Op Ed

Masterbitch Theater: Let’s Talk MRAs

In an effort to continually grow and evolve, we’re trying something new. 

We’ve run a few Editorial Masterbitch Theaters, where  your faithful editors unleash all our pent-up energies on whatever piece of nonsense crosses our inbox/RSS feeds/Internet searches and gets our hackles up. While those are LOTS of fun to do, we’re being greedy by keeping all the fun to ourselves. Thusly, a new feature. Each Tuesday I’ll throw up a topic with a handful of links, and we’ll all hash it out in the comments.

Today’s topic: Men’s Rights Activists, a.k.a. “NO MA’AM.”

So some fellas on the Internet are sad, because some women won’t let them put their penises in said women’s vaginae. These fellas write lengthy manifestos, start message boards like it’s 1999, and rail against what they feel is their privilege disappearing. Rather than look on the changing landscape of our world with optimism and hope for a better world for everyone, they’re digging in their heels and wrapping their nutsacks in bubble wrap, lest the evil ball-munching ladeez try to take them away.

Among all the straight bull pucky, there are a few elements of the MRA platform I can sympathize with, or at least understand. The groups I’ve perused (with a drink in my hand; I’m not made of stone) regularly speak against the habit of family courts to award custody to mothers over fathers, all other things being equal. Fair point, although I think that perception is changing somewhat as more men are taking on single parenting. They also speak out against circumcision, which I’m all set to be sympathetic to, as long as female genital mutilation is left out of it. (NOT THE SAME THING. FALSE EQUIVALENCY. STRAWMAN. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.)

It would be really easy (and more fun than I’d like to admit) to use this thread to point and laugh, but let’s try to take it a step further. Some questions, to get us going:

Do you think MRA groups are a threat to women?

Are there benefits to engaging with MRAs?

Do you think it’s possible to undo the attitudes that put these fellas on the path to becoming an MRA in the first place?

Do you think we should take their concerns over child custody and circumcision seriously?

Let the masterbitching begin.

*If you’d like to read some of the manifestos out there, I recommend Googling, because we’re not giving up the link love.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

14 replies on “Masterbitch Theater: Let’s Talk MRAs”

First, I am a self identified feminist that writes letters to Congress about women’s issues. Some of the members of MRAs are so asinine in their responses it’s funny and predictable. (Really? Feminism is why you can’t get a date? Really? Maybe it’s that you’re an asshole. Try changing that facet first and see if it works better.)

However, I understand a good portion of the MRA fight. I’ve seen what happens to guys when the net doesn’t work for them.

Do you think MRA groups are a threat to women?
The group themselves? No. Some of the more outlandish of the members? Absolutely.

Many of the central fights that are shared amongst the MRA movements are valid. Child custody, domestic violence against men, perceptions in society that all men who dare play with a child at a park are pedos, etc. Whether that is the effect of the patriarchy or not isn’t relevant. It needs to change.

Now, yeah, the extremist members are just that, extremists and deserve to have a fair amount of eye rolling directed their way. I don’t want to hear shit about how feminism is the devil and whatnot.

Are there benefits to engaging with MRAs?

Sure, it can’t hurt to listen and engage. You may agree with some points and disagree with others, but finding common ground to tackle means it’s more likely to get changed when both sides are working on it.

Do you think it’s possible to undo the attitudes that put these fellas on the path to becoming an MRA in the first place?

Depends on what did it. The self-proclaimed “nice guy” who thinks women should give it up because he managed not to be an ass? No. That’s their own insecurities coming out and latching on to something.

The guys that started on this path because of court decisions? (Childcare, domestic violence, etc) Most certainly – but that will happen once there are more men’s shelters, men can obtain a protection order without being laughed out of the courtroom, and men have an even shot at custody. These are also usually the guys that see the injustices on both sides and want it rectified. They may recoil at the word feminism, but that can be changed with patience.

Do you think we should take their concerns over child custody and circumcision seriously?

Child custody? Most certainly. That women are better equipped to be parents is tired and anachronistic at best. The kids should go with the parent who is best suited for the role, not who has the socially accepted genitalia for the role. Sometimes that will be the mother, sometimes the father. Perception may be changing, but it’s not enough as of yet. There’s still a long way to go.

Circumcision? I can see it, but I have to admit my studying of the issue is lacking at best. So, going to pass on this one.

I think it comes down to good, old-fashioned male entitlement. MRAs are often times raised with the expectation that they ought to have certain things and that relationships with women have a certain pattern. When they get out in the big, bad world and see that it isn’t the case, it’s like a huge slap in the face for them. So they are fighting for what they believe they should have.

If they’d just stick to their little dark corner of the internet they wouldn’t hurt anything but the blood pressure of rational humans who stumble across their drivel. Unfortunately, while I’ve never heard a politician come out and say he’s an MRA, a hell of a lot of them seem to have the same ideals even if they don’t use that phrasing. That’s where it fets dangerous. And like most internet trolls, no amount of engaging is going to change their minds, though it may help people without strong feelings either way see the light.

And for fuck’s sake, I have no particular feelings about circumcision but the practice can hardly be blamed on women.

MRAs are definitely a threat to women. Many times they refuse to even acknowledge the issues that really affect women in our society. This is quite alarming. It shows a lack of regard for women as people, particularly when women’s concerns are dismissed. It seems that men’s rights activism is a knee-jerk reaction to feminism. The idea of women demanding to be treated as equals in a society is very frightening to some men. It calls upon them to question their beliefs and everything they were brought up with. It calls upon them to question their own behavior and treatment of women around them. We all know there are people who honestly freak out and think it’s the end of the world when they are called upon to do this. Really, it seems to be a rather self-absorbed reaction to change from the people who are most frightened to see that change occur, so they will do what they can to fight it.

I see no benefit to engaging with an MRA, except for setting an example. While MRAs are all to quick to dismiss women’s concerns, I can acknowledge that yes, the custody system is very flawed, and there are people who take advantage of it, but I can also add that women aren’t the ones to blame as it’s more of a societal issue.

It’s possible to undo the attitudes that put them on the path to MRAs to begin with, but they have to do it on their own. That means that they must understand that feminism not only encompasses women in their daily lives, but the structure of society in general.

Child custody concerns are valid, but circumcision is a decision that needs to be left to the parents.

I think MRAs are a threat to everyone as well as to sanity in general. To them, women are most always* the problem, the enemy, and the logical fallacies that they peddle make my brain hurt. (*=sometimes it’s gay or ‘girlie’ men as well, but oddly enough, never them).

As for the custody, no, I do not feel they are correct at all. First of all, most women are raised from infancy to nurture ‘babies,’ to expect to be a mother, etc. It does not mean that all women are, nor that all women are good at it, but unless and until men are committed enough to their kids to go through some sort of parental training to level that social construct a bit, I don’t take their stance seriously. I say this as a mother who lost custody, for what it’s worth. The only reason the father wanted custody was for the money, and that always seems to come up in the MRA rants – not the kid’s welfare, but the money. My boys’ father didn’t want to raise and nurture the kids when they were completely dependent. He didn’t go to the doctors for nine months or read parenting books. But once they were less maintenance, then he got his parents to fund lawyers and take them. Almost every court does everything possible for joint custody, so I still had them frequently; but it’s not the visitation, it’s the support these guys always seem to have an issue with. Now, I do think that the support system is messed up (they made a typo in what I was supposed to pay and refused to fix it, causing me a ton of harm), but these guys just have a problem with wanting to pay at all. There are of course fathers who are very committed to their kids, who are excellent parents, who have been there for their kids since pre-birth – but MRAs seem to rarely be those guys.

Do you think MRA groups are a threat to women?

I think MRA groups are threats to both men and women, really. My biggest issue with them is that they recognize sexism is a problem…but all they see of it is how sexism hurts men. Additionally, they are still thinking of women and men as somehow fighting each other. So, if men are getting hurt by sexism…it’s the WOMEN’S fault! And since the feminists are the ones seen as destabilizing everything (because we all know feminists cause sexism), it’s really the FEMINIST’S fault.

We just all hate men, yo. Even those of us who are men.

Are there benefits to engaging with MRAs?

It depends. I doubt most of them will listen, especially not from feminist women. However, if the discussion is seen by others, those are the people I worry more about influencing.

But if I was, say, running a blog, and I got some MRA posts, I’d moderate it away. I wouldn’t want my space invaded by them.

Do you think it’s possible to undo the attitudes that put these fellas on the path to becoming an MRA in the first place?

Very much so. The problem is, THEY have to decide to undo them. I can’t make asshole MRA dude realize that my feminism is good for us both. He’s gotta come to that conclusion himself.

But I think what MRA dudes need to understand is that they don’t need to work against feminists in order to create a better world for men. Sexism really does hurt men, too. Especially men who are oppressed in other areas of the kyrirarchy. So, we need to get rid of SEXISM, not feminists.

Do you think we should take their concerns over child custody and circumcision seriously?

Yes. I think that child custody does unfairly favor mothers, because of sexist assumptions about both men AND women. But in order to break this idea down, we need to more fully embrace that female =/= nurturing and male =/= providing. Men need to be able to be seen as capable nurturers, too. This means that men will be able to be taken seriously as caregivers, and women won’t be expected to bear the whole burnt of caregiving. It’s a win-win situation.

And circumcision, I believe that it is a violation of bodily autonomy. If someone WANTS to get circumcised when they are an adult, good on them. But they should be the only person who gets to decide that.

Absolutely a threat – they don’t see women as actual people, and they have the whole system behind them.

I personally don’t see a benefit, but then again I’m not one to engage any asshole with an ignorant view. I get too mad; when I get really mad I cry, and we all know what kind of reaction that would provoke from an MRA.

Eh. It can happen, but only if the person has an open mind and is willing to sit through the hard part of finding out you are, in fact, a raging asshole. (I speak from experience here, before tumblr I was one of those dumbass white liberal feminists who wasn’t anywhere near as liberal and upstanding as I thought I was.)

The last one is tricky. I absolutely think custody issues should be fixed, and should be far more equal than they are, but how many of these assholes want the kids only to punish the mom? I think whomever is the better parent should get custody. Most of the times it’s not these men.

As far as circumcision … well, I better preface by mentioning both of my sons are circumcised. My older son has no issues at all over it (I asked). I’m assuming the younger won’t either, but who knows? Would I do it again, if I wound up with another son? Probably not. I still can’t see a lot of harm in it, but then again I don’t have a dick, so how much weight should my opinion carry? And just because something isn’t actively harmful doesn’t automatically make it a good thing.

Absolutely a threat – they don’t see women as actual people, and they have the whole system behind them.

I would agree with this.

As I said, I think much of the BS comes from the idea of, these men recognize that sexism in society wrongs them in some way. But because they’ve been trained to see it as men vs women, they think that if men are being systemically hurt it must be women’s fault!

But of course, there’s plenty of other MRAs who are pissed off because they’re not getting the full benefits of their societal privilege as they think it should be. And of course that’s feminist women’s fault, too.

I didn’t know they were against circumcision, which I believe is a sane position to hold (I cannot see why religious reasons cannot wait until the person whose body it concerns is of age to give consent to such decisions). The fairness of custody decisions is a valid topic for debate as well. However, most of their agenda as such seems to boil down to plain old misogyny and anger over supposedly losing their ‘natural’ privileges due to all kinds of ‘less worthy’ humans getting uppity. If you consider yourself a winner of the chromosome lottery and believe you are owed rewards for it at the expense of other humans, I’ve got no time for you, there’s nothing to debate there.

And I absolutely believe they are a danger to women, as in, the hate speech the more radical end of MRAs keep producing has driven occasional violently unhinged specimens to “rectify” perceived wrongs. (I have thankfully forgotten the name of the creep whose unfulfilled sense of entitlement led him to shoot random women at a gym, and he is not the only example.)

The child custody thing is as rooted in patriarchy as anything. Women = caretakers -> custody. These idiots don’t (or don’t want to) understand that it’s the good old days of male power that they are simultaneously lamenting and trying to get back to. I think what they really want are the good good old days when a man owned his wife and the children, she wasn’t allowed to divorce him and, if she actually did leave, the children remained with him just because. It’s called “men’s rights,” not “equality.”

Do you think MRA groups are a threat to women? I think any extremist group is quite possibly a threat.

Are there benefits to engaging with MRAs? I don’t know. I haven’t the desire to get upset, so personally, no. On a wider scale? Depends what the engaging is over – if people want to be twits, that’s up to them, if they want to affect other peoples lives, then perhaps engagement is necessary.

Do you think it’s possible to undo the attitudes that put these fellas on the path to becoming an MRA in the first place? Hmn. Change but perhaps not undo? I’m not sure.

Do you think we should take their concerns over child custody and circumcision seriously? I don’t know what the circumcision issues are (other than a guess from the FGM reference) but it circumcision (male and female) is an issue I find difficult to comprehend as it is. As for child custody, if there’s concerns that justice is inappropriately prejudice, then sure, a reasonable discussion seems appropriate.

I kind of get it. Here is a group of people who really had everything going for them for thousands of years. And then in the last 30 years, they’ve really started to feel that stability erode. Boys and men are wired (neurologically or socially) to think in zero-sum terms: there are winners and losers. If someone else is winning victories, YOU must be losing something. It’s hard to overcome that kind of wiring. You can, however, temper your reactions. But that’s what privilege really is, isn’t it? Not even realizing that you need to temper your reactions? I know it’s fatalistic, but I don’t know that it’s possible to prevent people from jumping on this bandwagon because they can’t even see why it’s a little disgusting.

As far as the circumcision thing, wasn’t it started to stop boys from masturbating? Which, um, I don’t know if you’ve ever known someone who was once a teenage boy, but ask them how well that worked. Circumcision was based on totally crappy science and doesn’t actually do anything (or at least much) to protect against disease. It’s unnecessary surgery. (Not going to address religious beliefs here, because I don’t even know where to start. Would love some input.) So I can understand trying to spread awareness for stopping it.

Child custody issues? Hell yeah. Fathers have as much right as mothers to be the primary caretaker of their children. Balancing custody decisions in favor of mothers is based on outdated gender roles as much as anything as we tend to rage about. Just because it’s in a woman’s favor this time doesn’t mean it’s not based on outdated assumptions. (Of course, I have other thoughts about child custody, but better reserved for something else.)

In closing (HA), I think that men do have issues that they worry about and need to speak out about. It would be better, though, if it came from a place of male empowerment rather than just female degradation. Again, happiness and space in this world does not have to be a zero-sum game. If some of these men could learn that, they probably wouldn’t be such assclowns.

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