A Conversation With “Big Red”
“Big Red”, for lack of a better name, has gone somewhat viral after CAFÉ’s last event at the University of Toronto campus. She chose to shout out her perspectives of the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM) rather than try to have a discussion about it. When anyone tried to interject, men and women, they were screamed at to “shut the fuck up!” I certainly wasn’t going to engage with someone like that, as I’ve done with protesters at past events, but here is a response to each of her 14 points. She claimed it was her list, but it was actually from Lindy West’s article over at Jezebel. Feel free to read the numbered portions in “Big Red’s” therapeutic voice:
1. Feminists do not want you to lose custody of your children. The assumption that women are naturally better caregivers is part of patriarchy.
Well this is an easy one. When discussing custody of children, obviously we are discussing parenting after a divorce. If patriarchy feels women are not capable people, and seeks to oppress them, as feminists believe, then why would the patriarchy give children to women to be raised, and not to men?
In gatherer-hunter days, the women took care of the children while the men did the hunting. Women were not seen as better care givers because of patriarchy, they were seen as better care givers because they were the ones who bore the children for nine months. Long before safe sex, women would have had less control over when they got pregnant. While pregnant, they would obviously not have been suited to long treks by foot to hunt dangerous game. The fact that this is why men had to take on the dangerous role could also be argued to be a result of the matriarchy.
In more recent times, it was the view that men were better suited to raise the children after a divorce. However, the tender years doctrine came as a result of a push by early feminists, who advocated to have the courts place children under the age of 13 in the custody of the mother. It was women and feminists who pushed to have it acknowledged that women were to be considered the better care-givers for children. As such, you could again argue that it was a matriarchy that has caused many fathers to be estranged from their children.
2. Feminists do not like commercials in which bumbling dads mess up the laundry and competent wives have to bustle in and fix it. The assumption that women are naturally better housekeepers is part of patriarchy.
So men insult themselves by making ads showing men to be incompetent, only to be shown how to do things by women? What is your argument for how this is a show of men benefitting from the oppression of women?
What about ads in which men are physically hurt by their partners? For example, this Pepsi commercial that aired during the 2011 Superbowl (something you would likely argue is a quintessential example of the patriarchy), shows a woman abusing a man physically, controlling what he eats and drinks, emotionally damaging him to the point that he has to hide from her in fear just to eat a hamburger. Only when a woman is assaulted at the end of the commercial, by the wife, is any concern shown for the victim of her abuse.
3. Feminists do not want you to have to make alimony payments. Alimony is set up to combat the fact that women have been historically expected to prioritize domestic duties over professional goals, thus minimizing their earning potential if their “traditional” marriages end. The assumption that wives should make babies instead of money is part of patriarchy.
This falls into the same gatherer-hunter history I referenced earlier. It was not the omnipotent patriarchy you speak of that lead to “traditional” relationships; it was the social evolution of our species. If you think alimony is to counter the traditional notion of women staying home to make babies, perhaps alimony should be eliminated if there are no children in the picture. If there were no children that required caring for, could a wife (or husband) not have been working? If they were being supported, and didn’t have the responsibility of raising children, then they would have had plenty of opportunity to further themselves as you say raising babies is the alternative option to making money.
4. Feminists do not want anyone to get raped in prison. Permissiveness and jokes about prison rape are part of rape culture, which is part of patriarchy.
Patriarchal views are about protection. Being against rape culture is more in line with a patriarchal mentality. Although “men can stop rape” is, at its roots, a feminist movement, it is more patriarchal than the notion that our culture is pro-rape. Rape is a much more complicated topic than you make it out to be. It is not a by-product of patriarchal culture.
While on the subject, the notion that “men can stop rape” is insulting to men who are victims of rape. How do you think a man feels when he has been raped while living in a society that pushes the message that “men can stop rape”? If so, why didn’t he stop it? It is bad enough for men who are made to feel like they are pre-destined rapists, but it is much worse for one who has been raped himself.
5. Feminists do not want anyone to be falsely accused of rape. False rape accusations discredit rape victims, which reinforces rape culture, which is part of patriarchy.
Feminists have said many things about false rape accusations. Some have claimed that there is no such thing as false rape accusations, and feminist perspectives of male-as-perpetrator / female-as-victim silences men from speaking out about rape they have suffered. Men, who have been taught that they cannot be raped, feel their accusation is false before it passes their lips. Feminist driven rape-culture silences male victims of rape.
The second part, even if it just a repeat of your last point, ignores the great harm that false rape accusations inflict upon the wrongfully accused. I don’t disagree that false rape accusations undermine the credibility of those who have been raped. However, here you are, at an event to discuss issues facing men, and you are again ignoring men. False rape accusations don’t just undermine true rape victims; they grievously harm those who have been falsely accused.
Wanetta Gibson’s false accusation caused a high school student to lose 5 years of his life, which had deep ramifications for his future (going to university, sports scholarships, etc.). It also cost the school board $750 000, which having to return was her biggest concern after admitting she had made a false accusation. It was Brian Banks who suffered; not future victims of rape.
Luke Harwood was brutally tortured and murdered by a woman and a couple of friends after another friend of hers falsely said that he had raped her. Do you see why it is insulting for you to focus on how false accusations hurt and discredit rape victims and ignore the victimization of those falsely accused?
6. Feminists do not want you to be lonely and we do not hate “nice guys.” The idea that certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is part of patriarchy.
Nice guys are not nice because of superficial physical attributes. Those were your words, not the patriarchy. You may also want to consider the difference between the view of women for their physical attractiveness, and men for their physical usefulness. As Warren Farrell wrote, women are often judged as sex objects while men are judged as success objects. When men try to speak about their feelings and start discussing issues that men face, we run into the kind of demonstration you put on.
7. Feminists do not want you to have to pay for dinner. We want the opportunity to achieve financial success on par with men in any field we choose (and are qualified for), and the fact that we currently don’t is part of patriarchy. The idea that men should coddle and provide for women, and/or purchase their affections in romantic contexts, is condescending and damaging and part of patriarchy.
How do you define financial success? Above I mentioned men being viewed as success objects; men are judged by the size of their wallet. Is this how you want to be judged, by the standard at which men are judged? If so, are you comparing your image of achieving financial success on par with men based on the most successful or the least successful men? Everyone wants to achieve success in their field, even if they choose the route of a stay-at-home parent. However, there are many variables to life that do not simply mean you are going to achieve it by trying. This is not a part of patriarchy; this is a part of life.
I will, however, cease to spend money on romantic and/or affectionate things. I apologize to anyone I’ve been unintentionally condescending to in my past, and to any whom I have damaged by purchasing a gift to better express my affection.
8. Feminists do not want you to be maimed or killed in industrial accidents, or toil in coal mines while we do cushy secretarial work and various yarn-themed activities. The fact that women have long been shut out of dangerous industrial jobs (by men, by the way) is part of patriarchy.
The biggest icon for women doing factory work was Rosie The Riveter. Few feminists who look up to Rosie stop to think that she, and the many other women working factory jobs during World War 2, were manufacturing the munitions and war supplies ultimately used to kill men around the world. Men didn’t leave those jobs, where they were already at-risk due to dangerous and unsafe work conditions, to go and place themselves in an even more precarious situation overseas. They were forced to leave because of conscription.
Men work dangerous jobs to support families (women and children); Women take over men’s jobs while helping make the means to have them killed even more efficiently. This is patriarchy oppressing women?
As for Rosie The Riveter, she only lasted two weeks at her job because she was concerned she might hurt her hands and be unable to play the cello. “We can do it” indeed!
I could speak on this topic ad nauseam, (coal miners, chimney sweeps, firefighters, etc.) but I will leave it here. However, this still ties into the social evolution that came out of our gatherer-hunter days in which men were better suited to do the hunting and women were better suited to do the child rearing and gathering.
9. Feminists do not want you to commit suicide. Any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of any gender are part of patriarchy. The fact that depression is characterized as an effeminate weakness, making men less likely to seek treatment, is part of patriarchy.
When asked about male suicide at the event, you started singing “Cry Me a River”, so your supposed sympathy (although technically it is Lindy West’s) was insincere. To claim that any, ANY pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of any gender are part of the patriarchy, shows just how much there is a need for a critical understanding of feminism and what certain feminists are claiming. That sentence alone discredits anything and everything anyone who agrees with it says. If it does harm, it MUST be because of the patriarchy. This is why it is pointless to try and address the concept of the patriarchy with a feminist who agrees with this sentiment.
Thank you for showing us how deep the rabbit hole goes.
10. Feminists do not want you to be viewed with suspicion when you take your child to the park (men frequently insist that this is a serious issue, so I will take them at their word). The assumption that men are insatiable sexual animals, combined with the idea that it’s unnatural for men to care for children, is part of patriarchy.
It is not just your kid, it is any kid. If you are male, you are instantly viewed as a potential sex-offender. Worse still, as you mentioned, this happens even when it is your own child. The mayor of London, England, himself was asked to switch seats when he was on a flight with his own children. Men are so vilified and untrustworthy in the public’s perception of them, that a man can’t even travel with his own kids without having to worry about being harassed and labelled as a sex offender.
For more on sexist airline policies: http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshuagans/2012/08/14/who-can-sit-next-to-children-on-flights/
11. Feminists do not want you to be drafted and then die in a war while we stay home and iron stuff. The idea that women are too weak to fight, or too delicate to function in a military setting, is part of patriarchy.
I have not seen anyone claim that feminists want this. However, while I do see some women advocating for the right to join the military, I do not see any demanding to have to register for the draft in the U.S.A. Furthermore, I do not see any fighting for the abolishment of the registry in order to find some equality of treatment among the sexes within the American military. You say you’re working on all this stuff, and we don’t need to worry, so could you please show me where you are doing this?
I will again remind you of Rosie the Riveter, and how she is a feminist icon who represented a large benefit for women thanks to the discrimination against men in this regard.
12. Feminists do not want women to escape prosecution on legitimate domestic violence charges, nor do we want men to be ridiculed for being raped or abused. The idea that women are naturally gentle and compliant and that victimhood is inherently feminine is part of patriarchy.
No, victimhood has no gender. I would argue that it is not victimhood being inherently feminine that is part of patriarchy, it is resilience. The survivor movements (e.g. psychiatric survivor) are ones of resilience and strength after one has been victimized. That would be a closer resemblance of a patriarchal approach to me.
13. Feminists hate patriarchy. We do not hate you.
The MHRM do not hate you either, but we disagree with the feminists’ approach to certain topics, specifically the omnipotent and omnipresent patriarchy and all the evil that comes along with it. You said that “any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of any gender are part of patriarchy.” I couldn’t disagree more.
Feminism does not have a right to be free from criticism. Neither does the MHRM. We welcome your right to protest, but don’t infringe on our right to discuss how we see things from our perspective. If you want to discuss these things, then feel free to do so, but please allow us the same right.
14. If you really care about those issues as passionately as you say you do, you should be thanking feminists, because feminism is a social movement actively dedicated to dismantling every single one of them. The fact that you blame feminists—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting men isn’t nearly as important to you as resenting women. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?
Feminism often ignores men’s problems by making the problem a gendered issue in which the problems belong to women and their causes belong to men. You may not hate men, but feminist language and perspectives don’t paint it that way for many of us. Rather than telling us to “shut the fuck up”, you should try listening to our perspectives. You learn nothing by listening to yourself speak.
Would you not like men to be able to get in touch with their emotions better? Then don’t criticize us when we express our emotions and speak about how we feel when it comes to our sex. I thought that was one of the things feminism was trying to combat. If you, as you claim, are our allies, then don’t attack us for our criticisms. Hear what we have to say and see if there isn’t some validity behind it. We care about your problems too, but don’t counter our discussion of men’s problems by superseding them with women’s problems. That is just being combative, and it isn’t helping anyone.
“It is not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen and to hear; and every time you silence somebody, you make yourself a prisoner of your own action. You deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as the right of the other to voice his or her view.”