Mens Rights Activists want superiority. Feminists want equality. Big difference.
Recently I found myself falling deep down the hate hole that are MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) threads on Reddit. My ill-advised exploration was inspired by quasi-friends of mine who claimed to be “good guy” MRAs. These “good guys” said that MRAs were the same as feminists—they just wanted equal rights for men like feminists want equal rights for women.
Which is all fine and dandy in theory. If this were true, then MRAs and feminists could happily coincide, maybe even host a joint BBQ once a year, or have a boring conference or two in the basement of a Holiday Inn somewhere. There is nothing that says men and women’s rights somehow have to be mutually exclusive; one gender having equal rights does not mean the other gender doesn’t.
Except MRAs totally don’t think this is true. According to the Men’s Rights Movement, women, and particularly feminists, are oppressing men when they strive for women’s equal rights. It is a zero sum game for these menfolk and they are not willing to curb their gluttony and give up any of their privilege pie.
MRAs’ chief complaints are divorce, child custody, alimony agreements, something they call the “hysteria” of rape culture, and government-assisted oppression of men (through things like food stamps for single moms). Mainly, though, they want to preserve what they feel are “natural” gender roles from days of yore, you know the early years of “Mad Men” before Megan got all uppity.
They don’t want gender equality, they want to maintain male superiority and privilege in society. Some branches, such as the terrifying “red pill” off-shoot, go as far as to say that women are lying, cheating, manipulative she-devils who need to be tamed by a “good guy” alpha.
And of course most of the “issues” MRAs face are white-washed; problems for the middle to upper class white guy of America. There is little to no discussion of the insanely high incarceration rates for black men or equal rights for trans men. Most of the discussion is less about rights and more about hate toward feminists.
In my past decade of feminist work I have never heard a single feminist talk with such hateful speech. I have seen my feminist lady friends fall in love with men, work besides men, propose to their boyfriends, walk beside men at protests, give birth to little men, loving and respecting these men at the same time they fought for equal rights. I have seen my feminist man friends stand on street corners to get signatures for female politicians, hold their girlfriends’ hands at rallies, sit around the board table at a Chicago National Organization for Women meeting, and encourage their wives while they were giving birth or running for office—all the while not resenting or hating any of these women because they were feminists.
The feminists of my life, the real feminists, are not these mystery Amazon-women of MRA lore trying to keep a good guy down. They are men and women who respect each other while fighting for equal rights alongside one another.
They are the good guys and gals.
I will grant the MRA that there is a quasi-feminist equivalent of the MRA women-hating group. There are small pockets of uber-radical feminists who hate men, who believe the world would be better if it were run by women, and who will only have sex with other women because, you know, penises are weapons of the patriarchy. Not surprisingly I can find no web-presence for these extreme groups, no threads on Reddit, and they most certainly do not have a club name as catchy as MRA. In short, they have no influence in the world beyond the walls of their hippy commune.
But real feminists have a place in society and it is a place that I want my quasi-MRA-guy friends to understand is open to them. Feminists are not just women; they are people who want to fight for gender equality, whether that be equal reproductive rights or more suicide prevention programs for high-risk young men. Feminists want to fight rape culture and masculinity culture that truly oppresses men into believing they are only as good as their brawn and penises.
And to the MRAs, I want you to know feminists understand the one thing you really want at the heart of it: We know you are more than just men—you are people. Also we have really fun karaoke parties, so come and join the feminist team. I promise much less hate and much more terrible renditions of late ’90s pop songs.
Niki Fritz is a freelance writer, nonprofit guru, and feministy type Chicago lady. She is the PR Chair for the Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women and writes for the RedEye and GapersBlock in the Second City. You can tweet her at @fritzfrack.