MRAs Were Pathetic Whining Liars 117 Years Ago, Too

The older I get, the more I tend to agree with the author of Ecclesiastes: nope, nothing new under the sun. Even the howling manbabies of the Men’s Rights Movement are just retreads of the same old tire. As long are there are women demanding equality, there will be men whining, “But what about teh menz??? Help, help, men are being oppressed!” A few words are changed, a few flourishes added, a sad trombone appended to the end, but it’s still the same ol’ song.

Travel back to me to the year of our Lord (who is a MAN, obvs) 1898, when some poor anonymous New South Wales reporter braved undiluted inanity in order to describe the Men’s Rights Activists of that day and age. You may recognize the tune:


An Ungallant Society.

[Daily News, 6th May]

The Women’s Rights movements has [sic] scored another great success. It has called forth a League for Men’s Rights to counteract it. This league, with the object of securing legal and moral protection to men against the encroachments of women, is in process of formation in London.

Oh, my, yes. A few women band together, ask for equality, and manage to win a few political and legal crumbs from the patriarchy, and the next thing you know, the dudes are screaming their lungs out, convinced teh wimminz are about to take over the universe, castrate them with their fingernails while grinding a high heel into their pathetic faces, and steal their wallets, all the blessings of society and the law.

Mind you, these particular terrified men were crying oppression in an age when women still weren’t allowed to vote.  This fact probably goes a long way towards explaining the sarcastic tone the reporter takes throughout the piece.

What follows is a fact-free rant wherein every tiny concession women won after decades of legal battles is held up by the horrified male as proof positive that women now have all the advantages. You will be unsurprised to discover that in every case he cites as support for his argument, he’s either dead wrong, had it ass-backwards, or is crying about the consequences of centuries of women being treated as male property. And, like today’s MRAs, he doesn’t want equal rights for men and women so much as he wants a return to the days when men had all the power. Anything less is a terrible injustice to the poor suffering menfolk.

Image is an anti-suffragist postcard showing a white male constable face-down on the ground, with one woman jumping on his back, one is stealing his helmet, and other women beating him with umbrellas. The caption at the top reads, "Suffragists on the War Path." The bottom caption says, "Jump on im, he is only a MERE man."

After finishing it, I understood why there was an advertisement for Gould’s Bile Beans for Biliousness right in the middle of it. It was so laughably bad, I began to suspect the Riverine Grazier was a satirical paper, but it turns out it was legit and not the Hay, NSW version of the Onion.

I’ll be going through this antique example of offended male entitlement in some detail. I meant to merely transcribe it for you and do a light bit of laughing, but as I corrected machine transcription errors, I began to pay closer attention to his words, got curious, and then started looking up the legislative acts and court cases he mentions. Hours later, I emerged from a deep rabbit hole bearing some interesting historical insights into marriage and divorce, and with an intriguing tome about feminism in Victorian times on order. Once it gets here, I’ll begin the deep-dive into this dude’s rant. It will be fascinating to see how far we’ve come since the days when women were given the same legal status as children and the insane. Alas, it doesn’t look like the men’s rights contingent has evolved in the slightest. But you’ll hopefully be amused to see what the people Dave Futrelle makes a living lambasting would sound like if their diatribes were translated into Victorian English.

Stay tuned…


(Tip o’ the shotglass to Magpie, who left a link to this shining example of men’s rights dumbfuckery over at We Hunted the Mammoth.)

MRAs Were Pathetic Whining Liars 117 Years Ago, Too
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7 thoughts on “MRAs Were Pathetic Whining Liars 117 Years Ago, Too

  1. 2

    “Mr. Austin’s personal appearance is not in the least indicative of his deep-seated misogyny. Indeed, he looks much more like a man who would run after a pretty girl, at a pinch, rather than away from one.”

  2. 4

    Interesting discovery, and I’m looking forward to the longer article.

    However, one thought applies here: that the “men’s rights activists” of a century ago were perhaps more motivated by fear of loss of economic power, perhaps, than a deeper sort of sexual frustration that seems to animate today’s MRA’s.

    I’m struck by how many of today’s MRA’s believe that women, as a group, “owe” them sex, because somehow they aren’t capable of getting laid on their own. Instead of looking into their own repellent psyches (or lack of oral hygiene, poor fashion choices, or whatever else makes them give the first impression of massive loserhood) to try to find out why people aren’t interested in them, they immediately blame the objects of their desire.

    Then, they come up with all this “pick-up artist” nonsense that they think will enable them to get laid. It rarely works, of course, because it makes them even more repellent to all but the most hapless women. The pick-up artist nonsense eventually becomes a cult, just like Scientology or the “Sovereign Citizen” pseudo-legal babble. They all get stuck in the trap of all fundamentalist cults: “if it doesn’t work, do more of it.”

    I will continue to enjoy watching today’s MRA’s self-immolate, hoping only that women are increasingly able to defend themselves against these vermin. But I don’t think they’re exactly in parallel with the idiots of yesteryear.

  3. 6

    Let me put this here:

    Meanwhile, I find it interesting that William Austin was complaining about the splash damage of societal misogyny and double-standards. He gives us examples of sexist against women that also harm men, perhaps without realizing it.

    Breach of promise only makes sense in a society in which the word of a man has legal standing but the word of (an inherently fickle) woman does not. This recourse also relied on the expectation that women would remain virgins until marriage, but recognized that they might give up their maidenly modesty to a fiance beforehand and might need compensation if the man changed his mind. These laws might also silently recognize that men might promise to marry women specifically to bed them, while never actually intending to marry them. I doubt this is anything any 19th century women might try. There might also be a class angle to this, as a woman’s reputation in high society was often tied up with marriageability and the property stakes are higher. As society gradually removed from women the one-sided expectation of virginity (a process that is not yet complete), the notion of “breach of promise” became obsolete.

    Toward the end of the article, Austin complained about coverture (without using the term), which was another legal doctrine that discriminated against women. Should married women really have their legal existence suspended, denied the right to own property or even to make contracts? Feminists had been chipping away at coverture for decades by 1898, although it would be decades more until it was completely (?) abolished in places such as the United States. (See the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, for example.) (And I do not know about the process in Australia.)

    This almost makes me wonder if Austin was putting a male face on feminist goals of the time. Perhaps that is too much to hope.

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