An Introduction to the Men’s Rights Movement

The Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) also sometimes known as the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM) is a pluralistic movement of men and women who have identified certain problems facing men and boys. It is comprised of many organisations and individuals that are loosely affiliated. Despite this, participants within the MRM maintain a largely consistent position on men’s rights. The movement accepts robust and frank internal discussions, which are generally conducted in public. Individuals within the MRM are sometimes known as Men’s Rights Activists or Men’s Rights Advocates (MRAs).  While the MRM has existed for a long time, it is only in recent years that it has been growing rapidly or receiving significant media attention.

The movement started to significantly increase in membership around 2010. The MRM has many detractors. Some who want to discredit the MRM claim it is a violent movement. This could not be further from the truth. The MRM goes out of its way to be a non-violent movement. The most popular online sites within the movement such as A Voice for Men and the MensRights sub on Reddit actively censure and ban people who make threats of violence or advocate violence.

The MRM is a movement concerned about problems facing men and boys and focuses on bringing attention to the problems in the wider community as well as discussing ways to alleviate and resolve the problems. This article mainly focuses on western countries, where the MRM has its roots, but we want to help men all around the world. Many of the issues we advocate for, such as father’s rights, have organisations focussed on that issue only. We advocate on a variety of issues, and advocate for societal changes that no one else is advocating for.

Despite what many outside of the movement think this is not just a movement for men and is ethnically and culturally diverse. Many women participate in the MRM and often seem to be among the movement’s most active contributors. The movement is pluralistic and inclusive. The MRM includes many gay and transgender men and women. Participants in the movement come from across the political spectrum. They are united in their recognition of the problems facing men and boys and agree that these problems need to be addressed. Anyone who broadly agrees with the aims of the movement is welcome to participate.

We reject many of the claims espoused by leaders in the modern feminist movement, such as that women cannot be sexist to men, a belief that men have systematically oppressed women for thousands of years through the use of violence or that domestic violence impacts women far more than men.

The MRM and its participants are routinely subjected to vitriolic attacks and derision by feminist groups and others. Feminists routinely try to shut down public talks held on MRM topics. Sometimes they have succeeded as a result of local authorities declining to enforce the law in the face of feminist aggression. The MRM rejects such attempts at silencing others. While we may disagree with, and even object to, much of feminist ideology we would never seek to silence feminists.  We acknowledge that women and girls face gender-specific issues. This is particularly true for women and girls who live in the developing world.

Many of the men who have entered the movement until now have been personally impacted by one or more of these problems. They might be, for example, men who have been dealt with unjustly by the family law courts in their country. After experiencing this they may become aware that their treatment by the courts was common and from there became aware of the broader MRM. Young men may experience discrimination in their high school or University on the basis of their gender and from this may become aware of the broader movement. Increasingly people who have not been personally impacted by these problems are recognising a broader problem in society and are stepping up to make a difference.

The movement is notable for being task focused rather than subscribing to an ideology or dogma.  Although there is no one definitive list of the issues that the MRM is addressing there is broad agreement on a core set of issues. Most activists within the movement have certain areas that they focus on.

Many people look at the top of society, to leaders in politics, business and the military and see men. They conclude then that men rule the world. While some men dominate society it is not true that men generally dominate society. This is an example of the apex fallacy – looking at the most successful members of a group and judging the group by that standard.  What these people miss is that men also “dominate” at the bottom of society making up the majority of the homeless and those who do the dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs that society relies upon.

The MRM is often associated with other movements. Sometimes this would be a genuine mistake but sometimes this is done to attempt to discredit the MRM. Many people have agreed on the problems facing men and boys but have disagreed on the way to respond to these problems. Various movements with names like Redpillers and Pick up artists have appeared. The name of the former movement occurs because when a person recognises the problems facing men and boys, regardless of their subsequent response to that, they are sometimes said to have taken the red pill. The name of the latter movement should be obvious and generally revolves around young men manipulating the situation to their own benefit rather than attempting to fix the underlying problems. Participants in these movements do not generally call themselves men’s rights activists as they understand what the MRM is and they do not agree with our attempts to address the problems facing men and boys. They can even be quite hostile to the MRM. It is interesting that many of the worst allegations made against the MRM are actually a result things said by people who do not identify with the MRM.

One movement, Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), involves men who disengage from a society that is hostile to them. In general MGTOWs avoid relationships with women due to the significant financial and legal risks this entails for men today. MGTOWs often work only as much as they need to to survive, thus legally reducing the tax they pay and reducing the support they provide to a system that is hostile to them. MGTOW is the only other movement that has significant overlap with the MRM. Some MGTOWs will simultaneously disengage from society but will still work fix the problems in society. It is notable that Japan has had a similar movement for decades with heterosexual Japanese men (known in Japanese as herbivore men) explicitly deciding to avoid romantic or sexual relationships with women due to the high social and economic costs. This is one of the major contributors to the plummeting birth rate in Japan.

While it may be true that that men’s rights advocacy was perhaps initially more popular among the socially conservative this has long since ceased to be the case. The MRM has participants from across the political spectrum and is in itself an apolitical movement. MRAs are not traditonalists. We are not advocating for a return to the gender roles seen in the past. We advocate for the rejection of traditional gender roles. We want everyone to have a fair playing field on which they can be all that they can be.

A selection of issues important to the MRM are presented here.

Bodily Autonomy
Female genital mutilation is now illegal in many countries, and international organisations work to reduce this practice. These same societies often refuse to grant boys the same bodily autonomy that they grant girls – the right to be protected from unnecessary medical procedures. The men’s rights movement objects to male genital mutilation (also known as circumcision) on the same grounds as female genital mutilation. Both violate the human rights of the individual being mutilated and both should be illegal. In many countries today all individuals have protection from unnecessary medical procedures except for infant boys. That the foreskin is removed in most cases without anesthetic exacerbates the problem.

Many do not know that the foreskins of infant boys are not destroyed as medical waste but are rather put to a variety of uses. While it is true a few are used for medical research the majority go to cosmetic companies. In some countries the sale of foreskins by hospitals is a lucrative business.

  • We want: Infant boys to have the same protection from medically unnecessary procedures as are extended to the rest of the community.

Disposability
All societies consider men to be disposable. Men are drafted and can be forced in to combat against their will. Men overwhelmingly take on the dangerous jobs in society. In general men are expected to be prepared to give up their lives for the good of the community and, specifically, to protect the lives of women. This is so ingrained that few people, men or women, recognise it. Fewer still object to it.

The MRM rejects male disposability in the modern world. While it may have made sense for a society in the past to be prepared to sacrifice it’s men for the survival of the society, the MRM holds that this is no longer necessary. With a population exceeding seven billion that might reach 10 or 11 billion in a few decades, we no longer need the ability to quickly recover numbers and so the original reason that male disposability existed is no longer present.

  • We want: An end to the expectation of male disposability.

Domestic Violence
Today domestic violence is often also called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Men constitute between one third and one half of all victims of domestic violence. A similar proportion of domestic violence aggressors are women. In approximately half of all cases each partner is both a perpetrator and a victim of domestic violence. The notion that domestic violence is a gendered issue is simply not supported by the evidence. We object to all domestic violence regardless of the genders of the people involved.  While women’s shelters receive government funding in many countries, very few men’s shelters exist.

  • We want: Recognition from society that domestic violence is not a gendered issue
  • We want: Domestic Violence services that properly supports victims regardless of their gender.
  • We want: Domestic Violence services that help aggressors regardless of their gender.

Unnecessary Medication
Children, and boys in particular, are being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and drugged at an alarming rate. This rate has been increasing rapidly in recent years, which is prompting an increase in the sales of drugs to treat the condition. In the United States, for example, sales of ADHD drugs have increased by 89% in four years.  This should be of great concern to parents who have received a diagnoses for ADHD for their child and a recommendation to medicate.  The long term consequences of ADHD medicating on a forming brain are not yet known.

The MRM is concerned that the normal behaviour of many young boys is being considered abnormal and medicated.
This is not to say that all diagnosis for this condition are invalid, but when the diagnosis rate is changing as rapidly as is currently occurring more needs to be done than simply prescribing more drugs.

  • We want: A proper analysis of why ADHD diagnosis rates are skyrocketing.
  • We want: An end to the diagnosis of boy’s normal & heathy behaviour as pathological.

Education
The performance of boys in education systems has been declining for decades. Up until the mid 1980’s boys tended to consistently perform better in primary and high school than girls. Educators set out to change this and improve the results for girls. The problem is that this was achieved at the expense of boys and continued well after it was clear that boys were falling significantly behind, not only in comparison to their female peers but even in comparison to male students of the past.

For example, education research clearly shows that boys tend to do better in exam assessment and girls tend to do better in in-class assessment. Relative performance in male and female students can be tracked with changing assessment. There has been a clear move away from exams and towards in-class assessment in the last few decades. One notable exception was a recent reversal of this trend in the UK. As expected the performance of boys in the UK improved with the increase in exam assessment.

Increasingly students have less and less time to burn off energy and are expected to sit quietly in the classroom for hours at a time. This is sometimes characterised as the incredible shrinking lunchtime. While this is probably impacting many students negatively the evidence suggests this is generally more of a problem for boys. It is interesting that this should be happening at a time when office workers are entreated to stand and move around more for their long term health.

Alarmingly research shows that in recent years teachers have been academically marking down students with alleged “behavioural problems” and this has overwhelmingly impacted boys.

The MRM objects to significant gender biases in primary and high school education systems and seeks to reform the system in to one in which both boys and girls can benefit.

The problems don’t end there. Men have been abandoning the dream of a university education in droves, partly because many university campuses have become very hostile for men. In many US universities, if a man is accused of sexual assault against a woman he is not afforded council, to know the details of the allegation or even to know the name of his accuser. He also has the onus of proof placed on him. It is not surprising that the bulk of such accusations result in the male student being expelled or banned from campus, which generally results in them failing courses even when there was little evidence against them.

In most western countries men now constitute less than 40% of university enrollments. While increasing the female participation rates in certain STEM fields is actively promoted there is little interest in addressing the falling university participation rate among men.

  • We want: A recognition that, while there is overlap, boys and girls do tend to behave differently as children as a result of physiological differences and for education systems to accommodate both boys and girls in a way that allows all children to thrive.
  • We want: A university system that is not hostile to young men.

Father’s Rights
The family court system in many countries is heavily biased in favour of mothers. In many countries courts still show a strong preference for granting custody to mothers over fathers. Non-custodial fathers often find themselves with very limited access to their children and routinely find that breaches of court orders by mothers (such as not allowing visits in accordance with court orders) are ignored or receive only a token response from authorities. Many men fight in court for years to get reasonable access to their children, only to give up in dispair when they are unable to continue funding court battles and they realise the system has failed them.

  • We want: Shared custody arrangements unless compelling reasons exist to show that this is not feasible.
  • We want: Sufficient access for parents not living with their children for a parent-child relationship to be maintained.
  • We want: Enforcement of family court orders on fair and just terms.

Health
Males have higher mortality rates at every age. The difference in life expectancy for men and women actually widened during most of the 20th century, peaking in the 1990s. One significant contributor to this is the far greater amount spent on women’s health than men’s health. In fact most countries spend several times as much money on women’s health as they do on men’s health.

  • We want: Fair allocation of resources to health problems facing men and women.
  • We want: Public recognition that both genders need their gender-specific health issues addressed adequately.

State Discrimination
Even when the evidence against men and women and prior criminal histories are the same men are more likely to be arrested for an offence, more likely to be charged with an offence, more likely to be convicted of an offence, more likely to receive a custodial sentence, and the sentence will on average be significantly longer. Some states openly advocate on this basis. A UK government commission recently advocated the abolition of all women’s prisons. One of the advantages, they argued, was that these prisons could then be used to incarcerate more men.

Laws that are written in a gender neutral way are often not applied that way, and this is most often is to the detriment of men.

In Canada there is a special offence for a woman who kills her own newborn, that limits the sentence to five years imprisonment. A major children’s charity in Canada opposes this, arguing that a newborn should have the same right to protection from violence as any other member of the community. We fully support their position.

  • We want: Genuine gender-neutrality in the application of the criminal justice system.

Reproductive Rights

Today men actually lack reproductive rights. Unlike women, in many western countries, men cannot choose not to be a father. In the United States there have been numerous cases in which a boy has been raped by an adult woman. The boy was not legally able to consent to the sexual activity and yet when the woman became pregnant the boy was required to pay child support (including back payments) on reaching the age of 18.

Many men have been ordered by courts to continue supporting a child that is not theirs, even after they present conclusive evidence (such as the results of a DNA test) showing that they are not the biological father of the child, and in some cases had no relationship with the child at all.

  • We want: Men to have the same reproductive rights as women within practical bounds
  • We want: Child support payments to be managed by the courts in a fair and just manner.

Suicide
Men and boys have suicide rates several times higher than women and girls. Male suicide rates have grown at a far faster rate than female suicide rates over the last century. While the high rates of suicide among men has gained recognition within the last few years there is still a long way to go in addressing this serious problem.

  • We want: Society and government to act to address the underlying causes of the rising suicide rate among men and boys.

Vilification

We live in a society that routinely vilifies masculinity. The TV formula so often seen in sitcoms of a stupid or inept (but often well meaning) man married to a super-woman who can solve all of his problems for him by the end of the episode is so common it is almost a cliche. The mass media is full of negative portrayals of men. The news media is constantly telling us about negative aspects of masculinity. This has led to a general perception of men as people to be feared and suspected. This had led many airlines to maintain a policy of never seating unaccompanied minors next to men. The implicit assumption here seems to be that the men cannot be trusted next to a child. Many men report feeling uneasy around children, fearful that they will be accused of some terrible act. This is a major cause of men avoiding certain industries, such as childcare and teaching.

A series of t-shirts and other products produced in the United States a few years ago suggested Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them. The manufacturers took no regard for the impact their products would have on young minds.

A very concerning problem relates to the distribution of food following disasters. Many relief agencies believe that if food is given to men they will keep it for themselves rather than provide food to their relatives and children. The world’s largest humanitarian organisation, the World Food Programme, which is part of the United Nations excludes men from food distribution centres on the basis of gender alone. Many other organisations that distribute food following disasters do this also.  Men and boys may not enter the food distribution centres. Women are permitted to enter and are then expected to distribute the food to their relatives. These organisations claim that special provision is made for families with no female members but they are light on details. It seems unlikely that in the hectic environment of a food distribution centre that the staff would have time to properly investigate the claims of men and boys that they have no women in their family. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest these men and boys are simply excluded from the food distribution.

  • We want: An end to the vilification of masculinity in the public sphere.

Violence
Men experience high levels of violence in society and there is very little recognition of this. Men are close to twice as likely to experience violence as women, even though it is women (we are so often told) who need to be fearful walking alone at night. This in spite of the fact that women are less likely to experience violence than children or men.  Despite popular perception, men are raped almost as often as women.  In the US more men are raped in prison then all women in society. Female-on-male violence is an often ignored problem. Some women, having been taught that violence is gendered, simultaneously object to violence against women but feel that violence against men is inconsequential. One often repeated myth is that a woman cannot physically harm a man. The many men injured and killed by women are a testament to the erroneous nature of this belief.

Society and the government both ignore and marginalise male victims of violence.

  • We want: Public recognition that violence against everyone is wrong.

A bit about the Author:

Robert is a men’s rights activist. He became an egalitarian before he was 10 and remains one today.  Robert is concerned for the welfare of men and boys in modern society. In particular he is concerned about the falling educational achievements of boys over the last few decades, and the manner in which male victims are marginalised and ignored by society. He has become increasingly alarmed at the level of misandry rising in society. Robert now lives in a society in which insulting comments can be made about men as a whole with little objection from the community. He believes this is an impediment to gender equality.

Robert wants the wider community to recognise and reject concepts like male disposability. He understands that while this has been an undercurrent of human society up until this point, technological changes have rendered this unnecessary. Robert rejects the feminist notions of patriarchy and kyriarchy as not being supported by evidence in modern or historical societies.  Robert believes that many people who call themselves feminists are in fact disconnected from the modern feminist movement. Robert regularly encourages people who self-identify as feminists to read modern feminist writings and attend feminist meetings and ask themselves if they agree with what modern feminism says about men and society. He believes that even in its earliest days that feminism was not really about equality but also believes that it is more important to fix the problems of today than debate social movements of the past.

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2 thoughts on “An Introduction to the Men’s Rights Movement

  1. So, domestic violence is not a gendered issue, but suicide and ADHD is? It’s actually women that attempt suicide at a significantly higher rate than men, though men have a higher rate of successful suicide.

    Many of these things you say I agree with and fight for as a feminist. And many would be the law of the land if the Equal Rights Amendment (that thing feminists fought so hard for) would have passed. Of course, many of us are still fighting for the ERA to be ratified in the states that didn’t ratify it…

  2. Sexual assault in prison is a serious problem, as is sexual violence in general– no matter the gender of the victim or the perpetrator.

    But the original article claiming that more men are raped because of prison rapes is fundamentally flawed and deceptive for several reasons:

    To assume this figure makes the majority of sexual assault victims male, you must assume all inmates who are sexually assaulted are male. That is, to assume that overall more men are victims of sexual assault than women because the number of inmates estimated to have been sexually assaulted is higher than the number of women reporting rape of the same year, you must count ALL inmate victims as male. While the majority of prison inmates are male, it is of course false to assume ALL prison inmates being assaulted are male. As the report showed female inmates were twice as likely (source 2) to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated than male prisoners, it is safe to assume many of those 88K (the number from original DOJ report–see source 2&3) estimated victims were female.

    It is also comparing number of inmates *estimated* to have been sexually assaulted to the number of rapes reported by women of that same year. The majority of sexual assaults are unreported, so you can see why this would severely skew the numbers. The DOJ lists the number of reported inmate sexual assaults for that year as under 1,000– a number that is obviously much lower than the actual number, much like the number of women reporting a sexual assult is much lower than the actual number or sexual assaults occurring.

    The DOJ report counts ANY sexual contact between inmates and a staff member as sexual assault. The rationale behind this is that inmates are often bribed, blackmailed or pressured into sexual acts by prison staff, and may face retribution if they do not capitulate to a staff member’s advances. This doesn’t mean there is no consensual sex happening between inmates and prison staff, but it does explain why sexual contact between inmates and staff is counted as such.

    Original article:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2449454/More-men-raped-US-women-including-prison-sexual-abuse.html

    Source 2– link to .pdf of original DOJ report. http://www.justdetention.org/en/listserv/2011/042611.aspx The original DOJ report gave estimated number of inmates who were sexually assaulted at 88,500.

    Source 3: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/mar/24/prison-rape-and-government/?pagination=false The 216,600 figure comes from this article, which claims this is the revised number. I was not able to find the revised study that claims this. The original estimate of of 88,500 is below the number of reported women who were victims of rape–98,000, and well below the number of estimated women victims (200K according to RAINN or NISVS). That is, the original figure would put the number of inmates (both male AND female) who were estimated to be victims of sexual assault or had sexual contact with prison staff (be it consensual or not) well below the number of either reported or estimated total number of female sexual assault victims.

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