Men’s Rights Activism has morphed into something of a backlash against feminism as opposed to its intrinsic intentions of curbing structural discrimination against men. With politicians, men’s rights activists, and social commentators appearing more anti-feminist than focused on men’s issues, the question needs to be asked – is the men’s rights movement a foundation for a sinister masquerade?
On 30th July 2021, the infamous ‘Lucknow girl’ narrowly avoided a collision with a cab at the Awadh Crossing in Lucknow. In retaliation, the girl pulled out the cabbie and slapped him square on the face over 20 times, an incident recorded in the viral video that surfaced across multiple channels of communication. An FIR was later lodged against both the parties involved, and the due investigation was conducted. However, the proceedings of the case were lackluster in comparison to the public outrage that shook the internet.
The term ‘feminism’ was thrown around loosely, and the general attitude of the public seemed more critical of the feminist ideology than concerned about the abysmal state of affairs. The growing public consensus was mis-aimed, to say the very least. This isolated incident, worthy of condemnation, was in no way a glimpse into so called “male oppression by feminism”. Instead, the position of entitlement and power showed by the woman in question can be attributed to the class difference between the woman and the cabbie. But the so-called ‘meninists’ from around the country paraded the event across various public forums as a direct consequence of modern-day feminism, failing to see beyond gender and recognizing the class divide between the woman and the cabbie. More than anything, the incident was a clear case of class entitlement.
In recent years, using the men’s rights movement as a shield for criticizing the efforts of feminists has become commonplace. It has gotten to a point where grave issues like men’s suicide rates, domestic violence, and sexual abuse against them are only spoken about in response to some feminist agitation, and is forgotten soon thereafter without giving the discourse any amount of consideration. These issues only become concerns in retaliation to feminist critiques of modern society, often appearing in the form of “But men also…”.This patterned behavior of the masses acquaints us with a harsh reality check – that men’s rights activists are not as concerned about the social issues surrounding men as they are about criticizing feminists.
A prominent example of online figures using men’s rights as a cover for their deep-rooted misogyny is Paul Elam – founder of A Voice for Men, a website that aims to uplift men while rejecting the traditional feminist ideologies. Elam’s website was listed in the 2012 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Centre titled, ‘The Year in Hate and Extremism‘. Under the garb of working for men’s rights, Elam has been actively trying to spread anti-feminist and misogynistic propaganda through his online presence, the most horrific of which was his idea to instate October as ‘bash a violent b**** month‘.
Several other online men’s rights activists have suggested that feminists are responsible for the stigma surrounding men’s issues in modern society. But the reality is far from these claims. What people need to understand is that feminism as an ideology is not meant to challenge or attack men’s rights. Instead, feminism at its core fights patriarchy, a power structure that has proven to be problematic for both men and women. Patriarchy limits men to think of themselves as beings who rely on their basic primal instincts, giving rise to social issues like toxic masculinity, sexual aggression, domestic violence, and so on. At the same time, it disables men from being able to talk about their issues. Feminism challenges this absurd notion. In this manner, feminism can be viewed as an ideology that is inherently pro-men. Feminists challenge the traditional idea of masculinity set by patriarchy and invite men to be more open about how they feel – which is key to removing the social stigma around men’s rights and issues.
Men’s rights activists, on the other hand, tend to disregard the idea of equality between men and women. They instead want to opt for a solution that favors men at the cost of women’s rights. Phillip Davies, a controversial Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, is hailed as a pioneer for uplifting and defending men’s rights in online circles. What he has done instead is curb all attempts at passing laws that relate to domestic and sexual violence. His aggressive stance against the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, something that has been regarded as a ‘gold standard‘ for tackling violence against women, is a clear indication of whether his ideology is pro-men or simply anti-women.
Many other instances from our timeline depict the reactionary nature of the men’s rights movement, making it obsolete and unnecessary. The movement might appear innocuous from a distance but can later prove to be a breeding ground for violent misogynists. Ultimately, the men also suffer from the incompetence and disregard reflected in the men’s rights movements. They still have no platform to pen down their concerns, and talking to a men’s rights activist is akin to screaming into a malicious void.
All this is a clear indication of how men’s rights activism is something that was propagated with ill-intent, rather than with an idealistic vision of forming a necessary group to address men’s issues. In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be a men’s rights movement. Then again, in an ideal world, there would be no need for feminism either.
Even now, when it comes to supporting men’s rights, feminism is still the ideology-cum-movement that we should turn towards.
Anzal Khan is a student pursuing B.Com Hons. at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Nidhi