The orthodox line of feminism is that women don’t need men, and that it is men who keep women in a state of dependence. This is the doctrine of women’s liberation: we are trying to liberate ourselves from our dependency on men. Pragmatically speaking, the notion that we don’t need men is largely true. (As a single mother and single woman, I’m certainly poorer than my married counterparts, but I am running a family household successfully, if chaotically.) Paradoxically, however, the rhetoric of orthodox feminism implies the reverse: we need men in order to prove to ourselves that we don’t. I don’t need to sleep with a stuffed animal at night, but were I to insist on mentioning this at every opportunity, it would become abundantly clear that the idea dominated me. At a time when Western women have achieved economic independence, control over their reproductive rights, legal equality, and equal professional opportunities, the continued obsession with the need to win independence from the thing that we are, in every measurable way, already independent from, reveals just how subservient we are to the idea of powerful men. After all, only a child still dependent on the comfort of a stuffed toy needs to insist to herself that she isn’t.
Yes, but—my detractors might say—women only insist that they don’t need men, because men assume that we do need them. We are fighting the tacit understanding of male privilege and power, and we need to prove to them that their archaic assumptions are not only incorrect, but unethical. Or, they might object that women need to assert that they don’t need men so loudly and consistently because, historically, we’ve been raised to believe we do need them under the rule of the patriarchy and its constructed gender roles, so we must now de-program our sisters and daughters. These objections, however, fall back into the familiar pattern of making The Patriarchy the centre of female identity and ignore what is perhaps the most important fact of the relationship between men and women: although women may not need men, men still need women.
Let me say that again: men need us. It’s silly to enter into a conversation about women and men without acknowledging the basic biological drives of our species. I’ve never known a heterosexual man who isn’t constantly preoccupied with thoughts of women. Their own nature is at work against self-possession: the sight or the thought of a woman can overturn a man’s thoughts, his will, and seriously compromise his reason and unbalance his ability to make decisions. At times, this preoccupation can manifest as anger and even hatred. Nobody is suggesting that misogyny isn’t real. Most of the time, however, men’s need of women results in clumsy attempts at flirtation or awkward and unwanted advances. From what I can tell, a large proportion of the #Metoo complaints are of this nature.