The men’s rights movement is a reactionary, desperate attempt to hold onto social and political power.
Last week, a pair of articles on the popular website Thought Catalog dealing with “female privilege” went viral. In the articles – the original listicle written by Mark Saunders, titled 18 Things Females Seem Not To Understand (Because, Female Privilege) and a follow up by Gordon Avery called “Female Privilege Is Real, And We Need To Talk About It (Like Adults)” – the authors aired their counter-feminist grievances, which fall roughly in line with the tenets of the MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) movement.
Saunders’ piece detailed several “privileges” enjoyed exclusively by women; women aren’t “creepy” when they ask a man out; Women don’t have to deal with the humiliation of people being scared of them when alone on a dark street; being forced to support a child they didn’t want to have; women can cry their way out of a speeding ticket; having the arrogance to believe sexism only applies to women.
With all due respect to the author – all of that is bullshit.
Starting from the first point, which actively seeks to promote the idea that a man who is avoided on a dark street is damaged in the same way (or worse) than an actual victim of a sexual assault, Saunders completely throws the mountains of evidence – qualitative, quantitative, historical, and otherwise – out of the window in order to prove that his oppression is somehow equal to that of the opposite gender. Not only that, but he pulls anecdotes out of his ass that he can’t prove in any shape or form to be true, such as the insinuation that women are never told to “suck it up”, or that a man being “caring and empathetic” is shocking to anyone in 2014. Those arguments just aren’t grounded in reality.
His manifesto ends with the argument that “female privilege only applies to women”. Essentially, reverse sexism. the brother of the equally audacious “reverse racism” argument. Somewhere, a “Native privilege” subreddit is being born, in which I assume proponents will try to convince all of us that informing and educating white people about the real genocide that happened on American soil is just as bad as the genocide itself.
What the advocates of these no-evidence arguments don’t realize is that these ideas – racism, sexism, ableism, and so on and so forth – are grounded in power. The power that has allowed only a fraction of women (when compared to men) to hold positions of power in government and business. The same power that championed slavery and segregation, and police brutality and the school to prison pipeline. The same power that completely ignored, and to some extent continues to ignore, the plight of the physically and mentally handicapped.
Furthermore, they have a warped idea of what the kind of privilege they enjoy even means. Saunders and Avery talk about privilege in the way a teacher gives “privileges” to good students. They don’t look at privilege through the larger lens of society, in which straight white men (such as myself) have had a distinct advantage over our peers since the founding of the United States and most Western countries. And it’s not like the concept of something like female privilege, or African American privilege, can never happen – it just never, ever has. When women get away with the sexual harassment of their male employees, make a vast amount more than men, control most positions of power in business and government, we can start talking about female privilege. When the African American governors of Southern states begin segregating schools again in order to put more effort into students of the same race, when the African American bankers start denying loans to white people based on their race – then, we can we start talking about African American privilege.
When the MRA movement first started gaining major ground online a few years ago, it struck me as very similar, albeit vastly more organized, to those who held the warped view that, essentially, any real recognition of the African American community was inherently racist. You know – the people who wanted a “White” history month. A “White” entertainment television. A National Association for the Advancement of White People. The people who ignored that much of the American history we’re taught in school was written about white men by white men, that most of the shows on major television networks were written about white people by white people, and that the NAAWP is also known as the media, business interests, and government of the United States of America.
Mens’ rights activists have followed an extremely similar track. They take an issue that has directly affected females in a negative way for hundreds of years, and they flip the narrative so that it looks as though now men are the oppressed, and women are the oppressors. Women lose trust in men after the sexual assaults of themselves, their friends, and family members, but that pales in comparison to the fact that a guy felt bad once. Women are sexually assaulted when they’re drunk and tend to shy away from reporting it due to the constant legal battles, the character assassinations levied on them by defense attorneys, and inherent distrust and victim blaming by law enforcement and their community, but they’re the privileged ones because their reputation isn’t ruined for acting in an abhorrent, scumbag manner. Women are underrepresented in positions of power, but hey, at least they aren’t burdened with the responsibility of making decisions that affect everyone.
There’s a way to talk about issues concerning men that aren’t covered enough in the media, such as (shameless plug) Cameron Conaway’s article back in February, The Disposability of Boys. And for all of the posturing in his article, even Avery hits on an extremely important point – the fact that there are almost as many single homeless men as there are single women and families with children combined. But neither of these things are due to any kind of “female privilege”; they’re a direct result of, in Conaway’s case, a patriarchal power structure that produces the same results for boys as they do women and girls (exploitation to meet the desires and needs of the “father”), and in Avery’s example, a political and social unwillingness to confront the problem of poverty and homelessness in America head-on. It’s absolutely disingenuous to imply that either of those things are a result of women having too much power over men.
The fatal flaw of the men’s rights activist movement is not that the members are “neckbeards”, “virgins”, or anything else. It’s that the whole movement is s a desperate, reactionary attempt to hold onto complete control of social and political power. And even more than that; it’s not based in reality, and has to create problems to fix. And just like those championing the “plight” of white people, it has and will continue to fall into intellectual obscurity, because it is patently absurd.
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