Friday, December 10, 2010

My Thoughts on the Men's Rights Movement

I think the idea of a movement composed of politically active males seeking to eliminate the effects of sexism as they negatively impact males is a good thing, and I want to like the Men’s Rights Movement. I’ve gone to various MRM sites, and I’ve tried to give them a fair shot. However, though they make a good point here and there, the vast majority of what I’ve seen is paranoid sexist garbage coming from whiners who have no idea of the greater social structure that disproportionately benefits men at the expense of women. The whole thing tends to read like rich people yelling that charities only benefit the poor (and isn’t it horrible that society endorses these classist institutions?). If I was in control of the thing, I’d have the movement completely bulldozed and rebuilt from the ground up to work as a sister movement (oh look, a sign the feminists have corrupted our language; women must love that the traditional gender to describe objects is female) to the feminist movement.


The idea of fighting sexism against males is close to me as it is really the basis of why I blog and vlog with the intent of challenging sexism in general. I was 4 or so, I wanted to be able to put on makeup like my female friends and mother and grandmother, but was told I could not just because I was a boy. It tore me up because it was like I was being punished for no reason, and it was the impetus for my campaign against sexism. A couple years later, I encountered sexism against girls in my class and realized that we live in a patriarchal society that inexplicably contradicted itself by making some things only for girls and victimizing boys who associated themselves with these feminine things. I eventually figured out something feminists knew long ago, that femininity is inherently disrespected in this patriarchal society, which means that boys who are considered feminine are considered as problematically inferior when they should be superior as masculine individuals. This is societal sexism against girls and women that negatively affects boys and men.

And that’s really the heart of the issue. Society deems femininity inferior, and masculinity is negatively affected some of the time. Are there issues where boys and men are hurt by sexism? Absolutely. Should we try to correct this sexism for the betterment of the boys and men involved? Absolutely. More power for those who do. However, it is a fundamental mistake to say that we live in a matriarchal society and males are the only ones oppressed and so feminism must be comparable to the KKK. It seems so bizarrely alien to me to believe that kind of conspiracy theory. At least the people who believe in reptoids have some legitimate mental condition that causes hallucinations. I think that guys who buy into this MRM ideology must be of a traditional masculine sort and not inclined to do things that are traditionally feminine so they never would have felt the patriarchy attacking their femininity directly and can go on the assumption that any male who behaves feminine must have been corrupted by feminism, which they believe wants to attack masculinity rather than patriarchy.

What results from this is an utterly shameful outlook on gender-nonconforming males, which never should be used by a movement seeking to free people from sexism. Occasionally, some boy will make the news because his parents controversially let him wear feminine articles of clothing, and like clockwork a Men’s Rights activist will shout about how feminism has corrupted these parents who must be forcing the feminine items upon this boy because no boy would ever want femininity on his own. I wrote a previous post in which I challenged the MRM to support feminine males, and I got a response from MRA Paul Elam, who claimed that his popular MRM site A Voice for Men is gay-friendly with two gay regular writers and runs “regular articles denouncing any efforts for masculinity to be defined by anyone other than the individual”. Well, I read back to July and used the search bar but couldn’t find anything about destigmatizing femininity for males. I did find plenty of bashing transgender women framed as men who are traitors and hate their masculinity, a reference to gay men using glory holes as men who hate their penises and want them removed from their bodies, and the first tenant of the MRM mission statement recognizes and affirms “the existence of natural differences between the genders”. Kind of a Model T brand of diversity; any kind of masculinity you like as long as it conforms to the standard.

So, I repeat my challenge to the MRM to support feminine males. I’m not just talking about gay men. Being gay doesn’t necessarily make a guy feminine, anyway. As being gay makes a guy love masculinity, it’s entirely possible for him to be macho (see: bears) and misogynistic. There are in fact macho gay men who look down on feminine gay men, which seems to me to be the case of the gay writers of A Voice for Men. I’m instead talking about respecting femininity on a fundamental level, which is something that undermines the whole of the contemporary MRM. A man in drag who totally gets into the feminine performance should be able to stand as a symbol of the MRM, doing something empowering in a sexist world, but I know any MRA who tries to express himself in this way will be denounced as a traitor of masculinity who has been corrupted by evil feminism. And that’s sad.

The Men’s Rights Movement has the potential to be a valuable effort in the struggle to remove societal sexism, but as it stand now it’s just part of the problem. My advice to MRAs who are confronted with a male who rejects traditional masculinity in favor of something considered feminine: Don’t be a bully. Be accepting. Trying to police his behavior is just adding to the problems all males face from societal sexism. Even if you believe there’s a matriarchy, building a patriarchy isn’t the answer. It’s just more sexism. Support gender equality by supporting gender-nonconformity.

4 comments:

Abdias said...

Part 1

Hi,

I don't normally write comments on blogs, but I feel this is an important enough topic to deviate from that standard.

I much prefer to write abstract/nebulous ideas down in conjunction to another idea, but I feel there's enough wrong with this post to warrant an emulated point-by-point retort.

You purport to have given the MRA websites/movement a chance, but then seem to belie that with a caustic dismissal, saying "however, though they make a good point here and there, the vast majority of what I’ve seen is paranoid sexist garbage coming from whiners who have no idea of the greater social structure that disproportionately benefits men at the expense of women". It's certainly possible one could glean with utter veracity such a sordid idea of the men's movement, but I rather think it would more likely emanate from a pre-conceived framework that must not be dismissed, and one who will use confirmation bias to support the pre-conceived conclusion.

I mean, really, when you espouse things like this, " the whole thing tends to read like rich people yelling that charities only benefit the poor"; you do realize how callous such a statement is about those men, right? But I'll presume I'm wholly incorrect and without even a paucity of truth to my suspicions.

Your next paragraph essentially proclaims that while the bigotry/prejudice/misandry faced by men within stereotypically feminine environments/professions/activities is really on a fundamental level misogynistic because it devalues femininity.

Feminists seem to contradict themselves on this issue. While feminists will purport that when women are discouraged/impeded/disallowed from engaging in "masculine" activities/professions this is used as evidence of ubiquitous societal misogyny and sexism women encounter. Yet when men are discouraged/impeded/disallowed from doing "feminine" things/activities this is ALSO alleged to be misogynistic/sexist towards women. In other words, women are always the victims. This also makes your philosophy internally inconsistent.

Here's my scheme:

1.All social cultures designate/allocate specific roles for women and men (the social construction or gender essentialism dispute makes no difference in my argument).

2.Cultures which give men more freedom/social acceptance to self-actualize within whatever stereotypically "feminine" designations/spheres happen to be entrenched in that culture than they bestow upon women is a male-valuing/misogynistic culture (or at least more misogynistic than misandric).

3.Cultures which grant women more freedom/social acceptance to work/act/engage in traditionally "masculine" spheres more than they grant men is a female-valuing/misandric culture (or at least more misandric than misogynistic).

What feminists (such as yourself) seem to lack is the aptitude to grasp that when the culture impugns a man/men from doing something "feminine", this isn't an attack in femininity in the abstract, but in reality it is an attack upon that man's humanity (and men in general since this is done to all men), and the refusal to grant men the ability to engage in traditionally "feminine" things without risk of derision the same way the culture gave that to women (or at least mostly did).

Abdias said...

Part 2

I do find this paragraph full of mirth, though:

"I think that guys who buy into this MRM ideology must be of a traditional masculine sort and not inclined to do things that are traditionally feminine so they never would have felt the patriarchy attacking their femininity directly and can go on the assumption that any male who behaves feminine must have been corrupted by feminism, which they believe wants to attack masculinity rather than patriarchy."

I'm humored because you're saying to a queer dude who has more traditionally feminine characteristics than masculine ones such as myself, that I essentially don't exist.

At any rate, that's not my experience of the MRA at all. Yes, there does exist a minor contingent of hyper-conservative right-wing gender-role supporting, bible-toting troglodytes.

Most MRAs are completely opposed to concepts like chivalry, damsels-in-distress, male-as-breadwinner, and other such things that I presume you would associate with traditional masculinity?

How traditionally masculine is it for a man to admit he's in pain/suffering? You do realize how often MRAs get told to "man up", "stop being a pussy", etc? How traditionally masculine is it for a man to ask to get help for being a domestic violence victim? Really, in my view the MRA movement is inherently/a priori against forcing traditional gender-roles on men because the fundamental basis of the movement defies the norms of masculinity; namely admitting vulnerability; vulnerability to the laws, social attitudes/customs, etc.

Something else that makes me wonder how much you actually looked into the men's movement is that you only write from the MRAs ideology's SUPPOSEDLY conservative ideas about gender expression and the such.

But I can tell that most MRAs care about the following:

1.Divorce/Alimony injustices towards men

2.The judicial system's anti-male/misandric bent (i.e. men getting longer prison sentences than women for the exact same crimes)

3.Father's rights issues (this is essentially the core of the movement)

4.Domestic violence against men-and the culture's complete social/legal acceptance of it

5.This culture's fetish for male disposability/expendability

Now, obviously, that's nowhere near all of it, and I would add things like MGM (male genital mutilation) right up there. Obviously, the way one sees gender-roles on a fundamental level will implicitly affect one's judgement of some of these issues, but it's a mistake to claim that's solely what the MRM focuses on.

What you may be focusing on when MRAs speak about masculinity, is that they don't oppose an individual adopting their own standard of masculinity, but oppose the appropriation of this issue being used to suit feminists/women. And many MRAs see this as chivalrous and hence, oppose it. They simply fight against framing masculinity as violent/evil and letting feminists/women direct to men what will be the new standard of masculinity. Most MRAs have no problem at all with men who choose to engage in "feminine" things provided that it's not done in this disingenuous manner. So yeah, if you employ the word patriarchy when discussing femininity in men, of course MRAs will be hostile; patriarchy is a word of hate, sexism, bigotry, and misandry to MRAs. Stay away from feminist language of hate speech and they'll be far more accepting.

For instance, MRAs are, by far, some of the most supportive of stay-at-home fathers, or fathers who are the primary caretakers. MRAs are some of the first (if not the first) to defend these men from the bigoted, sexist attacks against male caretakers as inferior/pedophiles, etc.

Yeah, well, this turned into more if a rant, so I don't expect it to be allowed. But I'd still be interested in your response.

Dragonclaws said...

I'm actually going out of town for several days, but I'll write a response when I get back.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this blog post and your very rational and well-thought out take on this issue. Thanks for this post!