“Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
There’s been an awful lot of banter regarding something known as a ‘Men’s Rights Activist,’ or an MRA. I recently became involved in a discussion on one of my social networks on this subject, and it became as such that I reason the subject warrants more attention than what can be discussed in 140 characters, or less. To be sure, there are people who identify as an MRA who engage in some pretty awful behavior. These types of people exist in almost every grassroots movement that exists. They are usually drummed out, condemned or forced to act on their own or in their own venues.
There is a sub-forum on Reddit that goes by the name ‘Men’s Rights‘. This group is referred to quite often in certain circles as being representative of MRAs, but it is not an MRA group. In spite of the large number of persons who participate in this forum, there are three glaring problems. One, many of them are not men, they are adolescents. Two, much of what they are communicating about has nothing to do with ‘rights.’ Three, connecting this group to an MRA is ignoring the fact that the ‘A‘ is missing. There is no mention in their name of ‘Activism,’ and the forum is not participating in ‘activism.’ So,
Let’s Break It Down…
I’ve done a considerable amount of research over the years regarding activism by adults for the purpose of protecting or advancing the rights of men. For those who are unaware of what this issue is composed of, it often seems confusing to see the words ‘Men’s Rights.‘ The first question that comes to mind by many is along the lines of ‘why is this necessary?.’ That is a normal reaction, because there is no denying (at least here in the United States) that our society is decidedly patriarch-based, with a long history of discrimination against women, and the struggle for women to gain the rights that men have had all along, is ongoing.
Just clicking on any number of websites will reveal that there is still a long way to go in many areas, including equal pay, reproductive rights, etc. There is also the sometimes common thread that exists in some well-known Men’s Rights communities that ‘feminism‘ is a detriment to men, and has done damage to the male gender. I do not agree that Feminism, as a whole, has done this. There are subsets of Feminism, though, which are extremely problematic, and I’ll address the subject toward the end of this piece.
There are a number of problems that are unique to men, and these issues frequently fall under the larger category of civil or human rights. This is where people like me come in. I am a civil rights activist, and my activism is based on the notion that civil rights should be a forward-moving agenda that seeks to bring the disenfranchised to equal status with the standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as put forth some sixty years ago by the United Nations. Thus, I do not support any movement that seeks to gain equality for their members at the expense of the equality of the members of another movement. This is one of the reasons I have always had issue with Affirmative Action. The reality that African-Americans totally deserve equality is completely without question. That another group, any group, should lose rights in the process is unacceptable.
When civil or human rights issues come to my attention, or when I am requested to advocate for the civil or human rights of a specific demographic, I do so in the context that all demographics should be on par with respect to the above referenced Universal Declaration. Thus, I often find myself representing the groups that most people are familiar with. The LGBT community, the African-American community, Women’s Rights communities, Latinos (of which I am part of), the Disabled (of which I am also a part of) etc.
Occasionally, I advocate for Men’s Rights, and do so in the contexts I have laid out above. When men are discriminated against in areas of child custody, unfair hiring practices in predominately female professions and professions that involve working with young children (specifically young girls), when men are denied housing due to the perception that they are potential pedophiles and/or sexual abusers, alimony related defenses or other areas that are specific to the violations of the equal rights of men, I get involved. I write letters, circulate petitions, assist in drafting legal documents, etc.
When I am engaged in these activities, I do so in the capacity of a ‘Men’s Rights Activist.’ However, when I am engaged in the previously referenced issues, I am an LGBT Activist, a Feminism Activist, an African-American Rights Activist, a Latino Rights Activist, a Disabled Persons Activist, etc., etc. All of these fall under the larger umbrella of Human or Civil Rights Activism, which is what I have been engaging in for years. All of these build toward the betterment of our society, and all serve the common good.
Blanketing the issues of Men’s Rights under the auspices of an Internet forum that is likely utilized by teen-aged boys, posting some utterly vile, sexist and demeaning comments, images and videos while acting anonymously is disingenuous. As I stated at the start of this piece, what goes on within the Reddit sub-forum is not Men’s Rights Activism. If this is your impression of what an MRA is, you’ve got some research to do.
Let’s address the issue of websites and venues that are, indeed, run by adults. One of the most commonly referred to of these is ‘A Voice For Men.’ According to their Mission Statement, this group takes issue with a sub-group of feminism. From what I can tell, their main gripes are against gender feminists. I have gripes against gender feminists, as well. There has been some flak lately regarding this site being mentioned in the Spring 2012 edition of the ‘Intelligence Report,’ which is a magazine produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The entry states,
“A Voice for Men is essentially a mouthpiece for its editor, Paul Elam, who proposes to “expose misandry [hatred of men] on all levels in our culture.” Elam tosses down the gauntlet in his mission statement: “AVfM regards feminists, manginas [a derisive term for weak men], white knights [a similar derisive term, for males who identify as feminists] and other agents of misandry as a social malignancy. We do not consider them well intentioned or honest agents for their purported goals and extend to them no more courtesy or consideration than we would clansmen [sic], skinheads, neo Nazis or other purveyors of hate.” Register-Her.com, an affiliated website that vilifies women by name who have made supposedly false rape allegations (among other crimes against masculinity), is one of Elam’s signature “anti-hate” efforts. “Why are these women not in prison?” the site asks.”
Personally, I wouldn’t call them a ‘hate site,‘ but some of the content I have found there can be defined as ‘vitriolic.’ While there is some content there that may be defined as hateful toward certain individuals or groups of individuals, I have not been able to find anything on the SPLC site that labels AVfM as a ‘hate site.’ This group is, however, on an SPLC list that bears the categorical name ‘Misogyny.’
There is a problem with this, though. In spite of the general consensus on the Internet that AVfM has a definite purpose that is not friendly toward individuals and groups they consider to be anti-male, I have not found anything on their site (other than some comments) that fits the description of ‘Misogyny,’ which is a hatred of women, in general. Someone can hate a woman, or a group of women, or be a complete jerk toward women, or even be sexist. This does not make them a misogynist. What makes a misogynist is someone who hates women, and there are not very many of those around. There is a movement that is seeking to redefine the word, or change it’s meaning in the vernacular, adding other behavior characteristics that are outside the definitive of a misogynist. The only thing that will accomplish, though, will be similar to the differences between the vernacular and scientific community’s definition of ‘theory.’ The disagreements will be endless.
I spent about two hours on the AVfM site, reading various articles and watching some videos. There is a lot of content there, and a good portion of it is by women authors and commentators. Some of it is pretty mainstream, and I find myself in agreement with parts of that content. Some of it would be considered radical by the mainstream, and I find myself in disagreement with most of that content. Overall, I would say it’s not a site for everyone, but I won’t condemn it as I would a website that venerates Hitler or the KKK. If their type of commentary, opinion, etc., angers you, it might be a good idea to just avoid visiting them.
Now, let’s look at another website that advocates for men, called ‘The Good Men Project.’ I spent about the same amount of time there as I did on AVfM. Their website says, in part,
“The Good Men Project is a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century,” the press raved when we launched. Finally, “a cerebral, new media alternative” to glossy men’s magazines. In fact, The Good Men Project is not so much a magazine as a social movement. We are fostering a national discussion centered around modern manhood and the question, “What does it mean to be a good man”?
“Guys today are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be. Our community is smart, compassionate, curious, and open-minded; they strive to be good fathers and husbands, citizens and friends, to lead by example at home and in the workplace, and to understand their role in a changing world. The Good Men Project is a place where that happens. We’re glad to have you along for the ride.”
This is a huge, huge website that tackles a myriad of issues and the amount of content is mind-boggling. The section that deals with Men’s Rights include the male gender role, the negative portrayal of men in the media, educating boys, making government programs gender-neutral or accompanied by a male equivalent, better treatment of men in the area of false accusations of sexual assault, reproductive rights, removing the notion that all men are potential rapists/pedophiles, anti-male double standards, gender feminism, and father’s rights.
These issues are addressed in a way that I cannot see being offensive to anyone but only the most radical gender feminists. In fact, I have found this entire website to be intriguing and engaging enough, and in line with what I would see as acceptable to the mainstream, that I joined several of their mailing lists.
Back On Point…
So, are men’s rights legitimate? Yes, of course they are. Is everyone who advocates for Men’s Rights anti-woman, sexist or supportive of misogynist rhetoric or communication? No, of course not. Are their people who say they are MRAs who are actually anti-women, sexists and engage in behavior that would be considered extremely negative toward women? Yes, there are. But definitions are important, and one can call themselves whatever they want, but it doesn’t mean they are accurate in their description or identification.
The individuals who choose to blanket everyone, male or female, who advocates for the civil rights of any group – men included – based on places such as the ‘Men’s Rights‘ sub-forum on Reddit are not only doing a disservice to those who are fighting real civil rights violations, but are making utter and complete fools of themselves.
Freedom And Liberty For All…
You’ve read the above quote in my writing often. It was coined by my friend RJ Evans, who founded and hosts the Internet Radio program, ‘American Heathen Radio.’ This concept is an accurate descriptor of why I advocate for the civil and human rights for everyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. It is also why I avoid groups who choose to eviscerate members of other groups, regardless of their position in our societies, or who choose to suppress the voices of those who might have dissenting opinions.
I referred earlier to ‘Gender Feminism,’ and that I take issue with it. Personally, I support what is commonly known as ‘Equity Feminism,‘ sometimes referred to as ‘First Wave Feminism,’ which is described on Wikipedia as,
“…an ideology rooted in classical liberalism, and that aims for full civil and legal equality for women.”
In 1854, feminist activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, said to the New York State Legislature,
“We ask for no better laws than those you have made for yourselves. We need no other protection than that which your present laws secure to you.”
Those who have issues with equity feminism often do because equity feminism does not consider it inherently wrong if a women makes the choice to stay at home as full-time homemakers and/or mothers. I’ve met many equity feminists, and I’ve yet to meet one who believes that this should be forced upon a women, but if she chooses to do so, that choice is just as acceptable as choosing a career, and neither should infringe on her human and civil rights. Many equity feminists I’ve known also view genders as being fundamentally different. I would tend to agree with this.
As I have referred to above, I have serious issues with the concept of ‘gender feminism,‘ particularly because many of those who advocate for gender feminism have not strayed much from Christina’ Sommer’s original descriptive, dating back to 1992, in which she says gender feminism is,
I’ve met some pretty hateful gender feminists, some even agreeing with concept that men should be reduced to about 1% of the population.
Human and Civil Rights are for everyone, equally, regardless of lifestyle choice, gender identification, race, religion or lack thereof, creed, ability or disability or ethnicity. A group that seeks to reduce or eliminate the rights of another is not advocating for their own civil rights, but the denigration of another’s. This includes men’s rights. By the way, men’s rights do not include the right to rape a wife. Rape is rape, regardless. Period. End of story.
To those who wish to make comparisons to the Human and Civil Rights of any demographic with actual hate groups, please understand that hate groups have little regard for human rights as outlined by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration. Comparing the real issues that surround real discriminatory practices against men with white supremacist groups is indicative of the misunderstanding or willful ignorance to what the goals are of those who seek equality for everyone.
Comments are, as usual, open to everyone.