An open letter to men's rights activists Photo by Jaemi Yoo
Dear men’s rights activists,
I think someone needs to directly address you. I’m sure you’ve seen the countless articles detailing why your cause is offensive and why you’re not worthy of attention. But maybe someone should explain why your group doesn’t need to exist.
First, some background for any bystanders who need it: Men’s rights activists (MRAs) have been growing in number for a while as a sort of counter-movement against feminism. Turns out that when women try to get uppity, people get upset. Undoing thousands of years of oppression? That doesn’t sit well with MRAs.
But back to you, MRAs. I’ve seen you on the Internet, commenting on articles about feminist issues. “But what about the men?” is your rallying cry. I wouldn’t be surprised if you comment on this article — prove me wrong, please.
Sometimes it’s hard to even take you seriously. Just take a look at some article and video titles from the MRA website avoiceformen.com. “The Catalog of Anti-Male Shaming Tactics,” “Rape Farming: The next generation,” “What would female supremacy look like?” You even have a tag for “feminist lies.” It’s hard to be offended at times because it’s so absurd.
Sadly, I have to take you seriously, because the MRA movement is harmful — to people of all genders.
Simply put, not everything has to be about you. Yes, sometimes men’s involvement in discussions of oppression is relevant, even vital. But when the focus is on women’s oppression, men don’t need a token mention. Why? Because men, as a group, aren’t oppressed. Men don’t have to deal nearly as often (or at all) with cat-calling, victim blaming, unequal pay, objectification, rape culture, and so on. If, as occasionally happens, men are relevant to the conversation, it all leads back to one thing: Patriarchy is bad for men as well. But what are you, as a men’s rights activist, promoting? Patriarchy.
Take “safe spaces,” for example. They are exactly what they sound like. And when one of you shows up online and comments about how men are owed something, or how they are the real victims, or some other plea for validation, you are invading a safe space set up to talk about an oppressed group’s problems.
Look no further than the The Daily’s own article “Rape Culture.” It was a personal story of a female survivor and didn’t discuss men getting raped. Though men can certainly be raped, such violence occurs more often against women. According to most sources, nine out of 10 rape victims are female. Rape culture is to blame for this.
Commenters immediately jumped on the omission of men’s experiences though. One commenter even replied, “Rape Culture is one more big lie from the Big Lie (feminism). Feminist Gender Bigots use ‘Rape Culture’ to farm rape for profit and for false power as shown on A Voice for Men.”
A site like A Voice for Men is unnecessary — you don’t need a designated voice because the whole world already speaks on your behalf. But when men do come into conversations about oppression, why does your approach fail? To put it simply, men’s liberation can go two ways: when men are seen as being disadvantaged by the patriarchy and when men are seen as being inferior to women. (Guess which one is valid.)
Feminism is not just for women. Though these problems originate from women being oppressed, they can harm men as well. Though women walk through life every day being hit with blow after blow to their gender, men don’t necessarily realize how they’re affected at first.
Men are hurt by rape culture because it implies that they are the rapists, and not ever the ones being raped — insinuating they have no self-control or compassion. Men are hurt by portrayals of abuse because in the media they are the abusers and almost never the abused. Men are hurt by “nice guy syndrome” because it destroys women’s agency to take initiative in a relationship.
But a solution to all these issues already exists: feminism.
There doesn’t need to be a separate movement because these issues were caused by the same oppression that cuts women down every day. Men can be feminists, and many of them are. But whereas a male feminist is devoted to equality and recognizing how oppression of women hurts everyone in the long run, men’s rights activists are devoted to whining.
Reach opinion columnist Indigo Trigg-Hauger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @uwindigo
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