You know something I’ve noticed lately? I just need to get this off my chest. Because I’ve been reading blogs like A Voice for Men, which are supposed to be fighting for Men’s Rights and stuff, and I can’t help but think how ironic it is—the claim that women are blaming men unjustly.
The Men’s Rights movement exists solely to discredit the Women’s Rights movement. I have not read a single article, essay, or blog post about Men’s Rights that does not centralize the discrediting of feminism (If such articles exist, I would welcome them into my life!), the claim that feminists are oppressing men, the claim that men are the real victims–of feminism. But the Women’s Rights movement did not begin in response to another movement; it began in response to a static concept that needed to be left behind, a lifestyle, a set of rules and boundaries that needed to be broken. The Men’s Rights movement is a “movement” based entirely around blame—the blame of feminism for all of men’s problems.
An MRA would say the same thing about feminism, that it blames patriarchy for all of women’s problems. The difference between feminism and patriarchy as an object of blame is simple, but palpable.
There are no people behind patriarchy. There is no patriarchy movement; no men who parade around claiming to be patriarchs and preaching the virtues of patriarchy; no history of riots or marches or pamphlets fighting for patriarchy. Patriarchy is a faceless concept, a word on the breeze. It is nothing more than a representation, a symbol. It is there as a placeholder because the realities beneath it are too scattered and different to place on the shoulders of any one person or group; because the real life experiences beneath the word patriarchy are told in all languages, by people of all genders and abilities, old or young, and we can do nothing but put a red stamp on it and give it a name, so that we have a word to use when we talk about it, something that can bring all those different experiences together and try to give them meaning. That is patriarchy.
Feminism is not the same. You may call it a concept, and it does have a philosophical meaning, but it also has a life as real and tangible as anybody you meet on the street, because believing in it and fighting for it have been countless humans with beating hearts and pumping fists. A real person, somewhere, some time, had the idea for feminism, and not as a name for an already-existing reality, but as a creation, an inspiration, a proposition for something new and full of hope. Feminism is threaded with the lives of real people who make the choice to hold it up and carry it forward. When you attack and discredit feminism, you attack and discredit those real people. You attack and discredit everybody who has openly and willfully put their hearts and souls into the movement.
MRA’s don’t believe us when we say that feminism is not blaming men. They can’t or won’t accept our good faith. I don’t presume to know why. All I know is that the blame is absolutely being placed on feminism, and thus, on all feminists, be they women or men. This article proposes a theory that once upon a time, women randomly chose to be victims. Then men were compelled to be heroes and compensate for women’s feebleness. Then it blames feminism for perpetuating female victimhood. This article actually blames feminism for patriarchy, claiming feminism created patriarchy as a way to more discreetly blame men. This article actually uses the phrase “feminist tyranny.” The list goes on and on and on.
The blame for feminism falls on the shoulders of real people, on purpose and without apology, and there are real consequences. People who used to feel empowered by the title of feminist, who used to be inspired by it, now feel they can’t bear its weight or its burden anymore. A Women’s Rights Movement, a movement for change and freedom, a movement with ideals and a mix of tangible and existential goals, working towards better understanding so as to make better progress, is no longer making much movement at all. It has very nearly stopped in its tracks, stuck rotating in place around some idea that we’ve made it, that we’re done, that no more movement is necessary.
This is the voice of fear. We are and have always been a species and a nation trapped in a tug of war between the desire for progress and the fear of progress. For every issue, there are always people pushing forward and other people pulling back. Sometimes it’s the same people who simply can’t decide. Feminism was a movement before, and a powerful one in waves, but the Men’s Rights Movement has pulled back so furiously on the reigns in the guise of so many different absurdities that feminism has been forced to turn around and counter attack in order to protect itself.
Feminism never used to attack men’s rights. The gain for women does not have to be a loss for men. This is what most people fail to comprehend. Men’s Rights and Women’s Rights don’t have to be opposing forces. We don’t have to attack or blame each other. In fact, the two movements should be parallel in motion, both gliding forward uninhibited, in an ideal world.
But that is not the way it’s played out. Men’s Rights Activists don’t seem to be fighting for any real distinguishable rights at all, except for the right to live in a world without feminism. The rights they keep asking for are just the flip side of the same problem women have–patriarchy, and they can’t listen well enough to see it. The whole point of feminism is to examine patriarchy from women’s perspectives and fight for women’s rights to have those perspectives heard. The point is not to fight for men! That doesn’t mean feminism is against men or that patriarchy doesn’t have a negative effect on men; it means men have to take care of themselves for a while and tell their own stories and perspectives. The criticism of feminism is that it ignores men’s rights, but that is what the Men’s Rights Movement is supposed to be for.
If the Men’s Rights Movement hadn’t attacked feminism, feminism would have never felt compelled to attack the Men’s Rights Movement. Feminism, by definition, fights patriarchy. Feminism in defense of itself, fights the Men’s Rights Movement.
It is completely in the power of MRA’s to stop seeing an attack in the definition of feminism. The essence of “rights for women” does not, after all, challenge “rights for men” in any way. Feminism is not responsible for the interpretation of “fighting patriarchy” to mean “fighting men” and feminism shouldn’t suffer for it. A large percentage of feminist efforts over the years and even more so recently have gone into convincing men that feminists aren’t their enemies; you don’t see Men’s Rights Activists trying to reassure any women. All they seem to have is anger and bitterness.
This is not a call for an end to the Men’s Rights Movement. It is simply a call for an end to the pointless war between two compatible forces. I challenge the MRA’s to show me activism that is positive, that moves forward towards a goal for men without pushing feminism back in the process, that looks for solutions to real problems men have without making more problems for feminism, that focuses on men’s lives without asking feminism to stop focusing on women’s lives. I want you to show me that it’s possible, because I want to believe in Men’s Rights the way I believe in Women’s Rights, but I can’t believe in it if it’s really as shallow and bitter as you’ve made it appear. Please understand: I want to be proven wrong.
Is that clear? Am I making sense? Do you understand my proposal? I hope so, because I actually want to see results.