A Belated International Men’s Rights Day

This entry was originally inspired by me being banned from Reddit’s r/feminism community.  It made me sad.  It’s a community I had followed for some time and while I didn’t agree with some of what was being said, I was there to learn.  When I completed the entry, I left it in the draft pile instead of posting it.  I didn’t like the tone.  I don’t mind discussing things that I think are negative, but I prefer to connect them to something brighter.  There’s nothing wrong with a little darkness when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Without the light, I’m much less interested in painting the darkness.

Yesterday was international men’s day and besides it not being a statutory holiday, I suspect that this is one of the more controversial holidays of our time.  I saw it show up in two places in my news feed: on The_Donald and I think on Jordan Peterson’s sub-reddit.  The_Donald, a sub -Reddit for Trump fans and Russian bots, seem to be trolls first and foremost.  Their celebration of men’s rights likely have as much to do with antagonizing feminists as supporting men who are struggling.  They’re not the most compassionate crowd.  But the feminists aren’t shy to give them ammunition either so perhaps there’s a natural dynamic of ‘accountability’ here.  The Jordan Peterson community is certainly more supportive and compassionate in their stance, looking to actually recognize the challenges that men are up against.  I found some of the stats rather surprising.  This is from a graphic which was shared:

 

76% of suicides are men

85% of homeless are men

70% of homicide victims are men

40% of domestic abuse victims are men

Men are the majority of victims of violent crimes

Men on average serve more than 64% longer in prison

Men are 340% more likely than a women to be imprisoned for the same crime

 

Just like with any set of stats, they need to be understood within context.  But even with context, it’s hard to deny that men have their own challenges.  But is there room in today’s world to support both men’s rights and women’s rights?  The logic in me says yes.  In fact, this is the premise for real equality and from my perspective, the only real way forward.  My personal experiences seem to suggest otherwise though.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a rise in feminist rhetoric.  It didn’t concern me much as I had established myself as a feminist back in university.  I was teasing a friend for taking a women’s studies class after being egged on by his girlfriend.  He teased me right back and said, “you know you’re a feminist right?”.  I scoffed at him and said, that’s highly unlikely.   He asked if I thought that men and women were equal.  I said sure.  He pointed out that made me a feminist.  Really? What’s all this I hear about burning bras and a general hate towards men?  He told me that was just a misconception. Perhaps those individuals thought of themselves as feminists, but that wasn’t feminism.  Hmm… well alright then, I can definitely get on board with equality.

Fast forward to the present day, and perhaps we’ve lost sight of what feminism was supposed to be.  In it’s evolution, I think we’ve uncovered a rather destructive dynamic.  Classic feminists saw that there was a need for equality when it came to voting rights.  And equal opportunities for education.  And equal opportunities for employment.  And etc.  And etc.  They fought hard for their seat at the table and they’ve made tremendous contributions to our society as a result.  Modern feminists seem to have taken a different approach.

The current conversation seems to be one of power and oppression.  The argument has been made that all of society is dominated by a patriarchy which systematically oppresses women.  As a result of that power imbalance, women are at a disadvantage and the only way to remedy the situation is for women to become more powerful.  Generally speaking, we refer to the empowerment of women to be a positive thing.  But here’s the trick, power seems to be a zero-sum game.  Assuming that men are more powerful than women, in the interest of equality, it would seem sensible that we should make men less powerful and make women more powerful.   Yet throughout history, we’ve seen this dynamic play over and over again.  Power corrupts. Power becomes a means to an end.  At that point, it’s no longer about equality.

I don’t deny that there are powerful men.  But I also am quick to suggest that women are powerful too.  I think history would suggest that they have always been powerful in their own way.  If nothing else, the entire evolutionary course of humanity has been determined by their power to choose a mate.  In most cases, it’s rather easy to trace the actions of men back to the pursuit of approval from women.  But what if men no longer held on to the power than they leverage in their domains?  What if women did the same?  I think that’s the world we’re looking for.. but it’s not the world we’re pursuing today.

Earlier this year I was criticized for using Tinder by a woman in her 50s.  She told me that technology was destroying our ability to connect and that I should look to meet women in the real world.  I told her that in the age of #metoo, it’s hard to know when women in public want to be approached.  She suggested things like being in line at a coffee shop, or at a book store, etc.  Then one of her younger employees (20s) piped up and said something to the effect of “I don’t want men to approach me when I’m at <insert location> because when I’m there, I’m not looking to get hit on, I’m just looking to do <insert activity>.   It seemed like men were being criticized for not approaching women in a more traditional manner, while also being criticized for approaching women in a traditional manner.  As is often the case, there was this expectation that the man would just ‘know’, and if he didn’t, he was to blame.

The same woman who thought I should be approaching women in public also reprimanded me for calling a few young women girls.  It was something to the effect of I’ll see you girls at the conference tomorrow.  I was told that using this language was belittling, demeaning, oppressive, and etc.  Something about making them seem younger than they were.  On one side, I understood what she was saying but on the other, I was so confused.  I told her that I thought I was using it as a term of endearment, in the same manner a woman would refer to a group of men as boys.  And wasn’t girl-power a hall-mark of feminism?  There didn’t seem to be any logical basis for why she was upset with me, but I was made to feel like I had done something wrong regardless.

I was hanging out with my sisters earlier this year and talking about dating in the #metoo era and how I was generally trying to steer clear of it all.  At one point, we discussed how many decent men were being painted with the same brush as those who genuinely needed to adjust how they were treating women.  They both gave me the same analogy: If you have a bowl of skittles, and you know that just a few of them are poison, you don’t eat the skittles.  I didn’t say anything at the time because I was listening and trying to understand their perspectives, but it registered as a ‘does not compute’.  I thought about it more later and realized it was sexism 101.  Judging all men based on the actions of a few didn’t seem fair at all.  The first parallel that came to mind was demonizing all Muslims because a few are terrorists.  If we can recognize the flaw in that, why not here?

As I understood it, the bigger problem wasn’t going to be empowered women.  It was going to be what comes next.  I was talking to an older feminist and told her that as much as I appreciate equality and that side of feminism, I’m less appreciative of neo-feminism or radical-feminism.  She didn’t understand and took the stance that all feminism was good.  I asked her if there were any examples of feminism which she didn’t agree with, or at least thought was counter-productive.  She flatly said no.  I can’t help but think that if you’ve lost the ability to hold your tribe accountable for anything, you’ve lost site of virtues like equality and have been consumed by the pursuit of power.  I told her that I was concerned.  Not so much by the prospect of powerful women, but by what comes next.

There’s a pendulum dynamic that has operated throughout history.  We mobilize ourselves in one direction and once we’ve realized the extent of that direction, we tend to try the opposite.  This can be seen in things like fashion, politics, the stock market, and of course, major social movements.  So in the age of empowering women, where does the pendulum swing next?

I maintain that if this movement was about understanding and promoting equality between the sexes, the pendulum effect wouldn’t exist in the same way.  Instead, it seems to be about making women more powerful.  All that momentum and all that power that women are enjoying now, will swing back to men.  Not because they deserve it, but because that’s how the pendulum works.  The harder you swing it to one side, the more potential energy you’ve stored for it to swing in the opposite direction.

It seems as though things have begun to swing the other way.  It’s not pretty either.  Feminism grew in part because of how many women felt hurt and angry at the world for a raw deal.  Well it seems as though men are starting to arrive there as well.  It’s showing up in the communities of incels and men’s rights activists… and because it’s mostly people who are hurt and lashing out, they’re being dismissed by feminists. Or worse, they’re being demonized for providing resistance to the feminist movement.  And this is where we have to take a hard look at ourselves and ask, if equality is really the mission here.  Does it matter that 76% of suicides are men?  Because if so, we could use some of that support we hear so much about.

And this seems to be where we stand now.  With feminism approaching terminal velocity, it’s time to prepare for what’s next.  Is masculism next?  Must we send the pendulum back out in that direction to find what we should both recognize is in the middle?  I’m happy to say that I’m not the only one who thinks that the path forward isn’t about feminism or masculism, but rather about humanism.

The video that got me banned from r/feminism was a TED Talk from a female, award-winning, documentary film maker.  She had been a staunch feminist who was filming a documentary looking to expose men’s rights activists and their wicked ways.  After listening to these men and studying their answers, she started to realize just how much prejudice she was carrying against them.  Rather than listening to what the men were actually saying, she would look for reasons to be offended and use that emotional state to dismiss any valid point the man was making.   When she fact checked some of their concerns, like higher rates of suicide, or higher rates of death on the job, or higher rates of incarceration, she realized that civil rights and equality wasn’t just a woman’s issue.  She went on to say that she no longer identifies as a feminist, but with a clear conditions.: She is compassionate towards the struggles of both men and women, and supports the civil rights of each.

She was met with a standing ovation and had I been there, I would’ve been one of them.  Thank you for helping to lead the way Cassie Jaye.

Author: Author

In an age of promotion before substance, let's try substance before promotion. I'm hoping anonymity will help keep a focus on the ideas but I do understand wanting to connect to the person behind them. Let's split the difference with some fun facts: I have a professional crush on Harvey Specter, Bruce Wayne is my favourite superhero, and I share a personality type with the likes of Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and Lex Luthor.

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