In the previous months since the mass murder in Isla Vista, CA by the shooter Elliot Rodger on May 24th , many feminist and mainstream media outlets have begun to use a term many of us have yet to see in print—Men’s Rights Activism. At first glance, this looks like a joke invented by a satirical paper to make a mockery of sexism in conservative sources.
However, this is a real phenomenon with very reactionary politics and roots planted in multiple countries across the Western World. A 2013 article from the Daily Beast claims the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) is “one of the quirkiest, fastest-growing, and most frustrating civil-rights movements in the Western world today.” (1). Groups have been making many claims that men have allegedly been at the receiving end of most gender based violence since the 1970s.
This reactionary movement came into the spot light just days after the Isla Vista shooting, when many journalists and investigators found that Elliot Rodger had various connections to “Pick Up Artist” forums, which served to “train” men to seduce women (many of these forums even suggested utilization of date rape drugs). He was also part of “PUAhate”, which was a congregation of those who attempted PUA “techniques”, failed, and wanted vengeance on those they believed had cheated them out of time and money.
Author Anne Theriault of the Huffington Post claims:
“He was an active member of the “PUAhate,” an online forum (which has been down since the shootings) dedicated to “revealing the scams, deception and misleading marketing techniques used by dating gurus and the seduction community to mislead men and profit from them.” And just to clarify, they’re not revealing these scams because of how vile and misogynistic they are, but rather because these men have tried these techniques and still failed to trick women into sleeping with them.
These are men who both feel entitled to have sex with women and also blame all women everywhere for not fucking them. See, they want to have sex with a woman because that’s what they deserve just for being dudes, but they also hate women for withholding what they view as rightfully theirs. And I mean, boy do they ever hate women. The PUAhate forum has, according to an article on The Hairpin, threads with titles like “Are ugly women completely useless to society?” and “Have any hot women ever committed suicide?”
Rodger also subscribed to several YouTube channels on how to be a ‘pick up artist,’ including The Player Supreme Show and RSDfreetour as well as multiple MRA channels.”(2)
What’s more, Rodger authored a 140 page manifesto and published a 7 minute video on YouTube outlining his severe contempt for women and “all of society” that he believed withheld sex from him, which he felt he was entitled to. He swore that he would punish the women who denied him, stating, “I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one. The true alpha male …”
An entire variety of mainstream media outlets high lighted the allegations that Rodger had ties with the MRM, including Time Magazine(4), which has historically been a factory of bourgeois traditionalist ideology, especially when it comes to civil rights issues. When questioned with these allegations, John Hembling of the MRA site “A Voice For Men” stated,
“This is the part not yet mentioned by any MRA. Elliot Rodger was as conventional, mainstream and blue-pill in his self-identity as the most devout of male feminists. He took his personal identity from the consensus of the women around him rather than rejecting a publicly conferred male identity.
Elliot Rodger, to his detriment, was not his own man. He did not go his own way. He went the way of gynocentric culture and became, almost literally, the poster-boy for mainstream, pathological gender ideology.
So, for all you bleating feminists figuratively rending their clothes over this tragedy – if you want fewer Elliot Rodgers in the world, then you want more MRAs.” (5)
The response of MRAs concerning this tragedy was unequivocally repulsive. Either there was complete denial of ever having associated with Rodger and the PUA sites, or they revered Rodger as a hero of the “manosphere”. Shortly in the aftermath, multiple pro-Elliot Rodger Facebook pages were erected to commemorate his “sacrifice” for the “greater good”. In fact, one of these pages created controversy over the fact that Facebook seemed to be unwilling to unpublish the page. According to the Independent:
“Facebook has removed a page calling Isla Vista killer Elliot Rodger an ‘American Hero’, after resisting doing so despite requests from swathes of users.
The page had called Rodger an “American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle against feminazi ideology”, and asked users to “pay tribute to him”.” (3)
The Men’s Rights Movement is known to be established in many of the first world countries globally, including the UK, US, Australia, and Canada, where contributors for AVFM are established. More recently, MRA notables have been hosting conferences in many of these areas and have raised controversy in the US and Canada with provocative posters that state, “Just because you regret a one night stand doesn’t mean it wasn’t consensual. Don’t be that girl”. These were MRA responses to anti-rape posters that, Canadian police claimed, lowered rapes by 10 percent within 2012-2013. (6)
One of the more prominent Men’s Rights outlets in the US is A Voice For Men (avoiceformen.com) which was founded by Paul Elam in 2009, boasts 14,000 followers on Facebook, and has Erin Pizzey (founder of one of some of the first domestic violence shelters in modern day, with the leading organization known as “Refuge”), Dean Esmay and John Hembling as the main contributors to the website material. Other contributors to AVFM include Warren Farrell, who used to be on the board for National Organization of Women (NOW), Barbara Kay, and Helen Smith.
As a previous SW article (7) notes, Elam and his colleagues hosted an event in Detroit titled “First International Conference on Men’s Issues” which was driven out of a Double Tree hotel by protestors and a petition that called on the hotel management to cancel Elam’s event.
Elam, however, chose a different venue and held the conference despite the protests. AVFM chose Veterans of Foreign Wars post in St. Clair Shores, stating that the reason they moved was because they needed more room to accommodate the attendees, which in the end turned out to be a little over 100 people. (8) Speakers at the conference included Erin Pizzey, Paul Elam, National Post columnist Barbara Kay, Mike Buchanan, psychiatrist Tara Palmatier, and libertarian spokesperson and YouTube vlogger Stefan Molyneoux.
The message of the AVFM at this conference? Women and feminism are the root causes of all of men’s suffering since the dawn of civilization and “the matriarchy” must be dismantled. The writers for AVFM assert that the court systems are skewed in favor of women, that feminism is chipping away at the masculinity of the male population and causing male suicide rates to grow, that “rape culture” and circumcision are inventions by feminists to oppress men, etc.
The majority of the conference was spent dwelling on feminism and the role of women in society with very little time spent discussing oppressions that men (especially men of color and transmen) face in society. In fact, a large portion of the anti-woman, anti-feminist rhetoric came from the female speakers.
Dr. Tara Palmatier opted to use her time on the panel to psycho-analyze the female population with some misogynistic remarks. Adam Serwer of MSNBC writes, “She diagnosed some women with what she called “golden uterus syndrome,” which she explained as what happens when a mother will “fleece your ex-husband in divorce court and take assets you didn’t earn, you deserve it, take that bastard to the cleaners, force a man into fatherhood with an accidental pregnancy, hey, if he wouldn’t commit, sometimes you gotta push him into it.”
The conference was also saturated in rape apologist puns and complete dismissal of sexual assault as an issue. A slide in one of the presentations had Miley Cyrus with the caption “Stop objectifying me. You’re being rapey” and one speaker opened his discussion by making rape jokes about his son.
This type of language is not a new concept to the MRM, however. AVFM frequently publishes articles that demean women, slam campus anti-sexual assault efforts as “rape culture hysteria”, and refers to anti-sexual assault state laws as “attacks” on men’s rights.
One popular claim MRAs tend to make is that women have historically taken “easy” jobs and have left men with the manual labor. Despite there being numerous sources indicating that working class women contribute billions of dollars in revenue for the capitalist economy, including forced labor in human trafficking circles in which women make up 60% of the labor force (9), MRAs are convinced that the female populous generate no capital for the global economy. This is usually followed by some sort of statement about “coal mines versus domestic labor” or “women shouldn’t be in the military” within their anti-feminist tirades.
One thing MRAs are known for among feminists and the mainstream media is their inability to feel any sort of empathy for women who become victims of sex crimes. The rape apology of Paul Elam knows no bounds. In fact, one of the more infamous statements Paul Elam made was a statement that women who are assaulted while inebriated are “begging for it”. (10)
In the aftermath of the domestic violence scandal involving MMA fighter Jonathan “War Machine” Koppenhaver, who was arrested after beating his ex-fiancée Christy Mack, prominent spokesperson of the Indian Men’s Rights Movement Rajesh Kumar endorsed the behavior of the MMA fighter. Kumar approved of the statement made by Koppenhaver regarding men’s rights, which Koppenhaver stated that men’s oppression was worse than Nazi oppression of the Jews and white oppression of black slaves. (11)
A supporter of the MRM that recently emerged is the “Amazing Atheist”, who has access to 80,000 followers on Facebook and rakes in thousands of viewers on Youtube. The majority of his blogging consists of vilifying feminists and making attempts to expose what he deems as a broad “feminazi conspiracy”. He spends a large portion of his time harassing users on reddit and attacking women for calling him out on his rape jokes. In fact, he more recently made headlines in “We Hunted the Mammoth” for attempting to trigger a user for discussing her sexual assault experience. (12)
The Men’s Rights Movement, while claiming to stand for the human rights of men, appears to serve only one mission: to viciously attack and vilify women and feminists in an effort to reassert the rigid patriarchal capitalist gender norms. It is nothing more than another reactionary cause fabricated by social conservatives seeking to silence women. Like other reactionary forces, it has the potential to further divide the working class by pitting one group of workers against another.
The Men’s Rights Movement must be confronted and challenged by feminists, revolutionaries, activists and community organizers wherever these MRAs may appear. We need to send a message that their sexist ideology will not be tolerated in our communities or online.