A Feminist on the Men’s Rights Movement

Image from pjmedia.com

Image from pjmedia.com

Some of the quotes and claims that have surfaced from the First International Conference on Men’s Issues  are so ridiculous as to be laughable. Upon realizing those speaking are completely serious, the humor fades to a sickening feeling that humanity is doomed. Take Canadian Senator Anne Cools, who apparently believes the patriarchy is some elaborate fraud perpetrated by the likes of Hilary Clinton. She said, “The whole business of patriarchy, the whole business of persecuting men, of demonizing boys and failing to educate them, has been a huge, fraudulent movement. And we need to go after them. And first on my list is Hilary Clinton. I accuse her of being one of the leaders of this fraudulent movement.” Not only is patriarchy a false scam, but rape culture as well. In fact, Barbara Kay, a columnist for Canada’s National Post, called rape culture “baseless moral panic.” She went even further, pulling statistics out of thin air and claiming most women reporting rape are actually “expressing buyer’s remorse.” Her exact words were: “Ordinary people know, that vast majority of women crying rape on campus are actually expressing buyer’s remorse from alcohol-fueled promiscuous behavior involving murky consent on both sides. It’s true. It’s their get-out-of-guilt-free card, you know like Monopoly.” This was not the only jest about rape greeted with laughter. Psychologist and presenter Tara Palmatier showed a picture of a midriff-baring Miley Cyrus captioned “Quit objectifying me. You’re being rapey!” Another example comes courtesy of M.C. Robert O’Hara. A female responded to a question with “no,” and O’Hara joked, “Doesn’t no means yes?” Claims about how feminism is an “evil empire” completed the triumvirate of deeply troubling ridiculousness. Speaking about the aforementioned “evil empire,” Erin Pizzey said, “We need to go after them. We cannot allow this to continue. And if we don’t stop it, I don’t see a future for marriage, for love, or for anything.” Did you hear that? Feminism is literally destroying the entire world. To top it off is a quote from Mike Buchanan, a British men’s activist. He called feminists, “Female supremacists, driven by misandry, the hatred of men and boys.” In the parallel universe which he inhabits, “Feminist have worked through the state to attack many of the pillars of civilized society.”

With quotes like this at the forefront of the mind, it’s not difficult to see how the Men’s Right Movement gained its reputation as radical hate-mongering anti-feminists spewing vitriolic and hateful rhetoric. In fact, two articles about the First International Conference on Men’s Issues were posted on the Hatewatch blog for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPL Center is a group which provides “legal representation for victims of hate groups.” Their history includes providing legal representation for those fighting the KKK and other white supremacist groups. In spring of 2012, the SPL Center included conference sponsor A Voice for Men on a list of misogynistic sites. A Voice for Men was founded by Paul Elam, the organizer of the First International Conference on Men’s Issues. In their Intelligence Report, SPL Center included a quote from the mission statement of A Voice for Men (all text in brackets added by SPL Center): “AVfM regards feminists, manginas [a derisive term for weak men], white knights [a similar derisive term, for males who identify has feminists] and other agents of misandry as a social malignancy. We do not consider them well intentioned or honest agents for their purported goals and extend to them no more courtesy or consideration than we would clansmen[sic], skinheads, neo Nazis or other purveyors of hate.”

This anti-feminist philosophy was certainly seen in action at the First International Conference on Men’s Issues. In addition to the anti-feminist quotes shared above, this philosophy can be seen in response to articles written by journalists like Jessica Roy. A handful of media personnel were present at the event, including several left-leaning feminist journalists. They wrote articles about the negative and positive aspects of the conference and were absolutely bashed by followers and leaders of the Men’s Rights movement alike. Paul Elam posted an article on A Voice for Men titled, “An Amazing, Amazing Conference by Any Standard, Even with the Stink of [journalist] Jessica Roy in the Air.”

It would be very, very easy to end the article here and simply declare Men’s Rights Activists (MRA’s) to be a group of radical, misogynist lunatics. Leaders like Paul Elam and Barbara Kay certainly make the movement appear this way. However, the Men’s Right Movement has a serious PR problem. The leaders may be radical delusional extremists (in my very biased feminist opinion), but many of the followers are smart, level-headed people with valid points and valiant goals. The Men’s Right Movement has the potential to be a very positive force in society. One worthy cause is the fight for equal parenting rights and shared custody in a court system which can privilege mothers over fathers. MRA’s have noted that although women and men alike can perpetrate domestic abuse, there are few shelters for battered men. As men are stereotypically considered violent, in court it is often assumed men are the perpetrators of domestic abuse and violence.  Men’s Right Activists are also seeking to bring visibility to the far too oft swept-under-the-rug issue of male rape. According to some definitions of rape, men cannot be raped at all, only assaulted.  Many activists are pushing for the development of a male birth control pill that will allow men the same control over their bodies as females currently have.  These are not the only issues addressing men which are important to address, but they are a few which could benefit from increased visibility, activism, and action. In my opinion, these are noble goals which most feminists, including myself, would be willing to fight for. After all, the goal of feminism is the “social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” We fight to end inequality, whether women are unequal to men or men are unequal to women. Unfortunately the aforementioned positive aspects of the movement are often overshadowed by the vitriolic, hateful rhetoric of its radical leaders. Interestingly enough, the First International Conference on Men’s Issues was initially intended to fix this very issue.

Before the conference started, Paul Elam posted some important information relevant to conference-goers on A Voice for Men. He wrote, “Also, there will be ideological opponents to the MHRM, including some members of the media, present at the event. Some will be looking for anything they can to hurt us with. They will be listening, eavesdropping, and if they can, gathering things to harm us with. For that reason, ANYONE sitting around trash-talking women, men, making violent statements, even jokingly, will be brought to the attention of security who will issue ONE warning (or less).” The wording of this statement is very problematic. Elam is telling conference-goers not to make misogynistic statements, but only to avoid giving journalists ammo to hurt the movement. Elam did not want attendees to make any statements which could give the movement a bad rep. Warren Farrell, a conference-speaker and author of The Myth of Male Power, said it was important to, “build bridges between men and women instead of walls.” The conference was supposed to be a face-lift, a much-needed attempt at re-branding. Apparently many slated to speak did not get the memo.

No movement is complete without its radicals; those that take an idea and push it to the extreme. The presence of radicals in a movement doesn’t necessarily de-legitimize the entire ideology of said movement. Likewise, extremists do not represent the beliefs of all those in the movement. That’s like assuming all Muslims desire the universal implementation of Sharia Law, or all Christians consider homosexuality immoral. The problem with the Men’s Right Movement isn’t the extremists. The problem is the extremists are the leaders. They have the power, and they have the mic. The radicals are building the walls between Men’s Right Activists and feminists. They claimed to have torn these walls down, but the statements of people like Anne Cools shows they are only thin facades beneath which is still and extreme hatred of feminism. That’s not to say all Men’s Rights Activists hate feminists. Quite to the contrary. I believe feminists can learn from and work together with Men’s Rights Activists.  The Men’s Right Movement doesn’t need to re-brand, it just needs new leaders. This way, they can start making a positive impact in the world instead of spewing hate.


  1. John Hodson says:

    You tell them Margaret. Narrow minds = narrow ideas = polarization. Some folks are better left to ignore.

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