Feminism is Not Mandatory

Feminism is Not Mandatory

David Moscrop feels there is no excuse for anti-feminism, at least according to the headline of his article in the Ottawa Citizen, but his article bespeaks a much deeper ignorance and authoritarian perspective.  For Mr. Moscrop it is not just inexcusable for people to be anti-feminist, he also feels that every man who does not self-identify as a feminist is “ignorant, selfish, or cowardly”.  I can’t help but notice he does not feel that this should also apply to the many women who also do not self-identify as feminists, or those whom one could label as “anti-feminist”.  As someone who thinks there should be equality between the sexes, one would think that he would not exclude women from his hate-filled, acrimonious view of those who don’t share in his belief system.

I, for one, often take issue with many aspects of feminism, but I would not refer to myself as an “anti-feminist”.  I prefer to think that I am someone who believes in equality, and does not think that any system or structure is infallible.  As such, I often challenge feminism when I see it working in a negative fashion, and David’s article is a good example of feminism gone astray.  One should not have to ascribe to any belief or movement and, to choose not to, is not a reason to be insulted and ridiculed by a man trying to assert his masculinity under the banner of feminism.  David’s mediocre article, which is no more than thinly disguised ranting, is not casting feminism in a positive light.  His hate-filled version of feminism is something that is more likely to push people further away from feminism than to bring them in to its ranks, as he seems to desire.

How, in one sentence, can he talk of the challenges women face while also referring to them as the “fair” sex (as in the physically beautiful sex, which men are anything but); right there he highlights one manner in which women are held in higher esteem than men.  Considering attractiveness is a privilege itself, often leading to one receiving more attention throughout life in a positive manner, is the societal perception that women are by default more fair and beautiful, which, by contrast, implies that men are more boorish and hideous?  Though I may resemble that remark, it does not make me think that such labels should be applied to all men, as many women would likewise dislike being referred to as the “fair” sex.  Please, tell us more about how awful it is to not ascribe to feminism and show us the way.

Feminists, whatever their gender, are a sundry sort. Strictly speaking, we should speak of feminisms rather than feminism.

Feminists are a sundry sort?  Well if there is such a variety of feminisms, how do I self-identify as a feminist without needing to know more about all these different kinds and which I would best identify with?  Should I identify with the radical feminists who are trans-exclusionary, feeling that women who were born with penises are villainous infiltrators?  How about feminists who don’t think there should be any men in the movement at all, and admonish them for self-identifying as feminists, preferring to label them as “allies” (same as LGBT people label their straight supporters who obviously cannot identify as LGBT)?  These feminists seem to be interested in having men just nod along to support feminism and to not be allowed a voice themselves.  Does that sound like equality, or a swing of the gender-power pendulum?

Perhaps one should look at historical feminist figures then, as maybe it’s only recently that feminism
has gotten cast in a bad light by a few misguided feminists.  Perhaps I’ll be able to identify with some of its original representatives.  How about Andrea Dworkin, who is often misquoted as saying “all sex is rape”?  Where did that misquote come from?  Why another feminist, Cathy Young, who felt that it was a reasonable summary of Andrea Dworkin’s claims, such as “Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men’s contempt for women”.

How about self-identified “radical feminist lesbian” Mary Daly, who excluded men from her advanced women’s studies classes at Boston College, and who has been quoted as saying “If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males.”  Oh, and she felt transgendered people were abominations akin to Frankenstein’s monster, but yay feminism!

Should we look even further still into feminism’s past?  How about Emmeline Pankhurst, who fought for women’s right to vote in Britain, but stopped this campaign in order to focus on the white feather campaign; a campaign to publicly shame men to go and fight, often to their deaths, against Germany’s forces in the first World War.  One can draw contemporary similarities to the white ribbon campaign which focuses on one gender by shaming all men for the violence committed by a few against women, but ignores the violence committed against men by women and men alike (a campaign which originated in Canada, where the rate of intimate partner violence against men and women is 6% to 7% respectively).

I could keep going (the “tender years doctrine” would be next, which rightfully changed courts from making the father the default parent in custodial cases, but wrongfully placed the mother as the default parent in custodial cases).  The rest of your article is a bunch of tripe.  When trying to draw comparisons of men to women, one should look up neutral reporting on both, as I did above.  I have a suspicion that your resource for intimate partner violence, “The Canadian Women’s Foundation”, may be biased in their views and reporting.

Talking about how bad women have it in some areas does not negate that men have it bad in their own areas as well.  Comparing women at the top to men at the top is great, but why did you not also draw a comparison to how many men are staying in shelters each night as well as women?   What’s that?  You say there are no shelters for men fleeing domestic violence to compare those specific statistics to (because general homelessness, which is also staggeringly mostly men, doesn’t count)?  That must mean men don’t suffer domestic violence, right?  Perhaps I could interest you in this rock that keeps tigers away?

Gender Distribution of Homelessness in Canada

In short, it is not for you to tell people what belief systems they should ascribe to, or to vilify them if they don’t believe in the same one that you so obviously do; it is very patriarchal of you to do so.  As I said at the start, I would not call myself an anti-feminist, but I would not label myself a feminist either.  Feminism is not above critique, and to criticize it is not anti-feminism.  However, your literal ad hominem shaming methods are consistent with the historical figures of feminism I have highlighted, so I think you are certainly in the right camp.  Hopefully they will forgive you your patriarchal methods of demanding that the ignorant, selfish, and cowardly men fall in line behind you and do as you say.

Posted in Men`s Issues | 4 Comments

Men as Victims of Rape and Intimate Partner Violence

The following is a reworked article I wrote for a university course I took on “The Philosophy of Love and Sex”.  As such, I apologize for its academic length (I got a 30 out of 35, for those wondering how well it was accepted by my professor):

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Men as Victims of Rape and Intimate Partner Violence

Sexual criminal behaviour, hurting someone in order to gain intimacy from them, be it a complete stranger or someone you are already intimate with, has been around since prewritten history.  Though there are no recorded incidents of this,, being the pre-historical age, there is the modern image of the caveman clubbing the cavewoman over the head and dragging her back to his lair by her hair.  This longstanding image of the male as the sole perpetrator of sexual violence and other transgressions has held until modern times.  When someone mentions intimate partner violence (IPV), the image that is conjured in one’s mind is that of a male dominating over a victimized female.

Mike Martin makes an assumption, as do to the majority of authours on sexual harassment, rape, and other incidents of sexual abuse, in assuming that sexual violence is the same for men and for women in regards to why it happens.   In his paper, “Rape and Sexual Harrassment” (found in his book, “Everyday Morality”), Martin writes that a rapist’s motives arise out of viciousness, in order to hurt the self-esteem and humiliate an innocent victim.  Mr. Martin also asserts that sexual harassment (as well as sexual assault) involves intimidation, coercion, and/or unfair sexual conduct; though he does not go on to define what “unfair” sexual conduct entails.  The biggest fallacy I find in Mr. Martin’s paper is where he states that homosexual rape and harassment, as well as incidents where the male is the victim of a female, are “comparatively rare” and so he will be referring to the “rapist” solely in male pronouns.

By acknowledging homosexual and female-on-male rape, thus including them in the discussion, while still choosing to only use male pronouns in reference to perpetrators, Martin also implies that the dynamics in these “comparatively rare” instances are the same as those in male-as-perpetrator and female-as-victim instances.  I disagree with this notion, and it will be the focal point of my arguments based on instances in which I have been raped, assaulted, and sexually harassed by females in my life as a male.  I will also use his arguments for the motivations behind sexual abuse to highlight how often men are abused, based on the same criteria he lays out.

One of Martin’s definitions of cruelty associated with this kind of behaviour is unintended cruelty that arises out of some other purpose.  One can argue that cruelty is in the eye of the beholder.  If I go on a dinner date with a vegan, for example, and I decide to order a veal cutlet, would I be considered to have committed a cruel act towards my date?  This single act could cause her to never go on a dinner date again, knowing her morals can be so horribly undermined by the food order of her date.  Maybe she will go on to carefully screen her dates to make sure they are not meat eaters beforehand.  As Mr. Martin also points out, one must respect the other’s autonomy and self-determination.  Would I be just as right to have felt harassed were my right to order the food I desire stifled by her opposition to eating meat?  A woman could easily exert power over a man in that regard by implying he would not receive anything from her in the future (a second date, a good night kiss, the hope of intimacy) if he does not abide by her moral standards

Reporting Abuse

One of the first statistics that Mr. Martin states, with no empirical data to support it, is that it is believed that 1 in 3 women will be the victim of rape, and that only 1 in 10 rapes are reported to the police.  Why does he not quote statistics for the homosexual and male-as-victim incidents he acknowledges exist?  How can he claim this is a rarity without numbers to back this up?  If 1 in 10 women who have been raped will not report the crime, what is the ratio for men, regardless of the sex of their perpetrator?  According to Martin, women, who are acknowledged as often being victimized by men, who have social supports in place to help them leave abusive relationships, and who are believed when they speak of being victimized by a man are still, despite all of this, grossly under-reporting incidents of abuse.  If this is the case for women, what are the statistics of men not reporting who have none of these social supports in place?

A man who has been assaulted by another man is not likely to report the incident, and even less likely if he was raped or sexually assaulted by another man.  Martin says rape between men is common in prison, but in prison there is also a ‘no snitching’ mentality, so how often does it also go unreported in prison?  Part of the culture of masculinity is to not appear weak, so a man is less likely to report being victimized, as doing so would be admitting weakness.  If the abuse were to occur within a relationship, there is also the social stigmatization towards homosexuals, male and female alike, and so they too have even more societal barriers to reporting.

A man being assaulted by a woman, supposedly the weaker sex, is less likely to report due to the stigmatization of being assaulted by a woman as well as the emasculation he would feel as a result.  Should he show the courage to report a case of abuse, there are no safety supports for men.  In Toronto, there are several locations for women leaving abusive relationships (e.g. red door shelter, red wood shelter), but there are no similar locations for men.  A homosexual friend of mine was abused by his partner one night, and out of a fear of being at home, he resorted to staying in a bathhouse till the next day; hardly the most hospitable place for someone who is the victim of domestic violence.

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One of my clients told me about having previously been in an abusive relationship with another man.  He told me that he finally felt he had to get out of there and got up the courage to go to the police for help.  They facilitated his exit from the home by referring him to the Salvation Army’s Maxwell Meighen shelter at Queen and Sherbourne.  He got his teeth kicked in again that night by another resident.  Homeless shelters are not the most hospitable places, but they are even less hospitable if you are fleeing abuse, especially as an openly gay man such as my client was.

When I was 16, I was going through a bad time and drank so much one night that I blacked out (the only time I’ve ever done so), and the last thing I can vividly recall from that night was wandering down an alley to be alone for a bit.  It took me a week to piece together my evening from the stories of friends.  A friend told me that at one point he wandered down the alley to relieve himself and saw another friend, a 13 year old female, performing oral sex on me while I was essentially passed out in a nook of a neighbour’s backyard.  This to me was a rape, though I did not feel it was as severe an incident as rape can be, and is often envisioned.  I have told this story to other men in the past and gotten a variety of responses from attempted high fives to “cool”.  This incident actually gave me a kind of social power, though empowered was the furthest thing I felt.  I wonder if some men treat it as a source for praise to downplay dealing with the seriousness of the abuse.

There are also social structures in place to keep someone from reporting on top of the stigmatization that goes along with it.  To highlight the lack of power I actually had in the aftermath of the situation, what would happen were I to have reported the incident to the police?  Being male, it could easily have been turned back on me, especially considering it could easily have been viewed as statutory rape on my part due to the girl’s age.  This is especially true if, when faced with the law, in an act of defence she turned around and accused me of raping her.  Whose story do we think the police would have more strongly believed, considering the societal view of rape as male perpetrated / female victimized, which Martin continues to perpetuate by undervaluing male victims in his paper? Another barrier for men is that to report a crime, one must go through police services, which is a very masculine system.  Going to such a place to report that you’ve been victimized by a woman would just exacerbate what already feels highly emasculating within the culture of what it is to be a man.

Power Imbalances

Many papers, including Martin’s, speak to the power imbalance of the world in regard to men and women, unequivocally supporting the idea that this imbalance is always in favour of men.  This is viewed as a systemic and structural imbalance as well as a physical one.  Physically, men are viewed as inherently stronger than women, though this is not always the case.  The structural imbalance has been evening out, though there is still a ways to go on both sides, but a person does not actually have to be in a position of power in order to commit sexual assault.

I work as a social worker and am currently employed with an emergency shelter.  While still a placement student at the organization, a client squeezed my ass as she walked past me.  I was somewhat shocked and was not entirely sure what I thought happened actually had happened, as my back had been to the doorway she came through.  However, when I turned to see who it had been, the woman gave me a big exaggerated wink and disappeared around the corner.  I was flabbergasted, and turned back to my colleague with whom I had been talking.  The woman came back around the corner and started to loudly slap the wall to get my attention and, once she got it, gave me another suggestive wink and then kissed the air in my direction.  I had the power in this relationship, supposedly just for being a man, but also as a staff member and her being a client, as I could have barred her from the agency for her actions.  It was not something over which I was going to kick someone out into the cold though, even if I was just a student at the time and not an actual employee.

Afterwards, I told another employee about this incident.  This other employee also worked at a shelter for female victims of domestic violence, and has been in the violence against women sector for years.  I have spoken to her about the imbalance I see in the domestic abuse sector and she and I have a good relationship.  When I told her the story, she jokingly said “oh, you asked for it!”  She and I have this kind of jocular relationship, but had it been one of the male clients who had grabbed another female staff member’s butt and then acted overly flirtatious with her, I think my colleague would have taken it more seriously.  This, however, highlights the difference when a man is victimized by a woman versus a woman being victimized by a man.  It is assumed that a man is okay with it and, if not, he should just “man up”.

Masculinity and Intimate Partner Violence

The culture of masculinity does not just apply to men and their perceptions of themselves.  The culture of what it is to be a man also applies to the perspectives that others, male and female, have of men.  On the ABC program “What Would You Do?”, they conducted an experiment where they had a man assaulting a woman in public on a park bench.  Time after time, people stepped in to defend the woman and reprimand the man.  It was clear that the majority of people felt what he was doing was wrong and that, for the woman’s safety, they were almost obligated to step in and try to stop the situation from escalating.

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The program decided to turn the tables and see what would happen when it was a man being publicly assaulted by a woman.  Over 100 people walked by the ongoing assault without coming to the aid of the man.  Comments that came afterwards were along the lines of “I did not think she was doing any real damage to him” or “he should be able to take care of himself.”  One woman who witnessed the incident started shadow boxing the air and later commented that she thought “good for her, I felt I should have done that more myself in situations.”  It is unclear what situations she is referring to, as all she saw was a woman screaming at and pummelling a man. The most consistent consensus was that he must have done something wrong to deserve the abuse, such as having cheated on her.  I doubt that people would ignore a woman being pummeled by a man even if they knew for a fact that she had cheated on him.  If anything, they would justify why she must have cheated on him.

Only one group of women on the show decided to approach the issue of the couple’s dispute.  After deliberating about it while he was being hit and verbally berated, one woman approached and said she was going to call the cops on both of them, not just the woman, even though the man was just sitting there suffering the abuse being venomously hurled at him.  Eventually one of the women did carry through on this threat.

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Despite this woman calling the cops to deal with the situation, as stated earlier, the police system is a very masculine oriented organization.  One of the men who passed by, and did nothing, later confessed to being a cop.  He said they were just “having a little tiff”, but that if it had been the other way around, with the man abusing the woman, he would have intervened “without a doubt”.  As with many people, he said he was raised to believe it was wrong to ever put his hands on a woman in an aggressive manner.  This begs the question, if a man is being assaulted by a woman, how is he expected to defend himself if he cannot strike back?  Physically defending himself would likely exacerbate the situation for him knowing that his reaction, though defensive, would still be viewed as wrong.  If he shares the same view as that officer of the peace (who felt everything was peaceful as long as he wasn’t hitting her), it further instills in him the mentality that he should just “man up” and take the abuse, and the cycle of abuse continues to turn.

Whose Gender is More Important?

Another very gray area in the realm of sexual abuse is that surrounding people who identify as transgendered.  While I was out on a break while doing a shift at the shelter at 3 in the morning, I had a car pull over to ask me for directions.  I bent down to the window to talk to the person and saw it was a transgendered woman.  I pointed her in the right direction, and she asked if I was headed that way as well, implying that she would give me a lift.  I said thanks, but no, I was just going to the Tim Horton’s at the end of the block.  With a squeal of her tires, she made a U-turn and sped off.

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After getting my coffee I headed back to work, crossing over Queen Street to a more deserted and isolated area, which was of course completely void of people now because of the time.  At this point, the same car pulled up beside me and the woman started a conversation again.  She said she saw I had gotten my coffee, asked where I was going, and finished by asking if I wanted my dick sucked and “aren’t you horny?”  I politely said no and that I had to get back to work.

Numerous questions have come up for me over this incident.  Did she wait for me as I got coffee and then followed/stalked me till I got away from any public areas or did she just see me again as she looked for some young man to try and lure into her car?  Would the law view this as a man stalking a man, or a woman stalking a man, as I would?  How much more seriously would this story be taken if it had been a woman being followed, and if it had been by a transgendered man?  What is a bigger societal determinant of the seriousness of these incidents, the sex/gender of the victim or the sex/gender of the perpetrator?

Intimate Partner Violence Against Men is Often Ignored

Martin’s assumptions are not new.  He is, however, the first academic I have read who at least acknowledges why he uses the male pronoun for abusers, and female for victims, based on what he believes to be a huge disparity between men and women as perpetrators/victims, while at least pointing out that rape and intimate partner violence also happens to men.  His choice of words is not new, but most authors write as if the thought of a male being abused did not even cross their minds and do not address it, as if a male being abused were impossible.

In a class I took in high school, “Families in a North American Perspective”, we had a text book containing a section on intimate partner violence.  A pair of pages in this chapter, side by side, had questions on the left to ask yourself to find out “are you an abuser?”  Every single question on this page used male pronouns.  The opposite page had questions to find out “are you a victim of abuse?”  This side of course used female pronouns for all of its questions.  This was two years after my blackout and obviously upset me, as I had seen these societal patterns of thoughts for a number of years, even before they affected me personally.  Already a staunch supporter of the notion of equality, I did my final assignment on this subject and on the idea of women as abusers and males as victims.

After I did my presentation for the class, it was time to go home for the day.  My teacher, an elderly woman, asked me to wait so she could speak with me.  After the other students had left, she asked me if I was being abused at home.  I told her no, and then began to tell her about the incident from a couple years earlier.  I believe I got as far as “while I was passed out a girl…”  She then flapped her arms and told me she just needed to know that it wasn’t going on at home and ushered me out of the class.  The frame of reference that comes to mind today is Stuebenville, and maybe I should be thankful I was in high school before camera phones became commonplace.  This was the support I got from the first authority figure I opened up to about the incident; a female in a position of power, a teacher, stifling the voice of a sexually assaulted male student talking about his incident for the first time.

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Is This a Change of the Times?

In the year 2000, the United States Department of Justice released a report on violence against women which stated that approximately 1.3 million women and 835, 000 men are physically assaulted every year in the United States.  As this report is from 11 years after Martin’s essay, one may think that spousal violence to men has only recently begun to escalate.  However, Straus and Gelles reported back in 1986, in their examination of family violence between the years 1975 to 1985 that 1.8 million women suffered assault from their husbands or boyfriends while 2 million men reported having been assaulted by a wife or a girlfriend, 200,000 more than women reported.  More recently, and closer to home, the 2004 Statistics Canada General Social Survey reported that 6% of men and 7% of women in Canada had been victims of spousal abuse in current or past relationships.  There are also literally hundreds of other studies that refute the societal view that men are exceedingly more likely to abuse women than women are to abuse men.

One could try to make an argument that rape and sexual violence are in a completely different category from one another, but Martin, and others who write on the subject, feminists and experimental psychologists alike, say that rape is not about sexual gratification; it is about maliciousness and intentionally cruel acts of violence towards another.  The end sought is not the sexual satisfaction, it is the satisfaction derived from the violence and the pleasure of boosting one’s own self-esteem derived from power over the victim.  If it is not about the sexual nature, but rather the assault and the power felt, what differentiates the two?  Martin states that when a man feels this power over a woman, it is akin to him feeling it over all women.  If men are said to have the power in society, ergo they are more powerful than women, then do women not derive greater pleasure from placing themselves in a position of power greater than that of a man?  Is their transgression not greater if they reap a bigger reward for themselves?  Is the cruelty behind it not also greater if the crushing of a man’s self-esteem for being hurt by a woman is felt more harshly due to the societal view that a man should be not just strong among his peers, but also unquestionably stronger than a woman (whereby being weaker than a woman puts him beneath all other men, not just the woman who has assaulted him)?

Violence Against Men in the Media

One of the largest issues is that it is also viewed as perfectly acceptable for a woman to hit a man.  This viewpoint is proliferated regularly throughout the media. In countless movies, women are slapping men, kicking them, throwing dishes at them, or committing other forms of physical and emotional abuse.  These are rarely portrayed as the abuses that they are, and are more often used as a cheap trick for laughs.

As stated earlier, many of the women questioned on ABC’s “What would you do?” felt the man “deserved” to be assaulted because he probably cheated on the woman.  “Probably”.  This excusing of female violence towards men is exemplified in Carrie Underwood’s song “Before He Cheats”, she describes in detail how she wrecks her boyfriend’s car:       

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     “I dug my key into the side of his / pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive, / carved my name into his leather seats. / I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights / slashed a hole in all 4 tires”

Many women think this is a great song and speaks to the power of women.  They find it perfectly acceptable that she would commit such destructive acts of cruelty to someone else’s personal property because he cheated on her.  The song is titled “Before He Cheats”, because her actions are supposed to make him think before he cheats again.  However, the lyrics to the song never mention that he actually cheated on her.  The song opens with the lyrics “right now he’s probably slow dancing with a bleached-blonde tramp / and she’s probably getting frisky.”  There’s that word again, “probably”.  The title of the song is more applicable to what she is doing before he cheats, not the thinking he would do beforehand next time.  This still does not justify her actions in any way, and her thinking that he’s cheating removes any credibility the listener may try to give her.

Violence Happens to Everyone

Martin’s arguments do not hold water due to his obvious lack of insight and research.  They did not hold water in 1989, as the 1986 study by Straus and Gelles shows, and they still do not today.  By failing to look at the abuses being carried out towards men, or those in LGBT relationships, he failed to acknowledge a large portion of the sexual and relationship transgressions which occur each year.  In doing so he not only ignored how widespread these instances are, but he also cannot blindly attribute the same reasons men assault, harass, or rape women to those incidents in which men are the victims that he himself deems to be “comparatively rare”, which as I have shown are anything but, to female perpetrators.  Furthermore, if one does apply his reasons why a man commits abuse to a woman, the data shows a similar number of instances of those transgressions also being carried out by women to men.  This would lead one to think he could just as easily reverse his choice of sex pronouns, though I would rather see them neutralized.

One can argue that a male may not be as easily dominated and entered in the way that a woman is during a physical rape.  However, the reasons laid out by Martin for why rapists commit these acts, and why they are cruel, are on par with the assaults that men are also dealing with in equivalent numbers by their female partners.  Furthermore, societal views keep people from feeling the need to aid men, or for victimized men to seek help for themselves.  This leaves men having even more power taken away from them and a deeper sense of shame and loss of self-esteem.  One should not just blindly attribute the actions of some (male perpetrators) to those of all (female perpetrators), especially not when there are inherently large differences among them.  Neither should they sweep such a large portion of victims under the rug because of a pronoun preference.

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When Worlds Collide

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I was reading a post on a site and came across a picture that hurt my brain on many levels.  I felt like two worlds were colliding in my mind.  My brain was triggered by the picture not just for the men’s issues stuff I write about here, but also the work I do with people living with HIV/AIDS (PHA’s).  The website said that this image is reportedly from an academic text from a “Career and Life Management (CALM)” textbook, and the picture itself states that it is a poster from 1994 as part of an HIV prevention program for young adults in Alberta, Canada:

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(click to enlarge)

To put this poster in perspective of the social atmosphere at the time in which it was published:

1990:  At the start of the decade, the U.S. Congress enacts the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including people living with HIV/AIDS.

1991:  Magic Johnson came out about his HIV status.  Queen’s lead singer, Freddy Mercury, dies due to AIDS related illness

1992:  AIDS becomes the number one cause of death for U.S. men (age 25 to 44).

1993:  “Philadelphia”, the first major motion picture to tackle the topic of HIV/AIDS came out in theatres (Tom Hanks won the Oscar for his role in 1994).

1994:  AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for all Americans aged 25 to 44.

——

Having posted the picture to my facebook, someone commented that they were having a knee-jerk reaction to it based on their own perspective of men`s issues (we can blame my influence there), but on further consideration felt that there was some legitimacy to it.

Rather than argue about all the negatives and why I felt it was an incredibly problematic poster (mostly because I was running off to an appointment), I chose to pose a number of questions (I later returned and posed some more).  This is a method I often use which I feel keeps me from just dropping my opinion on someone and instead makes them think and consider the question and what their own answer would be.  I just put the door there and allow their mind to enter it.  With that in mind, here are the questions I posed, slightly edited for clarity:

  • Should I discuss slut-shaming with you?
  • Should I discuss victim blaming with you?
  • Should I discuss women who acquired HIV through intravenous drugs?
  • What about children (this includes girls) who acquired HIV through their mother’s milk?
  • What if I’m a gay male, as are many of my HIV+ clients, am I responsible for millions of women dying if I’m not even having sex with them?
  • The poster does not say if you’re a male living with HIV, just if you are a male who has more than one sexual partner. The transmission rate from female to male is lower than male to female but should we not also consider this for women with HIV who don’t utilize female condoms (which were FDA approved in 1992)?
  • How about women who don’t insist that their male partner wears a condom when they have intercourse?
  • What about women who have multiple sexual partners and don’t practice safe-sex?
  • Are men solely responsible for women’s safe sex practices as well as their own?
  • Do women not have the capacity as well as the responsibility to also protect themselves during sex?
  • Does the above poster not also imply that the women must also be having unprotected sex?  (If I point that out to women, it’s victim-blaming, if they say it about men, it’s educational-shaming)
  • Since the poster is also promoting abstinence as an option, are the women supposedly being affected not also equally capable of practicing abstinence and not having sex with men?
  • Why is there no concern for the millions of men dying from HIV other than to vilify them for passing it to women?  The men this poster describes, apparently guilty of killing millions of women, obviously must also be HIV positive themselves to pass it on.   (As stated above, HIV was the leading cause of death for young men in the U.S. two years before it became the leading cause of death for everyone aged 25-44)
  • Who are the men’s sexual partners that they’re having unprotected sex with? If they are having sex with women, as the poster insinuates, I can logically assume that they are straight or possibly even bi-sexual.  If they contracted it within heterosexual relationships, then aren’t the women who originally infected the men also equally guilty of killing millions of women (and men)?
  • Does the blame lie with the man who got that woman infected?  Who came first, the man living with HIV or the woman living with HIV?
  • If penises and vaginas are both capable of distributing STD’s back and forth with each other, should only one of them come with a warning label?

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This poster highlights not just victim-blaming, but also male-blaming. It is doing both, with the victim-blaming being excused because it is blaming not just men, but also male sexuality.  In this case, it is male heterosexuality that is being demonized, which also underscores the legions of gay men who were suffering and dying at the time as well.  I suppose Alberta had no gay men at the time or, at the least, that gay young men weren’t a concern anyway, since they were only infecting each other and not women.

Posted in Men`s Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Common MRA Myths Debunked!

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I recently attended an anti-MRA panel discussion on the University of Toronto Campus.  I was interested in seeing what they had to say as well as to hear from Jeff Perera of the White Ribbon campaign, who I went to Ryerson with for my BSW.

Near the end of the talk, a young woman (she later identified herself to me as a radical feminist), let’s call her Jessica, asked if anyone was going to be attending the “Men & Boys In Crisis” rally at Queen’s Park in Toronto on September 28th, in order to hold a counter-rally.  She mentioned they had some pamphlets they were going to hand out and held them up.  After the talk was done, I went up and asked her for a copy and she gave me one.

This was the pamphlet: front/backinside pages.

I looked at the picture and the first header, felt my knee-jerk reaction to point out how bad it was just from a glance, and instead chose to stick it in my pocket for later.  I spoke with her for a good 20 minutes, then Jeff asked if I had time to talk when I waved bye to him.  Jessica had been standing nearby and asked if she could stick around too, thinking it would be an interesting conversation (it was, but that’s another tale).

We wound up living in the same end of the city and headed home together on the subway.  Our conversation seemed to be actively listened to (mostly once I mentioned penis, vagina, and rape a few times with no inhibition).  I was exhausted when I got home and forgot to bother looking at the pamphlet.  The next day at work I remembered it and pulled it out of my backpack.  I was right to tuck it in my pocket instead of reading it as I likely would have gone into activist mode.  Now that the back story is out of the way…

9 common MRA myths, Debunked!

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For starters, what is it these radical feminists are trying to imply with this picture?  That men being concerned about their issues are crybabies, sissies, whiners, etc.?  Men, and the women who love them, are not allowed to discuss their issues or concerns without being mocked and ridiculed?  Should we just “man up”, a notion Jeff Perera often criticizes, and instead focus on problems women face without discussing our own?  Should we just man up and walk off suicide?  Having our experiences of rape minimized and ignored?  Skip university and just enter a manly trade?

That seems to be what the radical feminists who compiled this pamphlet seem to believe.

Myth #1:  Men commit suicide more often

You do not argue that men commit suicide more often than women do, you merely claim that the more numerous attempts by women are a bigger issue.  Anywhere you look in the world, men greatly outnumber women in completed suicides.  You do not try to refute this, because you can’t.  For every mention of suicide I make here, I can find a webpage, a news report, or a scholarly article to back it up.

Attempting suicide is not the same as committing suicide, by which we mean, in this case, the completion of the act of suicide.  If one woman attempts suicide 10 times, that is going to increase the numbers for women due to this one woman going through emotional turmoil but failing to complete her suicide attempt.

If ten, one hundred, or even one million men all attempt suicide once, and are successful in  their attempt, then men still do not attempt suicide as often as women do.  They only attempt it once.  What do you think is the bigger concern, a single woman who is crying out for help and is still alive to get it, or one million men dying before they have that chance?  Attempts are not comparable to completions.  If you count the people who attempt suicide individually, as if they were successful for their first try, you would possibly be able to compare the numbers of people, by sex, driven to the act of suicide.  This is the only way in which one would be able to compare attempts to completions in order to make a case for attempts being measurable in comparison to completions.  Obviously those who died in their attempts would still be a bigger issue than those who did not.  Would you compare victims of attempted murder with murder victims?

As for the second bullet point about women being more depressed than men, that is also not a good measuring stick in regards to suicide.  Not everyone who is depressed is suicidal, not everyone who is suicidal is depressed.  If teenage girls are 2.5 times as likely as boys to take anti-depressants, how does that compare to 4 times the number of boys committing suicide as an alternative to seeking help and even getting prescribed anti-depressants?

Nothing you said debunks that men commit suicide more often.

Myth #2:  There is an epidemic of false rape accusations

This is not something I have seen among any MHRM sites I have read.  I have seen MHRM sites, and academic sources, which cite numbers similar to those quoted here, anywhere from 2-8% of rape accusations being false.  This means that for every 100 rape reports, 2 to 8 are false reports.  What is not reflected is the extent of the damage done to those who were falsely accused.  For those falsely accused, not only are they victimized, but they are not recognized as victims and punitive measures are rarely taken against false-accusers out of fear of harm towards “real” rape victims.  This is worse than victim blaming, it is victim erasing.  As with rape, the effects of being falsely accused can go on for years and years.

Brian Banks is a great contemporary example of how much harm a false accusation can wreak on someone’s life.  Accused of dragging a fellow student to a stairwell and raping her, Brian was facing a possible 41 years in prison.  With that possibility looming in front of him, Brian took a lesser plea of 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a lifetime on the sex offender registry for an act he did not commit.  This effectively ruined his scholastic pursuits, his potential career in the NFL, and thanks to the sex offender registry, would follow him for the rest of his life affecting where he would want to live and work.

The problem in this story is that Brian’s “victim”, who also sued the school for $1.5 million dollars on the grounds that it wasn’t a safe space, was not a victim.  She fabricated the whole story, which she admitted to Brian (though I’ll assume he knew) and said she felt bad, but she did not want to come clean because she didn’t want to give back the money.

The happy ending is that, thanks to footage of Wanetta Gibson via a hidden camera, admitting to the false accusation, Brian was exonerated of a crime he had not committed in the first place.  He was not able recover the time he lost, or erase the emotional turmoil he went through, but Brian was able to go on to join the Atlanta Falcons.  Ms. Gibson was ordered to pay back not just the $1.5 million she wrongfully got from the school, but to also pay for court costs that resulted from her false accusation.

No, there is not an “epidemic” of false accusations.  I would agree with your statistic that it is a low percentage of all reports.  However, in your pamphlet you say that an acquittal does not mean the victim invented the allegation, and it doesn’t.  If they did invent it though, they are far from a victim.  Also, on the flip-side, just because someone is convicted, as in the case of Brian Banks, it also does not mean that they are guilty.

One of the foundations of the legal system, as I’ve always been taught, is that it is better for a hundred guilty people to get off than it is for one innocent individual to go to prison.  This is not based around rape-apologizing; it is about ensuring due process and looking at the facts.  One cannot just assume a guilty verdict because a woman is accusing a man of sexual misconduct.  I would still maintain the same tone should the sexes in a case be reversed from the perceived societal norm of male-perpetrator / female-victim.

I agree with you that false accusations are not an epidemic, but they do happen and should also be talked about.  I would rather be concerned about an individual being victimized by a false accusation than to be concerned that addressing their concerns will somehow affect future rape victims who have not been victimized yet.

Myth #3:  Domestic violence is a gender-neutral phenomenon

Stating that men are the abusers in the vast majority intimate-partner violence (IPV) cases is a big misdirection.  Men are the abusers in the vast majority of IPV cases that go to court, as they are also the most likely to have charges pressed against them.  According to a statistics Canada report, women were three times as likely as men to report an incident of domestic violence to police (23% for women, 7% for men).  If men are that much less likely to even report it to police, you can imagine how many of them get as far as a Canadian court.

If studies “allegedly” showing comparable numbers of IPV do not factor in that 9 out of 10 women who hit their husbands do so in self-defence, why can you not cite these studies that don’t account for this, and why can you not cite a source for 9 out of 10 women hitting their husbands in self-defence?  Keep in mind the above statistic that only 7% of men abused by their wives, across the entire spectrum of severity of abuse, choose to report it to police?

Your pamphlet claims that men are more likely to use extreme forms of violence.  The stats can report shows that women are more likely to have been beaten, choked, sexually assaulted, or threatened with a gun or knife by their partner.  However, it also shows that men are more likely to be kicked (presumably directed at their testicles), bit, hit, or hit with something.  What is “something”?  As far as I can tell, this could mean anything!  Women are also more likely to throw something at their partner, like the time when my next door neighbour chose to throw a glass at her partner which shattered and lacerated his hand.  My father took him to the hospital to get stitches.  The matter never made it to the police.

In the most extreme cases of family-related violence, those that resulted in death, men were more likely to be killed by a common-law partner (66%), whereas women were more likely to be killed by a married partner (39%).  Neither sex being victimized by their intimate partner is a good thing, and neither should be ignored.

Feminists love claiming that “one is too many”.  Their influence is even seen in the White House, where there is a campaign to end violence against women under this very name.  Even you can’t claim that not a single man has been or currently is a victim of a domestic violence situation.  If one is too many, then how do you explain feminist anger when those interested in men’s issues discuss male victims of intimate-partner violence?  I agree that one is too many, but this is true for both genders.  Excluding one completely, as you are attempting to do is not just inequitable and unfair, it is unethical and counterproductive to any real progress against IPV.

I’m not even going to get into all the hetero-normative issues tied into this narrow view point.  I can’t find the statistic on it, but I read that 7% of straight men are victims, 10% of gay men, and 18% of Aboriginal men.  Are relationships between gay men free from IPV?  Are lesbian relationships (I haven’t read stats on their prevalence rates)?  Do you think it is the “man” (the top, the dom, etc.) in those relationships is always the abuser?  Is the “woman” (the bottom, the fem, etc.) acting out of self-defence 9 out of 10 times?  I can’t believe that to be true.

You have debunked nothing.  You have merely tried making a complicated matter simple through a distortion of the facts.  By doing so, you have also minimalized the effect of IPV upon not just men, but the entire LGBT spectrum.

Myth #4: Feminists hate men

I never said men can only ever be misogynistic, please keep your words out of my mouth, as I did not consent to that.  What does that say about you?

MRA’s don’t hate feminists (okay, some do, I don’t), they only hate misandrists.  If you think feminists can only be misandrists, what does that say about you?

That last sentence made as much sense as yours.  Again, you have debunked nothing.

Myth #5:  Divorce laws discriminate against men

Wives do the overwhelming majority of housework and childcare?  What if a couple have no children?  What if a family is rich enough to afford to pay people to take care of the house work?  In your outdated view on relationships, how do you justify the large settlements some women receive after a divorce in which they have contributed minimally at home, financially, or, in some instances, not at all?

Marriages are also more complex systems than you make them out to be.  You define women as doing unpaid labour when they do housework.  I assume these women have a house in which to do the housework.  How did they manage to get it if their labour is unpaid?  How do they manage to eat and have food if they are unpaid?  Why is it that women control about 80% of household spending if their labour is unpaid and they lack power as a result?  By these numbers, one could infer that men only get to retain 20% of their income and women then get 80%.  If a woman’s labour at home is worth 80% of her husband’s earnings, who is really getting the short end of the stick here?  The family is a cooperative system, a complex unit, and just because the man earns the financial piece for that system, the entire home benefits.

This holds true for women with stay-at-home husbands, but it is still men that make the majority of wage earners in single-income households.  You have debunked nothing.

Myth #6  Fewer men are in University nowadays

Here is another argument where you could really have used a citation.  Care to show me evidence that the lower number of men attending university is due to men entering “the well-paying trades”, or elaborate on which trades these are?  Sure wish I’d known about these trades before I blew my money on my university education.  I find this claim that men are doing just fine by entering the trades doesn’t hold much water after the recent recession that hit the states (dubbed a “mancession” by some), as the industries hit the hardest were those trades you think are so profitable for men while women’s jobs were not.

A woman needs a PhD to earn as much as a man with a bachelor’s?  I make just over 40k with my bachelor’s degree.  What PhD’s are these women getting that has them earning money on par with me?  Two of the women at your anti-MRA event mentioned that they had been in school since 2005, one of whom was working on her second master’s degree.  If I make more money than them, it’s because I took my social work degree (a four year course) and immediately took on three jobs in order to pay off the dues I incurred while obtaining my BSW.  On top of that, I also gained real world experience which has enabled me to merit an increasing rate of pay over those years they chose to stay in school and delay their entrance into work force.

As you provided no citations for this (or anything in your pamphlet for that matter) this sounds like an attempt to add more credence to the myth of a gendered wage gap.  You know, that staunchly held feminist belief that despite living in a capitalist society, feminists seem to think business owners would rather pay a man 33 cents more than to hire a woman for the same work.  You know that myth, the one  that has been debunked by Forbe’s, The Huffington Post, and even Hanna Rosin, author of “The End of Men”.  All 3 of those links are articles by women, two of whom identify as feminists.  In the name of equality though, here is a youtube video featuring a man for those who dislike reading (how did you stick with me this far?).

You have debunked nothing, and I just shared with you a couple of feminist articles debunking your own feminist views.  Is your mind-blown yet?

Myth #7:  Mandatory conscription only applies to men.  This shows that male life is seen as disposable

Whether or not women were assumed too weak or incompetent to enter war, this does not change the fact that men are considered worthy of being sent off to die while the women stay home and are protected.  The excuse for women not entering war, whether or not your reasoning is valid is a moot point, does not change the fact that men were and continue to be seen as disposable, especially in war.  Perhaps you haven’t heard of the term cannon fodder which literally means disposable soldiers; men who can be sent in to die to serve the strategic, military purposes of their commanders.

Now, if women were seen as too weak and incompetent to enter war, how much were women voicing opposition to this and historically attempting to enter war, particularly ground battles.  Most men didn’t even want to enter into wars in which they had little or no stake.  Furthermore, why did one of the original feminists, Emmeline Pankhurst, drop what she was doing in regards to securing the vote for women in order to shame men into going overseas to fight and die?  Why didn’t she change her tone to fight for the right for women to declare themselves strong and competent enough to be dropped on the frontlines as well?  Why did she take up the white feather campaign in order to shame men into going to fight and die, going so far as “lobbying to institute a draft to institute an involuntary draft of people, including those who lacked votes due to being too young or not owning property.”  An often ignored piece of history, not all men had the right to vote either, but women had the right to shame them into their societal duty to be disposable, and to lobby for the conscription which you supposedly claim to be opposed.

The panel discussion at which I was given this pamphlet had a speaker who identified as a radical feminist.  She repeatedly expressed a perceived need for feminists to become more militant, to need to take hostile and aggressive tactics against her perceived enemies (those who seek to address men’s issues).  This speaker was supportive of past aggressive actions such as blocking doors, getting in people’s faces, mobbing and intimidating people wishing to attend an event (with no knowledge of their individual beliefs), and even resorting to setting off fire alarms (resulting in wasting the time of firefighters as well).  In the face of this personally observed evidence, so enthusiastically expressed by this speaker, I find it hard to believe that radical feminists, such as those present at this event, fervently nodding agreement with this speaker`s statements, are interested in “de-militarization” and “non-violence”.  I guess 8 years of schooling, 2 master’s degrees, and not much to show for it but a vocabulary that is overwrought with the word “like” (as in “like y’know, whatever!”) would leave me very angry and bitter as well.

These are your radical-feminist roots.  These are your radical-feminist views.  You have debunked nothing.  All you have done is to illustrate once again that radical feminists are largely incapable of calm, well-reasoned discussion when faced with a logical assessment of reality, most particularly when they perceive that reality as posing a threat to undermine their stridently voiced, extremely one-sided, self-serving perspective.

Myth #8:  We have “women’s studies”, but no “men’s studies” in universities.  This is unfair.

History and political science are men’s studies?  I seem to recall studying individual men, not men as a collective, as an identity.  I also seem to recall learning about Laura Secord (because I’m Canadian), as well as Queen Elizabeth I & II, Catherine the Great, Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Amelia Earhart, etc.

If political science is the realm of men as well, is that why feminists, despite women being the popular vote, cry foul at the majority of politicians being men (again, voted in by women, policies affected by women)?  Is that why 50% of Canada’s Premiers (or First Ministers) are women?  Even if we include the Territories, it is just a 7 to 6 split favouring men.

Women`s studies have been commandeered by radical feminists who use these courses as a bully pulpit for their very distorted views; a reality attested to by many writers and speakers, such as Christina Hoff Sommers.  So tell me again how you have debunked the inequality inherent in instructing students in women’s studies and not also offering or exploring the study of men?

Myth #9:  Women usually get custody of their children; this is discrimination against men.

Women do not just get custody of the children sometimes; women get custody of a couple’s children in the majority of divorce cases.  Studies tend to place the rate at which the mother gets sole custody of the children in 80%, or higher, of divorce proceedings.

Neither do women get custody of the children because they spend more time and energy on the child, this stat still holds true when the father is the primary stay-at-home caregiver.  Historically, it was the law that there should be a presumption to grant the mother custody of children who were 16 years of age or younger.  This was called the tender years doctrine.  This was to counter the previous presumption that fathers should retain custody of the children.  If custody is awarded based on who puts the most time and energy into the children, did men do this before the tender years doctrine?  Two wrongs do not make a right.

To say that fathers should spend more time with their kids if they wish custody of their children is ignorant, as if the majority of a father’s “time and energy” isn’t spent with his children in mind.  As I stated above, when it is the mother who earns the financial necessity to raise the kids, and the father does the hands on care, courts still side with the mother.  This highlights the lack of logic or empirical evidence to back up your view on the matter.  Also, a judge does not actually see who spends how much time or energy with the children, it is not something parents can measure and present.

When Mothers are presumed to be the better caregiver, historically by law and at the discretion of judges today, is discrimination against fathers.  Mother’s being granted custody in over 80% of divorce proceedings is a huge imbalance.

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When Jessica gave me her pamphlet, before even looking at it, I told her “just so you know, I’m from the other side of this debate.  Are you sure you want me to have your pamphlet in advance of Saturday, since then obviously we’ll have advance knowledge of what you’re bringing?”  She said it was okay, and then I looked at it.

I gave her fair warning of what side I would be on and that I would be able to argue anything in it better.  I am offering her the same courtesy by posting my response days in advance.

Jessica, your pamphlet doesn’t hold any water, and you need to step you game up.  You have less than three days now, but you will need to improve your material if you expect to spark a discussion.  Maybe you should study up on where the Fiamengo protesters fell short and where you can improve your arguments. 

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Two Brothers, Two Acts of Kindness on the TTC in the Same Day

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I find myself, and others, often doing random acts of kindness.  I had meant to highlight some of these on my blog as well, but have only done one post thus far.  A story from my brother inspired me to make another post in that direction.  His story from that day, and my less amusing tale of how one can witness an act of kindness while waiting to see if they can perform one themselves.

My brother posted on Facebook his account of an incident that occurred while he was riding on the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto’s public transit system).  A belligerent man woke him from his morning slumber on his commute when he bellowed out the word “ANONYMITY!”.  After bellowing this out, the man then maintained a constant monologue of unhinged, repetitious ramblings directed at another male passenger.  At some point the man then switched to yelling out a slew of racist remarks towards the passenger who got off without coming to his defence.
However, my brother did come to his, and the rest of the riders defence.  Unfortunately it was after the passenger who was the focal point had exited the vehicle.  My brother got up and sat across from the man who had still been ranting loudly.  In his usually calm manner, my brother told him “hey, I don’t mind when you’re ranting about your own-”

This man apparently didn’t like having random passengers talk to him or address him directly.  He turned his head away from my brother to stare out the window, possibly hoping my brother would stop trying to engage with him, possibly daydreaming about the irony of his discomfort.

My brother continued on, ignoring the man’s attempts to ignore him.  “-stuff, have at it.  But when you turn your oppressive shit to-“.  At this point the man stuck his head completely out the window (to be fair, the warning sign only says to keep your arms inside) of the streetcar and held it outside for an entire stop.  Once the streetcar reached the next stop he got up and hurried off the vehicle as fast as he could.

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I got a drive to Woodbine station in the morning.  Upon entering the station, I saw there were two people lined up at the collector’s booth; one person buying tokens and an older man waiting in line, leaning on a crutch.  The man with a crutch told me to go ahead of him and explained he was just going to try and get a free ride.

The man didn’t look overly downtrodden, apart from the crutch, and he was well spoken as well.  Still, I decided to take my time on the other side of the turnstile; grabbing a transfer from the machine, pretending to look at a map.  I wanted to see if the man would be able to negotiate his way past the collector and, if not, I was going to offer him my other token that I had to get home at the end of the day (I had to buy more that day anyway).

The collector must have been in a charitable mood too, as they let the man through without charge.  I told him why I had waited and asked if he needed help down the steep stairs.  He thanked me and said he’d be fine.  Said he was only going one stop, but because of his crutch, that was why he decided to see if he could benefit from a stranger’s kindness.  Thankfully he had two people up for ensuring he got to his destination that day.

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My response to… myself? (Toronto Star)

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I was interviewed recently by the Toronto Star for an article on CAFE’s attempts to start up the Canadian Centre for Men and Families.  It can be viewed in it’s entirety at The Toronto Star.

Adam McPhee is a man. In his eyes, that puts him at a great disadvantage.

This is inaccurate, as I do not feel that being a man places me at a great disadvantage.  I do, however, feel that men often get the short end of the stick.  Men are disadvantaged in ways that women are not, and these are not readily acknowledged or discussed.  If we do not acknowledge or discuss these issues, how will they ever be remedied?

There are certain disadvantages identified by women which actually affect and impact men as well.  However, all the attention for these issues is often focused solely on the disadvantaged women, while the men who are equally disadvantaged are ignored.  The experiences of men are swept under the rug and society pretends that it is a one-sided issue.

This one-sided perspective, in refusing to recognize that some men also suffer the same issues, actually exacerbates their suffering.  This is further compounded by the relentless tendency of many feminists to paint all men as solely responsible for the disadvantages that women endure.  This accusation is not only inaccurate, it is unfair to men in general and, more so, to those men who suffer from the same issues which these feminists are addressing for women.

That being said, women also have issues which men do not.  However, women receive far more attention for the issues that they alone suffer than men do for the ones that they suffer alone, or those that they share with women.

McPhee is one of a small but swelling group who believe men have become the new underclass. He hopes to open a mancave that will serve as a refuge for his downtrodden brethren. The Canadian Association for Equality, a men’s rights group of which he is a board member, has launched a campaign to establish the first “Centre for Men and Families” in Toronto.

A “mancave”, really?  My mother read that and remarked that it was akin to calling “Nellie’s” a “cat den.”

Again, I don’t feel men are an underclass, nor do I feel women are an underclass.  I believe that both men and women have issues, but society pays more attention to women’s issues or focuses solely on the impact on women when an issue actually affects people of both genders.  Men should not be ignored as heavily as they are, nor should they be scapegoated for that with which they must also contend, such as rape and intimate partner violence.

But some gender equity advocates oppose the opening of the venue, fearing it will help CAFE propagate what they view as a misogynist and anti-feminist agenda.

Some in the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM) challenge feminist views when they feel they are inaccurate or distort a social issue.  Although it can easily be viewed this way, it is not often anti-feminist.  I myself would not call myself “anti-feminist”, but I do challenge some staunchly held views that are expressed by feminists when I feel they are off-base.  Some obviously feel that to challenge and criticize any aspect of feminist ideology at all is to be “anti-feminist”.  From here, their logic of semantics takes a downward spiral by taking “anti-feminist” and turning it into anti-woman; anti-woman is then naturally turned into misogyny.

“Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.”

-Andrea Dworkin, Right-Wing Women

McPhee, who was sexually abused by a girl when he was a teenager, adds there is a lack of support systems for male victims of domestic abuse.

I wouldn’t say sexually abused, as “abuse” gives the impression of an ongoing occurrence.  For more on that incident, see the end of my article on the Ryerson Student Union.

Local women’s rights advocates agree today’s males face many hardships, but disagree with CAFÉ’s methods of solving them.

And the viable alternative they offer is…?  Do they agree with violent protests by feminists attempting to shut down events which are organized to provide a forum in which men and women can openly discuss these hardships that these same WRAs agree exist in society?

“They tend to be more frustrated about women’s rights being protected and women’s equality being promoted, rather than men’s rights being violated,” says Sarah Blackstock, director of advocacy and communications at YWCA Toronto. “If we’re trying to build a society marked by compassion and equality, this centre won’t help us do that.”

According to the Canadian Charter, rights are sex-neutral.  As such, there should be no “women’s rights” to protect, just people’s rights.  These rights should be protected as equally as they can.  Highlighting the lack of support for men, where there is support for women, does not try to undermine the protections that women have, it simply attempts to achieve them for men.  See the difference?

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

CAFE has attempted to open chapters at several campuses across Canada in the past year, only to be met with heated protests. In June, the Canadian Federation of Students put forth a motion to oppose “men’s rights awareness groups” like CAFE, alleging they “provide environments of sexism, patriarchy and misogyny to manifest and be perpetuated on campus.”

I suppose being attacked for promoting awareness of the issues men face does constitute an environment of sexism, just not the way they are implying.  The Canadian Federation of Students is obviously not above victim-blaming.

Last November, CAFE came under fire when several women who protested at one of their University of Toronto events, featuring guest lecturer Dr. Warren Farrell, were later profiled on the website register-her.com. The site is run by U.S.-based men’s rights website A Voice for Men and is dedicated to exposing females they allege are “false rape accusers” and bigots.

McPhee denies CAFE is affiliated with the website, denouncing its actions as “completely wrong.” The organization insists it is not launching a war on womankind.

I rarely “completely” take any side, as I see truths from multiple perspectives (and I feel a lot of truth is based on perspective).

CAFÉ is definitely not affiliated with AVFM.  The reporter, Alex, asked me about any affiliation with AVFM.  He said that AVFM did a lot of promotion of CAFÉ’s events, and people may infer an affiliation because of that.  I pointed out that AVFM is interested in men’s issues.  As such, obviously they are going to promote events that are designed to bring attention to men’s issues.  This does not mean there is an affiliation, simply a mutual interest in the issues that affect men and boys.

As for the protesters from one of our events that AVFM posted on their website, I said that I did not believe they posted anything other than their names that wasn’t already public.  I said if I disagreed with anything, it would have been the posting of their names, as information is all too easily accessible in this day and age.  However, that being said, if these protesters really believed in the things they posted on their already public twitter accounts, why would it be a problem to have it posted?

I do not hide behind a pseudonym for my musings on gender issues, and I am more than open to discussion on anything I have written about.  Arguing for your privacy against someone showing what you have written on the internet is akin to complaining about someone reading your writing had it been done with chalk on the sidewalk.  Releasing their names may be going a step further than I would, but I don’t see an issue with showing the hatred they also espoused on their social media feeds.

SlutWalk organizer Colleen Westendorf agrees spaces are needed to discuss men’s issues, but questions CAFE’s motives.

“Their approach seems to blame feminism for the suffering of men,” she says. “They say they’re interested in gender equality, yet they deny the ways women are still hugely over-represented in experiencing violence and highly under-represented in positions of power.”

I would like an example where CAFÉ has done this?  Anyone reading this can feel free to find me such examples, since Westendorf didn’t provide any documentation or corroborating evidence.  With no examples of CAFÉ doing this, how can someone dispute her claims?

I admit that I think men are more over-represented in experiencing violence, especially outside of the home, but this does not mean that I deny women’s experience of violence.  I could just as easily say that Westendorf denies the ways in which men are under-recognized in experiencing violence and are over-represented in positions of subjugation.

But McPhee argues feminists have swung the gender pendulum too far in their own direction.

“Feminists talk about raising women’s equality to that of men,” he says. “Meanwhile, they’re not raising anything for the men who were already below the women.”

This article discusses how Women’s Rights Advocates acknowledge that men have issues and need their own space, while at the same time trying to impede a group that is attempting to provide them with such a space.  This is like offering your hand to someone to help them, but then using that same open hand to slap them across the face.

My cousin Nick said it best, “the way the article was written, down to its title and some of the comments afterwards, just show why we need movements like this.”

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LGBT Homelessness – LGBT Are Not All The Same

Homeless teens

The Toronto Star printed an article recently which highlighted the incidence of abuse suffered by LGBT youth in Toronto’s 11 shelters.

“In 2009, 73.2% of shelter users age 16 and over were male, 26.7% were female and 0.1% specified another gender. Looking at gender proportions by age group (Figure 4), the gap between males and females widened with older age groups. Males comprised just over 60% of youth using shelters but nearly 80% of adults 55 and over using shelters.”

The National Shelter Study (2005-2009)

As the quote above highlights, men are more likely to find themselves in the shelter system than women.  This gender-gap begins with youth and continues to grow the older the population gets.  If men are more likely to require shelter services than women, then gay men are likely also more likely to access a shelter than gay women.  With this in mind, how accurate is it that, according to a recent city study, “almost one in five homeless youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer”?

I didn’t think much of the study this article discusses as it only included 11 youths. If there are only 11 youth shelters in Toronto (according to the article) that means that the study only included one person for each shelter. I don’t know how many youth a large shelter like Covenant House holds, but I think one person per shelter is a very small sample.

The article also lumps together those who identify as LGBT without saying how each youth individually identified. How many identified as gay, lesbian, or trans?  All 3 are unique identities that don’t actually have that much correlation between them.  If almost 1 in 5 homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, that means that 1 in 5 youth identify as 1 of 5 identities? I may suck at math, but even I can see how that statement has a lot of potential issues.  Also, since someone can identify as both trans and gay, did they count any dual-identities as 1 or 2?

The full LGBT alphabet is usually longer, i.e. “LGBTTQ2I”, which stands for lesbian, gay, bi, transgender/transsexual, queer (or Q for questioning, which I don’t feel should be in there myself), two-spirited, and inter-sexed.  This expands that to at least 1 in 8 identities.  If 9 out of 10 (of those 1 in 5) are gay men, then to say that 1 in 5 identify as LGBT is a misnomer. This makes it an LGBT issue, when it may be primarily a gay men’s issue.

In my work with the homeless, I have seen a lot more animosity in the sector for gay men and transgendered women (especially since it’s difficult to be a “passable” trans when you are homeless) than I have seen toward lesbians.  However, given that my work in the homeless sector has had me mostly working with men, I would be curious about the treatment of lesbians and trans-women in female-only shelters, where I know trans-women are often discriminated against for not being real women.

This LGBT focused abuse in the shelter system also includes men who may not actually identify as gay, but who are targeted on a presumption of their sexuality. I have been called a number of sexuality-based slurs by shelter participants in my capacity as a staff member, so the abuse of service-users is no surprise. There is also the big slur that most of the general population doesn’t know, “goof“. A goof, in street/prison terms, is essentially a child molester, particularly one who goes after young boys. Being called a goof is akin to being slapped with a glove in an earlier time.  If you don’t fight the guy who just called you a goof, you’re seen as less than a man and you leave yourself open to further abuse. If it is a woman who calls a guy a goof, it of course paints him into a corner where he can’t fight the woman to defend himself, as this would be frowned upon and likely get him beat up by other shelter participants.  This, too, is a direct attack on a man’s sexuality.  It labels him as gay and a pedophile, and places him in the precarious position of having to defend himself or suffer further abuses.

If we separate men and women by gender for other studies, why do we lump them all together just because they identify as gay? This, unfortunately, skews the actual issue at hand by falsely attributing it to those to whom it may not pertain on the same level as it does to another. In my work with people living with HIV/AIDS, I work predominantly with gay men. If we were to say that 90% of my clients are gay men, how accurate would it be for me to then say that 9 out of 10 of my clients living with HIV identify as LGBT? Yes it would be true, but it would also be significantly misleading.

This is an issue for the LGBT homeless population.  However, in our quest for equality, we should be cautious about lumping those who identify as LGBT together as if they are directly comparable.  Given that men access the shelter system in greater numbers the older they get, how many homeless gay youth find themselves stuck in the system because of the abuses they suffered in youth shelters, only to continue to suffer them still in their 40’s and 50’s?

-This article can also be found at The Canadian Association For Equality

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