The latest from A Voice For Men’s “activism” files is a smear campaign against a protester they are calling “Big Red.” “Big Red” (nothing sexist about that name) is a woman who dared to speak out (USING SWEAR WORDS, OH NO) against Men’s Rights Activists’ anti-feminist agenda.
For those who are unfamiliar with this situation, earlier in April a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) group called the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) sponsored a lecture at the University of Toronto where there were talks by Janice Fiamengo about how feminism is mean. Specifically, a “mean-spirited bias against men in the humanities.”
There were protestors at the event which CAFE says could be heard shouting during the talk. From their website: “Dialogue confronting sexism proceeds while protestors scream to shut down even.” Paul Elam and friends at A Voice for Men took it upon themselves to celebrate free speech by editing videos featuring Big Red, while Dan Perrins wrote an article entitled: “Little Red Frothing Fornication Mouth” that you can find yourself if you are so inclined. This campaign highlighted Big Red’s protest and compared her practice of disagreement, which however loud and obnoxious is still covered under freedom of expression, by comparing what she was talking about -- patriarchal theory and how it affects men -- to tactics used by the Third Reich.
First of all, let’s be clear here: No, Big Red was not polite. Yes, she was abrasive and caustic and downright rude. No, neither of the authors of this article would necessarily choose to protest an event that they feel is designed to silence women by yelling shut the fuck up. Yes, we see the irony in the fact that she was screaming over (seemingly reasonable) voices, claiming that she isn’t being heard.
But you know what? As Polonius said: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”
She’s not being heard. Those men aren’t listening to her when she’s countering their points about how hard it is to be a man. Those men aren’t listening when she’s trying to explain how feminism is not, in fact, the work of Satan and actually does work to address the issues that they’re bringing up. Those men aren’t listening when she tries to read off a list explaining the actual goals of feminism, but yet they insist she read their list.
Look, Big Red might not the person that we would choose as the poster child for Canadian feminism. Maybe her behaviour isn’t ideal. But we also understand how dealing with men, men who won’t admit to the existence of the patriarchy, men who deny the idea of male privilege, men who hate women, can wear you down until you turn into the screaming feminist banshee that the MRAs thought you were all along, anyway.
Big Red has (naturally) been identified on the Men’s Rights subreddit, where those Hardy Boys of misogyny have used their super sleuthing skills to discover her real name and have pulled photographs from her twitter account and various dating profiles.
This woman, who has been re-christened “Little Red Frothing Fornication Mouth” (so charming!) by A Voice for Men is now receiving death threats, rape threats and, of course, tons of crude sexual commentary regarding her appearance and behaviour. We wish that we could say that we’re surprised, but we’re not.
The fact is that you are fucking kidding yourself if you think that Elam’s Men’s Rights Movement is about anything other than silencing women. And even if it were true that every single individual MRA wasn’t out to destroy all feminists everywhere — the ultimate goals of the movement as a whole is to Teach Women Their Place through whatever means necessary.
Aside from how triggering and painful it is to watch yet another woman be thrown to the internet wolves, it’s also just plain exhausting and demoralizing having to hear the same old song and dance from the MRAs about the evils of feminism:
“Feminists are trying to silence men.”
“Feminists hate men.”
“Feminism has lead to the oppression of men” (seriously, every time someone says that, we want to break out Mandy Patinkin’s old Princess Bride gem: “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”).
“Why is it called feminism if it’s for human rights?”
The truth is that, fundamentally, these arguments used against feminism by the MRAs can be applied much more accurately to their own movement.
For instance, how can A Voice for Men demand free speech while practicing silencing and bullying tactics worthy of the McCarthy himself? They mimic the practices of Neo-Nazi website Redwatch, claiming to be suffering from oppression while at the same time publishing personal information about far left and anti-fascist activists in hopes that their supporters will attack them. The constant comparison of feminists to Nazis employed by the author of “Little Red Frothing Fornication Mouth” doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny when you publish on a site that borrows neo-Nazi tactics. Also: Ideologically, feminism is far more closely aligned with communism than fascism. Read a book.
One of the writers of this piece has had the delight of speaking with people who, enraged about her video explaining that feminism is not hatred of men, have mocked everything from her looks to her intellect. Other posts written by feminists are rife with commenters insinuating that our preoccupation with rape belies some deep urge to experience it (RAPE – IT’S WHAT WE ALL WANT, AMIRITE LADIES?). And this sentiment isn’t happening in the periphery of A Voice for Men– not at all. In fact, it’s included in much of the featured content on their site.
Paul Elam, founder and publisher of A Voice for Men, wrote in his June 22, 2011 article, “The Unspoken Side of Rape”: “The concept of rape has a lot of utility for women. One, it feeds their narcissistic need to feel irresistible.” Interestingly, we have yet to hear one single feminist posit that MRAs write about prison rape because it makes them feel desirable or sexy. The difference, they would likely argue, is that the feminists talking about rape are heterosexual women who are talking about heterosexual rape (sidebar -- how come we’re all man-hating lesbians when it’s convenient for them, and other times we’re all undersexed heteros?), whereas prison rape is heterosexual men being subjected to homosexual acts. THIS IS FUCKING BULLSHIT. Equating sexual preference with rape is a false comparison. Rape, by definition, is unwanted.
But maybe A Voice for Men’s (intentional) misunderstanding of this fact is what allows them to feel comfortable threatening women with rape -- Because in their minds, it’s what we all secretly want anyway.
Unfortunately, Big Red’s case is not the first time that A Voice for Men has used silencing tactics against feminists. Emma (Claire) Kadey is listed on register-her.com along with women the MRAs have listed as pedophiles and rapists, for taking down posters of the U of T students and loudly protesting against the lecture. On June 28th, 2011 Elam gleefully declared “You see, I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage. I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection” (pssst we call that hate speech).
Additionally A Voice for Men has offered $1000 bounties for the personal information of the creators of a (fake) video where a man is shot point-blank and then the females present gleefully dance around his dead body. Do the authors of this article think that video’s fucked up? Sure. And yet, we don’t typically demand the personal information for those who create graphic BDSM videos, or of those who produce the sub-genre of horror known colloquially as torture porn.
A Voice for Men created register-her.com, a fake “offenders registry” of women they’d like to believe are criminals. In AVfM land, criminals are people like Jessica Valenti, Sophia Guo (a protester at MRA god, Warren Farrell’s 2012 talk at the University of Toronto), Katherine Heigl (kind of a weird addition), and Amanda Marcotte.
In short, their “criminals” are feminists.
A Voice for Men can lie all they want about their intentions to expose hatred within the feminist community. They can pretend that they have nothing against women, per se, just that they’re trying to protect themselves against the Evil Machinations of Man-Haters Everywhere. They can go ahead and make trumped up claims about how badly feminists have hurt them, how little power men have, and how very dangerous feminism is (while boasting a terrorist manifesto by Tim Ball calling for police, courts and government to be burned out). They can pretend that they’re on some kind of human rights mission.
But you know what? We don’t understand how promoting human rights equates to lobbing death threats and rape threats at women who dare to speak out against MRAs.
We have never seen a feminist threaten an MRA with any of those things. Of course, in the bottom half of the internet you never know what you will find, but we haven’t seen it. The usual cries against feminist literature “but the SCUM Manifesto -- feminists are mean!” Well, Solanas has been quoted as saying “it is a literary device. There’s no society and never will be”. So it is going to be ok! There’s no group of feminists out there plotting mass gendercide. Equality… We want equality.
In all movements there happen to surface voices that we wouldn’t choose to represent the totality of the whole movement. In fact, there are many MRAs who are starting to feel that way about A Voice for Men. Even in the Men’s Rights Reddit there are dissenting voices against A Voice for Men’s tendency to demand free speech while practicing silencing tactics.
The fact is that A Voice for Men promotes rape culture and violence against women, and that’s really all there is to it.
Look. Guys. We get it. A lot of you haven’t had easy lives. You’ve had shitty things happen to you. You need a scapegoat, and feminism is an easy one. You feel that women get a free pass in life, and that men are treated badly as a result. But you know what? The most common complaints that I hear from MRAs are things that came about as the result of the patriarchy.
Historically, patriarchy operates through the disproportionate (sometimes exclusive) conferring of leadership status (and formal titles indicating that status) on men, a tradition characterised by casting all women as naturally unsuited to lead men, no matter what talents and expertise they might possess (unless there are exceptional circumstances resulting from intersections with other social hierarchies conferring high status that gives rare women political authority such as the royal lineage in the British family, or the divine claim to authority of Joan of Arc).
A few examples:
Society has always been better to women.
If by better you mean “for centuries society did not consider them to be people, and thought that they were incapable of doing any work outside the home” then sure. In pre-industrial France a man would take a wife when he couldn’t afford a servant.
Biologically every woman counts in reproduction, where males are more disposable.
Look, we don’t like being walking incubators any more than you like feeling as if you’re nothing more than some kind of sperminator. We don’t want to be treated as if we’re special just because we have the ability to get pregnant! This is actually the opposite of what feminists want.
Courts always rule against men in cases regarding child custody
You know why? Because the patriarchy teaches us that only women can be nurturing, loving caregivers. This is not what feminists want! We want to break down traditional gender roles!
Women are rescued first in any emergency or disaster, lifeboats!
First of all, that’s not true, and second of all: Patriarchy. Patriarchy is what teaches us that women aren’t competent enough to save themselves and therefore have to be given some kind of special priority.
Men work longer hours at more dangerous jobs, men have to fight wars, men are more likely to die violent deaths.
Guess why? Oh right, patriarchy, that’s why! Because traditionally we have been taught that women are not strong or brave enough to work at dangerous jobs or fight on the front lines. These are more gender stereotypes that feminists want to get rid of.
And we don’t want men to die violent deaths, I promise. Pinky swear. We need you to fill our sad, empty wombs with babies. Haha! Just kidding! A little feminist humour for you there. No but seriously, we for reals don’t want you to die.
At the end of the day, the fact is that we should all be on the same team. And feminists want this! I promise! But for that to happen, you (and by you, I mean dudes) need to accept a few things: 1) The patriarchy is real, 2) Male privilege actually is a thing, and 3) That women are still struggling for legal and social equality. We need you to be willing to listen to us, to give us the benefit of the doubt, and actually believe us when we tell you that something is sexist or misogynistic.
We want to work with you. But first you have to stop hating us, calling us criminals, and threatening us with death and rape. You need to take a good, hard look at what the Men’s Rights Movement is really trying to achieve, and decide if those are actually goals that you support. And you have to just plain give us a chance.
Danielle Paradis is a writer and blogger scribbling furiously across the feminist internet on Fem 2.0, Flurt Magazine, Persephone Magazine, and Paradigm Shift NYC. She’s completing a Masters in Learning & Technology at Royal Roads University. Danielle currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta while dreaming of any place warmer. Learn more at Danielleparadis.com
Anne Theriault lives in Toronto with her husband and young son. She spends her days teaching yoga, reading in cafés, and trying to figure out how to negotiate in toddler-ese. She regularly blogs about books, nostalgia and feminism at bellejarblog.wordpress.com