I got sucked into Reddit recently. I’ll get back to you later on whether this is a good thing or not, in the mean time it has been educational!
One of the first things I did when joining Reddit was seek out some feminist forums. One of the first things I found on r/feminism (which is distinct from r/feminisms, if you embrace intersectionality I advice avoiding the latter)..anyway, one of the first things I found on r/feminism was a man asking why there couldn’t be a middle ground between feminism and the Men’s Rights Movement.
The main response he got, from one of the forums moderators, was that MRM and feminism are NOT two sides of the same coin because the Men’s Rights movement is trying to turn back the clock and strip away the hard-won rights of women everywhere, and can never have any middle ground until members of the men’s rights movement admit that woman’s grievances are justified and start support real equality, not “men first” equality.
Now, I’ve visited several men’s rights websites that do in fact say exactly that kind of shit. But I’ve also seen the feminist websites that claim every straight woman is tool of the patriarchy just because they like dick, and every instance if PIV sex is always rape. We feminists have our own Kool-Aid we desperately need to stop drinking.
I also know far to well that there are areas where men are discriminated against. The side of feminism I support looks at this and says, “Yes, gender roles and gender stereotypes fuck everything up for everyone, we need to fix this shit.” The really loud side of feminism that I wish would die says, “Oh, the poor menz, dey got der feeling hurt. Suck it asshole.”
Anyway, I decided that just because a couple of men’s rights websites were misogynist crap didn’t mean all of them were and decided to do some research, starting with r/mensrights.
In the Men’s Rights subreddit there is a big, bold link right in the sidebar about the difference between Men’s Rights and Feminism. I decided this was probably a good place to start. I was hoping to find something a bit more open-minded and nuanced than the feminist version. What I found was a very well thought out explanation about the various forms of legal discrimination many men face, and this concluding paragraph:
So for all of you men and women who support the MRM and to all of you neutral parties who can’t seem to figure out why MRAs and feminists can’t find common ground; to everyone who thinks The MRM and Feminism are two sides of the same coin, take a closer look at the damn coin. One side endorses legal bigotry while the other seeks to end it. You can’t get any more different than that.
–Jared White, http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/whats-the-difference/ sourced on 7/4/14
Basically, both sides are saying the same damn thing, just swapping who is the victim and who is the bad guy.
Every one of the issues that Jared says men face discrimination in? I fully agree on. Blaming feminism for them? Eh…look, when the custom of women automatically getting custody in a divorce developed in the 19th century, when women couldn’t vote or be judges and feminism wasn’t even a thing yet? Yeah, there are definitely some ways feminism has made things worse for men, if only by emphasizing women victims of domestic violence and rape but ignoring men victims. But blaming all men’s problems on feminism is going a bit far.
Sometimes it isn’t a matter of feminism being out to get men, sometimes it’s a matter of men being screwed by gender stereotypes.
At the same time, feminism needs to wake up to the fact that it has largely been successful. The big battles–for the vote, for non-discrimination, for women’s health to be treated as a real thing, are largely over. Oh, I’m not saying that women aren’t still facing discrimination in various ways. The fact that the anatomy of the clitoris wasn’t mapped until the last 20 years is a sign that we still have far to go in having women’s health taken seriously. So is the fact that more has been done to study and treat erectile dysfunction than a medical condition–a “woman’s condition”–that nearly killed my mother three times before she could get her doctors to take it seriously. So is the fact that not one state-level legislative body has reached even parity between men and women, and the average state legislative body is 75% men.
I remember a disturbing conversation I had with my kids after watching MegaMind. At the time my kids were 6 and 7 years old. I asked them what they thought about MegaMind “getting the girl” as a prize for saving the city. Both of them, one boy and one girl, saw absolutely nothing wrong with that. “Well he won, didn’t he Ima? So of course he gets the girl. The hero always gets the girl.”
Not even 10 years old and already convinced that a woman was a prize, and not a person who made her own choices. Thankfully, I managed to correct that impression…temporarily. I don’t kid myself that I’m not fighting an up-hill battle against the majority of media. And since I don’t have custody, I can’t control their media either.
But if that kind of casual misogyny is built into our culture, it’s equally true that every time we talk about rape culture as being part of a war on women, we are erasing male victims of rape. It is equally true that for decades rape was legally defined as something that only happened to women. It is equally true that male victims of domestic violence are the butt of jokes while women victims of domestic violence are rescued and supported.
I had two friends who were having a very rough marriage. I’ll call them Alice and Bob. One day when they were fighting, Bob tried to leave the room. He was getting angry and knew he needed to cool down before he said or did something he would regret. Alice didn’t want him to leave and planted herself in the doorway, physically trapping him in the room.
Bob pulled Alice out of the doorway, tossed her on the bed, and ran out of the house. Bob’s own mother offered Alice sympathy and support and said she almost called the police on him.
If the situation was reversed? If Bob had trapped Alice in the room? You know anything she needed to do to get herself out of that room would have been applauded as “standing up for herself” and “getting out of an unsafe situation.”
So I am a feminist. I believe that there are and remain areas of life and culture where women are discriminated against, and that all people should be equal. But because I am a feminist, because I believe ALL people should be equal, I support men’s rights.
Because no one deserves to be discriminated against, belittled, or denied justice because of their gender.
I believe–I hope, that in spite of all the voices on either side saying that men’s rights and feminism are inherently opposed, I am part of a silent majority who thinks we all need to work together to fix the way people in our society are treated.