Himpathy. It’a a blend of him and sympathy, and it basically means inappropriate sympathy for a male sexual predator. In times of #metoo Kate Manne coined this term to describe the disproportionate sympathy powerful men receive over their less powerful female victims. There’s an infinite amount of examples out there: Brett Kavanaugh, Harvey Weinstein, but also Brock Turner who certainly got his judge himpathised.
But himpathy is also practised by women, and it extends much further than sexual assault. You wouldn’t believe how often I hear how lazy I was for not cooking dinner for my husband by my mother! I work part-time and when I finish work, I go and pick up my 16 months old. After spending the day without her, I enjoy the 1h-1.5h I have with her before my husband is back from work. When the weather is nice, I take her to the playground. If not, we just go back home. But the thought that cooking dinner should be my first priority literally doesn’t cross my mind. And why should it? My focus is on the little one, she literally needs me. He’s an adult man who can take care of himself. He doesn’t need to be mothered! Cooking is an activity that can be done together anyways. To teach your kids some healthy habits and a good relationship with food.
Look at how men receive applause for taking care of their own kids and being what a good father is supposed to be. Granted that most men have to learn what being a good father means from scratch, as their own fathers never played any role that came close to that, but at the same time how often does a mother get judged for taking care of herself? Or putting herself first? While women try to explore how they can combine different identities like being a mother, being a partner and being an activist e.g. they’re constantly being shamed for their choices. Why do women find it so easy to sympathise with men and their oh so hard lives, but don’t waste a thought on what a woman might be going through? As we live in a patriarchy, women are constantly judged for their choices. Stay-at-home mum? Why is she not contributing financially? A mother who works outside of home? Why is she putting her kids in childcare? Women, who choose to be childfree? What a self-absorbed, shallow person! All of us have been guilty at some point of judging like this.
The himpathy is everywhere. We’ve internalised misogyny, we’ve internalised the habit of judging women. Like we internalised victim-blaming, the dating culture, shame regarding our sexual experience and linking our self-worth with our appearance. These are all patriarchal values that we grow up with and can only start to question, once we can put our own glasses of critical thinking on. Instead of showing any sympathy with a sexual predator, we need to start focusing on the damage they do to their victims. How long does it take a victim to open up about their experience? How long does therapy take? How long does it take to get over the whole experience? Will the victim ever be able to? And how does that compare to ruining an influential man’s career? How does losing your sanity compare to losing your job?
It’s bloody hard to navigate through all of the internalised shit that brews somewhere inside. The guilt you feel when you reject someone, because they’re so nice and deserve a proper chance? The guilt you feel when you stand up for yourself and don’t allow a man to sexually harass you? When you do it in a formal way, his whole career might be ruined! His poor family! Do you not even have a heart? Think about them! The guilt you feel when you take another break from your day-time job to do yoga on an island and find your calm? You should work your ass off and focus on finding a man so you can bear grandchildren for your mother! The pressure you feel when you’re heading out for a date and you should invest most of the day in looking immaculate?
We’ve internalised ridiculous expectations and won’t ever get it right anyways, as patriarchy will judge us every time, we make a decision that strays from the norm. And even if it doesn’t! Freedom means to throw all of this bullshit in a bin and let it rot until it dissolves. But don’t care for it. Don’t wait until that happens. Sometimes, garbage will come back recycled. You can’t keep buying the same crap and shelving it into your units. Rid yourself of it for once and for all.
If a man is chasing for your sympathy because he’s a man we should seriously ask him whether he thinks of being a man as a disability. Oh, so your dick makes those decisions? Poor you, maybe it’s time to cut it off? Surely, it must feel so limiting to be subjected to that kind of massive brain malfunction every… is it every 7 seconds? Wow, I can’t even begin to imagine! Try therapy maybe first?
And if a woman in your life is judging you and trying to put you in ‘your place’, breathe in and breathe out and explain to her what she is doing. How she’s internalised misogyny. How she’s putting patriarchy’s view of a woman on you and expects you to live in accordance with its rules. Does she think of a woman being unequal to a man? Does she think a woman should be subjected to that kind of pressure? Educating people can change things, but there’s always the Aunt Lydia’s who have been brainwashed into a permanent damage.
We need to get over himpathy. We need to stop giving men a free pass. We need to do our own internal work regarding the patriarchal values that we’ve internalised and rid ourselves of the damage that it’s created. As long as himpathy exists, we won’t be able to achieve a just world.