A black and white cartoon of an angry looking man shaking his fist
Photo Credit–Wikimedia Commons

We interrupt this dog blog for a rant about rhetoric and civil discourse. 

Here is why I plan never to call anyone a “hater” or refer to them as such.

History: Haters Gonna Hate

It’s a good bet that the contemporary use of the term “hater” was taken from the song lyric, “Haters gonna hate” from the song “Playas Gon’ Play.”  A  history of the phrase is here on the Know Your Meme site. The “Haters gonna hate” phrase came to be a call for people to disregard hostile criticism. It supports strength, individualism, and in the early usages, being true to romantic love. Most current usages are similar to the older phrase,  “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” It gave rise to some cool artistic applications (do an image search on the term if you are interested).

So far so good. I’ve got no problem with that as an inspirational meme, especially for a downtrodden individual or group. I do have a real problem with extracting the word “hater” and aiming it at one’s opponents in a discussion or argument.

Reviewing the Dictionary Definitions

Here’s the traditional dictionary definition:

A person who hates.

Here’s a transitional one from Dictionary.com:

1. a grudging or spiteful person, esp one who disparages others: “a woman-hater”; “a cop-hater”; “Don’t let the haters get you down”

a. someone who hates a specified person or thing: “a passionate hater of tyranny”

Here’s the one from Urban dictionary.com, which is said to be the earliest version of the “comtemporary” definition:

A person that simply cannot be happy for another person’s success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person.

Hating, the result of being a hater, is not exactly jealousy. The hater doesnt really want to be the person he or she hates, rather the hater wants to knock someone else down a notch.

And finally from Wikipedia:

A derogatory term in reference to critics of a person or object. Associated with jealousy/envy. 

And the Online Slang Dictionary:

A person who disapproves of something; a person who is jealous; a person who criticizes something.

Here’s Why I Won’t Use the Word Myself

1. Traditional Definition

First, by the traditional definition, I am a hater. I hate racism, sexism, animal abuse, bullying and plenty of other attitudes and behaviors. I’m human so sometimes I hate the people who do those things. I have hated people who have wronged me or ones I love. I don’t think it’s wholesome to dwell in hatred, and hating can make a terrible motivation to action. It easily becomes infected and unwholesome. But I think it can be a natural reaction to a horrifying act. I won’t pretend to be immune to it.  And I believe that there are worse things than being honest about hating something or someone. Waaaaay worse things.

2. All the Other Definitions

Second, every single one of the other definitions, when used in argument, are ad hominem attacks, or even plain old name calling. The worst sorts of arguments in civil discourse. They are basically insults that try to discredit one’s opponent in discussion (or behind their back) rather than address their points. And I think they are particularly insidious because they have a Polyanna quality of characterizing oneself as innocent and wounded, while one is actually slinging an insult. It’s an attempt at claiming the moral high ground and simultaneously throwing a cheap shot. And incidentally failing at rational argument.

Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement--credit Wikimedia Commons
Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement–credit Wikimedia Commons

Calling someone a “hater” is calling someone a name while pretending you’re not. It’s an insult, like “jerk” or “asshole.” I’m not fond of name-calling, but I admit to a preference for someone who calls another person a jerk over calling them a hater.

Some people actually accuse others of being divisive of a community and call them haters. But to me, calling someone a “hater” is the epitome of divisive. It is “otherizing” someone. Calling someone an asshole comes across pretty much as your opinion. There are lots of different “asshole” qualities. Calling someone a “hater” attempts to put them deliberately in an inferior group and dismiss whatever they say.

Like all name calling, it goes circular very fast. “No, YOU are the hater!” “No YOU are the hater!” This gets a discussion nowhere.

Finally, to me it often comes across as juvenile. I admit to some bias here, since the first place I heard the term was by fans of Cesar Millan, who often have an instantaneous defensive reaction of the slightest criticism of Millan’s techniques.  They cry, “You are haters; you’re just jealous of his success and all the money he makes!”

That’s a great way to avoid arguing actual issues.

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

8 thoughts on “Haters

  1. This post was WONDERFUL for me. I also have a gut-level revulsion to the term “hater,” but I hadn’t put my finger on why before now. In particular, I remember a clicker trainer whom I had criticized (which form and venue of criticism I used, I now regret) who referred to me as a hater. I felt so hurt because it felt to me like an unjust criticism. Hotheaded, rude, asshole, any number of other insults or judgments would have felt OK, some even accurate, but “hater” implied that my only interest was in doing something hurtful, which has never been my goal. The same thing happened when I tried to respectfully engage in dialogue with another disability rights writer and was called a “troll.” I think “troll” has similar problems to “hater.” That was particularly painful because I really liked and respected her work and was going to lengths to express how my experience differed from hers while not in any way disregarding or disrespecting her experience. I don’t recall ever referring to anyone else as a hater, and after reading this post, I hope I never will.

    1. Thanks, Sharon! You said, “…but “hater” implied that my only interest was in doing something hurtful, which has never been my goal.” You nailed it. That’s one of the major ways it is dismissive and so hurtful, isn’t it?

      It’s really hard for me to imagine anyone attributing that to you of all people! You work so hard at being clear and honest and positive in your use of language.


    Oh and . . .

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This trend of calling anyone who disagrees with you a “hater” DRIVES ME ABSOLUTELY NUTS!!!!

    Yes, I’m shouting. Yes, it’s poor form. BUT I DON’T CARE!!!!

    You summed it up beautifully when you said . . .

    “They are basically insults that try to discredit one’s opponent in discussion (or behind their back) rather than address their points.”


    If I tell someone that I use food to train my dogs, for instance, that DOES NOT MEAN I HATE PEOPLE WHO DON’T. If I say that I choose not to compete in AKC sport events, THAT DOES NOT MEAN I HATE PEOPLE WHO DO!!! And it goes on and on and on . . . .

    This isn’t a pet peeve of mine. It’s a major peeve.

    This “hater” thing shuts down true conversation and closes the door on any possibility of coming to understand the other person’s point of view.

    It is basically saying “I won’t even bother to try to hear where you are coming from because YOU HATE ME!!!” When, really, most of the “haters” are simply trying to engage in educational discourse.

    I’ve wanted to say something about this for a long time, but to a large degree, I have given up trying to talk to people who, effectively, have their fingers in their ears and are crying ‘HATEHATEHATEHATEHATEHATE” instead of actually trying to learn anything about the people who choose to do things in a different way.

    So, again . . . THANK YOU.

    OK, rant over and my caps lock key will get a well deserved rest . . .

  3. Awesome!! Finally, a voice of reason in the wilderness!! Thank you so much for saying it beautifully, succinctly and with so much truth it fairly resonates off the page!

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