They made all the rules

NPR did this story on the “Men’s Rights” movement the other day, starting from that conference in Detroit organized by A Voice for Men.

Leaders in the movement say they want to bring more attention to the problems of men and boys. Critics worry, however, that these sites are a breeding ground for misogyny.

For his part, Farrell actually tries to avoid the phrase “men’s rights.”

“It’s like somebody saying we’re in favor of the king’s rights,” he says. “The average person thinks that men are already at the top of the political structure. They have all the rights, they made all the rules, [and] if anything is going wrong with men, it’s their fault, because after all, it’s just a consequence of men’s rules.”

Who made the rules isn’t really the point. (Well sometimes it’s the point. The fact that the Catholic church is officially all-male in the upper reaches is because of the rules, which were indeed made by men, and which obviously create a situation that is self-perpetuating, so who made the rules really is the point. But broadly speaking it isn’t.) The point is making better rules. The point is moving from a hierarchical situation (that none of us alive now ever actually agreed to, much less created, after all) to a non-hierarchical one. And that would be good for men and boys.

For one obvious thing, in a non-hierarchical situation, men in families no longer have the whole responsibility for bringing in the money.

More than that…if we ever could get to a place where people weren’t constantly policing both genders, boys and men would be under so much less pressure. Are we supposed to assume that they all actually like all that shit? All that contempt for showing what’s taken to be “girly” and all those commands to “man up”?

Boys also drop out of college and commit suicide at higher rates than girls, Farrell notes.

“We need to know not only why are our sons committing suicide, but also why are our sons much more likely to be the ones to shoot up schools?” he says. “We’re all in jeopardy if we don’t pay attention to the cries of pain and isolation and alienation that are happening among our sons.”

Well of course we need to know those things. Is there a feminist on earth who doesn’t agree?



  1. says

    “We’re all in jeopardy if we don’t pay attention to the cries of pain and isolation and alienation that are happening among our sons.”

    It’s as if they think parental attention is zero-sum.

  2. tuibguy says

    Here’s a whack with a clue sticK: stop blaming feminism. All of the problems that they cite, at least the ones that are real, were problems long before feminism started pointing them out.

  3. MarkDavid says

    If anything, feminists are the ones helping men and boys. They do more to help men on a slow day than MRAs EVER have. The MRAs just want to stuff us back in the cage that feminists have been tearing down.

  4. Andrew B. says

    “Well of course we need to know those things. Is there a feminist on earth who doesn’t agree?”

    The assumption at the heart of this MRA complaint is that one’s advocacy must necessarily be proportional to one’s personal beliefs, which is somewhat understandable because we tend to evaluate people’s beliefs by their actions, but in this case is unreasonable because one can’t be an active advocate for every worthy issue. In that case, one’s time and effort would be spread too thinly, so they usually focus on the one issue they care mostly deeply about.

  5. robertwilson says

    @3 They don’t simply focus on the issue they care most about. They often focus on attacking others (feminists) who bring up issues that would actually help what they claim to care about.

    Feminism helps men. Feminism deals with a problem – society’s expectations for gender roles – that harms women and men both. Men’s rights, even if we were so generous as to accept only the misguided ones with a desire to help solve problems who don’t realize they’ve hitched their wagon to a hate group, only addresses symptoms of a problem and does little or nothing to solve things.

  6. Andrew B. says

    @4, sorry, I should have been more clear. By “they,” I meant advocates for legitimate causes (like feminism), who care about a number of issues, but often choose to focus on just one (like feminism) because it’s hard to devote equal time to all worthy causes and still be effective. MRAs don’t get that.

  7. ambassadorfromverdammt says

    The MRA is portrayed by media and by themselves as a counterpart to the feminist movement, but I don’t see them that way at all. They are a counterpart to that small faction of feminists who are man-haters.

    I am an advocate for men’s rights, too, which is one of the reasons I support the feminist movement – it is currently the best vehicle for achieving the kind of egalitarian society where gender roles are an anachronism; where people can walk their life’s path without need for a particular bit of anatomy to unlock doors.

    Many of the concerns raised by MRAs are valid, but their philosophy for addressing those concerns is far from inclusive. Whatever else it purports to be, the men’s rights movement is a proving ground for misogyny. Whether that is the mainstream, or a noisy lunatic fringe I don’t know; but I do know that there is no equivalent of an Elliott Rodgers in the feminist movement, at least none I’ve ever heard of.

  8. Who Cares says

    What you just did is called the no true scotsman fallacy.
    The people who (self)identify as MRA have been heaping abuse on women who dare to do simple things like saying “Don’t do that.” (That little affair is called Elevatorgate BTW). Or more recently what happened to Zoe Quinn & Sarkeesian. Or the women who have been chased of the internet by the MRAs just for being women who don’t behave like they want (FTB has had at least 2 who stopped because of that).

    Further you make an exceptional claim that the the MRA claims are valid. Convince me. State their concerns and explain why each is valid. Otherwise you are just doing a fancy version of the “Boys will be boys.” excuse.

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