ⓘ Mens rights movement
The mens rights movement is a branch of mens movement. The MRM in particular consists of a variety of groups and individuals who focus on general social issues and specific government services which they claim adversely impact, or in some cases structurally discriminate against, men and boys. Common topics debated within the mens rights movement include the alleged favor given to women in family law including but not limited to matters such as child custody, alimony and marital property distribution. The movement also concerns itself with parenting, reproduction, suicides among men, domestic violence against men, circumcision, education, conscription, social safety nets, and health policies. The mens rights movement branched off from the mens liberation movement in the early 1970s, with both groups comprising a part of the larger mens movement.
Some scholars have described the mens rights movement or parts of the movement as a backlash against feminism. Claims and activities associated with the mens rights movement have been criticized and labeled hateful and violent. In 2018, while noting "some corners of the mens rights movement focused on legitimate grievances," the Southern Poverty Law Center categorized some mens rights groups as being part of a hate ideology under the umbrella of "male supremacy" see: androcentrism and patriarchy. The movement and sectors of the movement have been described as misogynistic.
1.1. History Forerunners
The term "mens rights" was used at least as early as February 1856 when it appeared in Putnams Magazine.
Three loosely connected mens rights organizations formed in Austria in the interwar period. The League for Mens Rights was founded in 1926 with the goal of "combatting all excesses of womens emancipation". In 1927, the Justitia League for Family Law Reform and the Aequitas Worlds League for the Rights of Men split from the League of Mens Rights. The three mens rights groups opposed womens entry into the labor market and what they saw as the corrosive influence of the womens movement on social and legal institutions. They criticized marriage and family laws, especially the requirement to pay spousal and child support to former wives and illegitimate children, and supported the use of blood tests to determine paternity. Justitia and Aequitas issued their own short-lived journals Mens Rightists Newspaper and Self-Defense where they expressed their views that were heavily influenced by the works of Heinrich Schurtz, Otto Weininger, and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels. The organizations ceased to exist before 1939.
1.2. History Movement
The modern mens rights movement emerged from the mens liberation movement, which appeared in the first half of the 1970s when scholars began to study feminist ideas and politics. The mens liberation movement acknowledged mens institutionalized power while critically examining the consequences of hegemonic masculinity. In the late 1970s, the mens liberation movement split into two separate strands with opposing views: the pro-feminist mens movement and the anti-feminist mens rights movement. Mens rights activists have rejected feminist principles and focused on areas in which they believe men are disadvantaged, oppressed, or discriminated against. Masculinities studies scholar Michael Kimmel notes that their critiques of gender roles "morphed into a celebration of all things masculine and a near infatuation with the traditional masculine role itself."
In the 1980s and 1990s, mens rights activists opposed societal changes sought by feminists and defended the patriarchal gender order in the family, schools and the workplace. Some mens rights activists view men as an oppressed group and believe that society and men have been "feminized" by the womens movement. Sarah Maddison, an Australian author, has said that Warren Farrell and Herb Goldberg "argue that, for most men, power is an illusion, and that women are the true power holders in society through their roles as the primary carers and nurturers of children".
One of the first major mens rights organizations was the Coalition of American Divorce Reform Elements, founded by Richard Doyle in 1971, from which the Mens Rights Association spun off in 1973. Free Men Inc. was founded in 1977 in Columbia, Maryland, spawning several chapters over the following years, which eventually merged to form the National Coalition of Free Men now known as the National Coalition for Men. Mens Rights, Inc. was also formed in 1977. Fathers and Families was formed in 1994. In the United Kingdom, a mens rights group calling itself the UK Mens Movement began to organize in the early 1990s. The Save Indian Family Foundation SIFF was founded in 2005, and in 2010 claimed to have over 30.000 members.
Mens rights groups have formed in some European countries during periods of shifts toward conservatism and policies supporting patriarchal family and gender relations. In the United States, the mens rights movement has ideological ties to neoconservatism. Mens rights activists have received lobbying support from conservative organizations and their arguments have been covered extensively in neoconservative media.
The mens rights movement has become more vocal and more organized since the development of the internet. The manosphere emerged and mens rights websites and forums have proliferated on the internet. Activists mostly organize online. The most popular mens rights site is A Voice for Men. Other sites dedicated to mens rights issues are the Fathers Rights Foundation, MGTOW Men Going Their Own Way, and subreddits like /r/MensRights. Mens rights proponents often use the red pill and blue pill metaphor from a scene in The Matrix to identify each other online and in reference to the moment they came to believe that men are oppressed. There tends to be much hostility between the different subgroups. Critics say that r/TheRedPill is a subreddit dedicated to mens rights. However, others from within the subreddit claim they focus on personal and interpersonal improvement. Some critics, outside the subreddit, say r/TheRedPill does not really care for the men’s rights movement and that MGTOW Men Going Their Own Way are men who have no patience for either /r/TheRedPill or mens rights.
Fringe political parties focusing on mens rights have been formed including, but not limited to, the Australian Non-Custodial Parents Party Equal Parenting, the Israeli Mans Rights in the Family Party, and the Justice for Men and Boys party in the UK.
Most mens rights activists in the United States are white, middle-class, heterosexual men. Prominent advocates include Warren Farrell, Herb Goldberg, Richard Doyle, and Asa Baber. Several women have emerged as leading voices of the MRM, including Helen Smith, Christina Hoff Sommers and Erin Pizzey.
1.3. History Relation to feminism
Many scholars consider the mens rights movement a backlash or countermovement to feminism. Bob Lingard and Peter Douglas suggest that the conservative wing of the mens rights movement, rather than the mens rights position in general, is an antifeminist backlash. Masculinities scholar Jonathan A. Allan described the mens rights movement as a reactionary movement that is defined by its opposition to women and feminism but has not yet formulated its own theories and methodologies outside of antifeminism. Scholar Michael Messner notes that the early mens rights movement "appropriates the symmetrical language of sex roles" first used by feminists, which implies a false balance of institutional power between men and women.
The mens rights movement generally incorporates points of view that reject feminist and profeminist ideas. Mens rights activists have said that they believe feminism has radicalized its objective and harmed men. They believe that rights have been taken away from men and that men are victims of feminism and feminizing influences in society. They dispute that men as a group have institutional power and privilege and believe that men are victimized and disadvantaged relative to women. Mens rights groups generally reject the notion that feminism is interested in mens problems, and some mens rights activists have viewed the womens movement as a plot to deliberately conceal discrimination against men and promote gynocentrism.
Mens rights proponents are concerned with a wide variety of matters, some of which have spawned their own groups or movements, such as the fathers rights movement, concerned specifically with divorce and child custody issues. Some, if not all, mens rights issues stem from gender roles and, according to sociologist Allan Johnson, patriarchy.
2.1. Issues Adoption
Mens rights activists seek to expand the rights of unwed fathers in case of their childs adoption. Warren Farrell argues that in failing to inform the father of a pregnancy, an expectant mother deprives an adopted child of a relationship with the biological father. He proposes that women be legally required to make every reasonable effort to notify the father of her pregnancy within four to five days. In response, philosopher James P. Sterba agrees that, for moral reasons, a woman should inform the father of the pregnancy and adoption, but this should not be imposed as a legal requirement as it might result in undue pressure, for example, to have an abortion.
2.2. Issues Anti-dowry laws
Mens rights organizations such as Save Indian Family Foundation SIFF say that women misuse legislation meant to protect them from dowry death and bride burnings. SIFF is a mens rights organization in India that focuses on abuse of anti-dowry laws against men. SIFF has campaigned to abolish Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which penalizes cruelty by husbands and the husbands family in pursuit of dowry for driving a wife to suicide. SIFF states anti-dowry laws are regularly being abused to settle petty disputes in marriage and that they regularly receive calls from many men who allege their wives have used false dowry claims to imprison them.
2.3. Issues Child custody
Family law is an area of deep concern among mens rights groups. Mens rights adherents argue that the legal system and family courts discriminate against men, especially in regards to child custody after divorce. They believe that men do not have the same contact rights or equitable shared parenting rights as their ex-spouse and use statistics on custody awards as evidence of judicial bias against men. Mens rights advocates seek to change the legal climate for men through changes in family law, for example by lobbying for laws that make joint custody the default custody arrangement except in cases where one parent is unfit or unwilling to parent. They appropriated the feminist rhetoric of "rights" and "equality" in their discourse, framing child custody as a matter of basic civil rights. Mens rights activists argue that the lack of contact with their children makes fathers less willing to pay child support. Others cite the discredited parental alienation syndrome PAS or parental alienation as a reason to grant custody to fathers; they claim that mothers alienate children from their fathers and make false accusations of abuse in order to seek revenge against fathers.
Scholars and critics assert that empirical research does not support the notion of a judicial bias against men and that mens rights advocates distort statistics in a way that ignores the fact that the majority of men do not seek custody.
Academics critique the rhetorical framing of custody decisions, stating that mens rights advocates appeal for "equal rights" without ever specifying the legal rights they believe have been violated. Scholars and critics assert that the mens rights rhetoric of childrens "needs" that accompanies their plea for fathers rights is merely to deflect criticism that they are motivated by self-interest and masks mens rights advocates own claims. Critics argue that abusive men use allegations of parental alienation to counter mothers legitimate concerns about their and their chlldrens safety. Deborah Rhode argues that contrary to the claims of some mens rights activists, research shows that joint legal custody does not increase the likelihood that fathers will pay child support or remain involved parents. Michael Flood argues that the fathers and mens rights movement seem to prioritize re-establishing paternal authority over actual involvement with the children, and that they prioritize formal principles of equality over positive parenting and well-being of the children.
2.4. Issues Circumcision
Observers have noted that the intactivist movement, an anti-circumcision movement, has some overlap with the mens rights movement. Most mens rights activists object to routine neonatal circumcision and say that female genital mutilation has received more attention than male circumcision.
The controversy around non-consensual circumcision of children for non-therapeutic reasons is not exclusive to the mens rights movement, and involves concerns of feminists and medical ethics. Some doctors and academics have argued that circumcision is a violation of the right to health and bodily integrity, while others have disagreed.
2.5. Issues Criminal justice
Warren Farrell claims there are criminal defenses that are only available to women. N. Quintin Woolf has argued that the over-representation of men as both murderers and the victims of murder is evidence that men are being harmed by outmoded cultural attitudes. Professor Sonja B. Starr research suggests that after controlling for the arrest offense, criminal history, and other prior characteristics, "men receive 63% longer sentences on average than women do," and as there is a real danger that MRA Mens Rights Activism claims could come to define the popular conversation about sexual violence.
2.6. Issues Reproductive rights
In 2006, the American National Center for Men backed a lawsuit known as Dubay v. Wells. The case concerned whether men should have the opportunity to decline all paternity rights and responsibilities in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. Supporters argued that this would allow the woman time to make an informed decision and give men the same reproductive rights as women. The case and the appeal were dismissed, with the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit stating that neither parent has the right to sever their financial responsibilities for a child and that "Dubays claim that a mans right to disclaim fatherhood would be analogous to a womans right to abortion rests upon a false analogy".
2.7. Issues Social security and insurance
Mens rights groups argue that women are given superior social security and tax benefits than men. Warren Farrell states that men in the United States pay more into social security, but in total, women receive more in benefits, and that discrimination against men in insurance and pensions have gone unrecognized.
2.8. Issues Suicide
Mens rights activists point to higher suicide rates in men compared to women. In the United States for example, the male-to-female suicide death ratio varies, approximately, between 3:1 and 10:1. However, studies have found an over-representation of women in attempted or incomplete suicides and men in complete suicide. This phenomenon, described as the "gender paradox of suicide", is argued to derive from a tendency for females to use less lethal methods and greater male access and use of lethal methods.
The mens rights movement has been criticized for exhibiting misogynistic tendencies. The Southern Poverty Law Center has stated that while some of the websites, blogs and forums related to the movement "voice legitimate and sometimes disturbing complaints about the treatment of men, what is most remarkable is the misogynistic tone that pervades so many". After further research into the movement, the SPLC elaborated: "A thinly veiled desire for the domination of women and a conviction that the current system oppresses men in favor of women are the unifying tenets of the male supremacist worldview." Other studies have pointed towards mens rights groups in India trying to change or completely abolish important legal protections for women as a form of patriarchal anxiety as well as being hostile towards women.
Professor Ruth M. Mann of the University of Windsor in Canada suggests that mens rights groups fuel an international rhetoric of hatred and victimization by disseminating misinformation via online forums and websites containing constantly-updated "diatribes against feminism, ex-wives, child support, shelters, and the family law and criminal justice systems". According to Mann, these stories reignite their hatred and reinforce their beliefs that the system is biased against men and that feminism is responsible for a large scale and ongoing "cover-up" of mens victimization. Mann says that although existing legislation in Canada acknowledges that men are also victims of domestic violence, mens rights advocates demand government recognition that men are equally or more victimized by domestic violence, claims not supported by the data. Mann also states that in contrast to feminist groups, who have advocated for domestic violence services on behalf of other historically oppressed groups in addition to women, such as individuals impacted by poverty, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, etc., mens rights groups have attempted to achieve their goals by actively opposing and attempting to dismantle services and supports put in place to protect abused women and children.
Other researchers such as Michael Flood have accused the mens rights movement, particularly the fathers rights groups in Australia, of endangering women, children, and even men who are at greater risk of abuse and violence. Flood states that the mens rights/fathers rights groups in Australia pursues "equality with a vengeance" or equal policies with negative outcomes and motives in order to re-establish paternal authority over the well-being of children and women as well as positive parenting.
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