Unlike everyone else in the MRM that I spoke with, Hembling claims that there was no catalytic event—no nasty breakup, no traumatic childhood, no conniving ex-wife—that steered him to the movement. Rather, he says that he was attracted to it by its sheer intellectual merits. (For example, the theory that women are “without the capacity for moral agency” and unable to grasp the concepts of “personal accountability, ethics, compassion or empathy,” which he suspects is hardwired into the X chromosome.)
As bad as Men's Rights Activists are for women (and, really, for our collective humanity), they’re also doing harm to the causes they claim to care about. When an AVFM contributor in Australia called a hotline posing as a man being beaten by his wife and needing a shelter for himself and his son, he claims he was denied help. But if you listen to the recording (or read the transcript), you can clearly hear the counselor on the other line offer multiple forms of assistance, including a free hotel for himself and his son, a direct connection to a police officer specializing in domestic violence, and more. Far from their tagline “compassion for men and boys,” this incident reveals that MRAs are happy to abandon men and boys to real danger when it suits their hate campaign against women.
Every man who visits a men's rights site concerned about male victims of rape is a man who’ll be told that women are the problem and will be offered no practical solutions, a man who won’t be connected with direct services for survivors if he needs them, a man who still doesn’t know about Just Detention International, which works to end prison rape, or Service Women’s Action Network, which is taking the lead to end sexual violence in the U.S. military for both men and women. Every man who comes to them concerned about the high rates of on-the-job fatalities for men is a man taught to blame women but who is never encouraged to support or join unions. Every man who comes to them concerned about the male suicide rate is a man who won’t be encouraged to help out with the life-saving work The Samaritans do every day.
It’s hardly the “End of Men” these days (really, Hannah Rosin, get a grip). But as Ann Friedman (no relation, alas) writes in New York magazine, “America is finally getting around to having the conversation about what it means to be a man that, decades ago, feminism forced us to have about womanhood … [E]ven the most ideologically progressive men are just now starting to talk about how to break with masculine stereotypes and still hang onto a sense of gender identity.” It’s the very real pain caused by these systemic problems and cultural anxieties that Men's Rights Activists are all-too-eager to exploit.
Of course, you’ll find women (and, gasp!, even feminists) in leadership in most of the institutions actually working to make life safer for men. It’s feminists who fought a long and recently successful battle to ensure that male victims are included in the FBI’s definition of rape. Some feminists are working to integrate the military so that the burden of war doesn’t just fall on men, and some are working against the militarism that not only enables rape in the armed forces, but underpins the narrow, confining cultural ideas about masculinity that make so many men feel trapped. Feminists have ensured that, through the Violence Against Women Act that MRAs oppose, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the U.S. declined 64 percent between 1994 and 2010, and that decline is distributed evenly between male and female victims.
1) I think it gives Men’s Rights activists way too much credit for their supposed good intentions. While there are some MRAs who do seem to be motivated at least in part by a sincere desire to help men, most of the MRAs I’ve encountered in the 3 years of doing this blog have clearly been motivated primarily by anger and hatred of feminists — and women in general. They don’t really seem to give a shit about doing anything to actually improve the lives of men — and the paucity of their accomplishments reflects this. In its relatively brief lifespan, AVFM has raised many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Has it set up any shelters or hotlines or helplines for men? Not a one.
2) It wildly exaggerates the importance of Hembling to the MRM – especially ironic given that Hembling has been more or less AWOL in recent months, producing only a few short videos and one article for AVFM.
3) It paints a picture of The Spearhead’s WF Price as a Men’s Rights “moderate.” Really? While it’s true that Price is not an AVFM-style hothead given to rants about “fucking your shit up,” his views are anything but moderate. This is a guy who thinks higher education is wasted on women, who blames the epidemic of rape in the armed forces on women, who celebrated one Mothers Day with a vicious transphobic rant, who once used the tragic death of a woman who’d just graduated from college to argue that “after 25, women are just wasting time.” He published posts on why women’s suffrage is a bad idea. Plus, have you met his commenters?
Other sites, such as Return of Kings, somehow manage to peg the practice of picking up women at bars as a key element in the struggle for men’s civil rights.
For members of the MRM, feminism is more than just an adversary competing for political outcomes. To the MRM, feminism is the enemy. It is a vast conspiracy that is working tirelessly to build a Matriarchy to enslave men. The red pill Matrix reference—which the movement uses to identify who is a member of their tribe—comes from the MRM belief that men are already largely slaves, even if they don't know it yet. It's the movement's job to bring them the bad news, and then to bring them out of their bondage.
More moderate MRM members are seeking ways to change public policy on issues that truly do infringe on men’s civil rights, especially the rights of low-income men.
A predictable reaction to the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the MRM struggled for decades to get recognition. Occasionally an issue like child-custody rights would allow some small growth, but for the most part the MRM limped along relatively unknown for decades. And then, the Internet happened, and the MRM evolved along with it into a coalition where the most radical, hyperbolic and outrageous voices are disproportionately rewarded with visibility and clout.
Over the past decade, the movement has grown organically online into a confederacy of somewhat disjointed causes. Fathers' rights advocates are part of it, as are male victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Also included are members of the Pick-Up Artist movement, which is exactly what it sounds like. Men who fight for those accused of rape make up a surprisingly large part of the confederacy. There are even radical male separatists, some of whom say the power of technology has made interaction with females all but obsolete. The ability to congregate anonymously online with like-minded men has been a perfect incubator for such a mish-mash of banners, many of them politically incorrect. The single common thread that binds them all together is their deep-seated hatred of feminism.
For members of the MRM, feminism is more than just an adversary competing for political outcomes. To the MRM, feminism is the enemy.
Before we get into that, it’s important to acknowledge the things that the MRM gets right. The New York Times may have recently reported that the majority of sexual assault victims in the military are men, but they are light years behind AV4M and other men’s rights sites in doing so. Then there are male victims of domestic abuse whose plight is largely ignored by both the media and the justice system. It’s hard to say exactly how big the problem is because there has never been sufficient interest to fund a proper study tracking it. There are still many regions in the United States that lack any kind of safe houses or shelters for men at risk. Even in my progressive hometown of Portland, Oregon, the Police Bureau’s domestic violence victims’ resource manual defines a domestic abuse shelter as “a temporary place for women.” In instances of immediate crisis, men who call the police are as likely to be offered smirks as they are protection. Just as female victims have historically had to deal with some form of 'she must have been asking for it,' males face derision for 'not being man enough' to defend themselves.
The MRM also shines a spotlight on underage male statutory rape victims. For the most part our justice system treats the crime as being in effect victimless, while the media tends to portray the victim as “lucky.” What’s more, male victims of statutory rape can be liable for child support payments if the molestation results in a pregnancy. When Glee dealt with female-initiated statutory rape in its third season, the storyline focused on the inherent sexiness of illicit attraction; the question posed wasn’t “Should or shouldn’t she be arrested?” so much as “Should or shouldn’t she just go for it?”
There are other MRM issues that deserve greater attention from the public, despite the movement’s dubious—and oftentimes historically inaccurate—claims that they are caused by modern feminism. These include the discrepancy in male versus female workplace deaths, murder rates, and incidents of homelessness.
MRM leaders say they find it especially frustrating when their critics label them as misogynists for bringing up these issues. To a person, each says this characterization is unfair. Hembling insists the charges of misogyny stem from critics conflating femaleness with feminism. “Much of men’s rights writing opposes the ideology operating under the name of Feminism,” he writes. “Critics and opponents of the MRM claiming this equates to a hatred of women make several false assumptions. The first such assumption is that ‘women’ and ‘feminism’ are synonyms. One is an ideology, one is a biological demographic.” Each MRM advocate I spoke with shared some version of this same idea.
If the concept of W.H. [heir apparent to lead MRM] and Michelle Price ["an outspoken, self-described feminist"] as a happy couple is hard to fathom, the reality is easy to understand. Each is an intelligent, articulate and passionate person wanting to make the world a better place. Though there is much they disagree on (obviously), each has learned to listen to the other, giving the other’s arguments both a fair hearing and the assumption of good faith. As a result, Michelle has become a fervent advocate for many of the causes that matter to Price, such as examining the negative effects of current child-support laws on men, women, and families alike. “When he first talked about his cause, the thing that became instantly clear was that he was a man who cared passionately about being a good father,” Michelle tells me. “It’s a big part of what I fell in love with.”
In turn, Michelle’s challenges to Price have made his arguments sharper and more nuanced than they were even a year ago. More importantly, he is learning how to craft an advocacy that has the potential to appeal to mainstream voters and policy makers while remaining true to his MRM ideals. He best illustrates this skill when stumping on behalf of divorced fathers. Price argues that the laws meant to remedy unpaid child support payments were largely created to solve the problems of a small subset of middle- and upper-class women without enough consideration of their potential negative impact on lower-class families.
“Men in this recession get laid off and can’t find work, and when they fall behind on payments they’re sent to prison,” fumes Price. “They don’t earn money while doing time, so when they’re released they’re often rounded up and imprisoned again for being even farther behind. It’s a system that punishes you for being unemployed while making you less employable. And forget about the men for a minute and ask yourself, how does that actually help lower-income children or mothers?”
Price is every bit as angry about child-support inequality as Hembling, but the difference between the two is important. Hembling relies on easily debunked male-pill conspiracy theories and reflexively labels anyone who question his conclusions a liar, idiot or psychopath. In contrast, one could easily see Price’s arguments being picked up by a mainstream politician and resonating with voters. To put it another way, while Hembling has been perfecting a way to generate page hits, Price has been working on a narrative that might actually make a difference to the men they each seek to help.
“When we talk about recovery from trauma and abuse, there were two things that helped me,” says Chris Anderson, executive director of the male-victim advocacy group Male Survivor and a sexual abuse survivor himself. “The first was realizing that I'm not alone; the second was hearing that recovery was possible.” Anderson is quick to dissociate himself from the men’s rights movement: “In [the MRM] people get that first message, that they're not alone. I don't know that they ever get the second message. And when they don’t get that second message, it turns into an endless feedback loop and eventually they say, ‘Oh my God, all of society is f**ked.’”
The MRM has long begged for mainstream attention. Now that it is finally getting its wish, it needs to ask itself what it truly wants: page hits or policy changes. Price and other more moderate voices (many of whom write for AV4M under Hembling) have an opportunity to take the first small steps toward correcting the very real civil rights discrepancies they have uncovered. What remains to be seen is whether the rank and file of their movement will let them, or whether they’ll opt for the instant gratification of the Hemblings and Vöreks.
Take the first yarn, about the box cutters. Vancouver police records show that there was indeed an altercation in Spetember of 2012 between Hembling and others seeking to tear down men’s rights posters. However, according to the police, Hembling was arguing with two or three people, not being accosted by a “mob” of any size. When questioned by the authorities, neither Hembling nor witnesses mentioned seeing any weapons. Furthermore, police state that Hembling had the right to put up posters where the altercation took place, and no mention of an arrest threat is made.
Curiously enough, Hembling actually videotaped the events and had his AV4M Radio partner Karen Straughan post it online. The discussion with the police has been conveniently edited out, but the rest of the video clearly matches police records and not Hembling’s story. There are only a few young men taking down Hembling's posters, and the video shows them choosing to ignore him except when he engages them in conversation. One of the men is seen using a box cutter to take down the flyers, but at no time does he use it as a weapon, raise his voice, or threaten Hembling in any way.
This article is like that, times 100. Because these worms and centipedes and bottom feeders actually participate in society. Gross.
People are not vermin because you hate them. When you dehumanize others, you prepare yourself to act inhumanely towards them, thereby helping to feed their own delusions of persecution. This will not help the situation.
It’s feminists who fought a long and recently successful battle to ensure that male victims are included in the FBI’s definition of rape. Some feminists are working to integrate the military so that the burden of war doesn’t just fall on men, and some are working against the militarism that not only enables rape in the armed forces, but underpins the narrow, confining cultural ideas about masculinity that make so many men feel trapped. Feminists have ensured that, through the Violence Against Women Act that MRAs oppose, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the U.S. declined 64 percent between 1994 and 2010, and that decline is distributed evenly between male and female victims.
And this also gets to the heart of my objection to applying the victimhood mantle to the male. Making men as physically helpless and violable as contemporary feminists hold women to be is a form of social castration. One of the defining characteristics of masculinity is the possession of agency — the ability to act. Take this away and we are slaves, so removing this from men – even with a concept ostensibly meant to “protect” men – leads us down a hole, at the bottom of which we find ourselves bereft of our manhood both culturally and legally. And make no mistake: many people really do want to rob men of their manhood. Male feminist Michael Kimmel has made a career of it.
This is not to say that men cannot be victimized or real victims; they clearly can and this has always been recognized. But the most effective means of victimizing men has always been to reduce them to a state in which they are incapable of protecting themselves and acting in their own interests, and this is accomplished as easily by feminizing them as by direct force of arms.
When a woman appeals to people for help and protection, she is engaged in an empowering act. When men rush to a woman’s aid, it demonstrates her female potency. When her “needs” are met by others, it does not detract from but rather adds to her status. For ancient, immutable reasons, this does not apply to men.
The man who cries “help” feels a certain shame. When he must apply for welfare, it is humiliating and emasculating. That men must swallow their pride and do so from time to time is a given, but almost all of us recognize that it is far from ideal when the necessity presents itself. Ideally, the man has agency, and can fend for himself. In a society that valued men, steps would be taken to ensure that men have the opportunity to do so. A society that enshrines male victimhood is the exact opposite.
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