The hashtag #KillAllMen has been around for ages. It was being used as far back as February 2011 and has just seen a resurgence, particularly – and this is what astonishes me – amongst feminists who would otherwise describe themselves as intersectional.
I get the arguments in favour, I really do. It’s just blowing off steam; it’s a cry of rage; it’s impotent anyway. Stavvers gives an eloquent argument for it being a “shorthand war cry” and that “we’re not actually advocating killing all men, but what we need is for men to understand why we might.” I don’t need anyone to explain to me that while women are killed by their partners at the rate of two a week, men are generally not at risk from women, and there is no real threat from #killallmen because it couldn’t happen. There is no culture of female violence against men, celebrated and joked about, to reinforce as there is in reverse. It’s a shock jock tactic; it’s venting; it’s just banter.
Except that you know when something’s described as ‘banter’ it’s probably unjustifiable.
And this is unjustifiable. Because “all men” are not homogenous and nor are all women. So when I saw this tweet:
— KaisaJaye(@KaisaJaye) May 8, 2013
I thought – yes, THIS. This is what’s been swishing round my head as I tried to identify exactly what it was that made me so uneasy about it.
This is the entire point of intersectionality. That sure, a white cis man can probably brush off #killallmen – it’s less likely to cause him harm or fear than a gnat on a warm summer evening. And likewise, a privileged woman can bandy around terms like that secure in the knowledge that she’s not part of a group which has been threatened with extermination (gender based violence is appallingly bad but it’s not quite at genocide levels.) But how about a man, or indeed a woman, who has fled the clan-based murders of Somalia or the tribal genocide of Rwanda? How about a trans person only too aware of the threat of being killed for looking too much or too little like a man? Someone who has heard the very real threat of “kill the gays” or “kill the Muslims” and known that there are people out there who do, quite genuinely want to kill them? As KaisaJaye points out, how about Jewish people, for whom the Holocaust is more than just a history lesson?
Those are of course genuine threats to minorities in a way that #killallmen is not. But many men will also be Muslim men, gay men, trans men, disabled men, Tutsi men, Benadiri men: they can’t separate their maleness from other characteristics which may not be privileged ones. Many women will likewise have direct experience of being part of a group which currently or historically has faced oppression to the extent of genocide. If #killallmen makes someone feel unsafe because of intersecting forms of oppression then #killallmen is the absolute opposite of intersectional feminism. If you value intersectionality, I would ask you to reconsider just quite how harmless that hashtag really is.