You’ve probably seen it or heard it. Hell, you may have thought it or felt it. It even may make a little sense… in a strange kind of way. Like when the spaghetti pushes up against the apple pie on your picnic plate. It doesn’t taste quite right, but you could probably get used to it.
Only really, you can’t.
But this thing is much worse. It is not simply soggy paper plates of mixed desserts and main dishes. It doesn’t taste odd; it is violent. The most seditious of violence in that real issues are displayed in a way designed to protect the perpetrator and further harm the victim. When the privileged shed their tears to somehow protect not themselves, but the privileges they carry. Those privileges which require other people’s pain in order to be maintained.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
MRA’s or Men’s Rights Activists, hold at their core some very real issues which affect men (along with a bunch of nonsense issues thrown in to provide substance where substance is in short supply). Those issues are then analyzed at a mere millimeter of depth, in order to come to the conclusion that men are victims of feminism.
Truly, I can understand how an individual could possibly reach that conclusion. In fact, reaching that conclusion is not hard at all. Which is the point, really. If you have come to the conclusion that men are victimized by feminism, then you have concluded WAY TO SOON. Your analysis is stunted and underdeveloped. You have not looked at nearly enough evidence (if any) and shut off your brain before it could truly do some of the work it is designed to do.
I can even imagine how that analysis rolls.
- Feminism has the root “feminine” in it which is about women (not men)
- Feminists are angry at patriarchy
- Patriarchy has the root “pater” in it which is about men
- Feminists hate men
- Hate is bad
There are a lot of holes in this. At the end of this simple analysis, any issue, which negatively affects men, could very well be attributed to feminism. That is, if one simply stops thinking at this point rather than actually addressing what patriarchy is and how it manifests in our lives.
Let’s start from a different place. I may be optimistic, but I think a lot of the confusion comes from a misunderstanding of the difference between systems and individuals. For whatever reason, folks tend to only see the agent, or individual, when shit goes down. There is a reason for that, of course. Our justice system is designed to reduce situations down to singular moments in which individual agents act and react. There is also the whole esoteric aspect of ego-driven individuals operating in a symbiotic world. But I suggest visiting a therapist or spiritual guide for that piece. I will focus on the politic.
A system, in discussing patriarchy, is the overarching beliefs, values, mechanisms, policies, traditions, etc., which govern how stuff gets done.
An individual (or agent), is a person or entity operating within the system.
The agent is informed by the system and the system is maintained by the agent(s).
The relationship between agent and system is symbiotic. The information is passed in a circular fashion. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This question is not so important because we, as agents, do have the freedom of choice in how we recreate or dismantle the system. Patriarchy has informed us in our choices, words and actions. However, we can alter this system by making new choices.
Agents of patriarchy are not confined to female/male binaries. It is not “men” exclusively who perpetuate this system. It is, however, men who have benefited from and maintained patriarchy. It is even possible to successfully argue that men created patriarchy. Of course, women have also participated in patriarchy in multiple ways. This does not mean that women have benefited, rather, that women have sought to glean what benefits they could from this system.
Do you see the difference? One could argue that inmates receive benefits within the prison system in the form of beds, food, clothing and at times education. This does not mean that inmates benefit from incarceration. The struggle to increase prisoners’ rights is only needed because they have so few rights to begin with.
Briefly, let us look at a few of the issues brought up by MRAs which they conclude are a result of loss of men’s rights. This is by no means exhaustive.
Mothers are preferred over fathers in custody battles. MRAs would have you believe that this is somehow because feminists have demonized men in the eyes of the courts. Not so much.
Patriarchy dictates very clear roles for men and women. Men provide and protect while women nurture and love. It is assumed, through the lens of patriarchy, that women are less able to provide and men less able to nurture. So, in a custody battle, the mother will be preferred to care for the children. This serves two purposes; 1) the children receive “better” nurturing from the mother and 2) the father has more time to earn money.
This fits very snugly within the patriarchal paradigm. It is not a loss of rights for men. It is a perpetuation of the values of patriarchy in which men’s place is securing resources while women are bound to the hearth. By the way; by being bound to the hearth, women become dependent upon men for resources and not as able to provide for themselves… because the patriarchal system denies them the same access to and reward from opportunity.
Men die in war. Granted, women and children die in war also, at staggering rates (the accepted formula for calculating civilian deaths in warfare is 1/10. That is; for every 1 soldier killed in action, 10 civilians will lose their lives. Many experts, however, contend that this ratio is too low.). It is men who have their bodies “weaponized” for the purposes of the State. There is a very real and troubling issue at hand here, which needs its own analysis and its own opposition. Militarization as a whole is destroying lives daily. This cannot be overlooked.
But can we blame feminism for this? Not at all. Patriarchy is again at the root of this problem. From one perspective, we see the patriarchal image of men as protectors. This places men as the de facto choice for military service, because as is widely known, the purported purpose of the military is to protect the homeland. Protectors, protect.
Again, despite the atrocity of war affecting men through the weaponization of their bodies, this is hardly the result of feminism. It is a facet of patriarchy and as such, also part of the feminist struggle.
(I tried to write something about this but failed utterly. My mind wandered through all kinds of labyrinths, trying to discover a reason that MRA folks would believe that women routinely, falsely accuse men of rape. I can only reach one conclusion; MISOGYNY.)
MRA’s claim that men under-report being victims of domestic violence because they are reluctant to position themselves as victims.
Aside from the strange correlations made between “pushing” as violent against men and “hitting, beating and rape” as violent against women, even if the domestic violence against men is under reported, this would once again be the fault of patriarchy and not feminism. Patriarchy, as noted above, establishes very clear roles for men and women, where men are restricted from being sensitive. Additionally, there is a failure in this analysis of male victims to acknowledge which violent acts by women were done in self-defense. Pushing, scratching or hitting a would be attacker is not equivalent to hitting a woman because she “wouldn’t shut up.”
There are many more examples of this lack of analysis amongst the Men’s Rights community. The feminist agenda (at least the one I subscribe to) includes many of the same grievances that MRAs bring to the table. With some very distinctive and important differences.
Feminism concludes that patriarchy, as a system, is responsible for the injustice, while MRAs conclude that feminists simply hate men. Feminism provides a cure for these injustices through acknowledgement of the basic humanity of all peoples, regardless of gender, race, class, preference or ability. MRAs simply work to maintain and bolster male privilege and hegemony.
So if you are considering working with Men’s Rights groups, please take a moment to consider what the world might look like if they actually were able to realize their agenda. Would it be much different than the world of the last thousand years? Take your analysis a bit deeper and try to imagine a world where the feminist agenda has taken hold. A world where men are loving and respectful and women are valued and safe.