Youth Ki Awaaz

It’s Not ‘Female Privilege’ But ‘Patriarchal Back-Firing On Men’: Exposing Men’s Rights Activism

By Shambhavi Saxena for Cake

If you’re a person whose reasoning has led you to recognize that structures of oppression surrounding us are hidden in plain sight, then you may often have the unpleasant experience of being exposed to the toxic radiation gently wafting off of online and real life meninist trolls who have completely missed the point of, well, everything.

You know, those insufferable faceless ‘logical debaters’, believers of ‘mancrimination’, and other breeds of meninists who insist that systemic violence against women is not real because women get free drinks sometimes.

Ever heard of Paul Elam? Today, he’s at the forefront of the Men’s Rights Movement that has its beginnings in the Bund für Männerrechte (League for Men’s Rights). Sigurd von Hoeberth and Leopold Kornblüh founded the League in Vienna in 1926 “with the explicit aim of counteracting the ‘excesses’ of post–World War I women’s emancipation movements” (Junkee). Far from sensitively approaching issues that actually impact the health, dignity and life of men, MRAs have become notorious for their mad trolling skills, logical incoherence, and insistence on retaining privileges for the privileged. No longer a fringe movement constricted to static ideology, MRAs have become a persistent, often violent force online, stooping to rape and death threats when defending their stance.

Cue Exposing Men’s Rights Activism (EMRA), a Facebook page that, you’ve probably guessed it, deconstructs the MRA movement and its myriad poorly conceived notions about gender, masculinity, sexuality and violence. In the admins’ own words, the page focuses on “intersectional feminism from a radical working class perspective, mental health issues (fostering a healthy attitude towards neurodiversity), rights for sex workers, people of color and the trans community.

Talking to Cake, EMRA explained further about the group’s history and dealing with Men’s Rights Activists.

Shambhavi Saxena (SS): You’ve all banded together to expose the “bigoted rhetoric” of men’s rights activism. Was there a specific event or experience that led you to come together and create this group online?

EMRA: Many of us have had experiences adminning pages prior to coming together to coalesce for the EMRA project, but the one thing that ignited the creation of EMRA was the mass reporting and removal of a page known as “The Real Face of Men’s Rights Activism” (RFMRA) twice by MRAs, MGTOWs and Masculinists. One of our leading admins was also an admin of RFMRA and can testify to the mass reporting, mass trolling campaigns that MRA pages would wage against us in our efforts to expose them for the bigots that they are. Facebook’s reporting system allows for such things to occur. If there’s a certain number of reports within a period of time, Facebook’s algorithm will automatically remove content from the page. It takes about 8-10 removals to get a page permanently unpublished —which is what happened to RFMRA. EMRA, in response to the dismantling of RFMRA, was created by an Australian aboriginal woman in hopes that the effort to fight back against the MRA reactionaries wouldn’t have been in vain. She invited an admin from RFMRA to join and through some struggles and significant turns of events, EMRA blossomed into one of the more successful feminist pages on Facebook.

SS: So you work on exposing MRAs and their bigotry. But why do you think gendered violence and discrimination against men is so underreported?

EMRA: We believe there exists a stigma around men being subjected to violence. In this patriarchal society, men are expected to be able to be strong and to hold their own. There’s a certain image that a man has to live up to, and if he doesn’t then he is often preyed upon by the rest of society for his short comings. This is especially the case if men were to be attacked by women. Women are viewed as the “fairest” (or weakest) sex, and with men being expected to act as the stronger sex, they are seen as sub-human if they cannot fend for themselves against attacks from women. Knowing that this stigma exists, many men surrender themselves to the whims of abusive partners as opposed to coming out about the violence that they face because the fear of what society will brand them as is more significant to them than the fear of their abusive partners. They can’t trust society to help them.

SS: In the course of running EMRA, what cases of men being subject to gendered violence and discrimination do you most often hear of?

EMRA: We more often hear of MRAs arguing about women hitting men and getting away with it, but society claiming (in the eyes of MRAs anyhow) that men are not permitted to hit back. A lot of their gender-violence oriented argument stem from not being able to “hit back”. Which is an argument we hardly waste time on entertaining because, frankly, no adult should be hitting anybody.

SS: In our experience of running Youth Ki Awaaz, we get a lot of trolls littering our comments with the suggestion that women enjoy many privileges and therefore have it easier than men. How do you counter this?

EMRA: Well, I’ll outline a couple of so called “privileges” that women allegedly experience and refute them chronologically.

The big one we always seem to get revolves around the court bias against fathers when it comes to child custody. In the United States (for example) something like 80% of the time, mothers will be awarded custody over the fathers. The existence of this, in an isolated view, definitely has the appearance of a privilege. But when examined with the big picture (namely, that women are the “caregivers”/”housewives” and men are the “money makers”), it really isn’t surprising that the court system would hand custody of a child over to the mother. The courts have this patriarchal view that fathers are inherently incapable of caring for children in the same manner that mothers care for them, because mothers are biologically wired to stay at home and raise their offspring. But this is hardly based off of some matriarchal “female privilege”. This is, what is known as, patriarchal back-firing on men.

An argument that frequently evolves out of this custody contention is that women take everything from men when it comes to divorce. Again, this is an example of the patriarchy back firing. The reason being because 1) women on average get paid significantly lesser than men do for doing the same job, which is taken into account by the court systems when they make their rulings and 2) because the woman is seen as this fragile being made only to care for children, the man is still expected to provide because that is his role, according to patriarchal precedent.

A third argument I hear/read is that women are the ones that don’t have to sign up for the draft. Firstly, I foresee that changing very soon due to the fact that women are now gaining more access into combat related career fields within the armed forces. Secondly, women—being viewed as weak—were not permitted to enlist, let alone get drafted, for hundreds of years by many armies because they were seen as incapable of properly handling the equipment needed to wage war. Although, since we are on the topic, I must point out that the vast majority of the men who make these assertions are the same men who exclaim “women shouldn’t be allowed to serve if they can’t do pull ups!“.

Honestly, I find that a lot of these complaints have more to do with patriarchy back-firing and requiring men to fulfill nearly impossible, if not oppressive, obligations to uphold this twisted normalcy society has constructed.

SS: Are MRAs only concerned about heterosexual men? What harmful stereotypes about men does it promote? Where does this leave trans men, differently abled men, other non-normative men, the genderqueer, agender or neutrois people?

EMRA: In my time in dealing with MRAs, they are 100% concerned with the struggled of privileged men and not people of other gender identities. Just a couple days ago I had an MRA troll torment one of our supporters because (in his words) “feminists have to make everything into a gender issue” so “of course” he (and other MRAs) didn’t care about trans issues.

You see, MRAs are concerned with black and white lines of thinking and don’t see that things aren’t that simple. They still perceive the world as just being cisgender men and women in the 1950s era where people have specific roles that cannot be deviated from. And I don’t see any MRAs leading the fight for equal rights when it comes to neurodiversity. In fact, they typically are quick to utilize ableist language when “debating” (if you even want to dub their polemics that) feminists either in person or on the web and frequently are condescending when doing so. So I’d hardly call them egalitarian activists.

Their behavior (especially when they troll en masse) illustrates a bit of an unapproachable, militant, and off-putting stereotype for men which makes it that much more difficult for those who are non-cishet men to contribute to conversations involving hot button issues like gender, gender equality, and gender based violence. People have this idea that if you discuss something of this sort with a man on the internet, it’s just going to turn into a war.

MRAs often list cases of women as perpetrators of violent crimes as evidence of complex institutional misandry. What is your reading of this argument?

It’s usually some kind of “Oppression Olympics” they want to play to take the conversation of the gender-based violence women experience and make it all about men. We see it as them not being comfortable discussing a very serious issue that needs to be addressed, or in the worst case scenario, not being able to handle it altogether.

Do women rape men?…

To read the rest of the interview, head here.