In a recent post I took aim at radical feminists who hold exclusionary positions against transgender women – dubbed ‘TERFs’. I have offered up at times via this site criticism of radical feminism (or certainly elements of it), but now it’s time to look at the other side of this coin – the so-called Men’s Rights Activists.
What exactly is an MRA? Well, the idea behind the movement has its roots in the Men’s Liberation Movement that began in the early 1970s, as a response to the rise of feminism in the 60s. The MLM was split into two factions, one of which was actually critical of the constraints a patriarchal society placed upon men. The more conservative elements of the movement felt feminism was a threat and the MLM dissolved toward the end of the 70s, with the conservative elements opposing feminism under the guise that it sought to oppress men, and the other faction merging with the feminist movement (it’s all a bit more complicated than that, but bear with me, I am just getting started).
The outcome of this split is the presence of men’s rights activists, who feel that feminism undermines men and will actually strip away rights from us. In the 80s and 90s they argued that traditional gender roles (the man goes out and works, the woman looks after the home) was a better arrangement for society, and they have long argued against the feminist idea that society is arranged to bolster men and hold women down.
Furthermore, there is the argument that feminism has taken rights away from men by overstepping its original intentions, and MRAs reject the idea that feminism addresses problems men face in a patriarchal society.
Is there any truth to MRA Claims?
If you’re a man reading this, especially a man in a western nation, you have never had greater freedoms than you do right now. Ask yourself what you can’t do. What restrictions are placed upon you because of your gender?
You get better pay in most circumstances (despite claims to the contrary). Your chances of being assaulted by a woman are less than a woman’s chances of being attacked by a man. Sexual exploitation of women (through the porn industry and prostitution) is more common than sexual exploitation of men. There is nothing holding any man back from going for any job, anywhere in the world. We can get equal custody of our children in the event of a divorce, despite the claims of groups like Fathers 4 Justice.
In other cultures the disparity is even worse. Women may not be allowed to work at all, or a re required to dress by a very specific code. They might have no voice whatsoever in society, let alone politics or business.
In short, we have it good.
Do MRAs damage Men?
It may be that in some cases MRAs are not actively thinking ‘how can we undermine women’, and they may well believe what they do is a fight for genuine equality. Personally, as outlined above, there is no need for any such quest – men as a whole (especially globally) enjoy more privileges than women.
What tends to happen is that radical feminists (not all, I must once again stress) will highlight the most extreme examples of MRAs (who will often post on radfem blogs), which makes an already hard-to-sympathise group look even worse. The most abusive examples are the ones given the most attention by radfems, who hold them up as the be-all-and-end-all of not only MRAs but in some cases men in general. It’s effectively fuel for the fire, which in turn powers the MRAs, who will hold up such examples of radfems the be-all-and-end-all of not only radical feminism, but feminism full stop.
The men posting the angry comments to radfem blogs need to realise they are doing us no favours as a gender. They reinforce the stereotype that radfems project about men, and they don’t seem to realise they’re doing it. I would urge them, first and foremost, to leave radical feminist blogs alone. If they feel they must converse with them (despite radfem blogs usually making it pretty clear they are spaces for women only), they should be aware how their behaviour reflects upon not only MRAs, but men in general. In fact, if all men stopped to consider how their behaviour (publicly, socially, and online) influenced perceptions of us, and made the effort to treat women with more respect, we might actually get somewhere.