A screengrab from A Voice For Men. Clem Bastow went there so that you wouldn't have to.
Paste-ups and posters spring up around Melbourne with such regularity that you need to take time out from your day to accurately track their comings and goings. However, plenty of people noticed when these posters started appearing. (In particular, at Monash University.)
Tagged with “avoiceformen.com”, they say things like “Domestic Violence: Women Are Half The Problem”.
Posters at Monash University. (Image from Twitter)
There is no trigger warning comprehensive enough to cover the sheer depth of witless awfulness of this website, but here goes. Trigger warning for rape apologism, misogyny, hate speech, anti-feminist rhetoric, and utter, utter idiocy: A Voice For Men.
You’ll have to do your own cherry-picking of AVFM’s articles, since I attempted to find at least one that was reasonable enough to link to and ended up with steam shooting from my ears. I refuse to give them any site traffic, but selected topics of conversation include: Feminist lies and cruelty! Women drive men to domestic violence by complaining about their t-shirts! Women have psychologically scarred men and driven them to expensive and painful penis enlargements!!
I wish I were making this up.
Nobody is really sure if A Voice For Men is real, or a blood-curdlingly well done satire - it could be the ChristWire of anti-feminist commentary.
What is real, however, is the sentiment that fuels A Voice For Men: a new-ish movement known as “men’s rights”, its soldiers men’s rights activists, or MRAs in handy internet parlance.
MRAs tend to be concerned with spreading the word about issues like false allegations of rape, divorce law, and so-called “female privilege”. This BBC Magazine feature gives a handy rundown of who they are and what they want.
The frustrating thing about MRAs is that some of their points are quite salient: depression and rates of suicide among men are indeed troubling, for example. As the BBC piece notes, “[W]hatever one thinks about the spectrum of men's rights activism, there are important issues, like the fact that young men are three times as likely to die by suicide as young women.”
However, more often than not, MRAs seek only to derail discussion of far more pertinent issues, and typically issues that women face on a day-to-day basis. It would be unwise to attempt to deny the fact that, in many ways (especially beyond the privilege of the west), women are still second-class citizens.
MRAs want us to stop talking about issues like young victims of rape being killed for “adultery”, and talk about their issues instead. Yes, the ins and outs of divorce law and custody cause much heartache, but women are still being killed simply because of their gender, it’s vital that these topics stay in the news.
Look at what two politicians - not “vocal minority” nutbags - have said in the past week or so. Tony Abbott thinks that women’s right to “absolutely withhold” sex is a problem. Representative Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican, believes that abortion is not necessary for rape victims who fall pregnant, because in cases of “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down”.
How can anyone read these comments, and the countless others like them, and believe that MRAs might have a point, that women have somehow “won the war” and are now dancing on the crumpled corpse of men’s rights?
We shouldn’t have to weigh these things against each other (“No, our problem is worse than yours!” “No, ours is!”), but here we are, because the men’s rights movement has emerged in order to tell women, once again, to shut up.
The irony is that most feminists are happy for all of these issues to be covered at the same time; they are aware of the ways in which patriarchal constructs can affect men. MRAs, on the other hand, want only for feminism to be swept aside in favour of men’s rights.
“...But this happens to men, too” is their super-fast-pointless-reply in the comments sections on articles concerning things like violence against women and sexism in the workplace.
Here’s an impression of a common men’s rights response to a story about rape: “Being falsely accused of rape is as bad as being raped”.
Now, no decent person is going to suggest that the anguish caused when an innocent person is falsely accused - and sometimes imprisoned for - a crime they didn’t commit isn’t a concern. Nor are they likely to suggest that sexual assault in prison, another issue MRAs often bring up, isn’t a troubling issue.
Suggesting that it’s as bad, or worse, in order to derail discussion of other issues, on the other hand, is counterproductive, and even harmful. If some men are marginalised, they are unquestionably in the minority.
Might I remind any men’s rights types who are planning to fire up their commenting powers on this topic: 77 per cent of reported family violence victims and 89.09 per cent of reported rape victims are women and girls (according to Victoria Police stats from 2010/11). Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of ill-health and premature death in Victorian women under 45.
You see, men’s rights activists reduce issues such as these to points-scoring; they infuriate feminist commentators to the point where we have to roll out statistics just to remind them that, for the most part, men still have it reasonably easy. In that way, MRAs get exactly what they want.
Yes, gender discrimination can go both ways, and hurt both women and men. The patriarchy, as we tiresomely have to keep reminding people in order to get them to side with feminism, harms men as well as women.
But to suggest that, in any way or in any known universe, men are now predominantly worse off than women is such utter rubbish as to beggar belief.
Please, guys, get real.