In the world of Internet activism, labels can mean everything—feminist, social justice warrior, liberal, conservative. Many times these labels can serve as a way to organize a group of like-minded people for the greater good. But recently, a new label has emerged. On Twitter and Tumblr, some men have taken to calling themselves Men’s Rights Activists, or “Meninist” in a lazy play on the word “Feminist.”
These usually cis (where gender identity matches biological sex), straight, white men feel that the world is becoming too “feminized.” As a result, they are being turned down by women more frequently, held to stricter beauty standards, losing custody battles, being forced to pay child support, etc. They are convinced we all live in a world ruled by feminist overlords, where men must defend their ever-dwindling rights in the face of man-hating misandrists.
But here’s the thing: Meninism isn’t about men at all. It’s not about uplifting men as a whole, but about hurting women who hurt individual men. It’s not about a system that can indeed hurt men, but about seeking some ill-conceived, needed justice because a chick didn’t have sex with a guy immediately when he opened a door for her.
Any woman will tell you she has also dealt with unrequited love and rude people. We face far, far more stringent beauty standards. We also run a much higher risk of sexual assault, which increases if you’re an LGBTQA person, a person of color, differently-abled, fat, etc. And to top it all off, the inequality women face is systemic and institutionalized, not just a one-off bad encounter at a bar.
While women’s need for equality is more talked about and seems to be more needed, that doesn’t mean that there is no need to work for men’s rights as well. I think the knee jerk reaction to men’s rights movements is that it is counteractive bullshit that serves to dismantle feminism in name of upholding the “natural order of the patriarchy.” But there are valid issues that men face, and it’s crucial that anyone who believes in gender equality stand to these injustices. Sadly, today’s supposed activists on behalf of men aren’t doing that.
Men of color are locked up at astoundingly high rates. According to the NAACP, African American and Hispanics comprised 58 percent of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the U.S. population. Not to mention that young black men and black male children are being gunned down in the streets. This is not only a male problem but, largely it is.
Men are raped and sexually assaulted and are often silenced about it. They are mocked and told that they are supposed to want sex at all times. Don’t believe me? Look at the comments of basically any article about a female teacher molesting a student and tell me I’m wrong.
Our culture tells men and boys they can’t cry and that they need to uphold whatever standard of masculinity is in at that time. This breeds a culture of violence and aggression. Men who are victims of domestic violence are not believed.
“Gay” is typically used as an insult to young men and boys which can discourage them from coming out or embodying their gender and sexuality expression. Men are not encouraged to wear dresses or skirts as women are with pants. Trans, gay and bi men are bullied and beaten and killed.
All of these are problems that affect men in large numbers. Yet the MRA and meninist communities are largely silent on these topics, which is pretty disgusting. They choose to focus their efforts on t-shirts and witch-hunting girls and women they are convinced are false rape accusers.
Men’s Rights Activists get a lot wrong, but perhaps their most fatal flaw is assuming that feminism is only for women and that feminism can only benefit women. In reality, feminism is about gender equality across the board, not creating a world in which women rule over men. Feminism is out to take down the patriarchy, which is something that hurts both men and women.
When feminists talk about the patriarchy, we are referring to the institutionalized gender roles and discrimination that makes it difficult or impossible for total equality to exist. Patriarchy tells men to want sex and try to get it from women. Patriarchy tells men to be aggressive. Patriarchy tells men to be manly and straight. Patriarchy tells men they cannot be raped. Patriarchy says that because of these things, men are to be feared, particularly men of color.
We need feminism because people of color deserve to make much more money than they make. Women of color’s opinions need to hold more clout. LGBT people need to be protected from discrimination and violence. Boys need to be told it’s OK to show emotion. Male sexual assault survivors need resources and need to be believed. All people need to feel safe in their communities, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. And that is why we so desperately need feminism.
Feminism can truly be for everyone. By dismantling the patriarchy with intersectional feminism, we help men, women and any other gender identity. The patriarchy knows no gender, and all those who believe in creating an equal society need to work together in order to fully dismantle it.
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