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Can't We All Just Get Along?

If you read that in a whiny, angsty voice, you're reading it right. It's the way I see the latest in the series of responses which feminist activists and writers have had to men's rights activism.

If you're expecting the answer to be a resounding no, you're probably right. After all, the question is not even genuine.

The stages of a winning strategy of nonviolent activism are described as follows: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

And, they ignored us, right up until fathers' rights groups began making international news, and even for some time after, until the number of men's rights activists began to visibly grow.

Then, they laughed, writing about the movement with condescending language like the mock-lament "what about the menz?" Use of this response ranged from simply making fun of the movement to using that mockery as a springboard for revisiting old and reiterating current feminist claims of discrimination and abuse by male society.

First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then... they try to absorb you like a sponge and shape the direction of your activism?

The easiest place to point it out is on Reddit.com's /r/mensrights, where at least once a week there's a post by someone with a day-old account asserting in some way or another that the men's rights movement should really just be an arm of feminism, or trying to persuade "the guys" (because all MRAs are guys, right?) to be more politically correct. Sometimes they're posting to tell "the guys" what to terms and tone to use. Sometimes they're posting to tell "the guys" not to submit certain items.

Lately, it's been variations on the question, "Can't we all just get along?"

I've heard it among my friends, seen it on a few blogs, and on reddit, post after post during the last few months have demanded answers to questions like "Why aren't MRAs feminists" and "Aren't we working toward the same goals? Why aren't we working together?"(Don't feel bad if you read that in the Glenda the Good Witch of the North voice.)

The replies vary, with opinions including the assertion that MRAs could work with some feminists (the writers going on to describe egalitarians who call themselves feminists.) Others are unsure, not wishing to seem confrontational, but still not able trust the group that advocated for the laws we're protesting. Then there are the flat denials by MRAs who have spent their lives watching feminist-advocated legislation chip and cut away at the civil rights of men. I tend to side with the latter due to the nature and advocacy of the feminist movement. Many (or even maybe most) who wear that title don't really have any clue what the leadership of their movement has done in their name.

Whenever I see one of these posts, an admonition that we should all just get along, it's accompanied by one or both of two appeals. The first is Not All Feminists Are Like That. The second is I'm one of the Nice Feminists.

To be honest, the majority my own argument against that line, as I have said before, has already been articulately and most effectively voiced by Girl Writes What, speaking her own and John the Other's thoughts on the topic for A Voice for Men Radio. Since I don't have a better way to say what she said - in fact, I don't think there is a better way to say it, I would encourage the reader to listen to that statement before continuing on with this post. That statement leads right into my objection to the repeated questioning of why the Men's Rights movement has to be at odds with feminist advocacy.

To the Nice feminists, the Feminists who Are Not Like That, who feel compelled to ask MRAs why we can't all just get along: Take a moment, and think about what you are asking.

For decades, the civil rights of men have been attacked, beaten down, and cut away by the mainstream, politically active, in-power, established feminist movement. For decades, the movement has dominated the female activism scene, with the public image of a struggle to wrest equal treatment of females to males from a male-dominated world. That makes the title feminist attractive. It sounds positive when you call yourself a name that folks around you associate with women's rights activism, defenders of the downtrodden, rescuers of the damsels of the world. The emotional attachment to the name is understandable. You have been described an admirable history of fighting for the rights of women to vote, to drive, to be considered full, independent adults with equal rights and equal responsibility to those of men. Of course you would want to associate yourself with that name.

But now, after reading post after post on men's rights blogs and in reddit's /r/mensrights, after wisely reading the links in the subreddit's sidebar, (you did read the sidebar, didn't you, before asking your question?) and comparing what you are learning to the lives of the men you personally know, you have become aware of the true nature of that movement. You can no longer feign ignorance or innocence of the feminist-lobbied legislative attacks on the civil rights of men in the western world. You can no longer turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy of the movement with respect to bodily autonomy and human violence. You have nothing left to shield you from the reality of established feminist bigotry against males. Your eyes have been opened, and you have no excuse to consider the label "feminist" a fit for the altruistic ideology you claim for yourself.

Put yourself in the place of the men to whom you are asking that question.

Imagine, for just a moment, if there were an equal movement among men, one which had protested, lobbied, and publicly advocated for laws and social standards which would reduce the civil rights and darken the social perception of women. Let's say the group has persuaded legislators to outlaw self-defense in male-on-female abusive relationships, redefine male-on-female rape as a lesser crime. Let's say they've successfully lobbied for laws which reduce the due process rights of women accused of violent crimes against men, laws and policy which deem women less worthy of and capable of handling the responsibility and privilege of child rearing than men due to men's superior earning capacity... and family court now bases custody decisions on those laws and policies. At the behest of this movement, lawmakers have ordered that women never get paid more than a man for any work we do, even if we do it more, longer, or better, take greater risks in the process, and make greater personal sacrifices to keep our jobs. In fact, where it's considered a sacrifice for a husband to give up time with his children to go to work, it's expected of the wife. Under legislation and court policy fought for and won by the largest contingent of this group, if your husband divorces you, he gets custody of your kids, possession of your home and vehicle, half (or more) of the rest of the marital assets, and a stipend from your future earnings, especially if he came into the marriage with nothing and built no wealth or marketable skill set while married to you... and that's just if he doesn't accuse you of abuse.

In return, you will be considered potentially violent, with perverse sexual needs and a bad attitude toward men, even after you spend your life continually disproving those assumptions of you by exhibiting the opposite in your behavior. You'll be considered irrelevant to your children, a burden on your husband (yes, the guy you financially support,) and a threat to every man and child in your vicinity wherever you are. People will be entirely tactless and insensitive to your experience in their execution of that treatment, rudely demanding that you leave public places if not accompanied by a husband or boyfriend to supervise you and make sure you don't attack and rape the men and children around you. If you go out with your kids, you'll be treated as suspect, presumed a kidnapper or molester, and questioned by other kids' fathers, possibly even the police. If you are accused of violence against a man, you will be presumed guilty, and the burden of proof that you are not will be on you... but when you try to prove your innocence by demonstrating that the allegations do not come from a credible source, instead of that being taken as proof, you'll also be guilty of blaming the victim. Even if you are acquitted, you'll be treated as if that is not because you are innocent, but because you were clever and sneaky enough to get away with it.

If a man suspects you of having unwanted sexual interest in him, whether you do or not, you're a dangerous whore, and he has the right to publicly castigate and strike you. You dare not do anything back, because hitting a man is a despicable act, even if he hits you first. After all, you're in a position to reach more sensitive, easily damaged areas on his body than he can reach on yours. Being the more powerful individual, you should have the strength to refrain from such abusive behavior.

On the other hand, if a man takes a sexual interest in you and you turn him down for any reason other than being married to someone else, you're a passive-aggressive abuser using denial of affection to hurt him, or maybe you're really a lesbian, but it certainly couldn't be because you just don't want sex with that particular guy, because sex is all we want.

If you complain about your circumstances, it's because you're a lazy, uncaring bitch who doesn't want to woman up and take responsibility for yourself and your family. You shouldn't mind working longer, harder, and under more dangerous circumstances for the same pay. You shouldn't mind being subject to violence, but considered criminal if you respond in kind. You should just accept that you're not necessary for the welfare of your children, give up on your selfish desire to show your love for, and be loved by them. And for crying out loud, pay your alimony and child support. If you can't live on the fraction of income the government leaves you, get another job. It's not like you have anything better to do with your life. You're not raising the kids. Your poor, abandoned ex-husband who left you for another woman is.

I could go on, but I think you get the gist. If you identify as feminist, if you debate gender issues from a women's rights standpoint, you should have been very uncomfortable reading that text. You should recognize your fellow feminists' behavior there. I have merely reversed the sexes for you so that you can see what your colleagues in the movement are doing to the opposite sex.

Now, back to the imaginary scenario. Let's say you've formed a discussion board, a place where women can network with each other and communicate, commiserate, and collaborate on an effort to return the balance of equality to society and the law. Your group discusses issues related to family law, protecting yourselves from being made homeless by vindictive ex-husbands, fighting to maintain relationships with your children following divorce, and creating a balance of power and responsibility between parents for the benefit of the entire broken family. You talk about ways to protect yourself from false allegations of violence, particularly sexual violence, and how you can bring to the general public the understanding that imprisoning the innocent doesn't help a single victim, prevent a single crime, or punish a single criminal, but only creates another set of victims. You voice the concern that social pandering to lack of responsibility among men may be damaging to them as much as it is to you, making them unable to achieve success on their own and hindering their ability to attain any measure of personal satisfaction in life.

When your group is discovered by the long-standing male power lobby, it is first ignored, then ridiculed as a movement of social malcontents who don't want to live by society's rules, hate men and children, and care only about yourselves.

And then, one by one, a few members of that oppressive force come straggling in to your forum and demand to know why you're not part of their movement... why, if you believe in equal rights, you cannot work with them, the folks whose advocacy has led to your civil rights being denied, to achieve equal rights for all?

How polite do you think your answer would be?
Oh, maybe the first time, or the first few times, you could be patient, assuming you were dealing with a younger guy who didn't understand what life is like under the system of oppression I have described. You explain, and he gets it. You feel successful, until the next one comes along with the same stupid question... and the next... and the next. 

If you were one of the lucky women to stay married, to live with one of the nice guys who hasn't taken everything from you, hasn't broken your heart, slandered your name or filed false charges against you to use as leverage in court, maybe you are able to be more charitable to these naive kids who keep asking.

If you're one of the unlucky gals who has been damaged by the advocacy of their group, maybe you'll feel more defensive. After all, someone just wandered into your forum and treated the people who made it possible for your ex to turn your life upside down as if they were benevolent, and argued that you should join forces with them for your own protection.

Argued, in fact, with an inane, ignorant appeal to emotion: Can't we all just get along? How can they even ask that after all their advocacy group has done to you and your family?

You might even find yourself at odds with other Women's Rights Activists who don't understand what you've been through. Maybe the repeated exposure to that question would even cause conflict within the group, as WRAs who want to see the group grow and spread, who want to believe they're so rapidly persuading the general public to accept the ideas and ideals expressed by the movement, end up arguing semantics of the nature of the current crop of male power activists with those of you who have suffered at their predecessors' hands.

Fights like that may get ugly, as younger Women's Rights Activists in relationships with men associated with some modern faction of the male power lobby try to frame their own activism within the context of a political correctness with which it does not fit. Lines may be drawn, politics discussed, and enmity insinuated where camaraderie previously stood. Some long-standing and knowledgeable members may even find themselves ostracized for their views by those who find them too harsh on men. 

Can't we all just get along?
Wouldn't it be kind of obvious to the members of a movement, the activism of which was about bringing down the opposite sex, that when posing that question to a resistance group that is in opposition to your advocacy, the answer should be no?

To the members of /r/mensrights reading this post, who are re-reversing the sexes in your minds and recognizing those fights, I have one more question.

Don't you think that maybe sometimes that infighting is the goal of popping the query, "Can't we all just get along?"



6 comments:

JO Lisilsast said...

No.

DerickBurton said...

Thanks for this. It pretty much sums up what I have been feeling about the Men's Rights section of reddit lately.

I have been impressed with your blog every time I have read it and look forward to reading more posts in the future.

Mark Bintuu said...

This is one of the most incredible blogs Ive read in a very long time. The amount of information in here is stunning, like you practically wrote the book on the subject.


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Tyciol said...

"Sometimes they're posting to tell "the guys" what to terms and tone to use."

I hate tone-policing but I think it's fine to talk about the preference to use certain terms and avoid other terms.

As an MRA I fucking hate seeing shit like 'cunt' or 'bitch' constantly.

It's fine now and then, it can be funny in the right context (GWW "bitches be crazy" in concluding a recent vid) but it gets very stale and unsettling when it happens excessively.

Gloria Sass said...

@Tyciol

The problem happens when they make an overt, concerted effort to talk MRAs into abandoning effective speech, or to deflect from points made using "don't talk that way - it's offensive," where the main offense taken involves seeing criticism of feminism as criticism of women. These are the types of posts showing up in the sub.

Dean Esmay said...

I don't think anyone could have put it better.