If a woman says kill all men, she is a hero. If it doesn’t mean kill all men then why name it like that? Why not say “menbelike” or whatever. I’m telling you I see a lot of girls who actually mean kill all men and men shouldn’t live in FEAR of woman but in peace because in both cases, we are HUMANS.

  10. why would u change it, this isn’t about a past group getting oppressed. this ab men, the gender that have never been oppressed. u sound so dumb.

  11. Your just making excuses for bigotry and hate by playing the “oppression” card.

  12. At first, I believed that “Kill all men” and “Rape all women” were same but there’s clearly a difference between “Kill all men” and “rape all women.”
    There are female viewers who have been raped and whenever they read “Rape all women”, It hurts them.
    and “Kill all men” is a way of showing anger. Personally, I live in India where 88 cases of rape happens daily and since my parents are scared, they never let me go outside the gates and why? cause these stupid men rapes so much women that I can’t go to my friend’s house nor am I allowed to go to the neighbor hood store alone. I know, that not all men are rapists but it just makes me angry that men don’t have to go thru these much trouble cause they are “men” while I have to, cause I am a “female”.
    Plus, the dead men can never see “Kill all men” so they won’t be offended! I hope you understand the difference.

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