Communication Failure: Why Feminists and MRAs Don’t HAVE To Be At Odds
To some of my readers, whom I am sure we will hear from in the comments on this post, the idea that Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) and feminists should team up may come across as a bit absurd.
For my female, feminist blogger peers, this will come across as unlikely. We’ve all heard the arguments that feminism is ruining the world; that women are oppressing men with their liberal agendas; that men are losing rights because of our activism. And of course this is freaking ridiculous because rights aren’t a zero-sum game.
And for the men who have told me before on this blog that women are responsible for the criminality in society and that birth control is ruining America and we MUST return to our traditional patterns of gendered behavior, this is going to sound impossible.
But ladies, bear with me, and dudes who hate women…seriously, why are you even ON this blog?
There are a couple of points that MRAs get right…it’s just that a lot of MRAs get feminism all wrong. So for those of you who STILL for some reason believe that feminism is about making women superior…that’s called reactionary feminism.
It’s a minority of feminists.
It is NOT what mainstream feminists believe.
At its core, feminism is about EQUALITY and it is about deconstructing the Patriarchy.
Is anyone lost? No? Good. I really don’t want to keep going over this.
So what DO MRAs have right? They have a completely valid point when they say that women are preferenced in family court; they are more likely to get custody of children, they are more likely to be in control of visiting hours, etc. On top of that, men are disincentivized to report instances of domestic violence and rape because they won’t be believed or they’ll be treated like failures because they were victims. (As a rape crisis-counselor, this really pisses me off.) In some cases, if a man reports a DV incident, the woman will turn around and say HE hit HER, and he’ll be arrested too. Obviously, that’s completely unfair and just a load of crap. For a look at some of the organizations dealing with these issues, check out RADAR and Fathers and Families.
But here’s the problem: are feminists responsible for these problems?
In fact, feminist groups like the Feminist Majority Foundation have come out in favor of more gender-equitable family court proceedings. They are also open supporters of male survivors of domestic and sexual violence. And while some organizations such as My Sister’s Place in Washington, DC, only have the capacity to shelter women, there are many organizations willing to provide support to male survivors of this kind of violence.
So let’s cut the crap here. Feminists aren’t the problem. Feminists want to remove the rigid gender binary that vilifies men as perpetrators of violence and fails to recognize that they can also be victims. (The “Rape is Rape” campaign from 2011 is a great example of feminists advocating for recognition of male survivors of sexual violence)Feminism wants women to NOT be seen solely as caretakers and for men to be able to step up to the plate as parents, and to have an equal shot at custody in court.
In case you’re missing the point, we’re on the same side here.
I’m not saying every single individual feminist out there is going to be an ally and advocate for these issues. You have your radical and reactionary feminists who may disagree. But on the whole, we’re batting for the same team.
So why don’t MRAs see it that way?
According to a piece published on the blog The GoodMen Project, MRAs misconstrue (and probably do so deliberately) feminism’s aims. They see culture as oppressive to men (I am still unclear as to why) and blame this on feminists…even though it is in fact men who are in many cases running this system and men who are in fact helping to perpetuate these norms. That’s not to say that no women are complicit. I’m not saying that at all. But I am saying that within this patriarchal hierarchy, feminists are hardly the ones calling all the shots. As the writers at The Good Men Project point out, powerful men are the ones sending men to jail and off to war, not a bunch of raving lunatic feminists.
Especially since, you know, women have been fighting to be given an equal chance in the military and all that…but I digress.
My point here is that when men tell you that they are being oppressed by women, that’s just not the case. Quite frankly there aren’t enough women in power for them to be systematically oppressing men here. It is TOTALLY possible that an INDIVIDUAL woman might be oppressing or harming an INDIVIDUAL man, but that doesn’t mean that it’s systemic. The systemic problem is the set of barriers to reporting, but those are exactly what feminists want to eliminate. And that brings us to the second bit of this: when men say they’re being oppressed by feminists, what they’re really saying is that they like being on charge. They like having a power trip. And they’re not sure they can win if they had to play on a level playing field.
But really, that’s their problem. Not ours.