What is it like to feel ignored, misunderstood, despised? Advocates of Men’s Rights believe they know. Their efforts to create a dialog around men’s equality issues are often met with derision or hostility. What are these men up to, and why does so much controversy surround them?
The Men’s Rights Movement, which dates back to the 1970s, focuses on men’s problems and perceived discrimination issues that are not addressed by other groups. Their sometimes-controversial positions focus on issues such men’s reproductive rights, media portrayal of men, perceived double standards for men and women, father’s rights and other topics. In essence, they seek equality and understanding similar to what other groups have achieved, such as the Women’s Rights Movement.
One might assume that men’s and women’s rights groups share some common causes, such as advancing the rights of all people globally. They may in theory, but less so in practice. Instead, extremists of both groups appear to be entrapped in a weird form of gender-centric Orwellian doublethink, where one group cannot hold onto power without somehow taking it from the opposite sex. In fact, that’s what the Men’s Rights Movement is all about — they want some power back. They want “equality.”
Controversy Surrounds The Men’s Rights Movement
Men’s Rights groups embrace some controversial issues and have some extremist members, just as Women’s Rights groups do. To get an idea of their issues and the controversy that surrounds them, visit some of the Men’s Rights forums on Reddit, check out the #MRAs hashtag on Twitter, or search for them on Google. You’ll find men sharing complaints and stories of gender subjugation and unequal treatment, as well as attacks against some feminists who label their group misogynists.
What Are They Really After?
Perhaps the underlying point of their activism is that these men perceive themselves as being unequal and powerless. Their perceived lack of power is a consistent, underlying theme, and it forms the foundation for a rather Hegelian antithesis to the Women’s Rights Movement.
In other words, applying the logic of Hegel, the Men’s Rights Movement might just be a natural counterbalance to the Women’s Rights Movement, with it all eventually ending in a gender-neutral advancement in human rights that treats everyone equally.
In essence, these men are arguing that women have already achieved equality and in some cases, superiority, contrary to feminist thought. They are rejecting the idea that they must be nice guys who are subservient to women’s needs and demands. This happens to be the theme of an instructive guide that Men’s Rights activists often refer to.
No More Nice Guys
So is it possible that the Men’s Rights Movement is really just about men drawing a line, defining boundaries beyond which they will not be pushed? Maybe so, if one applies the thinking contained in books like No More Mr Nice Guy (NMMNG), an influential e-book penned by Dr. Robert A. Glover in 2003.
The analogy may be imprecise, but it goes something like this: By Glover’s reckoning, men aren’t good at defining boundaries, and often put other people’s needs before their own. Dale Colon, head of the New York City NMMNG meetup group, put it another way: “Sometimes men say yes all the time, and it can make them feel powerless.”
What attracts men to these movements? Forums and chat rooms reveal that big events often serve as a catalysts, including failed relationships, abuse at the hands of others, unfortunate work or family issues and more. In other words, the issues that drive men to become activists can be quite similar to the ones that drive women to advocate for their cause.
The forums and chat rooms reveal another dynamic about men’s rights activists: prior to their conversion, the men often suffered in silence, or were unaware that there was an issue that deserved their attention. After the conversion comes a period of introspection, in which the men consult with others in their discovery process and reflect upon their woes.
Feminists Aren’t Buying It
While it may seem that men have many of the same issues that women do, feminists aren’t buying it. Asked about the legitimacy of the Men’s Rights Movement, a feminist friend and trusted advisor provided some context about how a woman feels about men’s rights. In general, they felt:
– Men’s Rights Activists would be better served working for change in specific areas than engaging in a “battle of the oppressed” with feminists.
– Because men are often drawn to the MRM as a backlash against feminism or women in general, their legitimate concerns are often clouded by resentment and misplaced blame.
– The main flaw of of MRAs is that they refuse to acknowledge the historical and present-day power imbalance between men and women – which most scholars agree is still tipped in their favor.
In addition they felt that Women’s Rights and Men’s Rights just aren’t comparable, and that the majority of Men’s Rights Activists either resent women, believe them to be inferior, or want to control them.
Men’s Rights Moving Forward
It’s not easy to figure out where the Men’s Rights Movement will go next. The Internet has provided fertile ground for men to take a stand and for their voices to be heard, but has also become an ideal landscape for angry trolls where men and women attack each other.
Conferences and events about men’s rights seem to have become more prevalent, but so far no major political leader (male or female) has dared to come out in favor of men’s rights.
It may be that the future of the men’s rights movement looks very much like the present, i.e., groups of frustrated men battling groups of frustrated women in a myopic fight for primacy that has no real winners.