Menism is Why We Need Feminism
“I don’t know man,” said Chad. “Like, I support what the feminists are doing, but I worry that if we focus too exclusively on women’s issues, I’m going to have to do a lot more reading and a lot less talking. I mean, I’m glad that they are able to do their thing, but what about the issues that only affect men? I don’t think I can trust women to take care of us like we’ve been taking care of them.”
“I hear you,” Spencer replied. “I’m all about equality—I support Hillary Clinton and all, but it’s getting to the point where I can’t make a single joke without a feminist jumping down my throat. I’m a great guy. I really think that men are at a disadvantage in this country. We have to walk around on eggshells and STILL have to pay for dinner! On top of that I don’t think we’re getting the full picture when it comes to feminism. If things are so bad why are the majority of college graduates women? Like, last week I got passed for the promotion at the Baskin Robbins. They hired Jennifer over me even though I’ve been there longer, just because she’s a woman.”
Dear Chad and Spencer,
You’re the worst…
Chad and Spencer are not real people but they are voicing very real ideas that some men hold to be true. Menism is the backlash to feminism existence of men’s rights and the idea that said rights are just as important and relevant as women’s rights. Some go so far as to consider these rights to be infringed on by feminists themselves.
Feminism exists because women’s ability to participate in civil and political life has historically been fraught with discrimination and repression. Men, as a whole, do not and have not suffered in the same way. So why do some of us feel the need to participate in a separate movement? Part of this has to do with the fact that certain men have trouble identifying with a movement that isn’t about them.
“Feminism is about creating safety for women, creating a viable community for women.
“I think feminism is two things: 1) the moral assertion that men and women deserve equal treatment, both in law and in culture, and 2) the factual assertion that this equal treatment is not, and has never been, actualized. By and large, men experience privileges and opportunities that women do not.”
I consider myself a feminist, in the sense that many people I know and care about need feminism. I also consider myself a feminist because I’ve seen the dangerous and toxic patterns that patriarchy has had on our society. But most importantly, I’m a feminist because as a black man in America, I too understand what it is like to suffer from systemic oppression. I won’t support any system that advocates for the unequal treatment of any group, having faced the same treatment myself.
If defining feminism is difficult, than we will have an even more difficult time parsing out what meninism actually is. For the most part, and within feminist circles, meninism is maligned as a potentially dangerous counter-movement to feminism.
“Meninism is about destroying (feminism) by co-opting feminist language and turning it violent. When (women) say ‘hey we should have equality’ meninists be like ‘so if you hit me I can hit you back, RIGHT?’”
“I think besides the inherent violence that they not only encourage but make light of, I would say that it’s their tireless efforts to delegitimize the feminist movement. They are just loyal in their efforts to silence and not believe women and that is so dangerous.”
Feminism is already doing work to make sure there is equality within the sexes, so why are men so reluctant to be labeled feminists? Feminism, at its core, is a categorical and ubiquitous dismantling of all normative oppressive structures. That includes men. Even though I’m not a woman, as a member of the human species I don’t feel a need to make feminism about my specific male struggles, or me, because when the least of us are held back we all fall behind. By this definition, meninists need to just get with the program.
Meninists can be separated into two categories. There are meninists that seek to directly support the work of feminism, albeit under a seemingly more inclusive name, and there are other groups that seek actively to dismantle the feminist movement altogether. Let’s separate these two types into feManists and Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs). The feManists seek to change the conversation in an attempt to maintain power. The MRAs mark feminists as an oppressor type of their own that men must be protected from.
What’s so bad about feManism?
As part of the more benign segment of menism, feManists consider themselves a direct ally to the feminist movement but feel uncomfortable, for whatever reason, with allying themselves directly with the feminist movement. The critical failure is that feManists don’t understand that everyone benefits from feminism. In this way the feManist, anxious about taking up too much space in the feminist movement, seeks to situate himself in a space that provides as much freedom to men as possible while also seemingly “doing the right thing.” FeManists make this distinction because they don’t feel comfortable playing second fiddle to a movement that seeks power at the expense of the extant structure.
MRAs, on the other hand, take a decidedly more antagonistic approach to feminism. These are the people who seek to actively derail the conversation so as to put men back at the center of discussion. For the MRAs, one person’s freedom is another’s oppression. This summarizes their structural relationship to feminism. If ever there is a case where feminists are perceived as gaining power to the exclusion of men, MRAs are quick to show how this increase in power is unfair and oppressive to men. They use their myopic views to assert asinine attacks at feminist logic. They seek not to actually help men, but to maintain an extant patriarchal status quo.
These are the men who cite biological statistics to support extant gendered power dynamics, who jump on the statistics of how many men are raped as a counterpoint to the number of women, not realizing that rape culture itself is the problem. Ad hominem attacks on women who speak their mind, including comment trolling and doxing, and a general distrust for PC culture as an imagined tool of oppression are all the hallmarks of an MRA.
The danger of the meninist movement is that it inappropriately changes the conversation about feminism, by asserting extant power structures where men control the conversation for the sake of a “truer” form of equality. More than this, the Meninists movement subtlety demonizes the work of feminists by suggesting their movement is incomplete or oppressive. The choice to separate themselves from the broader feminist movement reinforces gender roles, as the meninists don’t feel comfortable in female spaces. But most importantly, the meninist movement as a response to feminism does nothing to advance the rights of men who actually need it.
FEATURE PHOTO BY OSCAR KEYS VIA UNSPLASH