I feel sorry for Men’s Rights Activists. No, really, I do. Like the people in Plato’s cave, they have a sense of the problems caused by a society that demands a harsh conformity to gender norms; they can see the shadows of the patriarchy on the wall. But just like the people in the cave, they only see a part of it, not the whole. And because of that, they spend their time attacking those who could and should be their allies.
Take me, for instance. The other day, I wrote an article about the continued awfulness of Jezebel, specifically with regard to an article by Doug Barry that mocked a male victim of rape for being a male who was a victim of rape. I based my argument on a clear, bedrock feminist principle: that consent is requisite for sex, and that sexual acts undertaken without consent constitute sexual assault or rape. This is not controversial in the feminist community. Indeed, it’s only controversial in the MRA community, where consent is not so much seen as something important.
Nevertheless, my argument was against Jezebel, which is, if not a feminist site, then a site that is read by many feminists. And because I dared to take a stand against the dread Gawker empire, I have been outed! Yes, it turns out that because I believe men can be raped if they refuse to consent, I am a closet MRA.
I…I’ve always known I was different. I was hiding it because I was rightly ashamed.
Wait. I’m not an MRA. Who would be foolish enough to think I was? Why, Adam Geddes, that’s who!
Even zealots like Jeff Fecke are having their doubts about pop feminism. Days ago he penned a piece entitled ‘Jezebel Continues Its Long, Slow Decline,’ lambasting the online mag for its lax standards. Barring the bits where he bends over backwards to avoid offending his readership, his opinion here is no different from MRAs, the very people he demonized. He points out author Doug Barry’s hypocrisy for making light of sexual assault, when it’s a woman doing the raping.
Well, actually, I pointed out Barry’s evil for not taking sexual assault seriously, something that Jezebel has been willing to do when men were doing the raping, too. I did point out that flipping the genders might also allow Barry to plug into male stereotypes, especially the “men always want to” stereotype, but I didn’t see it as radically different from any other bit of victim-blaming, like, say, this one, where MRAs attack a 14-year-old girl who thinks she might have been raped. (Trigger warning: Reddit. Really, do you need me to be more specific than that?) Reversing the usual genders was useful to highlight just how wrong victim-blaming always is, but I’ve seen far worse written about women who were victims of sexual assault, much of it from the MRA community.
Anyhoo, Geddes notes something that I wholeheartedly agree with him on: that feminists and MRAs could, if both were rational, agree on. Unfortunately, one of those groups is not rational. Hint: it isn’t the feminists.
Although feminists and MRAs actually agree on some issues, they’ll never make nice. MRAs are repelled by the phony political correctness, sophism, and cultural Marxism inherent to feminism. Women right’s proponents despise the lewd speech (perceived as “misogyny”), and focus on the masculine ideals of liberty and self-sufficiency (over security and comfort) inherent to MRAs.
One of the things the MRA set completely fails to grok is that “phony political correctness” is actually an arduous attempt to open up society to ideas that it has become opposed to thinking. Far from being cultural Marxism, the push by feminists to make language and society gender-neutral is a very good thing; it allows women and men to be more free to be themselves, and to ignore the demands the culture makes on gender.
That’s why the misogyny of the MRAs is so disappointing, and why Geddes’ calling liberty and self-sufficiency “masculine ideals” so completely misses the mark.
The fact is that liberty and self-sufficiency are not masculine ideals. They are ideals. Security and comfort are not feminine ideals. They are ideals. Ask any woman who’s living alone in New York City if the law should constrain her movements, or require her to marry. Ask any man who’s raising a family whether the police should patrol his city and protect his family, or whether his children’s school should serve decent food in the cafeteria. All humans desire some degree of liberty and self-sufficiency, some degree of comfort and security.
That’s what the MRAs fail to understand — that simply accepting that some ideas are masculine and some ideas are feminine is doing the patriarchy’s work. Are you mad, MRAs, that judges don’t think that you can be a good parent? Well, why would they? You don’t even care about security or comfort!
When you accept that all boys are different from all girls, you accept that there should be proscribed rules for boys and for girls. Some MRAs more than accept this; they embrace it with both arms, lovingly, because they believe that if we could only stuff the genie back in the bottle that they could be on top again.
The MRAs I feel sorry for are the ones who don’t really embrace that, who know that there’s something wrong, but who have locked on to the wrong target. Rather than being angry at a society that tells us that women and men are far more different than we are, they rage against the women who have had the temerity to stand up and say otherwise. They are shooting the messengers, and ignoring their jailers.
Indeed, the fixation on women — their supposed power, their ability to make men’s lives horrible — ultimately derails Geddes’ path to enlightenment. This, for example, is what he thinks my motivation for being a feminist is:
Growing up Jeff Fecke was the awkward, omega kid that tried to earn female approval by blending in with the girl group. Sadly, this strategy never works. That and it’s a type of earthy hell. Cuties cried on his shoulder but didn’t have the decency to toss him the occasional mercy fuck.
Instead of adapting, he grew resentful of the so called alphas that pulled all the babes. The man’s man was his mortal enemy back then as it is now. MRAs are essentially the new “real men,” who seek autonomy from feminine approval or any approval for that matter.
That is just so completely off that I must turn to Billy Madison’s principal to give my response.
I will freely admit that I’ve never been a manly man of manhood. I’ve never claimed to be. Indeed, I’ve never wanted to be. But I’ve never viewed men who were “manly” as a threat, an opponent, or anything else. I don’t aspire to be them, and I don’t care or believe that they “pull all the babes.” I’ve been married once; I was able to “pull” at least one “babe.”
As for whether I fell in with the “girl group” — no, sorry. I was in a group of friends. Some were guys. Some were girls. I’ll admit, I had a brief period of Nice Guyness™, but I got over it long ago.
But where Geddes really fails is in thinking that I am a feminist because I hope it will help me get the chicks. Sorry, Adam; I’m a feminist for one primary reason: my daughter. You see, I can date or not — I’m okay with being single, and dating had its perks, and both have their drawbacks and I’m cool with either state. But I desperately want my daughter to live in a world that does not look down on her because of her second X chromosome. That is what motivated me to write on feminism in the first place, and that is what motivates me today.
You see, when Geddes writes:
Fecke would rather think of the MRM as a band of ‘woman beaters,’ and ‘rape apologists’ because the truth stings. Deep down, he wants to rub elbows with the men he grew up despising as an equal. Somewhere inside him, there’s this little MRA voice he hushes every time he sees clues that current-wave feminism has jumped the shark.
he simply and completely fails to understand what motivates me, or the vast majority of men who view MRAs with a mix of pity and disgust. I have friends who were high school athletes and are good looking and had their pick of girls, and I have friends who were nerds in high school and never aspired to date more than one special someone, and I have friends who are — gasp – girls. And you know what? They’re all my equals, and I am theirs. And you know why I know that? Because being a feminist has taught me over the years that “manliness” or lack thereof has little bearing on one’s worth as a human being.
That is the lesson of feminism, and why the MRAs will never appeal to me, and will never get it. They understand that men and women have different standards imposed upon them. Feminists say those standards are wrong, and work to broaden the definition of what it is to be a woman — and by extension, what it is to be a man. MRAs see that, and try to change those standards to fit their own idea of what is ideal — to make a world where manliness is rewarded, but where men are also rewarded simply for being men. In short, MRAs seek to undermine liberty, and take away the ability of women to be self-reliant. It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so tragic.