How So-Called “Men’s Rights Activists” Make Actual Work On Behalf Of Men Harder
At least there’s an endlessly amusing array of stock photos of angry men.
“20/20” keeps delaying the episode of their show dealing with the extensive, grassroots campaign to harass women, particularly feminists, online until they quit in terror and frustration. (Well, I assume that’s the imagined goal, though most anti-feminist harassers are men who get a lot of pleasure out of the direct act of berating and scaring women, so their campaign is really self-rewarding.) Luckily for us, Jaclyn Friedman decided to go ahead and publish a piece on so-called “men’s rights activists”—we really need to come up with a more accurate name, as they are neither concerned with men’s rights* nor with activism—at the American Prospect anyway. Read the whole thing. It kicks ass.
She made me consider a point in this that I had never really thought much about before. As anyone who has dealt with MRAs knows, the short list of “men’s issues” they have cobbled together to justify their existence is mostly shit they don’t give two fucks about. Men’s higher death rate in wars and from crime, men’s higher death rate on the job, sexual violence against men, and men’s higher suicide rate are all issues that are important, but represent to MRAs one thing and one thing only: A chance to deflect and derail discussions about feminist issues. They don’t do shit to actually address these issues. They often distort them deliberately, hiding some of the relevant contextual factors that would make it clear that what they call “men’s issues” are often labor issues, results of racial discrimination, and yes, feminist issues—particularly sexual violence, which affects both men and women but is nonetheless enacted primarily by men as an expression of masculine power.
Anyway, Jaclyn makes the point that because MRAs co-opt these very real issues but don’t actually care very much about them, they “are happy to abandon men and boys to real danger when it suits their hate campaign against women”. Because of this, the noise they make blaming all these issues on women means that it is now harder for people who actually give a fuck to find resources.
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.
The good news is I think it’s unlikely that many people will be snookered if they go looking for real information and instead find MRA sites whose primary interest in these issues is to use them to accuse feminists of man-hating because reasons. The bad news is Jaclyn is dead right that the problem is people who actually care might not be able to wade through all the misogynist nonsense to find real activists doing real work to help men and boys—work that usually involves helping women and girls, as well. Men who are actually suffering from domestic violence particularly are screwed, since any search you want to do on that topic is going to bring up a bunch of websites that by and large about helping wife batterers improve their arguments and excuses to evade justice by reframing domestic violence as merely a couple brawling instead of systemic abuse.
But as Jaclyn says, MRAs don’t actually give two hoots about any of that. Given the choice between helping men in the real world and acting out their rage at women for not being the compliant fuckbots they expect women to be, they pick the latter, every time.
*Unless you define the belief that you are entitled to have a submissive woman wait on you and worship you and take your abuse with a smile a “right”, of course. They do. I don’t. Thus the largest point of disagreement, and why we need to give them our own name. “Anti-feminist” comes to mind, but it doesn’t fully capture the intense misogyny of the movement. Also, “anti-feminist” is a broad category encompassing most conservatives, many of whom have different approaches and goals, even if they agree with the broad view that women belong in a subservient position to men. For instance, while anti-choicers do enjoy harassing women, they also have a lot of activist work beyond that, for better or for worse. Since MRAs primarily organize to undermine feminist arguments against gendered violence and to make it easier to rape, beat, and harass women without consequence, a lot of conservatives aren’t so keen. Being viewed as soft on violence against women hurts Republicans, too, though the escalation of MRA rhetoric has caused a lot more Republicans to do things like advocate for forcing pregnant rape victims to give birth or to undermine domestic violence protections. The branch of MRAs that are primarily focused on making it harder for women to get divorced and to find ways to avoid child support also undermine the official conservative message of male responsibility that gets trotted out to justify attacks on single mothers.