Yes All Men’s Right’s Activists
By: Mallory Harris
Recently, self-proclaimed men’s rights activists have gained attention on the Internet for a series of inflammatory social media campaigns. The meninist hashtag, originally intended to point out inequalities faced by men, has quickly degenerated into another mode of mocking feminism. 4chan’s users have been creating fake Twitter accounts and posing as radical feminists while tweeting outlandish hashtags (such as operation free bleeding, end Father’s Day, and white enough) to divide the actual feminist community and to discredit the feminist movement. Ironically, these efforts to distort people’s understanding of feminism have caused a parallel misunderstanding to develop about Men’s Rights Activism.
The men’s rights movement is actually a branch of the men’s liberation movement, which originated in the 1960s. Although Internet trolls perpetuate the misconception that the two movements are incompatible, feminism and the men’s liberation movement share a basic goal of gender equality and address many of the same issues (albeit sometimes in different manners). More specifically, the men’s rights movement works against feminism to create dialogue and balance in gender equality issues. Of course there are radical groups within the men’s movement (as there are within feminism), but the central motive of the men’s liberation movement is to raise awareness of and reduce discrimination against men.
Many men’s liberationists focus on policies that unfairly target fathers. In 83 percent of custody battles, mothers receive custody of their children. By addressing the court bias against capable fathers, men’s liberationists hope to reduce the stigma against single fathers and end the stereotype that men cannot be nurturing fathers. Implementation of a paid paternity leave would allow men to participate more in essential bonding with their newborn children, thus setting the groundwork for a more egalitarian family structure.
On the flip side, some men’s liberationists argue against policies that force men to accept paternity and support their offspring. They argue that men should have the option to disclaim paternity, thus relinquishing all paternal responsibilities (financial and otherwise). While some feminists argue against this policy, which would allow a man to essentially back out of fatherhood, potentially leaving his offspring and the child’s mother in a vulnerable situation, others wholeheartedly support this agenda. Laurie Shrage argues that, in cases where the mother refuses to seek an abortion or adoption encouraged by the father, paternity disestablishment serves as a sort of reproductive right for men, to prevent their being coerced into fatherhood.
Perhaps less tangible are the overarching norms of masculinity which men seek to overturn. Many of the aforementioned legal discriminations are rooted in societal expectations of men as the unemotional, aggressive breadwinner. Studies have found that conflict associated with gender norms is highly correlated with depression and psychological distress in men. The profeminist men’s movement is particularly involved in addressing this issue through media campaigns, and educational outreach to reduce gender-based stereotyping. As their title implies, this movement tends to coordinate with feminists due to their overlapping goals.
Other members of the men’s movement focus on legal discrimination against men, often founded on the stereotypes against men. Their work with groups such as the Innocence Project exposes and prevents false accusations of violence and sexual abuse, of which men are the most likely victims. They also work to expand resources to male victims of rape and domestic abuse and draw attention to domestic violence protocols believed to have a strong gender bias. Indeed, in some states it is common practice for the man to always be removed from the home after a domestic violence report, even when he was the victim. In the end, men’s rights activism isn’t synonymous with misogyny and it is not inherently incompatible with feminism; it serves as a second, vital voice in the dialog regarding gender equality.