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The Enemy of My Enemy... is an MRA?

Seven times out of ten* on this website, the comment section on any non-squee article will include two things: someone saying something about men, and someone calling the first person an MRA and telling them to shut up. A good half of these conversations will end with one commenter calling the other an asshole and storming off. But guess what: these MRAs may be assholes, but they're also right.

Let's back up and get the easy part out of the way first: I am not saying that all MRA views or tactics are acceptable—not by a long shot. Most feminists are not "out to get" anyone and do not hate men. Terrorism is never okay.** If you're calling someone who disagrees with you a Nazi, you're almost certainly in the wrong.*** Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably not worth arguing with, because they're just going to respond with bullshit and incoherent ramblings. (They also will probably miss the difference between gender-based violence and violence as broken down by gender, but that's a whole 'nother post.)

Here's the thing, though: a lot of the time, MRAs aren't starting with bullshit statistics and incoherent ramblings. They're starting with actual statistics that reflect reality. We all live in the same world, but what MRAs almost always miss and what feminists often miss is that we are fighting the same damn fight.


As feminists, I think we often see that women are oppressed and jump to the conclusion that men therefore are not, when this just isn't true. We can both be oppressed at the same time, even if we are not necessarily oppressed in equal measures.**** [ETA footnote.] You know what? We do live in a society that pressures men to hide any sign of supposed weakness. It's a world in which men are far more likely to die violent deaths, go to prison, or lose a custody battle. It's one in which men are always the abuser and never the abused, in which rape is talked about in terms of lusty men and provocative women.

And that's bullshit.

And crucially, it's bullshit that feminists have been fighting against all along. Most of the problems identified by feminists and by MRAs have roots in the gender roles that we've been raised to believe Cannot Be Broken. The social norms that say all women are caring mothers also say that all men are distant fathers. The ones that would keep women in the kitchen also inspire Disney Channel Original Movies about tormented teenage boys.


Will feminists and MRAs ever be friends? It's doubtful, for a variety of reasons, although we know you can go from one to the other. But the feminist position can only be strengthened by looking at so-called men's rights issues and recognizing that they're far more than that. They're symptoms of the shitty set of circumstances we all live under, just as so-called women's rights issues are. They're signs of the Patriarchy at work, but talking about them is not in and of itself the Patriarchy.*****


We're not the crazy radical feminists that MRAs often paint us as (pictured above). But when we ignore gender issues in favor of women's issues, you can start to see where that idea comes from. And that doesn't help anyone's cause.


*Source: Bonnet's Complete Encyclopedia of Non-Facts. Division of Totally Made-Up Statistics, 2013.

**The page referenced in this link is no longer available after spending two years, if not more, on AVFM's website. I still feel that it is relevant, and if anyone can point me to a more current example or an apology by AVFM, I'm happy to edit this.


***Or you're talking about an actual Nazi, in which case carry on.

****ETA: It's been pointed out in the comments that the term "oppression" is debatable here. I can definitely see the argument that while men are harmed by the existing system, they're not oppressed. The term "constrained" would perhaps be better here. While I tend to be of the opinion that this is a form of oppression, that opinion is largely based on a semester of a Gender & Justice philosophy class, and I don't have the knowledge off the top of my head to argue the point well right now.


*****Talking exclusively, or even mostly, about them would be, but I don't think we do that, and that's certainly not what I'm saying here—although I'm willing to debate the point in the comments. (Also, I think the asterisks are starting to get out of hand. Sorry.) (Not sorry.)

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