Sunday, 26 February 2017

Why I am not an MRA

Doesn't it make you swoon?
I know I'm going to catch flak for this, but I don't care much for the men's rights movement. I do think they make good points - I've read Warren Farrell for example and found his work quite profound. In fact, it really takes a wrecking ball to this idea that men have conspired to make the world a wonderful place at the expense of women. You can't reasonably believe that after reading Farrell's works.

Why I don't really relate to the MRM is rooted in my overarching distrust of identity politics. I do think that there's all kinds of room to criticize the excesses of feminism, and some points made by the MRM are valuable in that regard.  Decades of ideological protectionism has produced a very real feminist echo chamber with next to no external checks on its claims.  The MRM can by helpful in remedying that.  The MRM also brings our attention to real issues that men are confronted with.  Glaring disadvantage (to varying degrees depending on jurisdiction) in divorce settlements and child custody arrangements being the most obvious example. 

The feminist demonization of male heterosexuality; this presumption underlying much of feminist theory that male sexual attraction towards women is somehow demeaning and objectifying of women is something else that needs to be challenged and the present taboo against disagreeing with feminism desperately needs to be broken here.  The MRM can help in that regard.  The equation of compliments and polite civil greetings on part of men towards women with harassment, objectification or even oppression, commonly seen on social media, is a manifestation of this.  If taken at all seriously, especially in any kind of public policy context, this kind of thinking could effectively close the door on prospects for male-female encounters of all but the most institutional kind. 

The ever expanding definition of rape, and the ever narrowing definitions of consent, and the increasingly onerous requirements for obtaining legal consent - an express verbal "yes" given for every touch, kiss or caress, and even that be nullified if there's any alcohol or mental illness or any factor that could in the slightest call into question the strict legal capacity to give consent, constitute another manifestation of this.  The end game here, I suspect, is to make legal intercourse, for all intents and purposes, impossible for men.

Although most feminists profess to disagree in principle with the notion that all things "boy meets girl" are inherently sexist or oppressive - and may even trot out their own relationship as proof of this, the restrictions imposed on gender dynamics by these kinds of very popular demands made by very widely circulated and credible media outlets that represent the mainstream of liberal opinion on gender issues, would make establishing even platonic, let along erotic relationships extremely difficult.  That many feminists choose to make exceptions to their own rules for themselves and the men they get the D from should not be taken as proof of feminism's flexibility and open mindedness.  It should be taken as proof of moral hypocrisy on part of the feminists so doing, and a tacit admission on their part that their system of sexual morality and conduct is no more reasonable and in alignment with human nature than that of the religious conservatives they so smugly see themselves as superior to. 

Compound that with inundation of  feminist perspectives casting heterosexual relationships in so consistently negative a light; as being about nothing other than unequal distribution of domestic labor, unequal pay, riven with male insecurity and unreasonable male behaviors contrasted to the relief women are expected to seek and experience in all-female spaces, as characterized by universally poor male sexual performance and an expectation of female preference for marital celibacy, dildos, lesbianism, asexuality, promiscuity, anything other than relational intimacy - all hermetically sealed by a propensity to yell "fragile male ego" at any dissention from any of the above on part of men - as if this kind of petty weaponized rejection is something we should just sit back and relish, and feminist gender dynamics become a mortal threat to healthy heterosexual relationships, even if it turns out to be death by a thousand cuts rather than a swift beheading. 

A strong MRM could be a countervailing force for reason and love in gender relations.  On the other hand, groups like MGTOW could just up the ante and make things worse rather than better.  Don't get me wrong: you, dear reader, be you male or female, have every right as far as I'm concerned to live your life as you see fit, and if that involves not having a significant other of the opposite sex, good luck to you.  I once wanted an unattached life myself.  May you succeed where I failed.  But to advocate widespread rejection of the opposite sex, as feminism often implicitly and, in the case of separatist feminism, explicitly does, and MGTOW likewise does, is to advocate for the infliction of protracted neurosis and frustration culminating in a demographic holocaust upon whichever population is to embrace this as a form of gender based political activism.  It would inflict incalculable and irreparable damage on the psychological fabric of such a society.

But even a less strident form of male activism than MGTOW could end up becoming a gender flipped version of the worst aspects of feminism.  I've noticed that in every debate I've ever read between feminists and MRAs - though flame war is a better description in just about ever case, since debate implies a reasoned exchange of views and that's most definitely not what happens - the exchange always boils down to each side saying to the other, "you're just ugly and can't get laid" - with cats and mother's basements figuring in there somehow. Inevitably, one side resigns in frustration over the strident unreasonableness of the other, and both remain more convinced than ever that the opposite sex is hopelessly screwed up.  There's not much of a future in this.

Taken to their logical conclusions, demands upon heterosexual relationships would end up more closely resembling shari'a law than they would anything previous generations of liberal feminists struggled and fought for.

Wait a minute ...

Of course,  feminism - in its more reasonable forms, is still needed to protect and safeguard the rights of women. Life is certainly not all wine and roses for all women at all times, and men are not blameless. This is especially true in communities where, for religious reasons, women still very much are second class citizens.  This is what I find both astounding and disturbing about What looks like an alliance of feminists and Islamists, particularly in opposition to the Trump presidency.  While I don't condone the more boorish things Trump has said about women, you can't compare the danger posed to women by macho locker room bluster with the danger posed to women by shari'a law.  Given the dour attitudes that both feminists and Islamists appear to have towards free and fun expression of happiness and attraction between the sexes, however, I can see the kinship the two might have with one another, though from where I sit, it promises to be a stormy relationship.

What I worry about regarding the MRM, though, is its own potential to become a kind of rank gender partisanship. That "Male good female bad" thinking could, and does, easily arise from it.

Because that, in its own way, is exactly what happened to feminism. What began as being "just about equality" or just about "the same treatment of women as for men" has become a blinding and fanatical form of gender partisanship. Motivated by dogmatic adherence to feminism, whole cohorts of young women (and their male sympathizers) have circled the wagons and harnessed collective groupthink to hermetically seal themselves away from any kind of criticism or dissent. Driven by a sense of universal and historical mission, these women regard themselves as quite entitled to ceaselessly make unilateral demands of men with no countervailing concessions, tar all men with collective responsibility and guilt by association for the very real crimes and misdeeds of some men, and to effectively kill any prospect for intimacy and trust between the sexes by making militant confrontation the permanent and universal norm for gender relations. Backed by unilateral academic and media support and an arsenal of canned responses and copy pasta with which to respond to nay-sayers, the impact that this has had on gender dynamics is nothing short of devastating.


As an antidote to this, we need to step back from identity politics. We don't need a male version of the same thing. Given what we should now know about ideological and identitarian polarization, feminism and the MRM will most likely feed off one another and each further radicalize in response to the other. This is certainly what I've seen in every single exchange between MRMs and feminists that I've ever seen. If that process becomes normalized, it could well mean the death of heterosexual love in its entirety. The prospect of this worries me greatly. I really hope people of both (yes, both) genders can learn to take a step back from their attachments to gender ideology and start reasoning honestly about these kinds of issues.

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