Heed the content notice, while this post ends on a positive note, the bulk of it is tough and potentially triggering. Please take your time and take a break if you need to.
The other day, a woman protesting an MRA event being held at Queens University was violently beaten by a man who knew her name, but was otherwise a stranger. The fact that this attack came right after she received several threats related to her protest of this event has created speculation that the attacker was in some way connected to one of the many MRA groups attending the event.
The event featured a professor who was “revealing the double standards in feminism”. This is the same professor who was quoted as saying “I don’t believe in equality” during her talk, and was apparently completely unable to see the irony of a woman who became a professor complaining about feminism. The event drew the attention of MRA organizations like CAFE and AVfM. For those unfamiliar with it, AVfM was added to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of known hate groups.
The MRA movement is one that is inherently violent. On the surface, it brings up legitimate concerns including the tendency of men to be less likely to be granted custody and the lack of support for male victims of sexual assault. In fact those two issues should be given more attention and are frequently discussed in feminist circles (including but not limited to my talk at Eschaton 2012).
A closer examination of the movement shows that they do not actually care at all about sexual assault victims, and the men who consider themselves deserving of custody are actually violent abusers. One of the founders of the movement, Tom Ball, for example (who later committed suicide by setting himself on fire in front of a courthouse) would talk about how “All he had done was smack his 4-year-old daughter and bloody her mouth after she licked his hand as he was putting her to bed”. To many proponents of the movement, beating a child or a woman is no reason not to get custody. Clearly any man who hits his children hard enough to draw blood is just being unfairly discriminated against by the court system.
Male victims of sexual assault fare no better. Many who have gone to the sites in the hopes of finding support and resources often find themselves being denigrated and their manhood insulted.
In fact what the movement’s main actions seem to be are frequent threats of violence and rape against any woman who dares bring up issues of inequality, perpetuation of rape culture through campaigns to shame victims of sexual assault while denying that rape culture and victim blaming exists, and misrepresenting statistics to make it seem as though discrimination against men is taking place.
The movements main goal seems to be to bring us back to the “good old days” when women didn’t have the vote, weren’t allowed to work, and where men made all the decisions (as opposed to just most of them like they do now). The movement uses different forms of violence to achieve their ends, from microagressions, to rape and death threats, to revealing private information that was at times illegally obtained to the public (ie. doxxing). All of these employ psychological violence to achieve their end, and the escalation to physical violence is but a small step. What’s more, studies show that even relatively benign behaviour, like jokes, legitimizes and encourages violence. If your movement is built on violence you will attract violent people and encourage violent behaviour even if that is not your intention. When your movement includes avowed abusers and admitted rapists that becomes a guarantee.
The underlying error of the MRA movement is that life and society are a zero sum game, where the only way that women gain anything is by taking something away from men. This is only true if we consider privileges like treating a segment of the population as property and objects and not as person’s within their own rights a human right. The fact that the movement is made up predominantly of middle class to well off libertarian white men who also support and espouse racist, ableist, and homophobic ideas, shows that this is not a movement that cares about defending a population’s human rights so much as a bunch of whiny privileged assholes who are complaining that they are no longer the presumptive betters in our society.
While it is possible, though in my opinion unlikely, that the person responsible for the Queen’s student’s assault is not affiliated with any of the MRA groups, these organizations still bear a large part of the responsibility. Any and all universities, including Queens and Ottawa U, should think twice about their association and thus their implicit support of any and all persons who promote their ideology. In giving them a platform, they too bear responsibility of their hate speech and violence ideation, and the results thereof.
The MRA movement is nothing short of a hate group and should be treated with the same lack of respect as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, or any other organizations whose purpose is to promote the hatred of vulnerable populations. This is NOT a valid response to feminism. This is NOT about celebrating men in the way that feminism celebrates women. This is NOT a reasonable other side of the debate. This is a terror organization that promotes fear to the extent that women attending a university event feel the need to use pseudonyms when asking questions, and feel the need to go to absurd lengths to protect their physical safety. That we do not call them terrorists is in my opinion due to a societal bias that violence against women is somehow more acceptable than violence that includes male targets.
*If universities used to have 100% male attendance suddenly allowed women to attend university and increased their class sizes, then the fact that the male university attendance is 50% doesn’t mean that spots were taken away from men. That is not how percentages work. If University had 100 attendees all of whom where men, and now has 200 attendees of whom 100 are men, and 100 are women, you have 50% men but that 50% still amounts to the same number of men. This is just one example of the way in which MRAs misrepresent statistics.