Men’s Rights Activism
August 22, 2016
“‘#Meninist’ Trend Misses the Point of Feminism,” ran a headline in The State News in late 2014. The explosion of “#Meninism” on social media around that time primarily criticized extremist feminists who advocated that women “#KillAllMen” and reportedly condoned the statutory rape of boys. The news media frequently used meninism, a young and less permanent trend, as a general term for men’s rights around that time, but in doing so, they stereotyped the Men’s Rights Movement in much the same way as the meninists did feminism.
The men’s rights movement appeals to a large variety of people, to varying extremes. Some are former feminists who believe that society is ignoring men’s issues, while others believe that feminism oppresses men. The meninist and Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) movements have different connotations; while the former generally focuses on critiquing feminism, the latter is primarily concerned with promoting men’s causes. However, the line between the two is blurry and recent conceptions of men’s rights have been subsumed into the widespread criticism of meninists.
The most common criticism of MRAs addresses the misconception that women use feminism to gain power. The MRAs’ stereotype of the “diehard” feminist is epitomized by countless bloggers and celebrities whose versions of feminism border on misandry. Misandry, the counterpart of misogyny, is the hatred of men, and genuine feminists are quick to distinguish it from feminism. In targeting misogynists to ridicule the men’s rights movement, feminists forget that they may be making the same mistakes as meninists.
“While it may be entertaining for some… to bash on feminists, I am concerned that the message of the men’s movement, which is supposed to be about compassion and choice for men, is becoming lost in this frenzy of attacking feminists… out of sheer spite,” founder of popular and controversial men’s rights website “A Voice For Men” Paul Elam said.
Criticisms of feminism, while sometimes reasonable, can frequently breach the boundary of promoting men’s rights and devolve into unsubstantiated drivel.
“Modern feminism is evil because it ultimately makes women (and men) unhappy [because] American women have steadily become less and less happy as they have made more and more money relative to men,” wrote Satoshi Kanazawa for “Psychology Today.”
To prove his point, Kanazawa cited a paper by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. However, the paper actually concluded that happiness is correlated with greater income, and the declining happiness of American women is an anomaly that should be attributed to other factors.
MRA arguments that advocate for specific men’s issues often rely on evidence and statistics taken out of context. For example, multiple meninist resources state that 84 percent of “contested abuses” and “contested custody” cases in courts are awarded to women. The actual statistic, from a 2003 census report by Timothy Grall, only states that 84.4 percent of women have custody of their child — not that they received custody of their child after a legal battle. In fact, the vast majority of custody battles are decided out of court, in which both parents agree to the living arrangements.
However, the men’s rights movement is not alone. Despite the infallible image they have cultivated among liberals, feminists are also guilty of misinterpreting data to prove a point. For example, they often argue that women are many times more likely to be the victims of violence from an intimate partner; news sources such as the Huffington Post have measured domestic violence explicitly by its impact on women, entirely omitting its impact on male victims because victimization of males is seen as so uncommon as to be negligible. Though MRAs are wrong to argue that men are abused more than women, feminist arguments are not entirely accurate either. CDC analyses of the census used by the Post show that while 35.6 percent of women have been victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, 28.5 percent of men have been subjected to the same, which demonstrates that male abuse is a legitimate issue and should not be so easily dismissed as trivial.
It is important to realize that feminism and meninism are not mutually exclusive; feminists should, by definition, advocate for gender equality. Thus, meninists and MRAs alike have no reason to worry about true feminists infringing upon their rights as males. Both men’s and women’s advocacy groups are fighting for what they believe is equality. When individuals from either movement harp on faulty reasoning from their counterparts, they tend to ignore valid arguments that deserve attention, shrugging off opposing viewpoints as bigoted or selfish. Though feminists and MRAs may often have trouble seeing eye to eye, both sides should remember that they share one goal: equality.