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Diminishing legitimate 'male' issues: Gary Mason, the Men's Rights Movement and the myth of misandry

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"There is the perspective that men oppress women. And there is the perspective that people are people, and we are all hurt by rigid sex roles.”…Both perspectives accurately describe our predicament. Men do oppress women. People are hurt by rigid sexist role patterns, These two realities coexist. Male oppression of women cannot be excused by the recognition that there are ways men are hurt by rigid sexist roles. Feminist activists should acknowledge that hurt, and work to change it—it exists. It does not erase or lessen male responsibility for supporting and perpetuating their power under patriarchy to exploit and oppress women in a manner far more grievous than the serious psychological stress and emotional pain caused by male conformity to rigid sexist role patterns."

—  bell hooks - Understanding Patriarchy 

In one of the most inane oped pieces by a male commentator in recent memory, Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail yesterday sought to turn the issue of violence against women on its head by, shamefully, making it about how this violence "diminishes legitimate male issues."

Seriously. A man writing for a major newspaper in 2014, and in the immediate wake of the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, framed male misogynist violence as harmful to men!

As grotesque and bizarre as this line of reasoning at first appears, it is not at all uncommon anymore. Mason goes on to talk about the Men's Rights Movement's false construct of "misandry," which is supposedly "anger and contempt for men" and this is framed as coexistent with or an equivalent of misogyny, which is the fact of centuries of systemic perpetuation of mass violence and oppression against women by men. 

This is an offensive and absurd attempt at equivalency. 

To be clear, "misandry" does not exist. Period. For reasons we will return to, to claim it exists is actually harmful to the very real issues of systemic and class oppression faced by many men. Misandry is a reactionary falsehood, akin to "reverse racism," that pretends that men are somehow "oppressed" by feminism or the women's movement or that it is due to this movement that men's "issues" are now ignored. 

This is total nonsense. The notion that men -- men -- are ignored or that they are made secondary by feminists is so obviously false that it beggars belief that anyone would ever assert it. Mason's assertion that it is men who are demeaned in the media and that it is critics of feminism like Barbara Kay who face online harassment and backlash is ridiculous. In light of the actual campaigns of violent mass online harassment against feminist activists like Anita Sarkeesian and many others by the very men's rights activists he seeks to support it is shockingly wrong and enabling of male online hate speech to imply that there is any equivalency here at all. 

Criticism is not "hate mail." And what Mason calls "gender polarization" and "stereotyping" does not cut it in a society where mass violence and sexual violence by men against women (and other men) is a fact as are the obvious and easily established realities of systemic gendered economic and social inequality for women, especially marginalized or racialized women or women living in poverty.  

Mason, entirely disingenuously, cites Justin Trottier without noting that he is a prominent men's rights activist with direct ties to the Canadian Association for Equality, the political wing of Canadian organized misogyny, and through it to A Voice for Men, the American hate site that it is allied with and that, as I and many others have shown, is an outright facilitator of hate and harassment campaigns against women. 

But, beyond this, there is simply no such thing as a "men's issue" in the systemic way they imply. They do not exist in any meaningful way. There is not a single place in Canada or the world where men face discrimination systemically as men. Not one. This "oppression" is simply a fantasy.

Men face very real issues of actual oppression. Poverty, racism, colonialism and homophobia all oppress countless men in terrible, violent and appalling ways and have for centuries. There is no question about this.

But these oppressions were born of and flow from institutions that were created overwhelmingly and primarily by men. They are all institutions that exist within capitalist and patriarchal society. They are all institutions that were (and still are) sustained by men in positions of power and by our collective history -- a history written, until very recently, exclusively by and for men. As the quote from bell hooks that leads off this piece notes, patriarchy is immensely harmful to many men, but that does not alter the fact that it is a male institution.  

As bell hooks also notes:

"Patriarchy as a system has denied males access to full emotional well-being, which is not the same as feeling rewarded, successful, or powerful because of one’s capacity to assert control over others. To truly address male pain and male crisis we must as a nation be willing to expose the harsh reality that patriarchy has damaged men in the past and continues to damage them in the present. If patriarchy were truly rewarding to men, the violence and addiction in family life that is so all-pervasive would not exist. This violence was not created by feminism."

When men face injustice they do so overwhelmingly due to systemic issues, including many created by patriarchy itself, that have nothing at all to do with feminism. When men face violence it is overwhelmingly at the hands of other men. When men are sexually assaulted it is overwhelmingly by other men (who comprise 97 per cent of sex offenders regardless of the gender of the victim). When men face poverty, racism and homophobia it is due overwhelmingly to the institutions and actions of other men, not women. 

So while misogyny is the actual hatred of and violence towards women by men, misandry is a chimera of the privileged. 

The very real, very harmful, very violent oppressions faced by men are erased by the total idiocy of the narrative of Mason and the Men's Rights Movement. Like white supremacist movements they appropriate legitimate issues but blame those who are actually the systemically oppressed for them. 

By doing this these commentators and "men's rights activists" do men who are actually oppressed far more harm than good. They enable and contribute to this oppression by purposely misrepresenting it to fuel their own political agenda.

"Misandry" does not exist. Class, bigotry and homophobia, however, certainly do. 

If you want to help men facing actual systemic discrimination stop blaming women for capitalism and patriarchy and start fighting for unions, worker's rights, anti-racist and anti-colonialist movements and against homophobia. 

Start the real, difficult and long struggle against the oppressions that capitalism and patriarchy represent and end the lazy and reactionary lie that those seeking to redress our collective history of institutionalized male supremacy are at fault. 

Otherwise it is you who are a part of the actual systemic oppression of men, and also, of course, women, and inventing terms like misandry to pretend it is all the fault of women and feminists will not change this. 

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