Since the 1990s a ‘men’s movement’ has existed, led by those who have felt the success of feminism has led to an increasing devaluing of the role of men in our society. More recently, a new ‘men’s rights’ movement has appeared, which seeks in a more direct political activist manner to redress various injustices towards males, typified by groups like ‘Fathers for Justice’ and the recently-formed ‘Justice for Men and Boys’ political party. However, in a time when identity politics are fashionable, and there are political and pressure groups representing every conceivable group, it’s curious that when you mention the term ‘men’s rights’ to people, the reaction is quite often sheer bemusement – basically along the lines of: “Why on earth do we need a men’s rights movement?” I believe we do – and I shall attempt to justify that belief in what follows. 1 https://j4mb.wordpress.com 2 http://www.fathers-4-justice.org http://network4men.org
Personally I was a strong supporter of feminism for years, as it is absolutely undeniable that in the UK and other western countries until recently women and girls were treated in many ways as second class citizens, as they still are in many parts of the world to this day. Surveys indicate that across the world, at least in theory, there is overwhelming support for ‘equity feminism’ – ie., equal opportunities for women and men. However, with succeeding ‘waves’ of feminism – we are currently experiencing the third or perhaps the fourth ‘wave’ – as with so many ‘liberation’ movements, it seems that feminism has moved from fighting for equal opportunities for women towards something like an anti-male, misandrist movement. That is certainly how many men (and quite a few women) are starting to see it today. This is unhealthy for men and for women, and we need to do something to address it. 3 https://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/10/05/treat-women-equally-dont-call-it-feminism
The argument of the men’s rights movement and men’s rights activists (MRAs) is that in a considerable number of areas men are being treated unjustly and issues specifically affecting males are being neglected. Here are just some examples:
Divorce and custody
There is considerable evidence that family courts are biased against men. Divorce settlements do not start from a default 50/50 division; in the vast number of cases men end up losing their homes, much of their money and are required to support their former spouse financially. Widespread paternity fraud often means they are paying to support other people’s children. In well over 70% of cases women are awarded custody of their children, and a staggering 96% of those applying for ‘access’ to their own children are men. Although a majority of these gain some form of access, this is often very limited and either under ‘supervision’ or even in remote form, by phone or webcam only, for example. Some men lose all access to their children completely, while still having to contribute to their maintenance.
4 http://www.wikivorce.com/divorce/FAQs/Child-Contact-and-Residence-Custody/Are-mothers-always-awarded-residence-of-the-children.html 5 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/relationships/fatherhood/11647915/Are-divorced-dads-really-treated-fairly-by-the-family-courts.html
It’s fairly well-known that nowadays boys are increasingly falling behind girls in schools. When this was the other way round in the past it was blamed on discrimination; now it appears to be blamed on the boys themselves for being ‘difficult’ or ‘disruptive’ and not fitting in well with the increasingly feminised style of modern schooling. It is widely acknowledged that boys and girls benefit from different styles of teaching, and yet boys’ schools with a distinct male ethos have steadily disappeared’; 70% of full-time teachers are women; in primary schools only 16% of teachers are now male.
Legal treatment of rape and rape allegations
In this most vexed of areas an increasing number of men (and some women) are pointing out the unfairness of the fact that males accused of rape have their names released to the media long before any case is brought, let alone any verdict arrived at, whereas the alleged victims have their identities protected. This leads to ‘trial by media’ in high profile cases, and frequently leads to the permanent undermining of the man’s reputation, even if he is later acquitted or not even charged. A number of men and youths actually commit suicide each year as a result of this public defamation and the ostracism, and abuse – often on social media, it leads to. Feminists regularly demand that there should be ‘more convictions’ in rape cases, thus calling into question the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and even if he is acquitted, an accusation of rape will continue to shadow the life of the man concerned on the basis of ‘no smoke without fire’. Incidentally, although women are quite capable of, and do commit, sexual abuse, ‘rape’ is defined on the basis of penetration with a penis, therefore women are not deemed capable of rape. There are many male victims of rape, and in the case of child sexual abuse a considerable proportion of victims are boys abused by women as well as men, yet rape and sexual assault are overwhelmingly depicted as ‘women’s issues’.
7 http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/dangerous-rape-myths-part-1 http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/dangerous-rape-myths-part-2 https://hequal.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/bbc-has-never-reported-a-single-suicide-caused-by-false-rape-allegations http://www.blogher.com/gender-bias-statutory-rape
Nearly four times as many men commit suicide in the UK than women, and eleven times more after break up with a partner. Many would put this down to the negative depiction of males in education and the media and a lack of self- esteem brought about by the destruction of traditional male roles and the absence of positive male role models in the lives of so many young males. Also to insecurity over relationships with women and the destruction wrought by false rape allegations.
8 http://www.esquire.co.uk/culture/news/a9202/britain-male-suicide-crisis http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/mens-health/11978290/Male-suicide-now-a-national-public-health-emergency-MPs-warned.html
There is a surprising lack of awareness and indeed denial of the fact that victims of domestic violence are in fact as much as 40% male. There is a major stigma attached to men seeking help in such situations, and little or no help available, whereas there are shelters and help available for female victims.
9 http://www.parity-uk.org/male_dom_abuse.php https://hequal.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/bbc-notts-police-chief-publicise-non-existent-hate-crimes-against-women-whilst-ignoring-fatal-domestic-violence-against-men https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence https://hequal.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/domestic-violence-double-standards-male-mp-was-forced-to-stand-down-when-cautioned-for-assaulting-partner-yet-sarah-champion-receives-support-for-same-crime
Negative stereotyping of males in the media
For years now males have been subject to negative depiction in the media. Adverts featuring bumbling, stupid and unpleasant males being put in their place by confident, super-competent and frankly patronising women are routine. Jokes on alleged comedy programmes, especially on the BBC, putting down men are common, whereas anything of the kind directed at women would instantly be condemned as ‘sexist’. Male media figures deemed to have said something derogatory about women are castigated and often lose their jobs, whereas misandric remarks pass without comment or are regarded as amusing. Soap operas and other long-running TV series are full of extremely negative stereotypes of males – try and think of just one genuinely positive male character in The Simpsons, for example. This kind of thing may seem trivial, but these programmes are watched by millions, including huge numbers of children.
10 http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/11/14/are-men-the-latest-victims-of-media-misrepresentation/#153208625825 http://www.avoiceformen.com/art-entertainment-culture/portrayal-of-men-in-the-media-why-there-needs-to-be-a-reverse-bechdel-test http://forums.avoiceformen.com/showthread.php?17725-The-Simpsons
Destruction of male spaces
Most traditional male spaces and organisations, such as gentlemen’s clubs, golf clubs, working men’s associations, the Scouts etc., have been forced to admit females by law, whereas the same has not happened to female equivalents. Public spaces such as swimming pools and libraries now have regular ‘women-only’ sessions, but rarely, if ever, ‘men-only’ ones, even though such spaces are paid for by all tax-payers equally.
Prostate cancer and other medical issues
10,000 men die every year in the UK from prostate cancer. Only quite recently has this uniquely male issue had more resources directed at it, whereas breast cancer has been a major issue for many years; but research funding for the former is still only one third of that for the latter. There is evidence to suggest that considerably more is spent on women’s health than men’s in general.
One in four UK children is now growing up in families without a father present. This suits the militant feminist ethos of ‘the disposable male’ and the ‘alternative family’ just fine, but many would regard it as bad for children – especially for boys growing up without positive male role models. Some credit this for the growth of male gang culture in urban areas.
There are twenty times more men in prison than women in the UK, even though only approximately three times as many men are convicted of criminal offences. This means that males are far more likely to be imprisoned than females for similar offence – a clear case of discrimination.
14 http://mra-uk.co.uk/?p=215 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3736278/If-way-round-think-d-prison-Driving-instructor-23-brutally-stabbed-jealous-ex-girlfriend-demanding-tougher-sentences-violent-women.html https://j4mb.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/jail-sentences-for-revenge-porn-five-months-if-youre-a-man-no-jail-sentence-if-youre-a-woman
90 % of homeless people in the UK are men.
Feminists demand ‘equality’ (ie., parity) in professional jobs, but strangely not in the many unpleasant, dirty and dangerous jobs which are overwhelmingly done by men. 96% of work fatalities in the UK are men. Men are twice as likely to be made redundant as women. Demands for 50/50 proportions in all areas are a) curiously selective and b) if carried out would result presumably in people being forced to do certain jobs rather than other to fulfil the quotas.
16 http://www.reresourcegroup.co.uk/sex-discrimination-men-work-place http://www.avoiceformen.com/feminism/mike-rugnetta-you-got-some-splaining-to-do-video http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3334342/HSBC-start-blacking-names-CVs-drive-ensure-half-senior-jobs-given-women.html#ixzz3sZwBFynd http://thebackbencher.co.uk/sexism-men-exist http://www2.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2014/06/09/male-employees-win-landmark-sex-discrimination-case.aspx
MGTOWs (Men Going Their Own Way)
‘MGTOWS’ are mostly young men who tragically feel that having any kind of intimate relationship with a woman is now so fraught with danger, particularly because of the danger of having their lives destroyed by rape allegations, that they have decided to avoid any such relationships. Instead of being seen as a sad symbol of the poisoning of relations between the sexes, men who publicly identify as MGTOWS are likely to be abused, persecuted on social media and at places of study/work and accused of being ‘rape apologists’
There is now growing support for men’s rights – not least among quite a lot of fair-minded women. Recently a law company has been founded catering specifically for men in the area of divorce and family courts. Besides specific campaigning organisations there are increasing numbers of websites, forums and video blogs in which men’s issues are discussed. Father’s Day and International Men’s Day are beginning to be respected rather than being treated merely as a joke. Hopefully in the near future the most obvious injustices in the areas of rape cases and family courts will be addressed and greater realism will prevail in areas like employment discrimination, health etc. But the influence of militant feminism now pervades our society and institutions and any mention of men’s rights is routinely received with a chorus of contempt and derision, so it will not be an easy struggle. One day perhaps, in the distant future, people will no longer need to talk about ‘men’s rights’ any more than about ‘women’s rights’, but rather about ‘human rights’, because that’s what they are. But as long as a militant feminist tendency continues to push for more and more misandric measures in our society I think we will need a determined and well-organised men’s rights movement. Men’s rights are human rights – men are human too!
Laurence Hughes is a freelance composer and writer based in Oxford.