Men. Women. Mars. Venus. Feminism. Patriarchy and fedoras. These are all really loaded terms to throw into the beginning of an article without any sort of context. Somebody’s going to get upset and agitated reading this. Talking about these sorts of things can be dangerous to one’s health, but today we’re going to take the plunge.
So, let’s all take a deep breath and read the next sentence or two together. Here we go…Misogyny is a very serious thing. Misandry – that’s just as serious too.
That wasn’t so bad, right? None of us got angry about that, I hope. Before we get sick of this hilariously meta attempt at preamble, let’s try it again with another sentence. I’m a guy, and while I understand and support those of my friends who strive for feminism, I personally don’t identify with it. I don’t identify with people in men’s rights groups either.
Before I explain why, it’s really important to understand what I mean by men’s rights groups. With men’s rights, you don’t want to see it as the ying to feminism’s yang because it implies it’s the alternate viewpoint to feminism, the other acceptable mindset to have and that’s exactly what some people may want you to believe. The problem with that is the idea of men’s rights is inherently patriarchal and groups like MensActivism and A Voice For Men aren’t exactly helping that by drawing in sensible people with their “we’re not evil people, NOSIREE” talk and allowing others a board to vent their sexist and ignorant thoughts in the cities and on the message boards.
“But wait!” some of you should be saying, “If feminism is about gender equality via protecting and advocating for increased rights for women, shouldn’t there be some equivalent for guys too?”
There’s no doubt there are issues related to men that are important and should be taken into consideration. Health issues, parental rights, homelessness, violence bias and the impact of the male gender role are all pretty cool topics to consider. Double standards and misandry do exist, even if the concept of male privilege may make that incredibly hard for some to believe. Believe it or not, the men’s rights movement started off as an offshoot of feminism. It initially took inspiration from it, and ideas and understandings were gained from feminism to examine issues related to men. This was before it mutated into the groups we all know and love today. Anybody who’s done their readings will tell you that the issues men’s rights groups love to defend are also issues addressed by feminists.
So what’s the difference between a guy who’s knowledgeable in gender rights and a men’s rights advocate? According to the internet, it’s clearly the anger, misogyny, an unwillingness to empathize with others – oh, and a fedora. I could probably just wear a fedora this Halloween and be identified as a “men’s rights advocate” without a fuss. It’s too easy to adopt the role. Maybe that’s the problem.
Here’s something to ponder: Critically examining an issue is probably the right step to take, rather than rejecting any sort of intellectual understanding reached. It’s probably better than telling yourself that it’s much better to ignore what you don’t understand and continue preaching that which you barely know. For guys, that means talking about how being a guy is just about the toughest thing ever. But even acknowledging male privilege is a big step towards understanding.
I’d also like to point out that examining an issue goes both ways. Gender equality is a cool thing to work towards, and while we can agree that doesn’t include being silly and ignorant, some seem to think that same education gives people the ability to act like complete idiots. Everywhere, you can find gurls calling guys “manspainers” or “rapists with chainsaws.” And then there are the guys who brand gurls as “feminazi cunts.”
Debates around the issue of gender rights in Edmonton have been getting more and more heated, sure, but where’s the excuse for people to act hostile? It doesn’t give people an excuse to act dumb, to shut people and their views out because of experiences they’ve had in the past. It scares people off and sends a bad impression. What’s the point of fighting for gender equality if you can’t even be fussed to talk to somebody from the opposing sex without assuming the worst?
On December 21st we’re all supposed to be destroyed in some Mayan-related conspiracy. What’s the best thing one can do, if indulging in misandry and misogyny isn’t really an option? Well, I hear this learning thing some people like to try out every now and then is pretty important. And no, not learning subjects in schools, but learning to understand the things you read – understanding that you may not know everything in the world about a given subject. We need to listen rather than criticize everything that comes in front of our sights. Both sides of an issue are equally important – not the side that our friends are more invested in.
Does it have to be labeled feminism when we’re both trying to solve the same issues? Instead of advocating for our respective sex, maybe we should just take a step back and take a look at our shared problems. That’s not to say women still don’t have their battles to fight and that men’s rights groups don’t need to stick around. But perhaps we need to start examining collective problems as human rights issues, not regulating them to something unique to either gender. Between feminists and men’s rights advocates, is there no room for people squarely in the middle?
So if the above is not an option, maybe we could refuse to hold each other’s hands while we go through our respective (but incredibly competitive, because it’s supposedly really important to one-up the other) sex crises. It’s up to you.