Sunday, December 14, 2008

Masculism (or what the hell are men so scared of?)

Lately I've been noticing (more and more) sources of "Men's Right's" Groups. It's a really disturbing trend.

The first time I ever heard the term "masculist", it was through a friend, who said that it was being used to describe men who wanted gender equality - but didn't want to be called feminists because they weren't women. Even then, that entire argument has never been a very good one for me. First of all, it's feminism, because the movement is to equalise the rights of women and men. And women are the group that has been systematically disenfranchised for about as long as we've had recorded history; and probably since before. Secondly, the "dirtying" of the word feminism has been going on for far too long. Trying to use the word "masculist" for a so-called feminist man is simply avoiding a coherent connection with the movement one claims that they support. Thirdly, if all men have to be "masculists" and all women have to be "feminists"... well.. doesn't that just reinforce the "traditional" gender structures we've always had? Oh, yeah, it also disenfranchises everyone who isn't specifically male or female.
Not long after hearing the term for the first time, a friend and I were chatting to a few guys about philosophy, and it was mentioned that we were feminists. One of them immediately said something along the lines of "Oh, you're a feminist? Well I'm a masculist." When asked what that meant, he couldn't define it. But the use of that word as a antithesis to feminism simply made me angry. If he was pro-feminism, why couldn't he simply say so? If he was trying to make a joke, it was incredibly misplaced. If he was "masculist" as in "men's rights advocates" then I'm truly sorry I didn't tell him off in very strong words. One way or the other, his attitude towards feminism ended the conversation for me - how do you argue with a fool? You either drop down to their level and scream and shout and repeat and shout and scream and use profanities until someone's completely drowned out, or else you walk away because you're not going to change the attitude of someone who doesn't care what you think, but just wants to out-yell you.

Lately, however, the term masculist has had a much more chilling definition to me: the group of men who seem to think that the goals of all feminists are to disenfranchise the rights of men. According to some guy's (really really crappy geocities webpage): "Definition of Masculism: A men’s movement ideology that advocates for the abolition of political and cultural assumptions of equality between sexes. A realistic approach to sex differences that attempts to identify those differences and how they are best expressed in the social and political melieu. Supports the establishment of a modern partriarchy and assumes that we are now living in a matriarchy." (Spelling and grammatical mistakes copied-and-pasted direct). In the case of this website, I don't really want to take it too seriously, because, well... really it's an amazingly poorly done website - which means that a) due to spelling and grammar errors, I have to assume the author isn't really all that bright" and b) he doesn't have much of a support group. But then there's this, which tries to suggest that men must be relieved of parental duties if the pregnancy was undesired or accidental.

Now, the issue of paternal child support is really fucking big. Women are paid less. Any way you paint it, any country: women are paid less. In Canada, on average, including all salaried jobs, women generally get 70.5% of what men in the same positions make. Oh, yes, I'm sure there's a few power-suited women in corporations making bucket loads more than your average man. But on the whole women are paid less. Women also generally end up taking care of the children in a marital breakdown. (This is an issue that should be addressed separately, but I think that parents should be getting joint custody far more often, and I believe that the court systems have a bias towards giving women the children to care for that should be removed - whichever parent, mother or father, is best able to care for the children should be caring for them). Wait a second, 1+1 = Oh yeah, women, especially single mothers, tend to be under the poverty line more often than men. So, seriously, a man, living on his own, with no significant expenses (other than the children his estranged wife has been caring for) should fucking pay his child support. (And I added "fucking" there to emphasize, this is an issue very near and dear to me - as a child who's grown up with a single mother. No... my father wasn't deadbeat, but he came pretty close sometimes). It doesn't matter if a child was accidental or not. If you bring a child into this world, you'd better be helping to raise that child. If you don't want to do that... well, wear a condom (and know who you're sleeping with).

I titled this entry as I did because, a few weeks ago I followed the link to This is Not an Invitation to Rape Me through Feministing. I loved the campaign (wish it was happening here too), and then I read the discussion board. The numbers of guys who took major offense at the ad campaign was ridiculous.
First and foremost was the assumption that the ads somehow label all men as rapists. (Ok, but if that's how men react to those ads, good thing the poor muffins aren't treated the way women are treated in advertisement...). Nevertheless, maybe not all men are rapists, but most girls (including myself), have been told to watch out for men who are: strangers, relatives, boyfriends, husbands, acquaintances; the last four being the most likely men to rape you, according to statistics. No, I don't think every man in my life is a potential rapist, but the point here is rape is such a common crime that girls (especially) are always told (with a certain amount of good reason) to be really careful. No, I don't want to label all men as rapists, but maybe there's a little bit too much ...well... social support for a guy who's committed a rape.
And then there was the reaction of "Well, women yell 'rape' all the time, they must be lying!". So maybe that happens once in a while; it's a big world, I'm sure someone somewhere has done so. But what about how many women get raped (1/3 in most Western countries). "But men get raped too!" And if men get raped, they should come forward about it. Luckily for them, men don't get raped nearly as often (1/22). So yeah, although I'm sure there is the very odd woman who's willing to get herself subjected to all sorts of abuse through the police, through the court, through the lack of support of relatives and friends... etc, etc, more often than not, I'm pretty sure if a woman comes forward about a rape, she's not kidding around. She's going through about as much (or more) social exclusion as the rapist.

In the end, what masculism appears to be (to me) is a frightened yelp of an over-enfranchised group who must learn to share. It's like a child who's always had exactly what s/he wanted, and suddenly s/he must share with another child. Feminism has never been about disenfranchising men. It's never been about hating men either. Feminism has accomplished great things, and will continue to accomplish great things. Enfranchising women (just like enfranchising any other group) has done amazing things: most importantly, allowing large numbers of incredibly intelligent and amazing people to participate fully in society, free of numerous social inhibitions. Women are still on an unequal playing field with men. But women don't hate men for it (It's funny, but most of the "boys are dumb" or "guys smell" stuff [in my experience] comes from women who wouldn't call themselves feminists). As a feminist, what I want is neither a "patriarchal" or a "matriarchal" society - those are lofty and foolish goals. I want a society that will accept anyone regardless of gender, race, creed, nationality, etc, etc etc, on an equal level. I don't appreciate a bunch of frightened "masculist" men (that very group that has been in power for so many centuries) trying to overthrow or protest that ideal because they're scared of having a level playing field - and unhobbled competitors.

Guys, you've had millenia to control the world. Yes, losing small amounts of that control is a very big, frightening change for you. But it's time to simply MOVE OVER.

Post Scripted: And everything I wanted to say is summed up very quickly, astutely and beautifully right here.


Medea said...

Golly, your oh-so-intelligent misogynist asshole wannabe comment has changed my perspective. From now on, I swear I will forsake feminism (and an entire university) in favour of patronizing name-calling and stupidity. Really, your most adeptly phrased words have had a life-altering effect on me. :)

Revista said...

sorry, I deleted the comments because I have zero tolerance for trolls.

Revista said...

You should check out the MRA post I linked to from shakesville last year. Look under 'mra' from our labels list.