I recently came across this movement called ‘Men’s Right Activism‘, and my first reaction was – Is it actually a thing? Apparently, it is.
So, naturally, I did some research to find out when and how it started. I was horrified at the amount of hate mongering creeps there are on the internet. But one thing was clear – man, do they hate women, especially feminists.
MRA has had a short history. Going back to 1970’s, the MRA is an aggressive backlash to feminism. With the growth of the social media platforms, the MRA’s have taken to fighting for their rights and strongly believing in their victimhood. Their contention is that the traditionally suppressed groups have taken away their rights, usurped their power and ‘taken away what it means to be a man’.
To say that that the above statement is hilarious would be an understatement. It is no secret that the traditional gender roles are in a state of flux. The traditional system has such fixed notions of masculinity and femininity that there is no room for a third category, or a fourth or a fifth for that matter. Attempts to challenge these hetero-normative structures are therefore met with adversity by people who are comfortable with the status quo. And that is exactly the case with MRA.
I am well aware of the pressures on men. Yes, it is an unequal world. But if there is absolutely one thing that needs to be addressed, it is the fact that men do not have to face systematic oppression because of their gender. The dowry system, female infanticides, rapes against women, eve teasing, lower wages (being told that it is good karma not to ask for more wages), to name a few, are levels of oppression that a human being has to face for having a uterus instead of a penis. We cannot be blind to the privileges that are bestowed on a human being for being a heterosexual male.
The MRA is a breeding ground for misogyny, a case of reverse sexism. Instead of confronting real problems like racist and xenophobic attacks on men, supporting male victims of sexual harassment, and protecting homosexual and transgender men, their only focus seems to be channeling all that hatred on internet forums, blatantly attacking women for the apparent downfall of machismo. They pride themselves on a twisted logic of what masculinity is, and say that they have it worse than women. They do not care about men who do not fit the traditional role of manliness, often blaming the victim of sexual assault for not ‘manning up’.
Moreover, it is highly doubtful when it comes to actively protecting men’s right that these same people will come forward and actually do something. The internet is their safe zone; it provides anonymity for throwing shade towards ‘feminist bitches’. In my research, I was on more than a few occasions confronted with a term used to describe feminists – femi-nazis. ‘Femi-Nazis’ is a term used to associate feminists to a group of fascist, dictatorial tyrants. Basically what we are looking at here is regressive mentality that equates an ideology of equality to fascism. It is instantly clear that MRA is misinformed and have internal contradictions that it needs to resolve immediately. They blame women for taking away their privileges, consider rape a form of ‘hysteria’ and feel victimized under ‘feminist governance’. Further, a ‘boys can’t control themselves’ mentality labels every boy in the world as sexual predators.
Any discourse surrounding gender sensitization, therefore, is left redundant. Their resentment stems from a deep seeded fear of ‘emasculation’ and losing their privileges as discourses surrounding gender equality rises.Â It’s like saying after centuries of paying heavy taxes to the king, the peasants decide one day that they don’t want to be treated unfairly, but the king retaliates by saying that he is being targeted unreasonably.
Of course there are certain aspects to the MRA that are legitimate, but turning it into a movement by saying that they are victimized and marginalized by feminists is laughable. It is a depressing reminiscing of a time when a heterosexual man enjoyed all the privileges that society could offer at the expense of the suppressed groups.
I agree that we need to focus on the issues that surround men, like how the society will never allow him to explore his sexuality – anything other than being heterosexual is wrong, like how his worth as a man can only be established by being fight-ready, and the incessant gender stereotypes that hurt and restrict them as much as they do to a women. But men don’t struggle to break free from these gender roles because women have taken over their privileges, or feminists have finally triumphed in ‘brainwashing’ people. If anything, feminists have, after years of struggle, only touched the tip of the iceberg; the problem of gender inequality is still rampant.
This is why we need to understand gender as a spectrum and not as mutually exclusive areas. We need to realize that in a predominantly patriarchal society, gender is nothing more than a construct, when in reality, for many, gender identities are often fluid. While movements like the MRA have a toxic appeal to it, we cannot deviate attention from the problem that faces us at the moment, which is of gender inequality.