Guest post: Compare and contrast


Guest post by Stacy Kennedy.

The Men’s Rights Movement emerged in the early 1970s. If we set the beginning of American Second Wave feminism at the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963, the two movements are approximately ten years apart.

Inspired by the recent mini-surge of interest in the MRM from 20/20 and The Daily Beast, I decided to compare and contrast the two.

CULTURAL PRESENCE/VISIBILITY

WOMEN’S MOVEMENT

  •  By 1971, eight years after The Feminine Mystique, everybody in the United States had heard of the Women’s Movement (aka “Women’s Lib”). Everybody was talking about it. Everybody was arguing about it. Numerous books on the subject had been published. Movies, television, theater, fiction, and magazines reflected the movement and its impact.

MEN’S MOVEMENT

  •  In 2013, after approximately forty years, mention the Men’s Rights Movement and most people will give you a quizzical look and ask, “The wutnow?”

THEORY

WOMEN’S MOVEMENT

  •  Large body of feminist theory (more accurately, theories.) Vigorous intramural and extramural debate with general intramural agreement that obligatory conformity to gender roles oppresses men, women, and the genderqueer. General intramural agreement that there are internalized and unexamined biases that work against women’s equality and that these biases are at least mostly cultural in origin.

MEN’S MOVEMENT

  • MRAs think traditional gender roles are just fine, and they resent women’s incursions into “men’s spheres.” At the same time, they complain a great deal about the ways in which the traditional masculine role harms men. An incoherent framework exists in which traditional masculinity is simultaneously held up as praiseworthy and natural AND as evidence that men qua men are, and always have been, oppressed.
  •  Women have all the power because pussy.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

WOMEN’S MOVEMENT

(partial list)

  •  Increased presence of women in workforce, including professional, blue collar, academic, STEM, and military spheres.
  •  Abortion and women’s access to contraception legalized. (Defense of legal abortion and access to it is ongoing.)
  •  Laws regarding domestic violence have been transformed. Greater awareness of domestic violence. Creation of domestic violence shelters and hotlines..
  •  Greater awareness of rape. Fight to change public and law enforcement attitudes toward rape ongoing. Existence of rape hotlines and victim’s advocates.
  •  Creation of laws regarding sexual harassment. Anti-sexual harassment policies and training now commonplace.
  •  New perspectives have led to scientific findings, including evidence for the existence of unconscious sexist biases, and corrections to previous stereotyped views of human and animal behavior.
  •  Stigma against unmarried mothers significantly decreased.
  • Ongoing fight against sexual double standard.
  •  Women admitted to military academies. Fight to allow women in military combat positions all but won.
  •  All the “Firsts”—first female astronaut, first female Vice Presidential candidate on a major-party ticket, first female Presidential candidate on a major-party ticket, etc.
  •  Widespread recognition of the many problems inherent in societal insistence that people conform to gender roles.
  •  Stereotypes regarding women, and gender roles generally, no longer sure to go unchallenged.
  •  Countless little girls have grown up hearing the message “You can be anything you want to be.”

MEN’S MOVEMENT

 

Comments

  1. screechymonkey says

    MRAs think traditional gender roles are just fine, and they resent women’s incursions into “men’s spheres.” At the same time, they complain a great deal about the ways in which the traditional masculine role harms men. An incoherent framework exists in which traditional masculinity is simultaneously held up as praiseworthy and natural AND as evidence that men qua men are, and always have been, oppressed.

    Case in point: the “Sexual Market Value” chart linked to in this Pharyngula post.

    MRAs seem positively gleeful about “pointing out” their “evidence” that men’s “sexual market value” peaks much later than women’s. Sorry for all the scare quotes, but while there is a kernel of truth under all that — our society does tend to value more for their beauty, and men more for things like accomplishments and wealth that usually accrue over time, and it also tends to define beauty as youthful for women, while men with wrinkles and grey hair can be “silver foxes” — there’s a lot of bullshit being piled on top of it.

    And yet, these same MRAs love to complain about men supposedly being treated as “human wallets.” In other words, they like being valued for their wealth if it means they’ll be able to attract younger women, but they resent being valued for their wealth.

  2. Jean says

    Wasn’t a certain part of the men’s movement partly responsible for getting rid of the almost automatic favoring of the mother in the case of custody battles because … mother?

    I ask not for JAQing off but because I don’t know the answer and would like to know (and correct/complete the blog post if that is indeed the case). And searching the web would likely require going through some quite toxic sites that I’d rather avoid if someone here can either confirm or not that.

  3. iknklast says

    A true accomplishment: My students of both genders come to college with an assumption that they will be in classes with the opposite gender, and that the women are going to be able to compete with men academically if the playing field is even. There is still a lot of work to do, and a lot of sexism present, but I find that a refreshing change. When I started school, it was still assumed that “girls” couldn’t do math. I’m actually quite good at math. But I was required to take Home Ec, and not allowed to take “boy” classes. Now I’m a biologist. My mother was horrified. My grandmother? No, she was a suffragette. She fought for what I have.

  4. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    When I see MRAs using the existence of women’s DV shelters and rape crisis centres as proof of some kind of massive feminist-favouring conspiracy, I can only guess that they just assume that these resources fall out of the sky, fully funded and trained, and never face any kind of difficulties. The fact is that women have poured their blood, sweat, tears and dollars into making those services a reality, and even the ones that do get funding usually still have to pass the hat.

    If MRAs actually gave the tiniest shit about male survivors, they’d get off their blogs and their whiny asses and get cracking making services exist, instead of demanding that women’s services stop existing, or do the work for them. But no, they just wanna use male survivors as pawns when it suits them, and to belittle seriously hard work by women.

  5. Stacy says

    @Happiestsadist, word. I was in an online comment thread a while back with an MRA who was complaining about the lack of DV shelters for men and I asked him why the MRM hadn’t, you know, made that happen. He seemed to think that women’s DV shelters came about because women went pleading to government officials and the government said, “Oh, you poor dears, here, have some money.”

  6. hemlock says

    Jean: “Wasn’t a certain part of the men’s movement partly responsible for getting rid of the almost automatic favoring of the mother in the case of custody battles because … mother?”

    Actually no, the situation was historically that women, on marriage, ceased to exist as a legal entity. Everything was owned by the husband and if the marriage ended, they kept possession of all property and any children. This changed due to feminism, and feminism has always fought the assumption of women being tied to being the sole caregiver of children and other strict gender roles.

    As always, the MRM distorts the real situation, the family courts base custody on what is best for the child and if allocating custody what is best for the child is deemed to be that the primary caregiver has custody. That is usually women – 83% (see: Pew Research Center analysis National Survey of Family Growth June 2011) and most cases divorces are settled amicably without the involvement of the courts. Where it is contested, this is only a small proportion of cases at about 11%, and when this happens it is men that seem to get custody the majority of time – around 70% (see: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Gender Bias Study of 1989).

    So where men actually try and get custody, they get it more often than not. What’s more worrying is that something like 27% of men don’t have contact with their child after divorce, and often there is nothing stopping them at all. Then there are plenty that either default completely or partially on child support. Can’t blame feminism for that situation either, and they made things a lot better by allowing both parents to be able to obtain custody instead of it going to one person by default.

  7. says

    I fear they will use the accomplishment comparison as proof that feminism now dominates everything and doesn’t let them succeed.

    But the accomplishment list for MRAs is not complete. Every once in a while, they harass people enough to stay off social networks or even not to ever leave their houses, ever.

  8. says

    To me, MRAs are a lot like Libertarians. For evere one thing they say that makes me think “hmmm, that almost makes sense” there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of other things that make me think “you’re insane and have no grasp of reality.”

  9. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    The only yardstick a large segment of the men’s rights movement seems to use to measure its accomplishments…

    When you look at what the odd combination of what the movement’s done and the overweening pride the MRAs take in having accomplished so little, you ultimately realize

    the problem with the men’s rights movements yardstick is that it is really only 6″ long

  10. freemage says

    Jean: Way, way back in the day, just a bit after feminism as a movement had scored some gains, there was a corresponding set of men’s groups that wanted to talk about how gender politics harmed men, too. These guys were generally sympathetic to feminism, and were often inclined to support the same causes. The modern MRM does not derive from these groups, which mostly just became identified as feminist men, because the very small handful of genuine issues that feminists weren’t concerned with didn’t require a huge movement to confront.

    The MRM is more like a cargo cult–they use the language and the forms, but they don’t understand the underlying substance of actual social justice movements.

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