The Day I Became a Men’s Rights Activist

I never thought the day would arrive when I considered myself a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) as well as a Feminist. I always knew that the two were inextricably related: both movements fundamentally fight for gender equality. But I never thought I would actively identify myself with a movement that is largely known for its male (white) supremacist supporters. Little did I know that I was treating MRAs how they often treat Radical Feminists (the portion of feminism generally believed to be run and circulated by female supremacists). 

Calling MRAs “sexist white supremacists” is just as bad as calling Feminists “man-hating lesbians” (both phrases that are thrown around often in gender rights debates). This point didn’t really hit home though until I found myself in the middle of a Feminist v. MRA debate on the comment board of “Study Reveals Discrimination Starts Before Grad School” by Lisa Winter. While the article itself covers academic discrimination based on gender and race, the comment thread quickly snowballed into a gender rights debate.

I wanted to participate in the discussion as the avid Feminist that I consider myself to be, but as I read through all the comments I discovered that both sides of the debate were vitrolic, disrespectful, and spreading outright lies and misinformation. One “feminist” was calling all the male commentators “sexist pigs,” while some MRAs referred to men as “innately superior” while “feminists” were “man-hating homosexual women.” I started by replying with short comments that addressed the misinformation, sprinkling verified facts here and there in response to both the Feminist and the MRA commentators. Before long, however, I was spending more and more time researching and looking in depth at the arguments each side was presenting.

My initial comments received a fair amount of anger and defensiveness from each side, one commentator even going so far as to imply that I was “clinically paranoid.” Wow, thanks. After that comment, I found myself knee-deep in articles ranging from the FBI being accused of sexist and racist remarks in the workplace, to articles on experimenter and researcher bias (it truly does exist, guys, look it up).

A different commentator and I were simultaneously debating about everything from how taxpayer money pays for public education, to if birth control should be covered by healthcare, to what exactly the goals and definitions of feminism was and if Obama is truly a “leftist messiah.” (Sure, you can argue that he is, but Obama’s not the only president to reap the benefits/criticism for Gene Healy’s “Cult of the Presidency.”)

Before I knew it, I spent 4 hours of my Saturday educating myself with an impromptu crash course (courtesy of Google) on Feminism and MRA. My response ended up being 22+ paragraph essay, citations and all. You can take the girl out of academia but you can’t take the academia out of the girl, eh?

I came across some fascinating articles, two of which framed my research:

“The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and the Perils of Advocacy Research” By Bert H. Hoff, J.D.

“The Helpseeking Experiences of Men Who Sustain Intimate Partner Violence: An Overlooked Population and Implications for Practice” By Emily M. Douglas and Denise A. Hines

Very interesting pieces to look at if you’re coming from the Feminist perspective like I was. Another great article I found after the fact was “23 Ways Feminism Has Made the World a Better Place for Men” by Elizabeth Plank.

If you go to Lisa Winter’s article on the IFLScience website, you can view my in-depth comment by “Sort by Best”-ing the comment section. It’s about 15 or so comments from the top. 

The point of this post, however, is to offer up what I discovered in my research to the public. More often than not, the gender debates, and any social rights debate really, are hogged by a highly vocal minority more concerned with winning the argument and degrading the opposition than growing their knowledge base with accurate facts and evidence and trying to understand the other side’s point of view.

Consequently, I’ll end this post with one of my favorite parts of my comment: 

“All in all, policy and practice seemed to be more influenced by ideologies and political values than actual research and evidence. Patently false factoids have guided policy more often than not.

If feminists are not supposed to advocate for superiority over men, then MRAs are not supposed to advocate for superiority over women. Fundamentally, we’re all fighting for the same cause: to have equal weight & influence politically, socially, sexually, educationally, and in all aspects of society. Unfortunately, this mandate often gets horribly skewed in the process. Unfortunately, as well, these two sides of the debate often exclude those who fall in the middle: hermaphrodites, transsexuals, and those who suffer from gender dysphoria (some cultures – even “Western” cultures – accept these “middle” people into their culture and give them equal respect as well).

If I want equality, I do know that government preference is not the answer. We agree on that point. By definition, “preference” means a “greater liking for one alternative over another or others.” So therefore if I want equality then I am essentially anti-preference.

I have to say my eyes were opened to a lot while I was researching and formulating my response to your comment. I have consequently changed some of my views in accordance with the new information that I have discovered. And I want to thank you for that.

I want to thank you for challenging my views and thus prompting me to critically think about feminism and men’s rights activism. I just hope that this discussion can open the eyes of those who come across it. Yes, there are biases against men in our social and legal systems. But there are also biases against women in the same systems.”

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