Written by Anonymous (and edited by Hannah- if anyone wishes to read the 3,000 word original draft, email us at youngmormonfeminists AT gmail DOT com and we’ll send it to you!)
A recent visitor to the YMF blog sent us an email which reminded us of our duty to “remember, remember The Men of cis-gender” (or something like that). She asked us whether or not we were focusing too much on women’s issues and neglecting men and boys. She also sent us a link to a Men’s Rights Activists site that details “facts” about “men.” She then asked us what feminists think about the men’s movement and Men’s Rights Activists (or MRAs, from here on out) in general.
The continual focus on fighting feminism, the failure to actually advocate for men in constructive ways, the dogmatic insistence on disrupting spaces intended solely for discussion of and amongst women, and the tendency to derail and invasively dominate feminist discussions all lead me to believe that MRAs and their movement have little to offer anyone seeking advocacy for equality, understanding, and constructive action for beneficial, lasting change.
Things MRAs tend to focus on:
- attempting to disprove the wage gap or the idea of the feminization of poverty
- the downsides of the increased achievement by women in terms of education (like women getting an increasing number of higher degrees)
- the exclusion of men from some battered women and children’s shelters (a service which is still desperately underfunded and inaccessible to women across the country anyways)
- framing the increased awareness of sexual harassment and violence against women as a discussion which insidiously implicates all men as rapists and denies men rights in any number of ways, if simply by not allowing the discussion to center on male rape survivors.
What’s interesting is that the men’s movement tends to have another set of issues which fall outside of the reactionary issues stated above. These include, most often, male death statistics (relating to warfare, healthcare, suicide, or violence) and issues concerning paternity rights.
For one, MRAs tout the fact that, overwhelmingly, more men die than women as an objectively discriminatory fact. MRAs, by and large, do not direct their passion towards issues of gun control, economic injustice, war, legal injustice, drug trafficking, or institutionalized violent masculinity as sources for this imbalance. These facts, presented without commentary, are used as a red herring, and the burden of evidence seems to implicate people who certainly aren’t the alleged victims of the men’s rights movement.
The other issue, paternity rights, is an obfuscation of a larger issue – mainly that the legal system disadvantages families in divorce and custody cases. In fact, the person most likely to be disproportionately affected by the cultural norm of maternal primary custody is, in fact, the mother! For a variety of reasons, including the likelihood of having less access to jobs, childcare, education, and important resources which families provide or higher incomes supply, women who receive primary care of a child/children automatically have increased responsibilities, expenses, and narrowed opportunities. For MRAs to describe the legal system as “benefiting” women over men is to, essentially, glorify the dire straits women are put in when they receive primary care and custody. The overwhelming amount of discussion on paternity rights frames women as conniving, vindictive banshees who use the legal system as a weapon against The Men. This leads the discussion away from possible ways to fix a system which disadvantages everyone.
This narrowing of focus in a problem which clearly negatively affects both men and women shows the way that MRAs continually fail to advocate for men in constructive ways. As stated above, the conversation about male mortality doesn’t move on to a discussion about the violent masculinization young men experience, or the horrible things men are expected and encouraged to do against other men and women (as feminist Michael Kaufmann has addressed).
There is an important need to address issues pertaining to men and how they harm themselves and others. This does not mean, however, that feminism is the place to discuss the issues that men face. There does not, shockingly enough, need to only be one space of conversation. It should not be expected that all conversation outside of feminist forums is about/for males.
The men’s rights movement seems to be about conflating actual prejudice with the challenging of male privilege and de jure power to do and say things without repercussions. It’s a snapshot of a group of people in positions of power desperately lashing out to keep that power in specific, localized, and documented instances.
And as if this needed any empirical backing:
“Among 35 major national publications… men had 81 percent of the quotes in stories about abortion, the research group said Thursday, while women had 12 percent and organizations had 7 percent… Women fared a bit better in stories about women’s rights, getting 31 percent of the quotes compared with 52 percent for men and 17 percent for organizations. Men didn’t just dominate stories on women’s issues, the study found, but stories on all election topics, including the economy and foreign policy.” (source)
So, before we are lectured about our neglect to The Men, let us remember that we hear quite a lot from The Men! I would like to say thank you to whomever out there is concerned about The Men. But, honestly, I think we’re OK right now in a lot of ways. And if we aren’t, let’s take that discussion to other forums. Maybe we can integrate our discourse and resources to develop inter-movement alliances so that we can stamp out systematic injustices across the world and foster ultimate inclusion by allowing everyone a voice, respecting and celebrating differences, and creating a safe-space for people who honestly want to better the lot of women and men (and every other sex and gender).
Until that kind of stuff happens, though, I’m afraid I’ve got to tip my fedora to the MRAs and move along.