I haven’t written about MRAs (men’s rights activists) in awhile, because what is there to say about a group of men organized around the principle that women shouldn’t have the right to say no? Because that’s basically what pisses them off: women who think they get to say no to sex, to staying in abusive marriages, to having their time occupied by any man who demands it, to having a baby when they don’t want. And they hide behind patriarchal sentimentality to justify their strong desire to control women. Not much else to say, because going at it with them is a lesson in hearing undeserved self-pity from those who were dumped for reasons obvious to everyone but them, and who have endless amounts of time and energy to dedicate to throwing their own pity parade.
I bring it up, because while most people who play this game are men, some women do it, too. And by “it”, I mean specifically the game MRAs play and teach each other through their organized movement, which is to cling to control over your ex-wife as long as possible by exploiting the court system. Just because she has a right to leave you doesn’t mean you’re going to let her go without punishing her over and over again! And Lindsay linked to an article from one of them. Beverly Willett is protesting New York adopting no-fault divorce because if there had been no-fault when her husband broke it off with her, she would have had fewer options to punish him for rejecting her, and dragging out the pain for years.
It’s interesting to consider how Willett makes exactly the same arguments about marriage that MRAs make, without the whining about imaginary “reverse sexism”, but the audience for it sees through her a lot more quickly than audiences tend to see through MRAs. When a woman hides behind patriarchal nonsense about the sacredness of marriage, she doesn’t bring any male authority to bear to the situation and just sounds like an abusive control freak. I humbly submit that anyone who uses the courts to punish a spouse for years after leaving them is an abusive control freak, regardless of gender. Indeed, I’d say that’s a tautology to say so. What I think is interesting is how these abusive control freaks make appeals to “family values” to justify their own damage.
Willett’s husband left her. He was with someone else. It was abundantly clear that he wasn’t coming back. For all intents and purposes, they weren’t married, except in name. But Willett carries on in her justifications of what she did as if she had a chance to change the facts on the ground. Example:
One night when I was up reluctantly working on the divorce papers, my eldest daughter appeared by my side. “I don’t want you to get a divorce,” she said. I didn’t either. Yet until this moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that I had the power to stop this from happening. I realized perhaps the break-up of my marriage wasn’t inevitable and that by standing up, maybe I could also help others.
The invoking of the children is a classic MRA ploy, and despicable. It’s using your own children as cover for your own inability to act like an adult when a relationship cracks up. But the next part about how the break-up wasn’t inevitable? This is a note she plays over and over in the piece, and it never once makes sense. What did she think would happen if she found a way to keep her husband from actually divorcing her? That he would break up with his girlfriend, move back home, get into bed and make sweet love to his legal wife? Does she think that if the state just forced people to stay legally married, especially in this day and age, that would mean love would flourish? Or is she being disingenuous about the real reason she dragged this fight out for five years and thousands of dollars—to punish her husband for leaving her and to throw a multi-year pity party for herself? My guess is the last one. She lets the truth slip out a little in all the self-martyring language about “saving” a marriage where one person unilaterally would not participate in spirit even if forced to have this single legal binding.
“Divorce is about money,” Saul said. No one cared about right and wrong.
Right and wrong. Her husband cheated and left; she felt this was wrong. But there are no legal punishments for breaking a person’s heart. So, she decided that if the criminal system wouldn’t punish her husband, she’d punish him. Through 5 years of divorce hell and many judges trying to tell her to grow the fuck up. Her stated desire to “save” her marriage failed, of course. Her mostly unspoken but far more real desire to exact punishment worked like a charm. Except, of course, she did it to herself as much as to her husband.
All of this is why I rolled my eyes when I read this part:
When I refused a quickie divorce on his terms, he served me with divorce papers filled with baseless complaints.
“The whole thing is a pack of lies,” I said to my attorney, sobbing. “He’s the one committing adultery.”
“Then deny it, and sue him for divorce,” Saul said.
“But I don’t want a divorce,” I cried. “I love my husband.”
She loved him so much she was willing to spend the next five years of her life trying to exact punishment. That’s not love. That’s hate.
Twenty years wasn’t something I wanted to chuck overnight. Made of strong Southern female stock, I grew up believing the words “until death do us part” were non-negotiable. Family was paramount, and divorce virtually unheard of. “I don’t think there’s anything in life that can’t be forgiven,” my aunt said when I asked for her advice. To me, that pretty much covered the whole territory.
There’s nothing strong about being a clingy, vindictive control freak. That is cowardly and weak. I want to drive this home, because like this woman thinks of her weak, childish behavior as evidence of some strength, so do MRAs tend to pride themselves on being Big Men, even as they act like toddlers throwing tantrums because other human beings don’t submit completely to them. All of these people are 100% wrong in their self-assessment. Strong people don’t need to exert control over others to feel strong. Strong people don’t waste their lives on revenge. Strong people have the strength to get up and move on. Strong people don’t throw good money after bad.