No Space For You Here – MRAs Stay Away

Hannah Smith is the NSW President of NUS. She is the proud step-mother of a sausage dog Bronson and is failing her Political Science and Economics degree because of her passion for student unionism. All she wants in life is to be like Leslie Knope (without the recall).

This morning I woke up to a picture on my facebook news feed of a poster that has been plastered all over the entrance to Sydney University campus: “You don’t fear and hate men do you? DO YOU? MEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS”. After browsing their webpage [mensrightssydney.com] I thought to myself that perhaps it wasn’t worth making a fuss about this obviously ineffectual ‘organization’: their “activism” tab is completely empty besides a poorly made poster with a range of men copied and pasted in from google images. I thought that wasting energy on pushing back on their feeble intrusion on our campus would only weaken more important fights we need to have in Sydney right now; specifically fights about our reproductive rights.

After talking to my housemates about it though, I realized that misogynistic “men’s rights” discourses start with a whimper and not a bang. A few years ago we would’ve not heard of such groups on university campuses, now we have proposals for entire courses on men’s rights at some universities. We have pro-life groups funded by our student unions and proposals for “men’s clubs” as well. When we let MRA posters onto our campuses (even those with poorly designed webpages), we are legitimating their claims that there is a ‘debate’ to be had about feminism and gender equality. As women’s activists, we know there is lots of debates to be had about feminism, but none of them should involve questioning the core premise; that women are fundamentally unequal in our society.

By allowing them a place in our intellectual institutions we are detracting from the fights that need to be had and allowing ourselves to be dragged back to square one of the movement- defending its existence. The person who saw these at our uni tore them down. I will be doing the same and encouraging others to do so also. Some will disagree with this tactic because it stifles “debate” and free speech. But I know there is no debate to be had. The stats and figures speak for themselves.

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15 thoughts on “No Space For You Here – MRAs Stay Away

  1. Sasha

    MODERATED: TRIGGER WARNING FOR DISCUSSION OF SUICIDE & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

    “…there is [sic] lots of debates to be had about feminism, but none of them should involve questioning the core premise; that women are fundamentally unequal in our society.”

    I’m going to take the ‘alternate opinions are welcome’ promise at face value, I hope you live up to it.

    The question here is what do we mean by ‘unequal’? It’s absolutely true, for example, that there are far fewer women on the boards of major companies, far fewer women MPs, Senators, First Ministers etc. However are there any legal barriers to women achieving these positions? No. Are there more subtle social pressures and issues around how society is organised, particularly in regards to childcare? Quite possibly. However it’s also true that, just as most of the ‘top jobs’ in society are held by men, men account for more of the jobs at the bottom. There are more men who are road-sweepers, truck drivers, manual laborers, assembly-line workers, mechanics, sewage-workers etc. More of the homeless are men. There may be a ‘glass ceiling’ for women, but there’s also a ‘glass floor’, below which they are unlikely to fall.

    Is it true that women, as a whole, earn less over their lifetime than men? Yes. Is this the result of discrimination? No. It’s because women work less hours, in less well-remunerated roles, and they are more likely to take extended career breaks due to raising children. It’s also true that men transfer more of their income to women (women are responsible for the majority of consumer spending and most major purchasing decisions). Most men, and women, are inter- and co-dependent – they arrange their lives together according to what makes most sense for them as a family and/or household.

    So let’s look at the other side of the coin. Men die several years younger than women. This can only be down to three reasons – either men are biologically weaker; or men’s life experience results in greater stresses and trauma; or men do things to themselves that kill them younger. Feminism says that gender roles are social constructs, so it can’t be the first. If it’s the second then men are the sex which seems to have it tougher, it’s if’s the third reason, then we should be focusing on why men do this (although even men who don’t drink, smoke and who eat healthily die younger, so it looks like it’s a combination of the first and second reasons).

    Men account for >94% of all workplace deaths and serious injuries. Men commit suicide at 8x the rate of women. For exactly the same crime, allowing for all variables, men are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, and if found guilty will receive a longer sentence than women.

    Although the statistics are highly contentious, there is a wealth of evidence that men experience domestic abuse and violence at much higher rates than is commonly recognised. Indeed, there is a large body of research that men experience intimate partner violence (IPV) as much as women do. Men certainly account for as much as 1/3 of all fatalities due to IPV. One man is killed by his (female) partner every ten days. Despite this, there are almost no resources available to male survivors of domestic abuse.

    Upon separation or divorce, men are more likely to lose contact with their children. They are more likely to see their children only infrequently. Efforts by fathers groups to obtain more equitable treatment have been, are still are, widely opposed by feminist organisations.

    Female circumcision is illegal. Male circumcision is not. Are the two comparable? Doesn’t really matter does it? Either it’s wrong to perform medically unneccessary operations on infant children or it isn’t.

    I could go on. There’s clearly an interesting, and very challenging, debate to be had about gender roles. A great many men, including myself, would welcome one. I would like society to be constructed in such a way that more of us could stay at home with our children for instance. I would like to be liberated from the burden of my value being predicated on my value as a ‘provider’. When I was enduring years of verbal and emotional abuse, I wish I hadn’t stuck with it because I was too scared I’d never see my children again.

    It’s a shame that this is a debate that feminists feel ‘doesn’t need to be had’.

    Because I think it does.

    Reply
  2. John

    Hey, I hate to be that guy but if you are going to say, “But I know there is no debate to be had. The stats and figures speak for themselves”, Then you must then provide those quote stats and figures. I’m saying this a man 100% opposed to men’s rights groups and a feminist. However I think stats always help one’s arguments :-)

    Reply
  3. Archy

    Would you be supportive of a men’s…issues group or course studying men’s issues in society if it wasn’t outright anti-feminist? Possibly anti-some forms of feminism, but possibly pro-other forms of feminism (eg, critiquing some of the more extreme radical feminist stuff but ok with the more mainsteam stuff)?

    I don’t think such groups for men should distract from female issues, I think they should work together with women’s groups to help bring equality and handle various issues that crossover (eg DV, anti-rape awareness, etc). There are some legitimate areas of concern to be studied for effects that males suffer in society but I wouldn’t want it to devolve into misogyny.

    Their site says “At the time of writing every member of mens rights Sydney is pro-choice. Doesn’t mean it’s right to go berserk over it.” in regards to *Abusive pro-choice protest* so I’m not sure if they’d weaken that fight? I’ve only had a quick gander at their page, they sound suspicious of feminists intentions but I do hope they realize only some feminists do the bad behaviour (as shown in the videos) whilst plenty are good and just want equality and a better life for their gender. If they could refocus from outright anti-feminism to something where they can ally with good feminists whilst remaining critical of bad feminists then it may work out ok?

    Finally, would a pro-feminist male group be ok even if it spends 99% of the time discussing men n male issues?

    Reply
  4. dejour

    MRA here. Few, if any, MRAs, would argue that men and women should be treated unequally. An MRA would have to have some version of gender equality in mind – either equality of opportunity or equality of outcome.

    To me the core of the MRM is the idea that gender equality is the goal, and that both men and women suffer from substantial sexism. Thus solutions to sexism should involve helping men and boys, just as it does helping women and girls.

    Yes, women have a harder time becoming politicians, or CEOs or scientists or making a lot of money. But at the same time men die earlier, end up in prison more often, end up homeless more often, are less likely to go to university. True equality will be achieved by solving both sets of problems – not the problems of just one sex. Even if you only care about women, a lot of male problems impact women negatively. (eg. In the US men get 63% longer prison sentences than women for the same crime. This perpetuates the idea that men are responsible for their choices and women are less responsible. If men are perceived as more responsible, then men will seem to be better choices as CEOs or politicians.)

    Reply
  5. independentshock

    MODERATED: TRIGGER WARNING FOR DISCUSSION OF RAPE & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

    Dear Hannah, nobody among MRAs would argue that women are not people or lesser people. That is never a matter of debate or discussion, I assure you. Let me give you two examples of debates that MRAs would like to have: 1) you mentioned debates about reproductive rights. MRAs would love this debate. But not about restricting it for women. It is about reproductive rights for men who currently have none. Hell, when a kid in California got raped by a woman who later got pregnant, the victim had no say on the baby’s future AND was ordered to pay a child support. 2) Domestic violence. The debate would not be that yeah it’s ok to beat women. Of course not. The debate would be about men being victims of domestic violence. In the US there are more (yes, more) male victims of domestic violence than women (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf, Tables 4.1 and 4.2). In Australia it is approximately one in three. This problem is entirely ignored, male victims receive almost no support from the government, no shelters, no resources, no nothing. That would be a healthy debate to have, don’t you think?

    And yes, men’s rights are human rights and we want equality just as much as you do. What’s wrong with it?

    Reply
  6. Joe

    Seems odd to just rail against groups and thousands of people just like you accuse “them” of doing. You don’t find this the least-bit ironic? Especially given that almost none of the MRA requests have anything to do with women, infringing on their rights, etc.

    Reply
  7. Astro

    Hi Hannah, the point I disagree with you about is “As women’s activists, we know there is lots of debates to be had about feminism, but none of them should involve questioning the core premise; that women are fundamentally unequal in our society.”….

    I don’t think anyone should take a position that no point of view can ever be challenged or debated. Its very dangerous when you start to make a list of things that are ‘self evidently right forever and in perpetuity’. Where does it stop? If MHRA’s have no valid arguments, then what’s the problem with debating their points and proving them false or let their points live or die in the court of public opinion? Being right by demonstrating you are right is better than being right by silencing the other opinion. Tearing down posters and advocating a silencing campaign of those that have a different point of view is not what we want in an open free society. It suggests that unless you are a feminist you have no right to your own views, which is what, when you boil it down is what you are actually advocating.

    The fact is, that in 2014 there are people who question feminism, question the point about women’s perceived inequality in our society and want to challenge policies and spending and priorities that are driven by those view-points. Less men at Uni, practically no male teachers in primary or secondary education, more male suicides, more male workplace deaths, 10% of child custody in Family court, young men 18-38 suffering a wage gap to young women of the same age, people confusing equality of opportunity with equality of outcomes (ie ignoring people’s own choices & preferences etc). These are not anti-women issues, merely another side to the whole equality debate as matters of inequality that affect men’s lives in a very serious way and ones that men &women should be entitled to discuss them from any world view they see fit. It would be perverse to insist that ‘you can talk about mens issues but only if you talk about them from a feminist perspective”

    I don’t believe you mean harm, and I know you will find your FB and other pages filled with MHRA’s and men in general challenging you on this article. I only ask that you look past their frustration and sometimes very blunt expression of their point of view and come to see that in 2014 Feminism is not the only voice, and that there are legitimate alternative points of view out there – yes, perhaps points of view that are not always articulated as meekly and politely as you would like – but legitimate none the less. As offensive or funny or shocking as you might view them, perhaps you might see that that your attack on freedom of speech and (what they perceive to be the trivialisation of men’s issues) is also interpreted as aggressive and hurtful and offensive to others too. Your feelings are not the only currency by which legitimacy is valued, your beliefs not the only beliefs however much you (or your housemates!) disagree.

    best of luck to you.

    Reply
    1. Technica

      You’re so right and I love this post. We should not let men and men’s groups post on our campus with their ridiculous “debate” that somehow women are equal when it is fully apparent that we live in a patriarchy.

      There should be NO DEBATE at all questioning the core premise of feminism, that women are fundamentally unequal in our society.

      Men and their “Men’s Right’s” groups should not be allowed a place in our intellectual institutions. We should not engage in any ridiculous discussion or ‘debate’ about the legitimacy of feminism.

      Sadly, even though I support the freedom of speech and the open discussion of ideas, this regressive and backward style of thinking cannot be allowed to infiltrate our campuses.

      We cannot allow them to put up their posters and legitimize their existence. They must be looked at as what they are. An ugly artifact of the past that has no place in the modern world or in the modern discussion. They’re not espousing an opposing an alternate view point, they are espousing hate, plain and simple.

      Reply
  8. Olive

    Out of interest, what stats and figures are you talking about? Most mens rights activists are concerned with matters such as paternity leave, child custody, insane child support/alimoney payments, I would love to see some figures to see how women are “unequal” in these areas.

    Reply
  9. Aranya

    Hi, I guess I don’t understand why men’s rights should be downplayed? Just because women have it worse doesn’t men don’t suffer from different kinds of inequality. We should be trying to make it a better world for everybody.

    Reply
  10. Rain

    Your stats and figures may ‘speak’ for themselves, but men do indeed have their own problems in the world, and at that, are individuals with their own growing perspectives. You want to ‘fight,’ them, then why not talk to them instead of pulling down their efforts like little girls that feel flustered and threatened? Where is the diplomacy? Why are you at war?

    I wish you the best in your own campaigns, however, these actions make your group seem rather offended & that you’re entitled to people listening to you & only you, & your message of feminism & only feminism; no androgyny. It’s human rights that are at play here, not some gender battle you’ve seemed to have conjured up in your perception & it’s possibly why these Men are feeling they wish to do in their own groups, for their own reasons. Who are you to stop their efforts of networking?

    Their poster is very keen to the problems they face. People are afraid of men in groups, and you’re portraying their struggle very well. Men are scary in large groups & that’s what society teaches young males these days. Can you empathize and understand that younger males, especially in college now, are receiving the brunt of a lot of generational cultural flack that they wish to transform to become genuine /men/?

    Why does this bother you so much?
    A true man, in societal expression, or a true (& awesome) human in my own understanding, is indeed scary. Humans are furious & wonderful things at their best. So yes, there is no debate, and you’re right on that, but then why are you debating them with your actions of tearing posters down? Why is the intent of debate present?

    I hope you can see my alternate opinion and grow your own insight.
    Thanks~ Have an awesome day.

    ~Rain

    Reply
  11. IchBinLecher

    I wonder, perhaps men’s rights stuff could be after the same thing. For instance, women are more frequently granted custody of children based on “maternal instinct.” Most of the time when I hear men’s rights stuff, this is what they are against because they view it as privilege for women. But in truth, we might view this as a true gender equality issue, women need to not be seen as the “obvious” choice for child custody for both the rights of fathers and mothers.

    Other examples exist, but this is the cliche.

    Reply

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