Monday, October 15, 2007

Men's Rights Activists

This is a difficult and rather controversial topic, but I thought it was worth weighing in on, especially as it is something I have run into a lot in discussions.

First of all, I have some basic beliefs around the issue of men's rights and masculism. They may appear contradictory, but really, they are just in a delicate and polarized balance.

1) I agree with Robin Morgan on this: "The oppressors are indeed FUCKED UP by being masters (racism hurts whites, sexual stereotypes are harmful to men) but those masters are not OPPRESSED. Any master has the alternative of divesting himself of sexism or racism — the oppressed have no alternative — for they have no power — but to fight. In the long run, Women's Liberation will of course free men — but in the short run it's going to COST men a lot of privilege, which no one gives up willingly or easily." A great example here is the age old belief that in certain situations women are "asking for it." But that women even CAN BE "asking for it" is saying a lot about our attitudes towards men. That apparently they are so fueled by a desire for sex that they will ignore when a woman says "no" and that there is an excuse for that because they are men. So men are just brainless humping raping animals, and we can't hold him to a higher standard than your average African lion pinning down the lioness who's in heat.

2) I do not think the women's movement has achieved total equality for women yet.

3) I do think that some of the issues MRA's bring up need to be addressed, e.g. paternal rights, unfair domestic abuse policies, and rape. Men are raped too. Men are abused by their mates too. Men deserve access to their children just as women do.

4) I do think the stereotyping I see of men and women in movies, on tv, and in our culture at large hurt both men and women. Again, refer to the "asking for it" example, stereotypes like that abound.

5) I do not think it is feminism's job to address any of these issues. As Morgan says, I think eventually, if feminism achieves it's aims it will free men as well, but doing so should not be our focus. Feminism's focus should be on freeing women. But I do not see why feminism could not support a thoughtful men's movement, that is assuming that any such thoughtful men's movement would agree with feminism's aims.

OK, those background perspective things out of the way... I was reading Shakespeares Sister explaining what an MRA is. Clearly this explanation is targeting a certain kind of MRA. And unfortunately, the vast majority of MRAs I have run into do in fact fall into this misogynistic-ultra-right-wing-super-conservative-douchebag category (Promise Keepers anyone?). However, there is such a thing as a pro-feminist men's movement as well (also check out: NOMAS and MRC).

So, does lumping them together help anything? I don't think it does. If anything, it shows the same flippant disregard for some important issues that early feminists were subjected to, and I don't like that sort of superiority at all.

By all means, ridicule the misogynistic-ultra-right-wing-super-conservative-douchebags. I don't have time for men who hide rape apologies and veiled misogyny behind paternal rights. But if we really expect for men to understand our rage at personal circumstances, and our feminist issues, I think we should try and pay the same courtesy to them. At the very least, careful listening will help us pick out the douchebags more quickly.


  1. *copying from LJ*

    Personally, I think feminism has one basic flaw. Of course women are oppressed but some of the means to fight that (at least here in Austria, I don't know if the situation is similar in the US) are just going the wrong way in my opinion. For example, if two applicants for a (governmental) job have equal qualifications, they have to take the woman over the man to help setting the male/female quota right.
    That's just one example that illustrates the flaw of feminism. If your ultimate aim is equality - and I mean real and solid equality - your means cannot be misandric either.

    We all need to get the idea out of our heads that it does matter what gender you are. It does not. Fighting one evil with another does not help in achieving that.

    I totally agree with you that women do not have the same rights and status in our society as men. I also agree that to change this, feminism was very important and I guess we can also agree that a lot of positive things happened for women in the last 150 years.

    But in my opinion there is a time when feminism should be replaced by true equalism. Unless your aim is not equality, but matriarchy to pay back men for centuries of patriarchy....

  2. Here's the thing about affirmative action... My experience is limited, I grant you. But I've gone out for lots of jobs, and to the best of my knowledge, my being a woman has never once come into play. Same with applying to school. To be honest, I'm really not sure how much it is being enforced at all.

    The other thing about affirmative action is that I think it is still a necessary evil in some ways. Because unfortunately people weren't going with the most qualified candidate, and were ignoring women and minorities for positions they were qualified for. I don't know how else to deal with that. Have someone in the meetings of every company policing the reasons why candidates are rejected? That doesn't seem any more feasible to me, and it intrudes even more on a companies autonomy.

    On the equalism point, I agree with you that there is a time when feminism and masculism will be irrelevant. I just don't think we're there yet by any stretch of the imagination.

  3. I see where you are coming from. I agree that there is a problem with the feasibility of real equality in my example of the job application.

    However, I still feel it is the wrong approach to fight discrimination with another discrimination.

    As to your opinion how far feminism is today, and how important its role is still today - I see things differently, but that is ok, as long as we can agree that we ultimately want the same thing ^^


  4. I agree it is far from the ideal situation.

    And sadly, as long as there are ultra-conservative-right-wing-Christian-douchebags, demonizing feminism and trying to put me back in "my place" that fight cannot be called off.

  5. Yeah, right... I tend to forget about those, as they have far less influence over here :p

    In my experience here we do not have to fight organised anti-feminists but the every-day inequality thinking of countless individuals who still live in the past.

    Obviously that needs a different approach.

  6. Indeed. But I think that's where the constant vigilance, consciousness raising, and discussion comes into importance. Places like Feminist Review and Feministing, where people like that will be called on their bullshit...They are important I think. Part of a larger social discussion and analysis that will I think eventually lead us to a better conversation with each other and way of thinking.

  7. I do not question the idea, I question the means. Just the word "feminism" already implies another intention, though.
    I do believe you, when you say your aim is equality. But how many of your fellow fighters are what conservatives accuse them to be. There are - and will be - always those who do what I suggested in my first comment: Try to establish matriarchy to pay back.

    Just try to think about how certain people react when you post something in Current Events. They read your name and jump to that thread, preparing for a fight. Just as you do when you see one of them posting something.

    Now what happens there in a small frame also could be true in a larger setting. Just the word 'feminism' already carries so much prejudices that it is hard for someone who calls themselves a feminist to get their ideas across.

    It is true, that platforms like those are necessary to spread the awareness. But I think focusing on equality of both genders rather than on women's rights would work better. I think radical measures damage your efforts just as much as they help them. I also think it is almost impossible to convey a new meaning to a word that is already one-sided (genderwise), so trying to change the image of feminism in the eyes of the average population seems like an futile attempt to me.

  8. "But how many of your fellow fighters are what conservatives accuse them to be."

    Almost none.

    I constantly see posts and literature taken out of the context they were written in to try and prove those type of conservatives points. They continually misunderstand (willfully and not) what the women are writing about, and the point they are trying to make. Sometimes I understand the misunderstanding, other times I see that the person misunderstanding hasn't done anything to put themselves in a position so they CAN understand.

    "I also think it is almost impossible to convey a new meaning to a word that is already one-sided (genderwise), so trying to change the image of feminism in the eyes of the average population seems like an futile attempt to me."

    And yet those same backlashing douchebags did JUST THAT in the matter of a decade. I am not giving up on a label that served us well for 150 years because some assholes commandeered it and changed it's meaning in the publics eye. People just like them have tried, and women just like me didn't give up, and we managed to have a couple very successful movements. It will come around again, giving up and letting them have our word won't help.

  9. the problem is that while i agree with you that the loosely, really barely defined "mens' movement" has value, what's known as self-ID'd "Men's Rights Activists/sm" has pretty much solidified into a bunch of giant reactionary fucknuts. i've met some relatively polite ones, but they were in the minority, and they were still somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun.

    the rest...the sort of people that think "mangina" and "femcunt" are perfectly reasonable additions to the discourse. i've seen it ranging from laughable counterparts to the most deranged radical feminists (i.e. precious-bodily-fluid-guarding separatism with a wistful nod toward the planet being able to do without Them altogether Oppressors--in both cases, kind of "don't let the door hit you, then")

    to unironic (i think) "yay Patriarchy" sentiments, like Reconstructionist Christianity

    to stuff that went beyond hate speech to simply, "sick" (a guy using a real life war photo of a woman with her head blown off as a "joke" for the bitch got what was coming to her).

    that said, that's all a very very long way from acknowledging that sometimes, yeah actually, "what about the men" is a valid question. i've been in a few interesting discussions with men who wanted to enlarge the discussion; one of them had a rather ambitious project in mind, which seems to be at a standstill at the moment, but i was definitely behind the idea.

  10. "what's known as self-ID'd "Men's Rights Activists/sm" has pretty much solidified into a bunch of giant reactionary fucknuts."

    Oh yah, I've seen my fair share of those, no doubt.

    That's pretty much why I made the alternate title of this post "Why MRA's don't have to be douchebags" emphasis on the "don't have to be."


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