August 2, 2013 Leave a comment
Recently, I had a rather long and involved discussion with a man on the internet. He tried to explain to me that because the first few women he knew who considered themselves feminists were actually out for world domination that he could not see feminists any other way. Since he admitted that it was not feminism that was the issue but rather his first impressions, I argued that he simply did not want to take a closer look.
The world (or at least my world) being what it is, I was of course promptly presented with the concept of MRAs. I had to consult google to find out that it stood for Men’s Rights Advocates. I admit that my first response was that if The Good Men Project is looking for more of that, maybe it’s not the kind of movement I want to be part of even though I have found myself enjoying many of the articles on their site. As the mother of two sons, I am all about how do we make this world better for men. I am extremely concerned about what our society is doing to our men and boys, not only because I want the best world for my sons and male loved ones but because equality for all is at the core of everything I believe. Inequality harms everyone involved, balance is the only way that any system can be healthy. So why would I have such a negative response to Men’s Rights Advocates? Because the only ones I’ve experienced have been using the term to make fun of feminism or as a cover for their misogyny.
One thing about me, I refuse to be a knowing hypocrite. I’m sure that I have blind spots where hypocrisy lives in sneaky silence beneath some of my behaviors or attitudes, but the moment I see them I have to address them. So here I am writing to you to fess up about my hypocrisy and to examine it out in the open.
First, I just got done telling someone that you can not judge a movement by a few people alone. So clearly I can not bring up the men who did not give me anything positive to associate with the term Men’s Movement or Men’s Rights. I told that guy on the internet “you have to look at the philosophy, at what the movement wants to accomplish.” I would add here that I think movements can be judged not only on their goals but on their methods. I may agree with a movement’s goals but completely disagree with its methods.
If I have to let go of the only basis for judging the Men’s Movement I had, that puts me at square one. So, the next step would be to find out what is the philosophy of MRA. I did a little research. A very little, I admit, and came up with this article. This leaves me with the impression that it would be difficult to pin down a common goal except the most basic one, which is to make life better for men. So, being all for men having good lives, so far they pass my test.
That leaves me with two concerns.
What method or philosophy is going to drive this movement? I eagerly await the results from the What kind of Men’s Movement do we need poll. The poll won’t define the movement, but it will help those of us watching see who is currently inhabiting it and where they would like to go with it. I will support anyone who is working against gender stereotypes and true inequality, but you won’t find me supporting anyone who is using the idea of inequality as a beard for not wanting to lose male privilege.
Is this about rights? I find that I am far more comfortable with a Men’s *Movement*, than I am with a Men’s *Rights* Movement. I can clearly see that we are doing our boys and men an awful disservice in how we raise and treat them in many areas. But is it about rights? To me rights are legal things, and at first thought I can’t see anywhere that men need new laws to protect them. At first feeling, I want to say what boys and men need is more personal than that. That it is more about the media and the attitudes spread about how men and boys must be. It’s about allowing men and boys who do not fit the masculine stereotype to claim manhood. It’s about creating schools that work to their strengths and keep them engaged. It’s about teaching boys what it means to be a good person and supporting them in that journey. Right?
The feminism discussion is not the only one I’ve been having with someone on the internet recently. A few days ago, I posted this blog by a woman trying to understand violence. It began an interesting discussion about violence and blame. I found myself saying that it’s not about blaming the violent one. Which took me a bit aback, “its not?!?” I thought to myself. Of course we each hold responsibility for our actions, but holding ONLY the individuals involved in violent situations is not working. We have been doing that for years and it is simply not doing enough. Personal responsibility is extremely important, it’s a vital part of dealing with adults who are violent. But I find that we spend all of our time putting responsibility on individuals when the problem is far too large to be only about the individuals. It is time for us to look at the system, especially in the United States. It is at worst making the violence in our society worse and at best extremely ineffective in stopping it. So maybe it is about rights. The ratio of men to women who are incarcerated and the ratio of boys to girls who drop out of school says to me that maybe there are rights issues that need to be addressed.
So where am I on the Men’s Rights Movement? I’m watching.