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.