Monday, April 21, 2014

Why I am not part of the men's rights movement

I care a lot about men's rights issues, including domestic violence against men, male disposability, the male suicide problem, asymmetrical attention for men's health issues, false rape accusations, discrimination against men and attempts to vilify masculinity in modern society.

Unfortunately, the movement that is drawing attention to these important issues tolerates too many scumbags in its ranks.

In college I read The Myth of Male Power and became a huge Warren Farrell fan. I also became a male domestic violence victim and felt I had no where to turn - not the police, who would have probably arrested me instead of my abusive girlfriend - and not the local domestic violence shelter, the same one I had given money to at a fundraiser earlier that year.

It's not that I thought they would turn me away; they probably would have given me a safe place to stay for the night. It's that they never presented themselves as an organization that welcomes male victims, so in my time of crisis it never occurred to me that I could call them for help.

There's one major aspect of my views on men's rights that most people misunderstand, and I have this view because Warren Farrell made a very good argument for it. Our society is bisexist - that is, it is sexist against men and sexist against women at the same time but in different ways. That doesn't mean they automatically balance out - I consider that magical thinking - and I'm open to the idea that women have it worse overall, but they are both there.

Caring about men's issues does not mean that we have to ignore, mock or diminish women's issues. It's a big world and we can care about all of them.

I lost my friend Mark to suicide in college. I didn't think of it as a men's issue at the time, but now that I'm more familiar with the subject I recognize it as one. While women attempt suicide more often, men die from it four times as often.

This winter when I cheered on a friend at a polar dip for a gay men's domestic violence group in Boston, my heart sang when the founder told his story. In 1993 he fled for his life from a partner, but was turned away from domestic violence shelters because of his sexuality and his gender. Even as a straight man I could relate to that feeling of isolation and abandonment and I realized I want to be around more people who care about these issues.

But it's not going to be the men's rights movement. They have too many monsters that are allowed to move about the ranks. There are extremely vocal people in it that hate western, independent women and dismiss all claims of anti-female sexism out of hand. Even beyond them, there are many members who are rude, vulgar and childish.

Two years ago I wrote about how absurd it was for the Southern Poverty Law Center to label the men's rights movement as a hate group. I stand by what I wrote, that they were cherry-picking and ignoring the Warren Farrell's of the group. There are the legitimate sexists, and then there are people just like me who want to address legitimate problems men have in our society.

The problem is, every time I try to read men's rights webpages, I end up finding the trolls within a few clicks. They are there, and there are a lot of them.

Of course, the critics paint them all with one brush and often sprinkle in  messages from comments sections to pad the numbers of jerks. In fact, feminists have dug up obscure passages that Farrell wrote and misrepresented what he said about consent laws to dismiss him. This is a crude tactic to avoid addressing his real concerns, and unfortunately it has worked on many young impressionable minds.

I hate acronyms so I'm not going to call anyone an "MRA," and feminists have done a good job of using that three-letter term to associate men's rights activists with negative connotations. That have, in fact, poisoned the movement in the public's eye.

Which is ironic, because every single problem I have with the men's rights movement is a problem I have with modern feminism. Look at the tone of this vulgar piece on A Voice For Men. It's like I'm reading another foul-mouthed social justice warrior rage blog. Perhaps that's because it is just another social justice warrior rage blog. Feminist circles have their obnoxious extremists who say monumentally stupid or crass things, and many of them get propped up as legitimate leaders in the movement. The more I learn about the men' rights movement, the more I believe they do it too.

The two movements mirror each other in ways that supporters from both don't like to think about. While I love people like Farrell are care about these issues, I have no interest in being associated with the troll fest.

I've also owned a grey fedora since college and would like to be able to wear it again on formal occasions, but the men's rights stereotype destroyed that for me.

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