“But What About Men’s Rights?”

In any discussion about feminism, this question is bound to come up sooner or later.

“Figures for gender proportions in domestic abuse are wrong, because men don’t report rape and abuse.”
“There are hardly any support groups out there for male sufferers. They are disbelieved or ridiculed.”
“Girls have it easy. You can wear dresses or jeans, play with dolls or trucks, but if a boy doesn’t like sports or loves dressing up people call him gay.”
“People think lesbians are hot, but gay men are laughed at.”

And so on. What strikes me though, is that these people always seem to think that these are counter-arguments to feminism. The way they see it, it’s women’s rights on one side, men’s rights on the other. But this simply isn’t the case at all. What they don’t realise is that we are all fighting the same enemy, namely, a society that values men over women, masculinity over femininity.

We see it everywhere. I do a form of boxing called Muay Thai, and over the years, I have had many ‘compliments’ that run along the lines of, “You fight like a man.” Sometimes, I let it go. Men are indeed generally stronger, it is true, so I’ll reluctantly let that pass. More often than not, though, they specify that they aren’t referring to strength, but my attitude when fighting. Why thank you, thank you very much, mister.
For a man, on the other hand, the worst insult he can possibly receive is to be called a woman. In Secondary school, when a male schoolmate was complimented by the teacher on his sewing skills in class, the general reaction was sniggering, and he was extremely embarrassed. Imagine that–embarrassment at having a talent, just because it was seen as a female skill! Men behaving like women is a running joke in popular culture – in “Friends”, the competitive Monica frequently refers to the underachieving Chandler as a girl, and men dressing up as women is always a source of hilarity, and a form of humiliation in certain sexual activities. It is no surprise that it is men who are usually far more homophobic than women. It is my belief that homophobia is mainly the anger that men feel towards other men for sullying male power by acting as a woman might. They mock them, believing them to be undeserving of the male body, the male identity, and that they are shaming themselves and men in general.

Ironically, this sexism towards women has negative consequences for men. Because men have to conform to a narrow definition of manhood (strength, power, dominance over women), to admit that they have been hurt by a woman, that they need help, is to invite ridicule from society. On batteredmen.com, a male victim of abuse tells the story of his failed attempt to get help from the police. The police took one look at him, and told him “to go home and sort her out [him]self.”

So let’s call a ceasefire and recognize that we can solve this problem together. When women are no longer seen as inherently inferior, when both women and men can be good, or bad, gentle, or strong, weak, or fierce, victims or perpetrators, keep house or run the country, only then can we all be free.

PS. To anticipate the question, “So why don’t feminists concern themselves more with addressing the issues that impact men?” my answer is this.

Do a google search of the word ‘man’, and you get 6500 million results. Search for the word woman and you get 1850 million. Add the search results for the word ‘girl’ to that number and you still only get 5860 million, while ‘man’ + ‘boy’ go up to 8660 million. So please forgive us if we want to take centre stage in our own writings. Heaven knows it doesn’t happen often.

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13 thoughts on ““But What About Men’s Rights?”

  1. Great post! This really frustrates me, because while men’s descrimination and abuse etc do occur, the problem is in no way as endemic as the normalisation of violence against women, for example. It really makes me mad when I’m mentioning things like rape culture and people bring up the comment “well men get raped too!” I am not denying that men do indeed get raped, but there’s not a whole culture based around legitimising and excusing it!

    • Indeed. I also think it’s rather telling that male victims of abuse often go on to be abusers themselves, whereas female victims of abuse tend to get caught in a cycle of being the victim of abuse again. Men might feel they need to compensate for having been the victim once, while for a woman, the experience of victimhood just continues to confirm the ideas that society feeds her.
      It’s a sad story.

    • Men are the majority of victims of almost every single category of violent crime.
      Violence against men has been normal for millennia.

  2. The problem with “what about the men?” arguments is that they mostly only come up as a counter-argument to women’s issues. If you are being discriminated against, why don’t you actually say and do something about it, like the person you’re arguing with? And then, wouldn’t you empathize? Why use sexism, in any shape or form, as a means to silence the discussion of it? The answer is usually pretty simple.

    Also, mind-blowing Google results there. I had no idea.

    • We do, it’s that the problem is that feminists have fought for anti-male legislation- such as the adoption of the Duluth model- which states that any woman commiting DV is only doing it in self-defence, as well as the recent FBI change in the rape definition which now holds men accountable for their actions while drunk but women unaccountable.

      • Of course, it isn’t right to state that any woman committing DV must be doing it out of self-defence. However, I’m looking at the Duluth website now, and this stance is not asserted anywhere. If you have a link, I will check it out.

        And regarding the FBI change in the definition of rape, this was the old definition: “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”
        This is the new one (copied form The Washington Post)

        “The new definition counts men as victims for the first time and drops the requirement that victims must have physically resisted their attackers.
        The revised FBI definition says that rape is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object,” without the consent of the victim. Also constituting rape under the new definition is “oral penetration by a sex organ of another person” without consent.”

        So, it will now be acknowledged that one can be a victim or perpetrator of rape, regardless of gender. And that the victim is never responsible for his or her rape, despite being drunk/on drugs/mentally ill/other reasons that render them incapable of resisting.
        Surely this is a huge victory for men and women alike.

      • Well, yes. If you have a look at the subtitle of my blog, it reads, “The pursuit of gender equality”. The “What about the men?” title is merely quoting the people who use that line to respond to feminist issues, believing that fighting for women’s and men’s rights are mutually exclusive.

        So I don’t see how you’re disagreeing with me here.

  3. Circumcision is not only legal, it’s often paid for by medical insurance. How’s that for “endemic and normalization of violence against men”.

    The 1-in-4 sexual assault statistic is a myth. 85% circumcision rate in my generation is a fact.

    • I find these sorts of comments self-serving at best. If you are so concerned about circumcision as violence to men – what are you doing about it? Do you have a blog calling for some sort of action? Really, what is the point? You just come across as whiny. I agree the sexual assault statistics are way too low. My experience in talking to other women is that is much closer to 4 in 5.

      On another note – yay – nice website – good posts – may they be the firsts of many.

  4. Half of these replies are doing exactly what the article pointed out as unhelpful.
    There are women who fly the flag of feminism but don’t want men to get better rights, but they don’t speak for all of us. Plenty of us think you have a right to equal child custody rulings, equal police investigation of abuse and rape charges, etc. Saying that ‘all feminists’ or ‘all women’ want or believe any one thing is just as useless and wrong as saying ‘all men are violent.’

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