Zek J. Evets challenges both Feminism and Masculism on the hate and bitterness that threaten to undermine the fight for gender equality.
The Problem With The F-Word
It seems every day on this site the debate rages around what is Feminism. Is it a systemic movement for gender equality? Or is it a misandric ideology no longer relevant in modern society?
The definition of Feminism (via Feminists) states upfront: Feminism is a movement for social, cultural, political and economic equality of men and women. It is a campaign against gender inequalities and it strives for equal rights.
Feminism is, in large part, responsible for such breakthrough legislation such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment; the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 where an employee (male or female) can take up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of their newborn, adopt a child or foster child, care for an ill immediate family member, or take care of a personal serious health condition (without losing your job); the passage of Title IX so girls and women could play sports in public schools and colleges funded with our tax dollars; and the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1991 so you can’t be fired if you become pregnant (among other things). These accomplishments have become hallmarks of Feminism’s undeniable impact on the socio-cultural fabric of America.
But there is a “dark side” to this movement. Like “The Force” of Star Was fame, Feminism is a powerful force that can be used for good… or for oppression. Feminists have a well-documented history of throwing racial minorities, LGBTQ communities, and the general population of men under the bus. Why? For the cause. For privileged White women. For structural Radical Feminism, such as that seen in the actions of figures as disparate as Valerie Solanas, Mary Daly, and even Sharon Osbourne. It existed in moments such as Slutwalk’s Infamous Slur Sign. It was there when Lavender Menace formed, when Sheila Jeffreys wrote that transgendering is self-mutilation, and when Janice Raymond published The Transsexual Empire as a condemnation of transsexuality. It eviscerated my composure when Jezebel author Erin Gloria Ryan asked the misandric question, “What if Penn State’s coach had victimized girls?” These types of Feminists represent the lowest common denominator of identity politics.
Subversively there exists a zeitgeist-like acceptance that if you believe in gender equality, then you must be a Feminist. There’s this sense of ownership over gender issues and equality that permeates the entire conversation. I see it when people who refuse to identify as Feminist—even when they’re women!—are subsequently held in suspicion, if not immediately ostracized. Audre Lourde knows what I’m talking about.
My girlfriend and I frequently have this debate. Because I’m pro-choice, anti-rape, and support an equal rights amendment, she believes me to be a Feminist. But what she humorously neglects to mention is that I include father’s rights into my stance on abortion, that I think rape-culture effectively silences male victims, and equal rights means equal responsibilities.
Despite protestations to the contrary, there are disparate groups who feel required to qualify themselves when they say, “I’m all for gender equality, but I’m not a Feminist”. The list is myriad: Some Black women, many in the Latino communities, the Transgendered, Republicans, Muslims, and a gamut of miscellaneous Americans who often feel, whether justifiably or not, that Feminism just isn’t for them.
Why is this? Why the backlash against a movement which ostensibly sells itself as promoting gender equality? Because, like with so many religions, the message is muddied by the actions of its adherents.
But I guess my problem with the F-word was predestined. It began the moment I read Jane Austen and was bored. I tried Virginia Woolf, Andrea Dworkin, Jaclyn Friedman, Gloria Steinem, Jessica Valenti, Betty Friedan, and more. I sat down with The Bell Jar for weeks trying to understand what it was that my female friends raved about. (Suffice to say all I recognized were poetic Daddy issues.) The more I read about Feminism, the more I felt excluded from the gender conversation, and the more I realized that all these women didn’t really care to understand or work with me in creating a better society, because I was a man. It was polarizing. It was uncomfortable. It made me wonder if I had anything to contribute at all. It left me feeling guilty for my mere anatomical difference.
Meanwhile, this narrative I found within Feminist literature played out in Feminist politics. The exclusion that I read in all those books has become an exclusion I see played out in the real world, far from the Ivory Towers of Academia or Government that mainstream Feminism has increasingly removed itself to. Far from the problems of everyday men and women that constantly crop up, like cracks in an otherwise perfect picture of Rosie the Riveter.
Rape shield laws were campaigned for that allow relevant information about accusers to be withheld from evidence. NOW advocates increasing equality of women in the military, but don’t include adding women to the draft. Domestic violence shelters for male victims are unfunded and shutting down while Feminist politicians say, erroneously, that since more women are abused than men we should focus on them. Fathers are forced from their children’s lives, and the Lace Curtain hangs like an impenetrable veil separating them, splattered with message: Who Has It Worse?
But it’s more than just that. It can be something as small as where to leave the toilet-seat or something as impossibly huge as the prison-industrial complex. And every time men stop to point these out, self-righteous indignation falls like the crash of a hammer. “How dare we talk about men suffering when there are so many women out there who need help!” It’s a strange thing how the prejudice we protest becomes internalized within ourselves.
Meanwhile, as I’ve searched farther afield for better answers than those contained within Ms. magazine, I stumbled upon subcultures within subcultures: Womanism, which introduced me to Alice Walker and the intersectionality of race & gender; Antifeminism, where I discovered the work of Daphne Patai and her theories on the creation of micromanaged male-female relations through pronounced hostility; and Ethecofeminism, where the philosophical nuances of Feminist morality is questioned Socratic-style.
But what I found that truly impacted me was this thing, called Masculism; the radical notion that men are people and can be oppressed based on their gender. From Warren Farrell to The Spearhead, the Men’s Rights Movement is so diverse it’s almost divisive. We’re like a herd of cats, all clawing at each other in order to escape this goddamn sack circumscribed as our masculinity. Masculism has become an alternative, a poignant story all its own, voicing more than just the problems with the F-word.
It’s our story about what it’s really like to be a man.
The Problem With The M-Word:
The “M” words: Masculism, the Men’s Rights Movement, and Men’s Rights Advocates. I am a Masculist, hear me roar. I support Men’s rights, and fervently support my brothers around the world. But lately, I’ve been asking myself: are we a new face in the fight for gender equality, or are we a loose collection of vitriolic misogynists?
The definition of Masculism (via The Web): refers to political, cultural, and economic movements aimed at establishing and defending political, economic, and social rights and participation in society for men and boys. These rights include legal issues, such as those of conscription, custody, alimony, and equal pay for equal work. Its concepts coincide with those of men’s rights, father’s rights, and men’s liberation.
Masculism is often referred to as antifeminism, and associated with advocacy of male superiority or dominance. Masculism is concerned with a variety of issues which receive little to no attention in mainstream society: female-to-male rape, male victims of domestic violence, discrimination, male suicide, criminal violence, humorous depictions of violence against males, failing scholastic achievements among men and boys, as well as numerous other issues.
We haven’t yet been able to create one definition for Masculism that everybody agrees with. The Men’s Rights movement is so diverse as to be divisive. We’ve amassed profeminists, Male Rights Advocates (MRA), Radical Faeries, Father’s 4 Justice/Equal Rights, The National Center for Men, antifeminists, Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), Pick-Up Artists (PUA), Mythopoets, and more subcultures are cropping up every day. The blogs are endless, and the followers stretch from Asia to Mexico. Even the Promise Keepers give us a nod, though we rarely acknowledge it.
Put in greater social context, Masculism isn’t even recognized as a word (neither is misandry, according to Microsoft Word) and it’s relatively new to the socio-political fabric of America. Currently it has not succeeded in helping to pass any legislation or agenda it has supported specifically. With the sole exception of Dubay v. Wells, Masculism has not engaged in significant legal action on behalf of other men. Activism among the movement is in large part relegated to low-level grassroots groups, websites, blogs, and forums, with very little direct action on a large scale.
But more importantly, bleeding into our message is that we are confrontational, we are angry, we are… just like a bunch of bra-burning, armpit hair-having radfems. A commenter by the name of Transhuman put it like this,
“So, the MRM will be old-style masculine for a while; it will respond with anger (the one emotion men are socially “permitted” to display), it will have oppositional politics, some of the bitter and harmed members will want revenge. These are the early days. Already there are men contributing to the MRM that can see a better direction; that are willing to offer a sympathetic ear to men who have been told to “shut up and just deal with it” or the reprehensible “man up”. Men that are encouraging other men to feel that other emotions are right and true and that all men should feel supported in expressing themselves, without needing to seek approval from women.”
Why have we come from such a place of negativity? Is it because we’ve been circumscribed by our masculinity, or because we chose it knowing it would make sure we were heard? This is an important criticism of the MRM that needs to be addressed: as much as we talk about the misandry of Feminism, it is undeniable that the MRM is replete with misogyny, and a lot of it comes from the MRA.
Often times I’ve seen MRAs attempt to co-opt Masculism, to redefine it as something they alone birthed. In one sense they are correct—Men’s Rights have no more fervent supporters than the MRAs—but it fails to recognize the legions of men who aren’t embittered or jaded, or all that radical, and who have contributed just as much, if not more. There are men, like me, who love and respect women, even when they’ve often shamed us into silence with words thrown like “privilege” and “patriarchy”.
I discovered Masculism years ago when I stumbled upon a website called, The Spearhead. At first it was amazing; a place where all the issues I knew but had never heard openly discussed were being given serious thought. When I read the comments it became somewhat disconcerting. A multitude of old, angry, embittered White men who talked constantly about their divorces, ex-wives, kids they didn’t see (or that they hated), and how hard their lives were because the world didn’t respect or care for them. I felt a deep sense of pity, having seen what a similar situation did to my father. At the same time I was averse to the deep, seething misogyny. “Fucking bitches, cunts, whores, sluts, femiskanks, they deserve to be raped, deserve to die, forget about ’em, not for me, never for me, I’m staying the hell away.” On and on and on. It was, and is, the most incredible mixture of hate and suffering that I’ve ever read.
Many of our brothers openly admit to hating, fearing, and mistrusting women. Some relish in their suffering. Some become instantly defensive, like bombs exploding over and over again, whenever a woman speaks to them. They remind me of Furies seeking retribution. And against who? Against Feminists, females, and maybe even society, forever, until the Big Crunch. But where does it come from?
For many this anger and fear comes from emotional scars they bear from ex-wives and ex-girlfriends who abused them. For others it comes from paranoia and fear of what could happen, like prison-rape or unwanted children. Still more talk about being shamed and shut-out, being labeled creeps and rapists. I see them in the comments section here, and across the blogosphere crying, frothing at the mouth, seemingly as crazy as people like Amanda Marcotte would have us believe.
We need to talk about this. We need to talk about George Sodini, who killed innocent women because they wouldn’t sleep with him, but also because nobody cared that he was completely and utterly alone in this world. We need to talk about Tom Ball, self-immolator, our own modern-day Thic Quang Duc, who was also a child abuser. We need to talk about Paul Elam’s rape-apology and Roissy’s abusive dating tactics.
We need to talk about the Men’s Rights Subreddit, filled to the brim with such virulent misogyny that even David Futrelle can’t be considered misandric for calling it out. Recently, the MRM was classified as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In response to this, a commenter in the Men’s Rights Subreddit, who claims MRA all the way, believes down to the salt of his bones that’s a good thing. Straight-up no chaser. DaNiceguy (ironic handle, right?) states,
“Yes, we’ve done very well to get this far. To be classified as a hate group by such a large organization is the first step to gaining wider recognition. In other words, we are starting to make an impact. As far as I’m concerned, our detractors can keep calling us a dangerous hate group until they’re blue in the face and I will applaud their stupidity every single time.”
Is there a man among us who isn’t ashamed by this? I know I am. This is not the Masculism I believe in. But there it is nonetheless, staring me in the face with a soulless grin as if to say, “What now?”
I don’t know. Unless we solve the problems with the M-word, we very well could become just another hate group relegated to media stereotypes and obscurity. Masculism won’t make it by being reactionary; it needs to be proactive. It needs to promote change instead of instigate flame-wars. I know we’ve suffered, and that we’re hurting, but our message cannot be one of fear, anger, or hate. I’ve been down that road, and it only ends in bitter regret.
So consider this my caution and my hope, let’s become better men. Let’s become the men we want to be, and watch how the world changes with us.