Men face problems. Women face problems. But it is important to address them in their rightful space. Here are some ways in which men’s rights activism attempts to usurp the space that feminist activism creates for itself—
Men’s rights activism is not a recent development. Its seeds had already been sown as early as the 1920s, and multiple sources cite that it grew as a result of men’s wish of “combatting the excesses of women’s emancipation”. It is worth questioning why, in the first goal of men’s rights activism, there is no mention of men at all. The very wording of the sentence reveals a certain hidden desire to control the privileges (read: basic human rights) that women earned for themselves with great determination and perseverance.
One may also benefit from noting that even today, many men’s rights movements trends appear out of thin air when a women’s rights movement is beginning to garner considerable attention. It almost gives the impression that these movements are simply produced to counter the effect of growing feminist movements. A simple Google search of most of their pages will make it obvious how men’s rights platforms are used more to derogatorily speak about feminism, justify why it does not deserve space, rather than addressing issues that men do face owing to the patriarchy. This movement thus stems more from resentment towards women rather than concern for men.
One may also benefit from noting that even today, many men’s rights movements trends appear out of thin air when a women’s rights movement is beginning to garner considerable attention.
Excessive Effort in Dismissing the Feminist Cause
The few times that MRAs do identify issues men face, it is less to do with formulating progressive steps and more to do with dismissing feminism because “men go through this too!” It is as if they do not recognise that problems men and women face are not mutually exclusive, that multiple challenges can exist, and both can be worth addressing. In fact, many of their popular movements seem to be a manifestation of the slogan “Men go through this too!”. The attempt to take up the space women have carved out for their cause is glaringly evident in the fact that men’s rights movements almost always borrow the titles of feminist movements, altering it slightly to make it “man”-oriented.
The gaining momentum of movements like #MenToo and Meninism reveals a direct appropriation of feminist movement names. While it takes countless women to gather their courage and give such movements their strength, MRAs simply use an already popular trend and use it to their benefit. Problems that #MenToo addresses are extremely important to devote attention to, but it is possible for the conversation to take place parallel to women’s rights conversations rather than instead of them.
Perhaps a more recent and disappointing example is of the trailer of a new documentary named “India’s Sons”, which is about the trauma men undergo if they have been falsely accused and imprisoned for a case of sexual harassment. Once again, it is important to throw light on this grave issue, but its title entails that this issue is of the same magnitude as was the case of Nirbhaya, which is grossly misleading. When MRAs say, “let’s talk about men’s issues”, what they end up implying is, “stop talking about women’s issues while you’re at it”.
Stubborn Denial of the Fact that Women Suffer More Under Patriarchy
I cannot, for the life of me, understand how this can be denied. This is a fact that is feminism’s very driving force towards positive social change, and many MRAs are out to dismiss this as well. Personally, it seems to me that the only reason for denying this could be that they perceive feminism as a threat. How can women ever be in the limelight? MRAs often try to convince anyone listening that the situation is, in reality, inverted—that it is men who are severely oppressed in the patriarchal system and it is women who derive privileges from the same.
MRAs often try to convince anyone listening that the situation is, in reality, inverted—that it is men who are severely oppressed in the patriarchal system and it is women who derive privileges from the same.
They try to equate men and women’s problems irrespective of how dishonest such a claim may be (No, circumcision is not as weighty an issue as female genital mutilation). It is almost as if they are competing to prove who has the worse social standing in society, and it is a battle they will always lose. Whether MRAs appreciate it or not, it is one battle women would love to lose in. Even a little bit of curious exploring into what feminism is all about would reveal to MRAs that it is indeed feminists who also acknowledge how the patriarchy is hurtful to men, how rigid gender roles limit the potential of all genders, although not equally.
Instead of joining hands and fighting the broader oppressive force, MRAs cry “feminazi!”, because it is not sufficient for them that the protest is undertaken by a movement that primarily focuses on women, that believes that women are more disadvantaged. For many of them it is not the cause which is important, but rather who is undertaking the responsibility to work towards it. And as long as its not them, how dare someone else use up all that space? If men’s rights activism units had spent more time doing some basic research and less time trolling feminist pages, perhaps we would not find ourselves at the opposing ends of the pole.
I believe there is a better way to have these conversations, and it can be done without undermining all that feminism stands for. The crucial step towards progress is to first educate oneself, identify personal privileges and understand that all problems have their own space, are different in magnitude, and deserve to be addressed in their own unique spaces—not in ones that are already devoted to a separate, often more critical, cause.
Also read: How Patriarchy Hurts Men Too
There are issues such as custody laws, high suicide rates, discouraging men’s emotional availability, and their own personal set of unrealistic expectations etc. that deserve more attention. For this attention to instead be concentrated on bringing down feminist movements is a travesty. It is damaging to both causes and does absolutely nothing to pave the way for improvement. I think a little more empathy and self-education could go a long way in the reconciliation of both movements, as well as in making everyone involved recognise and combat the common enemy, which is the patriarchy itself.
Featured Image Source: PSMag