Masculinity and the failure of the men’s rights movement -UPDATED

Okay, true confession time: if there’s one group that really still gets under my skin, it’s anti-feminist “men’s rights activists.” In the comments below this post, a fellow named Jeff JP wrote:

You say, “I’m not hard on men because I am filled with self-loathing.”

With all due respect, I just don’t believe that. The very fact that you use terms like “predators” and the incredibly overused, misused, and abused “patriarchs” suggests to me that there’s really something else going on here.

Furthermore, the gaggle of feminist groupies who hang out here is also telling. Sorry, pal, but I just do not believe it.

If you want to be a feminist, fine. That’s your right. However, feminism has by and large been discredited as an anti-male hate movement, so don’t be so surprised when men don’t warm up to that.

I mean, it’s not a particularly profane or nasty comment — I’ve read much worse and been unfazed by it. Why do commenters like Jeff JP (and a few others) get to me? Simple: my first reaction is to see guys like him as (not so subtly) questioning my manhood! I’ve done years of work around my own sense of myself as a man, and have grown infinitely more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve been called a sissy, a queer, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, “pussy-whipped” and worse from the moment I first started working on gender issues almost two decades ago. Most of the time, it rolls off my back. But every once in a while, it gets to me.

True confession: my very first impulse with men who do this is to be reactive, stoop to their level, and defend my masculinity. “You want to question my cojones, buddy? Let’s do a 20 mile round trip race to the top of Mt. Wilson and back, you so-and-so, and I’ll show you who’s a man!” It’s embarrassing, but the first thing I want to do is re-establish my manly credentials by suggesting some variation on a boyish pissing contest! Really, I have to laugh at myself.

Fortunately, I don’t actually let myself react that way. Instead, I pause, think things through, and usually (if particularly irked) pray for the person who has enraged me. That usually allows me to return to a calm civility in short order. I don’t know if the women who were so casually dismissed as my “feminist groupies” won’t still want to respond!

But the men’s rights movement bothers me for other reasons that have nothing to do with my own insecurities, such as they may or may not be. I’ve blogged about them before, in a brief summary of the broader men’s movement. Jeff JP put up some of their links in his comments, and I’ll repeat them here:

National Coalition of Free Men
Warren Farrell.Com
Dads’ Rights

And many, many more.

The first of these, the NCFM, has a philosophical premise that sounds appealing and valuable: freeing men from restrictive gender roles that have damaged them. In their mission statement, the National Coalition says that they want to free men from the following:

…From the tendency to evaluate themselves and each other by the degree to which they meet an impossible ideal.
…From conditioned competitiveness and the fear of sharing failures, anxieties and disappointments with one another.
…From a mistrust of their feelings and instincts and an over reliance on logical thought processes.
…From the notion that violent action confirms and enhances their manliness.
…From a relative ignorance of their bodily functions and disdain for their body’s warning signals.
…From the pressure to be what they are not in preparation for their success role.
…From an over reliance on their jobs for a sense of identity.
…From the social barriers and pressures which stand in the way of their establishing close emotional friendships with other men.
…From the inclination to turn their wives into permission giving mother figures.
…From the need to prove their worthiness as protectors and providers.
…From feelings of inadequacy in matters of child care and child rearing.
…From feelings which inhibit them from developing a closer more emotional relationship with their children

Well, heavens to Betsy, that sounds good to me. Indeed, these “freedoms from” are part and parcel of the “pro-feminist” men’s movement for which I have a good deal more sympathy, represented by Men Can Stop Rape and NOMAS. Unlearning violence, developing healthy intimacy with other men, overcoming workaholism — it all sounds terrific. But where the men’s rights movement falls flat on its face is when it chooses to see feminists not as allies, but as opponents. Here are some other things the NCFM wants to free men from:

…From preoccupation with sexual technique and from imperatives to concentrate on satisfying their partners sexually, seemingly at the expense of their own sexual pleasure.
…From divorce laws which presume the naturally superior capabilities of women to care for children and which stereotype men as wallets.
…From harsher treatment under law for criminal violations than the treatment accorded to women in matters of arrest, conviction and sentencing.
…From the notion that as a class they oppress women any more than women as a class oppress them, or than society in general oppresses both sexes through stereotyping.

I bet lots of women are fascinated to know that millions of men are miserable, dutifully denying themselves sexual pleasure in order to concentrate on satisfying their partners. Who knew?

But seriously, it’s the last of these statements that is the most patently offensive: an insistence that men’s victimization is equal to women’s victimization. It’s the staggering blindness to male privilege that is so damn galling. It’s a gross misunderstanding of history and of culture. (By the way, let me applaud Ampersand’s list of our male privileges; it can be found here).

The problem with the men’s rights movement is that they confuse men’s unhappiness with oppression. They assume that if men were in control, they would be happy, because patriarchal oppressors ought to be happy. Therefore, if a man isn’t happy, he isn’t oppressing. Newsflash, folks: Just because you don’t know you’re privileged doesn’t mean you’re not. Just because there are aspects of your power and privilege that you find alienating and burdensome doesn’t mean that you are any less a beneficiary of an oppressive system! Both men and women do need liberation from rigid, traditional, gender roles. The difference is that collectively, men are the architects of the system while women are merely forced to live within it.

Let me quote from Christopher Kilmartin’s fine textbook, The Masculine Self:

“(Profeminist men and mytho-poetic men’s advocates) see men’s oppression as an internalized quality that is changed through self exploration… the men’s rights movement sees oppression as a socially pervasive sexism against men, who will continue to be victimized unless something is done about it.”

The men’s rights movement gives men the luxury of self-righteous indignation; the pro-feminist men’s movement forces men to recognize their own role in both their own oppression and that of the women in their lives. The men’s rights movement feeds on anger; the pro-feminist men’s movement on a sense of profound responsiblity to our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and lovers as well as to ourselves.

I know where I stand. And Jeff, I’d still like to go for a run with you. No racing or chest-beating, I promise!

UPDATE: Trish Wilson has this great post about NCFM from 2003. The NCFM has a history of opposing government funding for battered women’s shelters, claiming that to fund such shelters for women is sexist. Here’s what they say about state funding for women’s shelters in Minnesota:

We insist that this egregiously sexist law be struck down in its entirety, at which time the Minnesota State Legislature can begin a new process and an entirely new approach to addressing the social problem of domestic violence — an approach that utterly discounts and discredits the old “women good, men bad” model and forthrightly recognizes instead that domestic violence is a shared problem between men and women.

Yes, domestic violence is a shared problem between men and women. Murder is also a shared problem between the victim and the killer, but that doesn’t make the differences between the two any less stark.

0 thoughts on “Masculinity and the failure of the men’s rights movement -UPDATED

  1. I have biting my tongue during this “oppression” series, but this entry is over the top. It’s all well and good to say “just because you don’t know you’re privileged doesn’t mean you’re not,” but the flip side is just because Hugo “knows” you are privileged doesn’t mean you are. Another possibility, which appears to have been left unexplored, is that Hugo’s privilege and oppression theory is a bunch of crap. Or maybe not, but if not, it’s up to you to demonstrate that, not expect the readers to assume it.

    Existing laws do a pretty good job of ensuring equality for women, in just about every respect imaginable. They don’t always do that for men. The fact that men originally created the system is as immaterial as the fact that a once all-male electorate chose to constitutionalize women’s suffrage – at a time when many, many women weren’t even sure they wanted that right.

    Today’s laws are, by and large, gender-neutral, and those that aren’t are more likely to favor women than men. Examples include, among other things, (1) a nearly-unrebuttable presumption that the mother is the better custodial parent in the event of a divorce, (2) the fact that men can be drafted but women cannot, (3) the very existence of a taxpayer-funded “Glass Ceiling Commission,” whose sole purpose is not to study objectively whether or not men and women get equal pay for equal work, but to compile whatever bogus statistics they need in order to “prove” that they don’t, and (4) the law that allows rogue D.A.s like Gil Garcetti to collect child support from “deadbeat dads” who are neither deadbeats nor dads. I’m sure there are many more examples, as well. Can you proivde a single concrete example of a law that systematically favors men over women to the same degree that these four examples do?

    Spare me the rhetoric about how men supposedly hold all the real power. Each citizen gets one vote. The individuals who wield any real power beyond that are a tiny segment of the population, and one that does not include you, me, or in all likelihood, anyone who reads this blog. All other things being equal, these men probably act like other men, in which case they are far more likely to cut breaks to the ladies than they are to give any special dispensations to other men, whom they don’t even know, simply for being men.

  2. XRLQ, you’re assuming that oppression is rooted in law. I never argued that. I’m talking about a culture that exploits women’s bodies, forces them to make Sophie’s choices between ambition and reproduction, and still has informal ceilings to women’s success. That’s social oppression rather than legal oppression.

    Have the laws been changed to provide greater opportunity for women? You bet. Yay. Has the way men treat women changed as rapidly? I don’t think so.

  3. Hugo, you’re far, far, far more patient and polite with these sort of people than I could ever be. I think that’s probably a good thing, but I’m not entirely sure about that.

    Xrlq says:Today’s laws are, by and large, gender-neutral, and those that aren’t are more likely to favor women than men.

    I could take issue with a number of things in this post, but I’m going to limit myself to just this one. Surely you can’t seriously take the neutral language of law automatically translates into fair treatment. This is often very far from the case–law can have a very hard time penetrating long standing social patterns and practices. (Example: The civil rights act of 1876 is very similar in content to the civil rights act of 1964)

    Take the area of employment. I’ll begin with an example from my own life. I worked at a pizza place many years ago. The owner, a lonely single man in his early 30’s with a drinking problem, wouldn’t even consider hiring women unless (his words) they were over 50 years old or 250 pounds. (His discrimination was appalling, but his reasoning was tragic as well–he simply didn’t trust himself to not develop feelings for them and sexually harass them–and, when at my badgering he did hire a young woman, he lived up to the low expectations he had set for himself). Was his “policy” illegal? Yes. Is there really any practical way for anti-discrimination laws to penetrate this practice? No. The whole outfit had 10 workers and got a handful of vaguely similar applications for any position we had available. Proving the descrimination would be virtually impossible, and not worth the effort even if it weren’t.

    (I could give you another example of gender discrimination from my current employment situation, but since I’m not anonymous I don’t feel comfortable dishing the details. But this took place in a left-wing department at a left-wing university).

    As for more systematic evidence, sociologist Charles Tilly is a good place to start. In his book Durable Inequality (which I can’t recommend enough to people who are trying to understand the dynamics of persistent categorical inequality in society), he examines how employees in large firms and institutions end up in the roles they’re in and finds women being “sorted” into traditionally female types of work and training as they enter such organizations with a high degree of regularity. The biggest difference between now and the pre-civil rights era is that these sorting mechanisms are informal rather than formal. Doesn’t change their impact.

    There are numerous other examples, and I agree Hugo hasn’t proved the positive in this post, but asserting the neutral language of law as evidence for no residual gender oppression of women doesn’t pass the laugh test.

  4. xrlq, no state gives any kind of formal presumption to women during custody disputes. When custody is disputed, there are probably some states and some circumstances in which women are favored, but there are also states and circumstances in which men are likely to be favored. You are at least 25 years out of date in you assumptions.

  5. Hugo, don’t fall for the pithy rhetoric of the National Coalition for Free Men. If you want to know what that group is really all about, read this blog entry of mine.

    Regarding Warren Farrell, I have several pages on my web site about him and the “positive incest” statements he made for 1977 Penthouse article that he has been trying to keep under wraps for over 20 years. The man has no credibility whatsoever.

    Also, contrary to xrlq’s claim, no state gives presumptive custody of children to mothers. In fact, most divorces settle out of court with both parents deciding on their own most often that mom will have primary custody of the children. They make this decision without needing a judge to make it for them. So, no, dads are not discriminated against in court because courts ostensibly “routinely” award custody to mothers. Also, when dads do contest custody, they get some form of it (mostly joint legal) more than half the time anyway, even if they were absent, abusive, disinterested, or simply not the children’s primary caregiver.

    Don’t let the men’s/fathers’ rights commenters get to you. They seem to have very thin skins and love to go on the attack. You see your manhood questioned. I’m called a “fucking man-hater.” They are reacting to their senses of entitlement being threatened. In a sense, when they come after you it means you’re effective.

  6. Hugo: I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to talk about the “architects of the system” without referring to the system of laws. If you’re not talking about laws, then I have to completely reject your claim that men alone are the architects of anything. Allowing women the choice between pursuing career paths on substantially the same terms that men have traditionally done, on the one hand, vs. being stay at home moms, on the other, is not oppression, social or otherwise. Got any better examples?

    DJW: I’m sure you’ve heard the saying before, but the plural of “anectdote” isn’t “data.” Show evidence of a broad trend of men refusing to hire women, and you may have a real point. But merely citing one quirky individual at a pizza joint doesn’t add anything of value to the debate. Tilly’s book may or may not. Better if you could yourself provide a coherent theory as to why you think men systematically oppress women – aside from the simple fact that you already subscribe to an ideology that says things are supposed to be that way.

    Barbara: I think you’d be very hard pressed to come up with a single state that systematically favors men in divorce proceedings. Feel free to try, though.

    Trish: The fact that most divorces settle out of court does not refute, or even affect, my statement that most states favor mothers over fathers in deciding custody battles. In court or out of court, the same laws govern. And given your own track record, you might want to think twice before attacking anyone else for being thin-skinned.

  7. Actually, Xrlq, no state “systematically” favors either sex. I know this may be hard for you to accept, but there are studies that show that in contested custody disputes, men are awarded custody at least as frequently as women. I know it’s hard to let go of victimhood status, but at least you can celebrate that if you get divorced and fight for custody you have a decent shot at winning. (Note that many fathers voluntarily relinquish primary custody, mostly because the mother has held primary caretaker status). The younger a child is when divorce occurs the more likely it is that mothers will obtain custody. But in any event, the most common form of custody now is “joint custody,” much maligned though it may be, it was intended to encourage greater paternal participation in child rearing, and to avoid really ugly custody disputes.

  8. Xrlq, your statement is false. Most parents decide on their own that mom should have custody, and when dads make an issue of custody in court the courts give them some form of custody more than half the time. So, dads aren’t discriminated against by courts that supposedly most often give the kids to mom. That is only your opinion, not fact. The rest of your comment was an attack against me and it was completely unnecessary and inappropriate.

  9. My parents’ divorce is pretty much like what Trish said–my dad let my mom have custody without a fight, because he just couldn’t bear to take her children from her or us from our mom. We never really struggled over visitation, therefore, and they are friends now. He wanted us to be happy–he couldn’t be happy unless his kids were settled and happy, which he honestly felt was best achieved by not struggling with my mom over custody.

    That is what real men do–grow up and act tall enough to think of other people. And guess what–they find they like it! Most men I know who incorporate some feminist understanding in their worldview are much, much happier as men and much more secure in the vision of themselves as men.

    If you really want to be secure as a man, you’re not going to get that security by defining true manhood by oppressing women. And I’ve found that in personal relationships, the men I know who are most secure in themselves are ones who have good relationships with women that they are considerate of. In fact, a friend of mine just got a letter the other day from an ex-boyfriend expressing that exact sentiment–that after screwing it up with her he realized that real men don’t dick around with women’s feelings and since then he’s grown up, found some real ambitions and he’s much, much happier now. He quit defining his manhood by how much he could get over on women and start defining himself by real accomplishments.

  10. Barbara, it looks like you are projecting. I never claimed “victimhood” status about anything. Personally, I think a presumption in favor of the mother’s custody is a reasonable one, although it can be taken to extremes. I didn’t raise the issue to prove that men are oppressed creatures; I raised it as an example of how society and the law don’t generally favor men over women, and sometimes do the opposite. But to the extent you think joint custody is a better system, which many but not all states have adopted, then you shouldn’t be criticizing the men’s rights movement for seeking these reforms in the first place.

    I notice that no one has discussed the other three examples of de facto and de jure sexism I addressed above. All three are, IMO, more serious than the general presumption of maternal custody.

    Trish: c’mon, you know as well as I do that “some form of custody more than half the time” is a far cry from equality. Full custody half the time would be, as would joint custody all of the time. Surely you wouldn’t accept it as equal if “more than half” of all women in contested divorces got “some” of the couple’s joint property. Please.

    As to the rest, my point stands. It’s clear that you are very thin-skinned, and therefore, probably shouldn’t criticize others for supposedly being the same way. If you truly believe, as you implied in the comment I linked to, that the blogosphere disses you for being a woman, try blogging as a man sometime. It’s not hard to do on a computer; just blog what you normally blog, minus any tell-tale side notes that would give your sex away. Do that for a month or two, and compare the level of abuse your male alter ego gets to the amount you are accustomed to receiving now. Dollars to donuts: your male persona gets all the same abuse, and more.

    As always, though, feel free to prove me wrong.

  11. I don’t know if this was the update, or if I somehow overlooked it before:

    Yes, domestic violence is a shared problem between men and women. Murder is also a shared problem between the victim and the killer, but that doesn’t make the differences between the two any less stark.

    What is that supposed to mean?! Are you implying that no women ever physically abuse or even murder their husbands, boyfriends or children? And if not, then how on earth do you justify such an outrageous analogy as man:woman::murderer:victim?

  12. Hugo, excellent post. Xrlq, you need to read the updated version of the draft which is sitting on a table waiting to be signed. Both men and women will be subject to the draft if this bill is signed.

    Jeez, the stats that never get reported…three attempted rapes, one actual one, three attempted sexual assaults, two instances of sexual harrassment by a professor (as in, sleep with me and you can take my independent study, and the like), one case of non-payment of child-support/complete lack of involvement in child’s life, four cases of inappropriately touching a 13 year old, and this is just my life.

    Unfortunately, my experiences seem to be fairly typical. I really don’t even think about it that much, because when I was growing up, being harrassed was par for the course. I could not walk down the street without a guy yelling something. Not to mention that problematic thing about going walking by oneself at night.

    Yesterday, a fellow female teacher asked me to walk with her to the parking lot, a walk of about 50 yards. To me, that says everything.

    Wonder how many men share a similar history and need a companion to walk to the car?

  13. Ok, I’m going to be jumped on for this, but I’m with XRLQ. Assuming the status of permanent victims is good for no-one, (as a chap with cerebral palsy, I have impeccable victim credentials, but I really don’t see the value in classifying whole groups as “oppressed” when they aren’t.) Hugo is tough on men. Is he justified? Maybe sometimes yes, other times No. This one’s a No. Men have to face discrimination too, and XRLQ’s 4 areas are a good start. There is an automatic assumption of the State here (imported from the US) that Dads don’t matter, or that as long as they pay child support, that’s all kids need. Not so. There are many, many excellent Dads who are discriminated against in custody arrangements, because of their sex. Why do you think the British Justice for Dads is having to Storm Her Majesty’s balcony? Likewise, while I have collected for Women’s Refuge, and support them strongly, there are legitimate questions to be asked about what is taught under the guise of women’s empowerment. While most refuges do a great job, I do know the one where I used to live was teaching Man-hatred, weird ideology and New Age religion to the vulnerable women that came to it, instead of supporting them. It wasn’t so much “What can we do to help you and support you through this” it was “RAPISTS! All men are RAPISTS!” Unhelpful. And so is the “Men are evil opressors who must be educated” mindset, in my humble opinion.

  14. Xrlq, I presented those anecdotes not as positive evidence for systematic oppression of women, but as a rebuttal to the notion that we should just look at the language of the law and as long as it’s gender neutral assume everything’s fine. There are plenty of laws against gender discrimination in hiring, but they can’t and don’t change a good deal of dubious hiring practices. That’s all I the work I wanted my anecdotes to do. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    I’m not going to try to convince you that women are systematically oppressed because, to be frank, life’s too short and I spend too much time commenting/arguing on blogs as it is, and I think this one might be especially pointless.

  15. Michelle: I think you might be getting your news from alarmist left-wing blogs, hysterical email chains, the National Enquirer, or worst of all, CBS. In fact, there is no “updated version of the draft” awaiting President Bush’s signature. Not even close. Both versions of the bill to which you refer (Charlie Rangel’s H.R. 163 in the House, and Fritz Hollings’s S. 89 in the Senate) are nothing more than empty political stunts by anti-war Democrats, which aren’t even intended, much less expected, to pass. Barring a seismic shift in November, there is no danger that either of them will. Until/unless that changes, what say we talk about the draft as currently authorized by the Selective Service Act, not as it theoretically would be changed if a go-nowhere bill were to defy all odds and actually go somewhere.

    Your point about rape, unlike the draft, is well taken. To that, my answer is twofold. First, traditional, “patriarchal” society took that crime extremely seriously, even to the point of making it punishable by death. It doesn’t get more serious than that. If our society has subsequently degenerated such that rape is no longer taken as seriously as it once was, well, whose fault is that? Certainly not the traditionalists’! Second, while rape in particular generally affects women more than men, the numbers are reversed for every other category of violent crime, up to and including the ultimate violent crime, murder. [Then again, for all I know men may even “win” on rape, if you count prison rape.] All in all, men far more likely than women to become victims of a violent crime. Some of this is due to women being more cautious, but more of it has to do with the fact that men are more often the targets, as well as the perps. [That’s true along ethnic lines as well, and to a greater extent. E.g., crimes by blacks are generally directed at other blacks, crimes by Hispanics usually target Hispanics, and so on.]

    Want to turn the tables on the one violent crime that disproportionally impacts women? Here’s how. Encourage every woman you know to sign up with the NRA’s “Refuse to be a Victim” or a similar self-defense training program. If you live in any of the 37 states that allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, do. You’d be amazed how much tougher your little friend Snuffy is than the biggest, meanest, brawniest thug you might ever encounter between your car and any other place you may feel like walking to or from after dark. If you have the misfortune of living in one of the other 13, call your legislator and tell them to fix the law already.

    Or you can shriek about how horrible guns are, the need to “break the cycle of violence,” yadda yadda yadda, attend a few empty “Take Back the Night, But Not Really” sessions, and accomplish nothing. Your call.

  16. I’m not going to try to convince you that women are systematically oppressed because, to be frank, life’s too short and I spend too much time commenting/arguing on blogs as it is, and I think this one might be especially pointless.

    That’s one possible explanation. Another, more likely one, is that you’re not going to succeed in convincing me that women are systematically oppressed because, to be frank, they’re not. [I refer to wester society, of course. I don’t need to be convinced that women are systematically oppressed in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.]

  17. Hugo,

    A very thoughtful post. I particularly liked this sentence:

    “[The] pro-feminist men’s movement forces men to recognize their own role in both their own oppression and that of the women in their lives”.

    The reason why the hostility of folks like XLRQ is unwarranted is that feminism can make life better for women and for men. I see this in many areas (I’ll save that for another post), but for me I think it is particularly relevant given your comments about masculinity and feminism. As best I can recall (and this is pretty vague after 25 years or more), I first considered the two topics as in any way related as a teenager when someone suggested that a man might feel threatened if his wife made more money than he did — a topic of particular salience to me as my parents were both lawyers and, as far as I knew, my mother may well have made more than my father. At 7 or 10 or 13 (I don’t remember), the idea that a man would be threatened by having a successful wife was really a mystery to me. Why would someone possibly be threatened by that? If masculinity and feminism are about strength, why would someone strong be threatened by someone strong? Isn’t it someone weak who’d be threatened by someone strong?

    With the benefit of age, I know that we’re all a lot weaker and more insecure than I thought back then, but I still adhere to the basic conclusion. If “masculinity” refers to the goals of virtue and strength (see below), then, for a man, being a feminist is the masculine thing to be.

    (Hugo, since you’ve obviously thought about this a good deal more than I have, I wonder what your thoughts are about the definition of “masculinity” or “manhood”. To the extent they suggest that men have or should have some special virtue that is unavailable to women, I find it offensive and inappropriate. At the same time, as your post suggests, the folks who challenged your “masculinity” had something in mind, so how can one respond without dealing with those words?)

  18. I can not BELIEVE there are men refuting most of Hugo’s post and agreeing with some of the utter crap he’s quoted. No. Wait. Sadly, I CAN believe it.

    When the United States government, the government that we supposedly all have one vote to elect (except when it comes to the state in which your brother is Governor), starts making laws telling you what to do with your penis, testes, and semen, like it is trying to tell us what to do with our vaginas, uteruses, and ovaries, then you can start bitching.

    Until then, please grow up and get a clue.

  19. Xlrq, we’ll just have to wait and see about the draft, won’t we?

    Regarding paternal societies taking a tough stance on rape, well, let’s see. In Middle Eastern and some African countries, which are *very* paternalistic, women are frequently jailed or put to death for being raped. If you look at the rape laws for Saudia Arabia, you will find that it takes what, something like three men to substantiate a woman’s claim?

    Also, just because their are strict laws against rape doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Ah, the good old days, when slave owners raped their chattel with impunity. I reckon power and money has always influenced what consequence the rapist received. Sometimes, the consequence has been for the rapist to marry the victim!

    The gun remark is just funny. You make a lot of assumptions about women who are fed up with bad treatment. I have a sawed off (but still legal) shotgun that I will not hesitate to use if my life, or that of my family is threatened. However, it’s not the best solution. Rapists and murderers tend to carry guns too.

    When men are in prison getting raped, who is doing the raping? Women? You are right about men being more likely to be the victim of a violent crime–by other men. This issue of men and their violence needs to be addressed, obviously, without anyone whining that addressing the issue is treating someone like a victim.

  20. Fred: please identify where I am “hostile.” I take it you don’t consider “hostility” to be a synonym for “disagreement,” right?

    Michelle: I believe I said before that women are truly oppressed in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. I probably should have used scare quotes to distinguish “paternalistic” countries like the pre-Roe (but post-slavery) U.S. from those that are truly paternalistic, not to mention all-around ugly.

    Obviously I had you pegged wrong on the gun issue. Good for you.

  21. XRLQ:

    Ah, need to make myself clearer; here is the analogy:

    batterer:victim as murderer:victim — and the overwhelming majority of batterers, despite fraudulent stats from men’s rights groups, are men. The victims are women, and, on occasion, other men.

  22. Do you have a source for that claim? My understanding is that woman-on-man violence is not uncommon at all, and that women are the more frequent abusers when the victims are children. Simply writing off ideologically inconvenient stats, or even factually debatable ones, as “fraudulent” does not make them so, unless you can actually demonstrate that someone really did commit a fraud in coming up with them. If you can do that, great. If you can’t, then I think you owe these guys an apology, having effectively smeared them as liars solely because they disagree with you.

    Regardless of what the actual numbers are, there is no question that some women abuse children and others abuse men. I think we can safely assume that NCFM’s point about a “shared” problem was that the problem is shared by male abusers and female abusers, not between male abusers and female victims.

  23. Xrlq, you wrote that “First, traditional, “patriarchal” society took [rape] extremely seriously, even to the point of making it punishable by death. It doesn’t get more serious than that.” Michelle refuted that claim of yours, although you seem to have missed her point. Having a death penalty isn’t necessarily a sign of taking rape seriously, because often the rules are rigged to make sure that no man – and certainly no man of high status – can be convicted of rape.

    When you look at a case like this one, it’s clear that traditional patriarchal society does not taking the crime of rape seriously.

    * * *

    Secondly, I’m male, I’ve spent almost as much time on the net refuting anti-feminists as Trish has (Trish and I go back a while) – and although I’ve had my share of hateful respondants, I certainly haven’t kicked up the amount of viterol and hatred that Trish has.

    * * *

    Although men are probably the majority of victims of violent crime outside of prison, it’s not as clear-cut as you suggest; that’s the story told by standard crime measures, but standard crime measures severely undercount both rape and intimate violence, crimes in which the typical victim is female.

  24. If you can do that, great. If you can’t, then I think you owe these guys an apology, having effectively smeared them as liars solely because they disagree with you.

    You mean, like the way DJW explained that she wasn’t going to debate because she thought life’s too short; and you responded by implying that she was lying about why she’s leaving the debate, and that the real explanation was probably something else? I’m sure you’re going to apologize for that real soon.

    There’s nothing ruder, or more illogical, in a debate than speculating about the motivations of people you disagree with.

  25. Incidently, although I know that Hugo can answer for himself, I wrote a detailed critique of the “husbands are as battered as wives” theory. Even Straus and Gelles – who created the survey instrument most-often-cited by men’s rights activists – now say that the men’s rights activists have misused their work.

    (To anticipate an objection, I did – at the end of my post – speculate as to what motivates men’s rights activists. But I didn’t do that in the context of directly debating a particular men’s rights activist and speculating on his motivations, which I think is a good deal ruder.)

    My understanding is that woman-on-man violence is not uncommon at all, and that women are the more frequent abusers when the victims are children.

    It was fairly clear to me that when Hugo was discussing battery, he was referring to adult victims. And in any case, we were definitely discussing who the victims are – not who the abusers are.

    I think it’s probably true that women are the more frequent child-abusers, although I’d prefer it if you could provide a specific, peer-reviewed citation. However, my suspicion is that the difference between fathers and mothers is accounted for not by any inherant difference between women and men, but by the differences in who has most of the responsibility for child-rearing and spends the most time with children. (Of course, I realize you didn’t imply otherwise).

    I don’t think anyone is claiming that women are all saints – on the contrary, I think the feminist position is that women, like men, are human and have human flaws. However, due to an unequal society (and also, to some extent, due to biology – i.e., men are physically bigger and don’t get pregnant), the power dynamics between men and women are not even; and so in relations between adult women and men, the abusers are disproportionately men.

  26. It will probably come off as laziness on my part, but Amp did such a good job in his article on the subject of abuse statistics that I defer to him, XRLQ.

  27. Hugo, I found more information for you. Womensenews reported on an attack by Free Men against California domestic violence shelters in July. A man claiming to be the victim of abuse called 10 shelters out there and was not allowed to stay in any of them. They help both men and women but are not equipped to house men overnight. There is a shelter that helps battered men but he chose to not call that one. He claimed discrimination. This is the same pattern as the last lawsuit filed by Free Men against California shelters, which are already financially strapped. The last time Free Men pulled this stunt it lost. Free Men has been working hard for years to shut down domestic violence shelters and to make it difficult for them to operate. It’s an attack against women.

  28. Amp, this is now the third time in a single thread that I’ve had to remind another commenter that my mocking comments about a traditional, “patriarchal” society were directed toward western society, not backward, rural areas of an already backward country in the Middle East. I won’t speculate as to your motives for providing a link to a story from rural Pakistan.

    I don’t think think a fair comparison can be drawn between the vitriol you get and the vitriol Trish may get. You’re not Trish, and from what little I’ve read of both your blogs, your style is not nearly as confrontational, knee-jerk or downright daft as hers often is. That, and not your maleness, is probably the reason your blog entries don’t generate the same hate mail that hers do, even if at the end of the day, you both come down on the same side of most of the same issues. I also suspect that if you blogged as a woman, the overall tone of the comments you received would, if anything, improve.

    So you didn’t like my questioning of DJW’s excuse for not backing up her position. Fine. From my experience, “I can’t” is a much more common reason for not winning a debate than “I can, but don’t want to.” Maybe she really can, and really doesn’t want to, but you’ll have to pardon my skepticism. In any event, I didn’t brand her as a liar or a fraud, as Hugo did with respect to the “fraudulent” stats your own article describes as other than fraudulent, albeit of limited utility. Even if I drank the Kool-Aid and agreed with your more strained assumptions (e.g., the implication that since men and women both have reasons not to report crimes against them, it must therefore follow that men and women report crimes in roughly equal numbers), I still would find no justification for the f-word.

    Ironically enough, your own piece supports the very conclusion that Hugo initially objected to above:

    And to those men’s rights activists who say that we need more services for male victims of domestic violence – I agree completely! It’s only the men’s rights claim that women and men are equal victims of intimate violence that I’m disagreeing with. I don’t think anyone can look at the facts and deny that women are sometimes violent, or that male victims of intimate violence need more support services.

    IOW, domestic violence is indeed a shared problem. Whether or not it is shared evenly is a relatively minor detail.

  29. Alright, X–in Western societies, rape isn’t nearly as criminal as you would like to think it is. It has traditionally been punished harshly only when one man rapes a woman that “belongs” to another. Until recently, in our country, marital rape wasn’t even considered a crime.

  30. True confession: my very first impulse with men who do this is to be reactive, stoop to their level, and defend my masculinity.

    Ah, but I wasn’t questioning your masculinity. I wasn’t and I’m not.

    “You want to question my cojones, buddy? Let’s do a 20 mile round trip race to the top of Mt. Wilson and back, you so-and-so, and I’ll show you who’s a man!” It’s embarrassing, but the first thing I want to do is re-establish my manly credentials by suggesting some variation on a boyish pissing contest!

    Actually, I think arranging a friendly boxing match would be even better!

    Fortunately, I don’t actually let myself react that way. Instead, I pause, think things through, and usually (if particularly irked) pray for the person who has enraged me.

    Prayer is good. We need more of it. You may be interested to know that I pray for feminists, even the most vicious man-hating ones.


  31. Jeff, I love you. Get a blog and start posting. I promise to link to you regularly.

    Civility abounds! Whoo Hoo!


    Thanks for the compliments, but my message is really no big deal. I’m just sharing a little info about me, that’s all. I pray for everyone; it’s part of my spiritual practice.

    Yes, I get irritated from time to time, but I do still pray for all beings everywhere.

    Chow for now.

  32. Marital rape is a fair point. I’m not sure where you get the info about non-marital rape only being a big deal if the victim “belongs” to another man. Do you have any documentation of that? I can’t picture anyone having gotten away with forcible rape solely because the victim wasn’t married – or because she was, but her husband was too much of a louse to care.

  33. The evidence that rape wasn’t a crime against a woman so much as a crime against the man who owned her is best understood if you realize that until relatively recently, rape and seduction were customarily not distinguished from each other in the West. Men were prosecuted for “raping” unmarried women who had consented in Europe for a long time–since her consent was not the issue so much as the man who had authority over her’s consent.

    It’s difficult to put your finger on exact laws–it’s only relatively recently that Westerners have demanded that law and custom fall in line and have so much definition to them. But here’s an interesting story about the culture around the French story “Little Red Riding Hood” that will better explicate how a woman’s consent, aka the difference between rape and seduction, was not considered the important factor in a sexual encounter outside of marriage:

    Again, inside marriage, a woman had no legal or cultural individuality and couldn’t be raped–no ability to consent or reject, no rape.

  34. XRLQ,

    Are you serious in asking me to identify where you are hostile? Your hostility is dripping from every post, but here are just a few:

    “Hugo’s privilege and oppression theory is a bunch of crap”

    “Spare me the rhetoric….”

    “…the plural of “anectdote” isn’t “data.” Show evidence … and you may have a real point.”


    “It’s clear that you are very thin-skinned….”

    And on and on.

    And yes, my response to your tone is hostile — and fully justified.

  35. How severely men were punished for rape, and under what circumstances, in traditional Western societies is going to depend a whole lot on which men you are talking about, and what time period and place you are picking to represent “traditional” Western culture. After all, we know, for example, that African-American men were punished a whole lot more reliably and severely for raping white women than white men were for raping black women, that stranger rape has been more readily punished than acquaintance rape, and that you had better odds of your rapist getting punished if people were persuaded that you were a “nice girl” rather than a “slut.”

    To be sure, knowing that someone who rapes you will get a long jail sentence under some circumstances, and that under no circumstances will your family kill you for being raped, is a whole lot better than what happens in certain other cultures, where the probability that the victim will be killed appears to be higher than the probability that the rapist will be significantly punished. But I’m not convinced that traditional Western handling of rape was more rape victim friendly than modern Western handling of rape.

  36. UP

    Hugo, I really hope you are reading other information about this case than just the Trish Wilson commentary. I never even heard of her before seeing the mention of her blog here. Even so, what do NCFM-LA, Marc Angelucci, Warren Farrell, and reliable news stories say about this case.

    Out of a sense of fairness, I did look at the Trish Wilson blog entry you mentioned. Dude, it is so over the top that I’m pretty stunned you mentioned it. If you want to call a foaming-at-the-mouth rant like that “a great post,” you’re obviously within your rights to do that. Your blog, your rules.

    I, on the other hand, will call it just as I see it: a reckless and obviously misinformed attack on NCFM, Warren Farrell, and anyone who has the temerity to question radical gender-feminist orthodoxy. G-d forbid we should even consider the possibility that women may be just as abusive as men!

    When it’s convenient, she uses a broad definition of domestic violence. She wrote, ‘Domestic violence can be emotional, legal, economic, psychological, physical, and sexual’ in a comment to the blog post that you quoted, Hugo.

    If you don’t think that women in intimate relationships commit domestic violence through those other forms of abuse and harassment, I don’t think there’s much hope to convince you. Note, I’m not saying all women do it or even that most women do it. But do they do it as often as men? You bet they do!

    The mere fact that male-perpetrated domestic violence tends to be more physical than does female-perpetrated DV doesn’t prove anything. The research is insufficient to cover all forms of domestic violence.

    There are no doubt facts that most of us can agree on. However, if one’s goal is to deny that men commit domestic violence or to deny that women commit domestic violence, then we’re not going to get very far.

    Finally, we need to do more in terms of prevention. We need to study men and women to find out why some of them behave violently. We need to discover the roots of the problem.

    Saying “there’s no excuse for abuse” and funding shelters and other programs for survivors of DV will help us in the short term and they’re very important. But we also need to dig deeper into the manifold causes of DV if we hope to develop lasting solutions and the underlying social transformation that will buttress those solutions.

  37. Xlrq, two quick points.

    1) You’re right–I don’t think I could convince you women are oppressed in our society. I also don’t think that I can convince Hugo that organized religion is a bad idea, or convince a libertarian that they should actually be a socialist. On this issue, the evidence seems clear as day to anyone who looks around. Obviously, you see the world in a very different way. I enjoy discussions and debates with people who see the world quite differently from me, but I find those conversations more productive and rewarding when they focus on more secondary points on which both parties are more likely to be flexible and open to conversation. (For example, I wouldn’t come here and try to convince Hugo he shouldn’t care about women getting abortions–what’s the point–but I will try to convince him that legal prohibition is the wrong way to combat abortion. And so on.) If you wish to take this as an occasion to declare victory, by all means feel free.

    2) Not that it matters, I’m not into that whole “real manhood” stuff Hugo likes, but I’m a boy :)

  38. Hugo,

    I’ve read your past blog posts now (well, I skimmed a few of the really long ones) on the men’s movement, and generally like what you have to say. I think you’re right on in most of your assessments. However, I also chuckled sympathetically when one commenter wrote about your “feminist groupies” among your blog readers. I frequently find both the feminist and father’s rights wing of the men’s movement to contain out-of-balanced perspectives that are very deficient, including comments by some of your “feminist groupies.”

    I prefer to call myself an integral thinker, rather than a pro-feminist man, because a balanced perspective just makes a lot more sense to me. As a gay man in the men’s movement, I tend to see thinks from a more balanced gender perspective anyways.

    I’ve just added your blog to my blogroll. Looking forward to more of your writings on gender issues.


  39. Gosh, Joe. I had no idea that being a gay man meant you could see things from a woman’s perspective.

    But then again, I had no idea that I was a groupie until you and a few other (male) so kindly enlightened me.

  40. Michelle wrote:

    Xlrq [sic], we’ll just have to wait and see about the draft, won’t we?

    Wait no longer. When was the last time that any bill got voted down 402-2, with its own author voting against it?!