I've been doing a lot of casual reading about the "Men's Rights Movement". While digesting the problematic rhetoric of several articles and videos associated with the movement, I've become quite disturbed by the ways in which feminism is completely unknown to these male and female authors. In fact, it appears that the men and women who participate in this Men's Rights Movement completely distort the messages, meanings, and goals of feminism in order to set it up as a "straw-man" to be taken down in favour of this alternative movement. They "argue" against feminism by saying that feminists hate men, that it gave rise to a kind of "female entitlement", and that because of it women are now (wait for it….) "superior" to men because society is "gynocentric". Could there be a more uninformed, misreading of feminist ideology? I really do not think there could.
What I keep reading in these articles provides me with an image of a movement that does not understand that by fighting against feminism and perpetuating lies about feminist ideology, they are significantly, and perhaps unknowingly, hurting men. Men benefit hugely from feminist ideology. I have never met a feminist who hates men. I have met feminists who fight against a systematically sexist culture. I have met feminists who are against the reduction of women to sexual objects to be bought and sold in the marketplace. I have met feminists who are against the cultural history of male-entitlement over female bodies. I have met feminists who believe in shared responsibility of child-rearing. I have met feminists who want to stop experiencing discrimination in male-dominated workplaces. I have met feminists who want greater female political representation. But most of all, I have met feminists who want equal rights for women and men. I have NEVER met a feminist who hates men.
Feminism is not against men. Feminism is, rather, against Patriarchy. This is a form of social organization that functions based on a gender hierarchy that places males as the authority. It can also be understood as a sort of social bias that allows for the permeation of “inherent” gender differences between men and women.
To restate, feminism is not against men. Men are subjects to the same patriarchal system that our world has been built upon. It is a system that says that "men are protectors, women are fragile". It is a system that says "men are owners, women are owned" and one that says "men need to be strong, women need to be weak". It is a system that limits and conditions men and women to fall into gender-specific roles for the sake of building a power hierarchy. It is also a system that perpetuates the belief that child-rearing is a woman's job, thereby suggesting that men who participate in raising their children in a meaningful way are "weak". It is a system that places women in an inferior position. Want an example? When a man is made fun of for being weak he is called a name that either means "woman" or refers to female genitalia ("what a girl!" "pussy!", being two basic examples). Even in this, femininity is associated with "weakness", such that the only way to insult a man for being weak is to call him (god forbid!) a girl.
This patriarchal system permeates our culture, our society, and our consciousness. It biases all of us to ancient and outdated concepts of male-superiority, even without us knowing it. But mainly, what I believe is that patriarchy limits men and women. Men and women are defined as "inherently" or "naturally" different from one another, generating justifications for putting one above the other; patriarchy isn't about men and women, it is about power over people and power over consciousness. Feminism criticizes that power in an attempt to achieve balance. Balance destroys control, patriarchy rests upon a bias of control/power; balance threatens the very existence of patriarchy.
When I hear members of the Men's Rights Movement claiming that feminists hate men, while I know full well that feminism is about balance between genders (equal rights, equal opportunity, equality in general), I see this movement as a patriarchal institution that is striving to regain lost control… And to do so, it (consciously and unconsciously) preaches messages that perpetuate patriarchal biases. They make claims that they love women and that feminists hate men. But these are classic forms of denial and defence mechanisms (projection, to name just one). The Men's Rights Movement is destructive to women and men. It is ill-informed on issues and focuses on the apparent discrimination of men, by attacking feminism, a movement that has the needs of both men and women in mind. What I find particularly interesting is that many of the actually relevant and meaningful issues that the movement brings up (i.e. high suicide rates amongst men, domestic abuse against men) are issues that have roots in the patriarchal system. So why are they fighting so hard against feminism?
I'll end this rant with a simple call. Before immediately assuming that feminism is bad or hates men, I implore you to actually stop and listen to what feminism and feminists have to say. You'll likely find, as I have, that feminism isn't some "evil empire" threatening to enslave men and give all power to women. On the contrary, you will find a movement that is truly working towards balance of genders; feminism seeks to eradicate power and gender hierarchies altogether. It is a battle that needs to be fought by all of us, regardless of gender. Putting feminism down based on misinformation perpetuated by ill-informed men and women who refuse to recognize patriarchy gets us nowhere. Joining the battle with feminism to transform the patriarchal system that limits and hates both genders is much more appealing to me. Stop fighting and let's start listening to each other; let's all work together to change the world.