Tuesday, Cracked.com’s J. F. Sargent penned an article titled “5 Uncomfortable Truths Behind the Men’s Rights Movement,” in which he outlines the five major points he finds most problematic about the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM), referencing UCSB shooter Elliot Rodger, the PUAHate forums, and the subreddits /r/MensRights and /r/TheRedPill to bolster his arguments. After interviewing both Frank Meeink, a former white supremacist, and Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology, Sargent concludes the MRM has “less in common with any civil rights or equality movement than it does with goddamn neo-Nazis.”
The MRM is rife with issues, as any movement is, and in the name of objectivity and critical discussion a takedown of MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) ideology ought to be welcomed and appreciated. But the article gets so many things wrong about the MRM, what it means, and what it aspires to do that it’s hardly a valid criticism, itself begging to be rebutted for the sake of honest and intelligent discourse.
I believe in arguing fairly, and I believe in representing things as they are. So, aspiring to do just that, here are three things Cracked’s article gets wrong about MRM, and why the MRM is still total horseshit.
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that article.
1. The Article Supposes /r/TheRedPill Is the Same As /r/MensRights.
Now, I can understand the confusion: they’re both subreddits frequented primarily by male users, primarily for the purpose of the advancement of men (whether in society or the bedroom), and they both regularly attract hate-filled and anti-woman rhetoric. But as someone who is a long-time redditor and unfortunately quite familiar with both, I can attest that /r/MensRights and /r/TheRedPill are actually very different communities. Seemingly similar on the surface, they are in reality quite often at odds with each other and have somewhat different ideologies.
Are they both frequented by a large number of misogynists? Yes. But to equate them, or to use links from The Red Pill to support arguments about the beliefs of MRAs, is wrong and earns a finger-wag from me.
/r/TheRedPill is a subreddit that spun off from other communities built around pick-up-artistry, based upon the idea that to succeed sexually with women, one must “swallow the red pill” and accept misogynistic “truths” about the nature of women. It is highly philosophical and ideological — even cult-like — in nature, and is the source of such insightful sayings as, “A woman is a lock and a man is a key. If a key opens a lot of locks, it is a master key. But if one lock is opened by lots of keys, it is a dodgy lock.” More than just a sexual strategy, it aspires to be a lifestyle and a way of looking at the world that maximizes the happiness of men through sexist viewpoints.
/r/MensRights is a subreddit for men who believe that men’s rights are currently infringed upon and they wish to combat this in society. They frequently claim to advocate for equality and egalitarianism of the sexes, and indeed sometimes do just that — but in practice they regularly espouse misogynistic and patriarchal attitudes and policies. Men’s Rights is more politically aspiring than The Red Pill, and has a much greater vision, which includes dismantling what some of them believe to be an existing matriarchy.
As someone who has followed the MRM very closely over the past couple of years, even trying to find merit in it, I can truthfully say that as a community, Men’s Rights appears far more earnest and serious, and as such, possibly more dangerous than The Red Pill. They frequently focus on issues such as paternal custody rights, male rape, the gender wage gap (something most MRAs dismiss entirely) and what it perceives to be gender-based double-standards. These are issues that The Red Pill never focuses on, preferring instead to muse about the base nature of women and how to “game” the system in their attempts to conquer them.
That the Cracked article, beyond the initial reference, never directly cites /r/MensRights is a serious flaw, as Sargent never directly addresses what he claims to. There are plenty of easily identifiable issues with the Men’s Rights subreddit movement itself, so the fact that Sargent chose instead to equate them with The Red Pill is a cheap shot, a blatant strawman, and a move that I just can’t get behind.
Why the MRM is Still Total Horseshit
Though Men’s Rights and The Red Pill are not exactly the same thing, and their communities haven’t been shown to have a terribly large overlap, they do have a lot in common; and problems found in The Red Pill are some of the same problems found in Men’s Rights — a disrespect for women and an illustrated favor for patriarchal attitudes, and so on. But unlike members of The Red Pill, who mostly just want to get laid or blame women when they aren’t, the MRM, as it currently exists, is more troublesome because it holds, erroneously, that women are in a position of relative power and that men must reclaim “what has been taken from them” with regard to the status and position they aspire to.
2. The Article Samples Only the Fringe of What Sargent Calls the “MRM.”
Another thing that really grinds my gears about this article is that when Sargent isn’t misrepresenting the opinions of MRAs, whom I frequently and vehemently disagree with (and find to be ridiculous), he’s taking quotes and snippets from the fringe without addressing any of the valid concerns, however sparse, of the movement. Nowhere in the article does he address MRA stances on child custody or conscription, two major MRM talking points. He simply references hateful, embittered misogynists and slaps on the label of “MRA,” as if all men who hate women must be members of the MRM.
I’ll concede that descriptors such as “hateful” and “embittered” seem to fit most of the self-described MRAs I’ve encountered in my long history of MRM familiarity, but instead of arguing that their stance on the issues is total bullshit, Sargent cherry-picks statements from The Red Pill users who, as the lack of evidence suggests, have no affiliation with the MRM at all.
Why the MRM is Still Total Horseshit
The MRM itself is a fringe movement, consisting of a variety of voices often found to be in disagreement. While we shouldn’t judge a movement by its fringe (ever seen what happens when people do that with Feminism?), it is important to consider that the proportion of MRAs who espouse dangerous, hateful, or otherwise misogynistic rhetoric is surprisingly large — or at least very visible. Plenty of examples exist in feminist circles, but despite a multitude of instances of less-than-respectful feminists on the internet, regular comments disparaging women and outright denying the issues they face are the very hallmark of major MRA voices.
3. The Article Characterizes the MRM as a Hate Movement.
I will preface this by saying that I think the MRM is as chock full of hateful, angry men as is possible for any movement. I find a lot of MRM stances to be personally offensive and downright terroristic when it comes to equality of the sexes. That said, I don’t think the MRM is a hate movement. The issues that MRAs focus on seem to originate more from a sense of inequity and unfairness than pure hate, although many members of the community certainly seem to harbor a great deal of resentment toward women for their “privilege.”
A hate group, as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” Wikipedia defines a hate group as, “an organized group or movement that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other designated sector of society.” This does not, on the surface, seem to be a stance advocated by MRAs, many of whom are well-meaning, if misguided, and whose hatred and aggression appear less intentional and more a symptom of discontent. Most major MRM communities have a policy of anti-hate and non-inflammatory speech, although admittedly, I have yet to see these policies enforced in an unbiased manner.
That MRAs “mean well” does not excuse the hateful behavior that frequently surfaces in their communities. But to call the MRM a hate group is a little disingenuous, and if held to the standard set in the Cracked article, Feminism would seem to qualify as a hate movement as well. Which it most certainly is not.
Why the MRM is Still Total Horseshit
Clearly, the MRM doesn’t do a very good job of regulating hateful behavior, particularly when it bolsters their self-serving arguments within the confines of their own communities. There are countless examples of misogynistic behavior in MRA communities that are overlooked or condoned because it just doesn’t suit the moderators to remove the comments. While the MRM may not qualify as a hate group, it absolutely fosters a sense of collective resentment toward a marginalized group that has done nothing to warrant it. And that’s totally unreasonable and unfair, and needs to be challenged for the sake of progressiveness and equality. But instead of misrepresenting what it’s about, let’s criticize the MRM on its merits, or lack thereof. Because there is plenty wrong with the MRM without conflating it with the rest of the “manosphere.”