Good Men — and MRAs

Today at Good Men Project Magazine, an issue devoted to covering the Men’s Rights Movement and Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs). Senior editor Henry Belanger, who catches my subject-verb agreement problems every week for my column, sets the tone in this piece. And we’ve got articles from staunch anti-feminist MRAs like Paul Elam and Zeta Male. I’m joined this week in presenting the other side by Amanda Marcotte, whom I’m thrilled to have as a guest at GMPM. Amanda’s post is sensibly titled The Solution to MRA Problems? More Feminism.

More articles tomorrow and throughout the week.

I learned from Henry that Dan Moore, the publisher of Menz Magazine, described me as “the Darth Vader of Men’s Issues” in a note to the Good Men Project. There’s something just so perfect about an MRA using a Star Wars reference! In any case, here’s my weekly column: How Men’s Rights Activists Get Feminism Wrong.

A happy International Women’s Day, Feminist Coming Out Day, and Shrove Tuesday to one and all.

29 thoughts on “Good Men — and MRAs

  1. I went through a phase of fascination with the MRA mindset, issues and goals several years ago–I’m glad I did, because it was definitely a world-broadening experience, but I have to admit that once I “got” them, they kind of lost interest for me. (I went through a similar phase about Mormonism, too, lol–and other things, as I recall, a few probably unmentionable in public. :))

  2. Is there anyway someone can reach out to Amanda Marcotte about her prose?

    I’ve never found the MRA movement attractive: I’m an economics major and even the most cursory glance at labor or employment statistics proves their claims don’t hold up. Furthermore, it is fairly obvious from their claims that they’ve no interest in equality whatsoever, which is truly troubling.

    Yet Amanda’s prose is so dripping with hatred and bile that I find myself wanting to argue with her just on principle.

    When you resort to namecalling and hypocrisy (i.e. the MRA guys are about misogyny, and I’ll prove it using stereotypes!) you lose the argument.

    If the Good Men Project is about trying to reach out to men that may be on the fence about these issues, I can say with certainty that Amanda’s approach is not the way to go.

  3. One of the most exhausting but fascinating aspects of the MRA situation is that every time I’m pulled into writing about these guys, there’s always a sea of men who scold me on my tone. I don’t usually get so much sexist concern trolling about my unladylike behavior when I’m making fun of more standard issue right wingers. I think that really points to the danger with MRAs—they’re excellent at tapping the sexist assumptions of men who think of themselves as being more liberal, with “women should take a patient stance with men, even those who openly abuse them” at the top. I’m especially amused at men who unleash bile on me for being so supposedly bilious.

    Plus, there’s the catch-22. Feminists are told we have no sense of humor. But when we crack jokes, we’re scolded for being bitches.

  4. Given the degree to which feminists are portrayed as screeching feminazi bitches in both mainstream and antifeminist narratives, critics need to be really specific when rendering tone arguments.

    MRA Paul Elam has literally said:

    “[But] our current gender zeitgeist is one that has promoted and enabled such a degree of female narcissism and entitlement that it has now produced two generations of women that are for the most part, shallow, self-serving wastes of human existence—parasites—semi-human black holes that suck resources and goodwill out of men and squander them on the mindless pursuit of vanity.”

    Women “for the most part” are sub-human parasites.

    Mike claims that Amanda’s prose is “dripping with bile and hatred.” Sure, the MRA movement is not monolithic (just as feminism and women are not, which apparently lots of people still need to be reminded of) and thus perhaps Amanda could have used more qualifers in her article, but she didn’t say anything near that hateful or sweeping in her article- certainly not about men “for the most part.”

    So yeah, I too am getting whiffs of tsk tsking aimed at a woman, where a man venting in the same forum gets a free pass to be incredibly hateful.

  5. From a PR standpoint, I wonder how wise it is to present Elam and his belief that women “for the most part” are useless “wastes of human existence” as being kind-of representative of the MRA movement.

    It begs a question. Is it really a legitimate other side to the feminist notion that women “for the most part” are not useless parasites?

  6. Haha. Amanda, I love how you manage to reframe any MRA criticism as having a sexist and/or misogynist basis. Listen to the descriptors: “scold”, “unladylike”. Did you ever consider that maybe, MRAs aren’t trying to sit you down and wag their finger at you for not being a dainty little lady… but are just calling you out on ad hominem attacks? Hugo and the “Good Men” crew get (or would get, if they were as insulting) the same comments. You wanted to be treated equally, am I correct?

  7. Well, insults are not jokes. That does not mean that people will not find that kind of third-rate, insult-driven tone funny, but there is a difference between telling a joke, giving a sarcastic spin to a particular observation, and trashing someone. You do the latter — a lot — to specific groups of people, hence the condemnation. It is actually not much different than what Limbaugh. Granted, you are playing to your base (perhaps in both meanings of the word), but it does seem like you want non-feminists and non-MRAs to consider your perspective. It is difficult for someone like me who is not allied with either group to consider your perspective when you mock people for issues I consider legitimate (like helping male victims of physical and sexual violence). That and, like Limbaugh’s, your jokes are not funny.

  8. Mike – that seems kind of like a canned criticism for Amanda, nor particularly germaine to the article in question. It’s true that both Hugo and Amanda seem to be writing with an audience of women in mind, which seems like a poor decision on their parts, but it’s hard not to come across as insulting to MRAs when you write about them, because of the subject matter.

  9. My only problem with Amanda’s post was that she didn’t really focus on any of the Major Gripes of MRAdom, so I kind of failed to see the point. It was amusing, but that’s all.

  10. It is difficult for someone like me to take seriously a movement where one of its purported leaders makes largely unchallenged statements that half of human is “for the most part” useless parasites and mocks people for issues I consider legitimate (like ending rape and helping all victims of sexual and physical violence).

  11. MRAs suck incredibly badly.

    But I also dislike Marcotte’s writing.

    You see, I’m in a bit of a bind here. It’s like the majority of people that I see talking about gender these days are saying hateful, ignorant crap. A lot of those people are MRAs. Some are feminists. It makes for dispiriting conversation.

  12. Shall we put a trademark symbol after “Good Men” as you have done with “Nice Guys”?

    And, yeah, it’s a long cab ride from “you shouldn’t write such hateful things about men” to “you women shouldn’t express opinions.” And yet that cab ride is taken so, so often.

  13. Yeah, some prominent MRA’s says disgusting stuff. So have prominent well known feminists.

    Stating that “feminists are portrayed as screeching feminazi bitches in both mainstream and antifeminist narratives” does not really work well to defend statements which portrays MRAs as embittered men who can’t get enough tail. The former does in no way make the latter more correct and it just sounds like childish retaliation rather than a sincere effort to make an argument and convince people.

  14. Insults aren’t jokes? I suppose only if they’re aimed at full time misogynists, because otherwise, the pointed insult is a long-standing part of the arsenal of humor. That reminds me of what may be an apocryphal tale, but still interesting:

    Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”

    Since dealing with MRAs always puts me in a state of mind that reminds me of being in an abusive relationship, I maintain that not only do I retain the equal right with men to sarcasm and humor, but that it’s necessary for my mental health.

  15. Pointed insults may be necessary for your mental health, Amanda, but clearly they are not sufficient. Insults need to actually be funny to be considered jokes. “Pointed” I grant you, but pointed hatred isn’t exactly in short supply on the internet.

    Here is an example of how to use pointed insults in a way that is actually funny, rather than just being hateful.

  16. Oh, right. Misogynists and people with Amanda Marcotte obsessions have a monopolgy on what counts as funny.

  17. Amanda, I do not see any misogynists on this thread, “full time” or otherwise. It will be good of you to address arguments made by real-life people, rather than tilt at windmills. The brush with which you paint is rather broad.

  18. Insults aren’t jokes? I suppose only if they’re aimed at full time misogynists, because otherwise, the pointed insult is a long-standing part of the arsenal of humor.

    Yes, that is precisely why you consider the insults used by MRAs like Paul Elam jokes, right? I suppose if the insults are aimed at full-time misandrists they do not count as part of the long-standing arsenal of humor.

    Since dealing with MRAs always puts me in a state of mind that reminds me of being in an abusive relationship, I maintain that not only do I retain the equal right with men to sarcasm and humor, but that it’s necessary for my mental health.

    Dealing with feminists always puts me in the state of mind that reminds me of being abused by my feminist aunt as a child, yet I do not feel the need to put other feminists down in order to bring myself up, even dealing with feminists who support my aunt’s actions. Odd, is it not?

  19. Personally, I don’t join either side because I like to look at every topic under my own scope.
    Feminism has been around a little longer and has a clearer argument, but the Men’s Movement has been sifting some of the fog and as they do more men seem to join.
    One of the things that bothered me in the user posts on GMP is what seemed to be the lack of a definition for the term false. When talking about false allegations of rape being a high the people using the stats seemed not to understand it’s meaning as well as the ones speaking in opposition of its validity. FA is a good topic for me cause I’ve formed a lot of opinion on my own about it and have seen how bad it can be and thus can conjecture less on its severity.
    I consider myself more partial then most people and I have had many agree with that description of myself. So I want to hear what people think of my description of the problem with term false allegation.
    Being a programmer and fairly good at math I tend to think of false in terms of an equation or Boolean conditional statement. False is the opposite of true, but it is only applied to a particular variable or subject matter. So lets say Jane was raped and the police have 3 suspects Jim,Jake and John.
    The police bring allegations against Jim and lets note the allegation is not brought by Jane. Does Jim + rape == true? If it does not equal true then it is false. Lets say its false and we move on to Jake. Does Jake + rape == true?. Lets say its true and Jake is sentenced to do time.
    If this setup were to happened in every single rape case that would mean the number of false allegations would be equal to the number of true allegations. Luckily women often see or know their attacker and detectives search for alibi before bring charges(so the numbers are not equal). After that they test DNA for guilt and with the backlog in testing in many states it can take a long while(months) for results.
    I constantly see men saying women are constantly fabricating rape stats and women saying women don’t lie about rape in response. In reality “false allegations/charges” have nothing to do with either.
    So to sum up. False allegation does not mean someone lied. False allegation does not mean a crime didn’t happen. False allegation does not mean an innocent man went to prison. False allegation does not mean a woman should feel guilty, but she often does. False allegation does not mean the man accused should feel guilty, but he often does. That ends my rant on the definition of FA.
    I really believe that feminist and MRA could understand each other if everyone was using the same dictionary(I still don’t think they would agree). A topic that I find MRA hound constantly and I find avoided by feminist is what happens to many men who are falsely accused(often by investigators sometimes by the victims). If I recall correctly the current opinion of feminist on false accusations is split across several talking points. The main one I see is this, “we don’t want to add stress to the real victims or derail our main objective of stopping rape by highlighting false allegations.”
    This is one of the few truly grey areas for me, but ill attempt to talk across the line. Feminist seem to believe that their is no real reason to worry about FA because when they end rape FA will vanish with it and so MRA should help push for that.
    MRA(when I’ve seen them talk to point) seem to believe that rape will always exist just as crime will always exist and that the feminist line of thinking will only leave FA victims ignored.
    I think feminist worry of a derailed active discussion is legitimate and I also believe the MRA’s lack of faith that rape will end anytime this century also has merit. Perhaps I suffer a bit of cognitive dissonance, but I am sure of one thing. People involved with FA are real victims and I think in “”**some cases**”” they need more help then even the victims of the rape that occurred.
    I’ll end my very long post with an equally long story about an FA victim I happen to know of. The names have been changes for obvious reasons.
    Jake went to a party where he got balls to the wall wasted. He awoke to the homeowner Sarah standing across from him with a phone calling 911. She had been drinking the night before when she was raped and Jake was the one next to her when she woke up. The police calmly question Jake about the night before, but he claimed he knew nothing of what had happened. Jake’s mother found out the news of the accusations brought against her son later that evening and was furious her son would do this. His father was agreement with his mother and when he attempted to return home after making bail he was given packing orders. Jake had a job and reasonable saving so he got a cheap place to stay while the investigation continued. During the next few months his friends abandoned him claiming it was not worth it to be associated with him and many of Sarah’s supporters began to actively harass Jake at his job and home. Eventually the late night raids of his home property and at work complaints led to his health suffering and he was fired for his attitude and unkempt social appearance at work. Jake’s father feeling some remorse for him decided to help Jake out financially and as a result became a traitor in the eyes of his wife. Due to strong feeling and disagreements in how the situation should be handled Jake’s parent’s 30+ year marriage came to an end. With legal distractions of his own Jake’s father had to abandon financial assistance and Jake ended up in a homeless shelter. After about a week the shelter found out about the accusation surround Jake(we assume) and with what appeared to be underhanded reasoning began to deny him access to the shelter. Jake was now sleeping on the street. Skip ahead to the next hearing now, the DNA has finally comes back and instead points to another man who had attended the party. Jake had passed out on the couch that night and witnessed nothing. Jake returned from the court house to the street with a bitter sweet ending. Still having problems getting food and help it was not his family that went looking for him and not his friends, but Sarah who had told a local church what had happened. The church members eventually found his soulless body curled up in a alley starving physically and emotionally.
    Sarah symbolizing the victim we talk about not wanting to risk ignoring ended up having to be the one to go out of her way to save Jake. I can only imagine the increased suffering because of the guilt she felt knowing of the state he was in(FA can have impact on the rape victim as well). In many ways her helping Jake seemed to give everyone else permission to go and help Jake, but it was over a year before Jake’s mother was willing to talk to him again. Jake in return was extremely supportive of Sarah.
    His problems did not stop there, but it was the turning point of his downward decent. Jake does not drink anymore(not even a little), but unlike how no one blamed Sarah for her rape due to being drunk many seemed to blame Jake’s situation on the alcohol.
    I don’t think this represents all FA cases, but it has meaning to me when I see MRA and Feminist fighting over who should play victim. My real life experience showed me two victims and I noticed that neither of them was able to get over all the guilt and shame until they helped each other.

  20. Bobby

    The odds a man will be falsely accused of rape during his life are something like 0.1%-0.01% (We can work through the math if you like.) The odds that a man will be raped during his life are something like 10%.

    There’s a legitimate argument that feminist rape awareness/advocacy/etc. often overlook or explicitly marginalise male victims of rape (see, for instance, toysoldier’s work). There’s no legitimate argument that concern over false allegations is of comparable importance to addressing the marginalisation of rape victims, poor treatment and support of rape victims, etc. even if you’re totally disinterested in women’s welfare. Rape victim advocacy is one place where feminists and MRAs should be on basically the same page. Concerns over false allegations are rubbish.

  21. Brian, I am concerned equally with women’s welfare and men’s welfare. We can debate the statistics another time, but, even if something affects just 1 in 1,000 (your statistic), it doesn’t mean worrying about it is “rubbish.”

    Bobby’s point is that we don’t need to ignore one problem to deal with another. Similarly, we don’t need to “side” with either MRAs or feminists as though they’re antonymous with each other.

  22. “comparable importance.””Concerns over false allegations are rubbish.”
    That right there is what I meant. I still hold that they should not be compared and I agree with your statement that most people are not concerned with FA.
    Feel free to post your “falsely accused” numbers keeping in mind the online definition of FA implies the accused was sentenced. That means those numbers most likely don’t include men with allegations that did not get to trial. In the story I post, ‘Jake’ was excused at the evidentiary hearing when the DNA came back not at trial.

  23. Fannie quotes paul Elam:
    “two generations of women that are for the most part, shallow, self-serving wastes of human existence—parasites—semi-human black holes that suck resources and goodwill out of men and squander them on the mindless pursuit of vanity.”

    and then says he is saying:
    “Women “for the most part” are sub-human parasites.”

    Does anyone else see the mischaracterization here?

    No Fannie, Paul Elam is not saying “women”, he is saying “the last two generations of women that are …etc”. He is adding modifications that significantly reduce the scope of “women” quite unlike what standard grammatical usage of “women” entails (all women unless modified). That’s a rather baltant piece of dishonesty there, almost insultingly blatant.

    Fannie, basically he is denouncing Boomer and Gen Xer women, and probably restricting it to American women as well. And no, however much you may fancy yourself in sisterly solidarity and all that, you are not all women of the world and a comment about you is no reflection on anyone but your generation, whichever of the two is happens to be.

  24. Amanda,

    I disagree with your tone because of a post you put on Good Men Project. According to their site, you usually post elsewhere (Pandagon is specifically mentioned). When you post for a different audience, expect a different response.

    Also, it was not the tone I took issue with, it was how carried away with it you got: critical thinking went out the window in a desperate attempt to skewer your opponent.

    Your opening statement is an unsubstantiated negative generalization, and every single subpoint contains a major logical fallacy (Why was the part about the one guy who sued over drink specials even in there? When you admit it’s only one guy in your own piece you are identifying your own strawman).

    It’s unnerving to me because you are on the correct side of the debate. There should be no need for gross generalizations, false dichotomies, strawmen, begging the question, or irrelevent conclusions. It’s perfectly possible to make a logically sound argument against MRAs because MRAs are full of inherent contradictions and half truths! Yet your piece eschewed the high road in favor of Glen Beck style overstatements to rouse a base that already agrees with you.

    If you want to play Glen Beck of the Feminists, go ahead. But please ask yourself, has Glen Beck ever changed anyone’s mind, or does he just play to the choir?

  25. :) I admit to not only having zero interest in anything further that a person may have to say after he or she informs me that I am “shallow, self-serving wastes of human existence—parasites—semi-human black holes that suck resources and goodwill out of men and squander them on the mindless pursuit of vanity.”

    It is not possible to suppose logically that a person who says such a thing, is even remotely interested in hearing anything from a target of his or her hate speech, either, such as myself–so our indifference and distaste must therefore be mutual, and we can both move on with our lives. 😀 problem solved.

    Of course, slightly more problematical is some third party’s bizarre notion that the target of the hate speech SHOULD have a remote interest or care a jot about what the hate speaker has to say…not sure how to handle that situation yet, but I will think more upon it.

  26. Amanda,

    I would like to second Mike’s impression. I’m not an MRA and I don’t identify as feminist, even though I am interested in gender matters. What I don’t like about your tone in that post is not so much the aggression but that it’s reeking with condescension. You say the answer to the guys’ complaints is more feminism, but you don’t even seem willing to listen to their problems. It seems, dare I say that?, kind of “entitled”.

    While there is a general tendency for an audience mismatch due to the fact that feminists tend to speak to those who listen like they need to speak to those who don’t, just because the former are there, I’m wondering if that seemingly defensive condescending aggression apparent in that article isn’t more about your personal rethoric than about inherent problems of discussion between people on different axiomatic grounds – at least it seems to be present in all the (admittedly few) pieces I’ve read from you – particularly in your misguided and unfair misunderstanding of Clarisse Thorn’s “creep”-essay.

    I would like to second Mike’s assertion that this is not a very helpful way of talking to people who are trying to have someone listen to their problems – particularly if you believe that you have a solution (feminism).

  27. I agree that is not possible to suppose logically that a person who use hate speech is interested in hearing anything from the target of their animus, yet that is what makes these discussions so ironic. Feminists engage in the same kind of comments that MRAs do. Granted, some feminists who enjoy taking potshots male victims or fathers may not care what response they get from their targets, but most feminist who make hostile comments do expect that those on the receiving end (i.e. men) still want to play ball with them. This is an odd instance of tit-for-tat where both groups want unbiased acknowledgment as they refuse to acknowledge the other side. That is why I am not allied with either group, although I do find feminists far more lacking in substance.

    As for caring the target caring about what a person says, I think that is a valid position. As an advocate for male victims of abuse, I do not care what hostile things feminists like Marcotte or Hugo think about male victims. However, I do care what feminists say about male victims because feminist hostility impedes my ability help my fellow survivors. That is the marked difference between the men’s activists and feminists. Things written by MRAs do not impact advocacy for women’s issues. In contrast, last November someone from a Chicago rape center showed me the Male Privilege Checklist as “proof” that males do not get raped and so do not deserve access to support services.

  28. Jim says Paul Elam was only calling “two generations” of American women “parasites,” as opposed to all women who ever existed parasites, as though that redeems Elam’s statement.


    And Jim wants me to grovel before him in apology? The entitlement to hatred is staggering.

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