When reviewing social movements, I became intrigued by the men’s rights movement. This particular movement is a branch that broke away from the men’s liberation movement, an attempt to break away from traditional forms of masculinity. From this movement, there was a “pro-feminist” and “anti-feminist” split, with the “anti-feminist” branch becoming the men’s rights movement. I place it in quotes mainly because it can often be seen as sexist, but it was founded on the basis that modern (third wave) feminism has resulted in marginalization of men in many social issues and as a result formed to fight for greater rights for men.
The movement takes a large variety of issues. Some of the most prominent ones involve father’s rights. For example, men typically lose most if not all of their child custody rights in cases of divorce, but also then pay child support. Obviously there are plenty of cases of deadbeat fathers to support this, but imagine if the opposite was true and we took a feminist perspective. It would be an outrage. Other debates include military conscription for both genders, greater awareness of domestic violence by women against men, and other types of what they identify as female privilege. In general, the men’s rights movement believes that modern feminism has become more about victimization of women and portraying men as oppressors rather than about true gender equality.
I’m sure I’ll get a lot of fire for this, but please don’t take it the wrong way when I say I am relatively supportive of the movement. Just because I support greater rights in certain areas for men does not mean I am sexist or hate women; the exact opposite is true. But I have to say, as a man it can sometimes feel like modern day feminism is more talking about how abusive and controlling men were and still are then it is about treating both genders the same. And some of the statistics I found regarding child custody were pretty disturbing: for example, men make up only 17.4% of custodial parents. I think there are too many cases of missing fathers in the world, and it is just as important to be raised by your father as it is your mother, but here is an institutionalized bias for women.
Or take military service, for example. I believe in traditional roles of masculinity; if the time comes/when the need arises, I have a duty to serve my country, and I will lay down my life to protect women, children, and the elderly if I have to. Call me sexist if you will, you are entitled to your opinion, but you can never convince me that because I think only men should fight in active combat and that it is ingrained in my blood that I must protect women, that I must either hate or be prejudice against women; this is simply my opinion. However, I will say this; with the passage of the new law enabling women to serve in active combat, I now expect them to enter the draft just like the rest of us. Until that happens, I have a real problem with it. And there I support the men’s rights movement.
Below I’ve provided a video of Dr. Warren Farrell, a prominent men’s rights activist who served on the NYC Board of the National Organization of Women and the author of several acclaimed books (I suggest looking them up, pretty interesting stuff). Be warned, the audio is a little crappy. Take what you will from his “myth busting,” but I thought the data and the points he brought up were pretty interesting and move us in a good direction towards re-evaluating how we talk about gender.
Again, please don’t take this as sexist. However, I think the men’s rights movement is an admirable and important social movement that can and should create honest, civilized discussions about how we view gender equality in this country and that we need to take a look at the problem from the perspective of both sexes.