A few months ago I discovered a superb website called Manboobz, which outlines, quotes from and mercilessly mocks the sordid trash regularly spewed by so-called ‘men’s rights activists’ (MRAs). These odd folk appear to believe in a topsy-turvy version of reality wherein women are the privileged ones and men are routinely persecuted by extreme establishment feminists.
It’s farcical and often amusing, but there is an undercurrent of hatred and rage that is sometimes deeply sinister. Under the banner of ‘men’s rights’ fester the bitter germs of misogyny and homophobia along with a whole host of other dirty little prejudices. It’s frightening, not least because in some of the quoted remarks I have noticed arguments similar to those used by perpetrators of domestic violence against both spouses and children – including some unpleasant reminders of my own past experiences. Here are a few of the features MRAs and domestic abusers appear to have in common:
1. Use of a patriarchal moral code as an excuse for controlling behaviour
This includes abusers who refer to parts of Christianity or Islam as justification for “corrective punishment”. Men are considered the heads of the household, with God-given responsibility for how ‘their’ women behave; women, meanwhile, act irrationally and childishly, so need to be ‘mastered’. A Woman’s Place is the Kitchen. Welcome to the 19th century.
2. Devaluation of women as a group
This may be the theme that most frequently appears on Manboobz: women are irrational, over-emotional, partial, gold-diggers, spendthrifts, talentless, dependent, cruel, manipulative, emotionally abusive, useless, worthless, overrated for their ability to give birth, constantly taking credit and funding for men’s achievements. Variations on this eyebrow-raising theme include: Western women are unfeminine/ unsubmissive/ entitled and therefore unloveable; only female MRAs are any good; once women get to [somewhere between 20-30, usually] they automatically become unattractive and lose all their worth, especially if they have not Married or Had Babies. What this tosh basically amounts to is that women have no purpose except to be directed by, and in service to, a man. Whatever.
3 Assertion of men’s superiority
By contrast to those unworthy women, of course, men are stronger, cleverer, better. They are responsible for everything great in this world. They are rational, moral, upright beings and women simply cannot match up to them, but must instead be obedient to their great wisdom and fair judgements. Feminist men, of course, are excluded from this club of super-beings; they have chosen instead to let the emotional women rule in order to be approved and therefore attain that Holy Grail of manhood, intimate relations.
4. Defending violence and those who commit it
Victim-blaming, denial, excuses, minimisation, double-bind, inconsistent arguments – every technique that abusers deploy to justify their actions can almost certainly be found somewhere parroted by MRAs. Even child abuse has been defended in this way. All of it is disgusting.
5. Display of a ‘persecution complex’
A common tactic of campaigners for people in power to maintain their privileges is to try to divert attention from the simple facts by reframing the issue and casting themselves as victims. MRA groups seem to whine interminably that the Establishment is overrun with feminists, while they, the very standard-bearers of truth, are shamelessly tortured and derogated, all the while being denied their fair share of female, uh, ‘companionship’. (My father used to be a big fan of this one. He’d constantly call people names and then claim they were persecuting him. Also, his unbelievable kindness in giving me houseroom while I was growing up made him a mug, because I was so horrible to him. Yep, charming guy.)
6. Inconsistent and arbitrary actions and arguments
You’d think that advocates of ‘discipline’ would keep to their own rules, but no. Abusers set things up so that their victims are never in a position to feel good about themselves. MRAs also seem to change the focus of their rants constantly – for example, women shouldn’t take work away from men, but are too reliant on men to pay the bills; women should stay away from the front lines in battle but making this province exclusive to men renders them ‘disposable’; women who sleep around are called all manner of nasty names but if they won’t sleep with the MRA in question…they’re called nasty names too. Conclusion: we’re fundamentally, irrevocably, irredeemably bad.
7. High levels of anger
I’m routinely stunned by how angry MRAs appear. It’s as if they hate everyone and everything except themselves. Along with women and feminist men, the rants sometimes comprehend alternative sources of ‘otherness’, so that the relevant forums play host not only to extreme chauvinism, but to homophobia, racism, transphobia, ableism and many more unhealthy bigotries.
8. Women as a general target for blame
This is covered somewhat in the points above, but is worth singling out because it appears so often. I think casual passers-by could be forgiven for thinking that MRAs blame women and/or feminism for everything that goes wrong in their lives. Did you trip over this morning? That’s feminists’ fault!
Sorry for the long post. I hope at least some of it was worth reading.