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Last thoughts about Mens Rights

June 30, 2014

I am going to be on HuffPost Live this afternoon to talk about the “Men’s Issues” convention; after that, I would love to retire from commenting on or even thinking about that world.

Not that men don’t have issues to deal with–any group that comprises half of humanity is going to have a host of them. When I hear the horror stories about divorce courts, I’m as appalled as anyone (though I also understand that the vast majority of divorces aren’t like the most contentious ones; that millions of estranged couples do manage to rear their children together). As a father and husband, I get a little tired of seeing clueless husbands and bumbling dads on TV commercials too, though I don’t think it rises to the level of a blood libel.

Beyond that, I will even concede that you can find actual examples of misandry, if you look for them in the writings and chatrooms of the most extreme man-haters. Seek and ye shall find.

But defining feminism by the writings of Valerie Solanas or Andrea Dworkin is exactly like what a white supremacist does when he takes a white-hating passage from the manifestos of a group like the Nation of Islam or the New Black Panthers and presents it as the normative attitude of blacks; or what an anti-Semite does when he culls one of those Jewish supremacist passages from the Talmud and presents them as the normative view of everyone whose mother or father was Jewish. Identifying your adversary as your polar opposite virtually guarantees that you will never be able to make an accommodation with them–which of course is exactly the point. Zionists who believe that not only the Palestinians themselves but anyone who expresses sympathy towards them are Amalek aren’t going to be particularly effective peace makers. Extremism perpetuates and exacerbates extremism.

I keep talking about cognitive dissonance these days, but I think it provides a pretty useful frame for this particular theater of the gender wars. A lot of the debate is as heated as it is because the people who are engaging in it know how un-factual most of their premises are. Men aren’t a persecuted minority; neither is “violation…a synonym for intercourse” (Andrea Dworkin).

When it comes to the fringes, neither side is really fighting about what they say they are–they’re projecting and acting out much deeper hurts: sexual and familial disappointments and dysfunction; the sense of inadequacy and emasculation that accompany economic and status struggles; and so on. The 150 or so attendees of the convention I went to weren’t all monsters by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t fear for my personal safety. But I daresay most of them weren’t very happy people either.

So I come home from Detroit with two broad theorems and a corollary conclusion:

1) That when the personal is the political, the politics are going to be pretty distorted and the ideology somewhat incoherent;

2) That extremism breeds extremism. If you’re a hammer, all you’re ever going to see are nails.

If you really care about gender equity and empowerment, then the Andrea Dworkins and Paul Elams of the world are mostly a distraction. It’s easy to demonize MRAs, but they don’t do anywhere near the damage to women that, say, the Hobby Lobby has done, or the GOP. They’re easy to hate, but engaging with them is about as useful as it is for LGBT activists to fight with the Westboro Baptist Church.

PS A slightly different version of this piece is now up at the Huffington Post.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2014 9:42 am

    But defining feminism by the writings of Valerie Solanas or Andrea Dworkin is exactly like what a white supremacist does when he takes a white-hating passage from the manifestos of a group like the Nation of Islam or the New Black Panthers and presents it as the normative attitude of blacks; or what an anti-Semite does when he culls one of those Jewish supremacist passages from the Talmud and presents them as the normative view of everyone whose mother or father was Jewish. Identifying your adversary as your polar opposite virtually guarantees that you will never be able to make an accommodation with them–which of course is exactly the point. Zionists who believe that not only the Palestinians themselves but anyone who expresses sympathy towards them are Amalek aren’t going to be particularly effective peace makers. Extremism perpetuates and exacerbates extremism.

    Isn’t that what the Left does to anyone who is pro-white as well? No one is allowed to be to the right of National Review, or they are a Nazi.

    Of course, what we are getting is the Godwin’s Law that Cried Wolf. The labels Nazi/racist/white supremacist are getting overused and losing their mojo, not unlike antibiotic overuse and the development of supergerms, or herbicides that create superweeds.

  2. Jay permalink
    June 30, 2014 3:23 pm

    “But defining feminism by the writings of Valerie Solanas or Andrea Dworkin is exactly like what a white supremacist does when hAny e takes a white-hating passage from the manifestos of a group like the Nation of Islam or the New Black Panthers and presents it as the normative attitude of blacks; or what an anti-Semite does when he culls one of those Jewish supremacist passages from the Talmud and presents them as the normative view of everyone whose mother or father was Jewish. Identifying your adversary as your polar opposite virtually guarantees that you will never be able to make an accommodation with them–which of course is exactly the point. ”

    This is bizarre when you examine what the feminists at

    NOW
    Salon
    Slate
    Jezebel
    Guardian
    The American Prospect
    Frisky
    any women’s studies department
    The SPLC
    Huffington Post

    do with respect to MRAs.

    Art, if you believe what you write, you are fooling yourself. If you don’t believe what you are write you are shameless.

  3. June 30, 2014 3:34 pm

    We don’t define feminism by the 2nd wavers.

    We define it by the third wavers, whose misandry is normalized and flyes under the radar because the 2nd waves’ was so extreme.

  4. David Byron permalink
    June 30, 2014 7:05 pm

    “But defining feminism by the writings of Valerie Solanas or Andrea Dworkin is exactly like what a white supremacist does when he takes a white-hating passage from the manifestos of a group like the Nation of Islam or the New Black Panthers and presents it as the normative attitude of blacks; or what an anti-Semite does when he culls one of those Jewish supremacist passages from the Talmud and presents them as the normative view of everyone whose mother or father was Jewish”

    The irony here is that Goldwag doesn’t see he is describing himself. The pattern of the analogy he employs is to point to a few examples and project them to an entire birth group. By luck I suppose, he actually has made a point that is quality of hate groups, and is rarer among other people. But he doesn’t seem to realise that he is the one guilty of doing this, not the MRAs. Feminists are the equivalent of all women as far as he is concerned. He doesn’t appear to have noticed that he is doing this. In fact the birth group identification he uses is so invisible to him that he actually accuses the MRAs of the mistake he commits. Saying something critical about feminists? Oh you must mean all women because that’s all that could mean!

    I can’t tell from this short piece if Goldwag is a hatemonger but the pattern of his thinking here is consistent — as he himself points out unintentionally.

    • July 1, 2014 11:46 am

      You make a good point, David Byron. I should have written “defining feminism–and by implication modern womanhood–by the writings of” etc.

      If all anyone was talking about was ideology, things would be a lot less murky than they are. The problem with a lot of the so-called manosphere (much of which, such as the PUAs, AVFM has nothing to do with) isn’t the ideology per se–it’s the underlying rancor. Yes, you hate feminists and feminism, but the glue that seems to hold a lot of your movement together is a broader hatred. Sometimes it’s not the articles so much as the comments beneath them (with all their up-votes) that are the most disturbing.

      • July 14, 2014 3:31 pm

        Hate Bounces. We MRAs are just as human as anyone else. What makes you think we will be at the receiving end of all the feminist hatred.. and traditionalist holding of men responsible but women lot less accountable.. and just turn the other cheek or remain indifferent?
        You know very well that there are several dissident feminists like libertarian Cathy Young (penner of ‘Gloria Steinem represents the worst of feminism’ recently), Wendy McElroy, conservative Christina Hoff Sommers, and Progressive Camille Paglia who have been criticizing feminism for decades now, including its hatred of men. And its mainstream feminism they criticize. Even Doris Lessing, winner of Nobel Prize, has written in her 2001 article ‘Lay off men, Lessing tells feminists’

        The novelist Doris Lessing yesterday claimed that men were the new silent victims in the sex war, “continually demeaned and insulted” by women without a whimper of protest.
        “I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed,”
        “It has become a kind of religion that you can’t criticise because then you become a traitor to the great cause, which I am not.
        “It is time we began to ask who are these women who continually rubbish men. The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests.
        “Men seem to be so cowed that they can’t fight back, and it is time they did.”

        And yet you think MRAs will be infinitely patient and “well behaved”?
        Have you seen Karen Straughan’s ‘Angry Misogynists’ video on YouTube? Its a pity that you, just like other femnists and MRA critics, lack the empathy that Karen exemplifies.

  5. July 1, 2014 7:22 pm

    “That when the personal is the political, the politics are going to be pretty distorted and the ideology somewhat incoherent;”

    The irony is that feminists not only coined the catch phrase “the personal is political,” but they also constantly use it. The unintended implication of your unnecessary dig at men’s rights activists is that the politics surrounding feminism are also pretty distorted and the resulting ideology somewhat incoherent. On that I completely agree.

    I understand the need to mock men concerned with preventing sexual violence against men and boys, protecting father’s rights, preventing prison rape, and addressing general sexism against men. I realize that from a liberal perspective none of these are legitimate issues, and anyone who speaks about them are simply whining about nothing. However, I think that if you want to take further potshots at the men’s rights movement or advocates for male victims, you should choose your words more carefully. Remember, none of the issues advocates like me discuss are supposedly legitimate, so you do not want say anything that demonstrates an undo bias on your part, such as ignoring that feminists engage in the very petty politics you chastise the men’s rights movement for.

  6. Arthur Goldwag permalink*
    July 1, 2014 10:46 pm

    I’m sorry, where have I “mocked men concerned with preventing sexual violence”? Where have I mocked men who want to protect father’s rights, and prevent prison rape? Where have I said those issues are “nothing”? The occasional critiques of the mens rights movement I’ve written didn’t turn on those issues–as the above article should make clear.

    And where have I defended or supported misandry? I might not see it in all the places that you do, but I have never defended it.

    • July 3, 2014 5:18 pm

      Arthur, as someone who looks at how extremists vilify their “enemies” you should be well aware that a common way discrediting the issues that concern said “enemies” is by discrediting the “enemies” themselves. You wholly dismiss them. It is not that their methods are bad (which I would partly agree with), but they have no legitimate reason to exist. Given that the reason for the movement is to address the issues I mentioned, by mocking the men’s rights movement as illegitimate and overreactive you are, intentionally or not, mocking their concerns.

      I never stated that you defended or support misandry. I stated that you appear to ignore that feminists engage in the same behavior you chastise men’s rights activists for.

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