Acknowledging Inersections: MRA's, Feminists, and Gender

Hugo posted on MRA’s (Men’s Right’s Activists) and marriage on his thread, Querying the MRAs about marriage. He quoted a few of his resident MRA posters, and I decided to address a (possibly unintentional) implied undertone to one of the quotes about not wanting to be yet another person’s plaything. To which I asked the semi-rhetorical question, “But, somehow, it’s ok for women to go through this?”

For those of you unfamiliar with MRA’s, they’re men belonging to various specific organizations that focus primarily on men’s rights (or lack thereof) in the family court system. On the surface, it seems like a noble goal. And I’m sure for some in their ranks it is just about achieving equal representation in the way the legal system views divorce and child responsibilities. However, where the disconnect happens for me is that most of the MRA’s I’ve come in contact with have wrongfully blamed feminism, and sometimes Western women in general, for their problems.

One of the beliefs that some of them hold that I find to be particularly abhorrent is quoted in Hugo’s post:

As Fenn writes, many men are choosing to pursue immigrant girls from more established cultures who are comfortable in their own less-complex skins and bring their own flourishes of exotica and mystery with them.

First off, calling foreign women (although I’m sure they’d lump the men into a similar category) “less-complex” is insulting and, frankly, wrong. Anyone with a working knowledge of any foreign country would know that people are people, no matter where they live. Coming from a different culture in no way invalidates one’s personhood; it just makes it hard for people ignorant of everything but their own culture to understand the person in question.

Second of all, this whole Othering of (foreign) women is so 1950s. “Exotica and mystery”? Come on. All that is just a pretty way to saying that they don’t want to be bothered with someone they have to see as a human being. Far better for them to do the mail-order bride thing (a term that by its very nature calls up the idea of buying and shipping property rather than a human being) than actually have to build a relationship with someone who they see as their equal.

While I hope that the whole “mail-order bride” idea is an extreme example of their ideals, it does illustrate a notion that I’ve found expressed in one way or another in all of the MRA posts that I’ve read. All MRA’s seem to support a gender caste system and, indeed, for many of them it is a very strict gender caste system. In general, they want their men and women to subscribe to the cult of masculinity and the cult of femininity respectively, meaning breadwinning patriarchs supported by submissive housewives.

They rage on and on about court systems that support just that notion (female as “natural” mother, male as monetary provider) but refuse to acknowledge that a gender democracy is needed for those systems to change.

In Hugo’s thread I accused them of hypocrisy:

I just don’t understand how someone could be more than willing to see their own oppression while being unwilling (unable?) to see how their exact circumstances apply to women – indeed how their exact circumstances have applied to women for centuries.

Now, after all my discussion on how the MRA movement supports a gender caste, how it blames feminism/Western women for their woes, and how it wants its advocates to be the sole victims of the system, I’m going to turn around and apply my quoted statement to feminism.

I have been witness to several feminists denying that sexism against men (both institutionalized and individual) exists. Indeed, while feminism is in general a movement that focuses on not only female oppression, but also the way that many different oppressions (racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc) intersect, many feminists have a hard time acknowledging links between one or more of these oppressions. Heck, if I dug deep enough I’m sure I would have a hard time linking at least one oppression to feminism.

To be fair to the feminists I’m referring to, their statements were always in reference to men coming into their spaces and trying to de-rail their discussions by whining about how they were hurt by x, too. It wasn’t about these men’s experiences, though, it was about monopolizing the conversation and taking the emphasis off of the issues at hand. This, understandably, made the replies angry and harsh. To be further fair to the discussion, the valid concerns that occasionally popped up lead a few of the feminists to create an offshoot community called Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too. The fact that it’s not a very active community is likely a testimony to how many of those “but men are hurt by x, too” debates weren’t real comments to foster discussion, but rather hurtful attempts to halt meaningful examination of topics.

But, for all my fairness, the reality exists: some feminists either refuse to acknowledge that the way the patriarchy oppresses men directly relates to the oppression of women, or even that the patriarchy can oppress men at all.

Of course, the most obvious expression of the patriarchy oppressing men is already given in my MRA primer: gender caste. The cult of masculinity operates on the principle that a man must be “masculine” because being “feminine” is beneath him. I challenge any reader, feminist or no, to demonstrate how that isn’t 1) male oppression by the patriarchy, and/or 2) directly linked to the oppression of women.

The governing principle of a gender caste system is to force all people to worship at the altar of its gender cults. That means that while the cult of masculinity affords men many more privileges than the cult of femininity affords women, it takes away men’s choices in self-expression as readily as it takes away women’s choices. Indeed, living in a society where second-wave feminism has gained me the right to enter the male sphere, I’d say that ostensibly that the cult of masculinity was more rigid than its sister cult. Of course, being the gender that is seen as “lesser”, I’d say that women are still getting the short end of the stick. I just acknowledge that the goal of freeing women from oppression will also free men: in a gender democracy I won’t be the second sex and, therefore, all men will be free to explore their “feminine” sides without fear of being seen as inferior.

On the MRA’s end, that means that equality will be achieved in family court because relationships will be seen as partnerships instead of hierarchies. Of course, equality will come at a high cost for those who believe in gender caste; in order to get equal representation, they must first accept equal responsibility: in the relationship, in and outside the home, and in raising the children.

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9 thoughts on “Acknowledging Inersections: MRA's, Feminists, and Gender

  1. Very interesting post. Thanks. I agree absolutely that patriarchy oppresses men. The MRAs seem to want to return to a nostalgic vision of nineteenth-century “seperate spheres.” Their solution to their problems is to oppress everyone beneath the gender caste system you describe, rather than try and work with women towards true equality.

  2. What you pointed out is exactly the problem I’ve run into with many MRA advocates. I think, in essence, we all want the right to live our lives happily, but unfortunately those MRA’s don’t seem to be able to understand that their perceived goals of happiness would take away the happiness of many other people.

    And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s nothing good about MRA groups or individuals. The discussion on Hugo’s blog ended up focusing on abuse and support networks for victims. Many of the MRA’s who spoke up were victims of abuse and had been treated badly when seeking help. I was aruging that their experiences, while valid, did not mean that they should demonize an entire movement (feminism).

    Many of them were involved with setting up shelters and hotlines and stuff for male victims. I think that’s great, especially since one of the arguments that feminsts use in regards to male victims in women’s shelters is that men should set up their own safe spaces. I see the rationale behind the feminist argument, though sometimes I think the delivery was hostile rather than helpful. I absolutely support safe spaces that are tailored to support the particular victim in question, and I think it would be great if on a macro level all kinds of shelters could work together to provide greater understanding and support for all victims.

    I guess what I want is for everyone to be able to work together to achieve equal opportunities and rights for all.

  3. I put this as an open question to all the world:

    On what irrefutable moral foundation or infallible chain of demonstration are we compelled to acknowledge “patriarchy” as a valid data model?


    (Drumming my fingers on the table top, to the accompaniment of a ticking clock across the empty, ice-cold room…….)

  4. So sorry to violate feminism’s cognitive bubble….

    The point, however, is serious. And unlike a bubble, it will not pop and vanish….

  5. 1) I’m not here to educate you about the basic terms of feminism. You want to learn about the patriarchy then read a book on feminism or visit feminist_101.

    2) Although this is a dead thread, your “serious point” is not related to the overall point I was trying to make and therefore I don’t see why I shouldn’t treat it as an attempt to de-rail the thread.

    3) You’re toeing the line of acceptability with your condescending tone, blatant disrespect of my beliefs, and privileged attitude (coming onto my blogspace and acting like I owe you answers to anything). This is your one, and only, warning. Any further post written in the style of the two above will be deleted.

    If you want to discuss something relevant to the thread, then make your case in a polite way. Keep in mind, however, that this is not a discussion board. This is my space and if you can’t play nice with me then I have no problem not letting you play at all.

  6. Well, it seems that the whole mail order bride issue has morphed into a court battle at the federal level. These guys are the biggest trouble makers –

    The irony is that the fight between the feminists and MRA’s is over restrictions on communications between American men and “non-feminist” foreign women as these men are attempting to avoid American feminist women.

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