Feature: Men's Rights: Backlash or Movement?

We have a new feature article submitted by Justin Zellers. It's a superbly written essay which summarizes many issues in the men's movement, examines how it came to be and its relationship with feminism. Justin clearly and positively outlines the need for the men's movement, without unreasonably scapegoating feminism or polarizing men and women further. It's an effective presentation of men's issues that has the potential to open many minds. You can read the essay by clicking "Read More" below...

Men's Rights: Backlash or Movement?

By Justin Zellers

In the American pursuit of happiness, many social ills and injustices have been discovered, studied, evaluated, and eliminated. Throughout the history of the United States, there have been various social movements led by activists who had noted problems standing in the way of a group's or individuals' right to this pursuit of happiness. Many of these social fires have been all but extinguished through the years, but not without consequence. Fighting a good battle can and usually does cause a backlash, which may or may not be justified. In the case of the feminist movement in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the Men's Rights backlash has begun, and controversy is surrounding this backlash.

In America, we all learn that women traditionally received the short end of the stick when it came to gender issues. Women's rights activists in the early part of the twentieth century proved just how unfair many of society's commonly accepted laws and traditions were to women. Women were tired of being disregarded and not having the same rights as men in that day enjoyed, such as the right to vote. Men were beginning to take notice and things slowly began to change for women in America.

Flash forward to the 1960's. The beginning of a new era in American women's fight for equality was in full swing. Women were beginning to question gender roles and stereotypes, which began a revolution. The Feminist Movement began with a basic goal in mind: Equality with men (not victory over men). Women wanted equal opportunities where they were denied access throughout American history. However, what began as a struggle for equality soon became a fight overshadowed by extremists who were in it for supremacy. Radical Feminism saw the oppression of women as fundamental and the most basic form of oppression. The extremists said most forms of oppression stemmed from male dominance. Radical statements and ideas such as these caused many to generally view all feminists in a negative way, thus opening the doors for a future backlash.

Many of today's moderate feminists say that these extremists became the normal feminists' worst enemy, destroying their cause and bashing men at the same time. The ideology of legal feminism today goes far beyond the original and widely supported goal of equal treatment for both sexes. The new agenda is to redistribute power from the "dominant class" (men) to the "subordinate class" (women).

Today, there are many men in America that feel they are getting the shoddier treatment when it comes to true equality. "Men feel that courts and legislatures should resist efforts to limit individual rights in the guise of protecting women as a class, and reaffirm the fundamental principle consistent with the classical liberal origins of the movement for women's rights: equality before the law regardless of gender." (Michael Weiss, 1992).

Men today have many legitimate arguments about what exactly today's feminist movement seeks. Every year, there are new laws made to protect women as a group, rather than protecting people in general. A common complaint in today's society is that women are getting special treatment, not equal treatment. For example, The Violence Against Women Act was written and passed with full knowledge that men are the victims of roughly 80 percent of all violence in America (mostly men on men). Both feminists and men's rights activists agree on this point. However, it is the radical feminists that keep pushing for these laws, which in turn, ends up giving women certain areas of supremacy in many ways.

In their well-founded concern with violent crimes against women--particularly rape and domestic battery--the radicals are intent on eliminating many procedural protections for men accused of such crimes. Of course, there is no reason to think that such encroachments on procedural process will remain confined only to rape cases; but to those feminists who dismiss autonomy, liberty, and privacy as mere male illusions, that is not a matter of great concern. At the same time, radical feminists are taking exactly the reverse doctrinal approach to cases of women who kill their partners. They have worked to create a new procedural defense for such women--the battered woman syndrome, which, if taken to its logical extreme, could free any woman who committed violent crimes. This paradox suggests that to the radical feminists, procedural protections belong exclusively to women. The overweening power men theoretically possess in the "patriarchy" in which we live is used as justification for eviscerating the rights of actual men. (Cathy Young, 1992)

A Men's Movement was inevitable once radical feminists began to go beyond equal rights and move towards oppression of all men. Beginning in the 1970's, men began to notice that they were being completely overlooked in most feminists' plight for equality. Men's issues were ignored and women's concerns were being analyzed thoroughly. Feminists tended to look at equal rights as a single-gender issue and follow a course that blamed men for everything. "The goal of fundamental feminism has never been to oppress men, but to open the doors for women to pursue their own dreams and fulfill their own destinies. In this agenda, there is no imperative to judge men by women's standards. Unfortunately, this changed." (Rod Van Mechelen, 1992)

Many people have heard of the radical, 'All Men Must Die' web pages, or SCUM, Society for Cutting Up Men. With names like these, how could men not be offended and feel threatened? Without getting into specifics, which would require essay's of their own; there are many issues that have caused this recent uproar among America's men. However, it is only fair that I mention some of them in a broad sense to help illustrate some of the justifications for the current backlash to feminism.

In the 1970's, when the gender roles really began to change in America, women entered the workforce in large numbers, in many jobs that were often dominated by males. Sexual harassment became a huge issue and many precedents have been laid down over the years, but many men feel these laws have gotten out of control. A number of men now feel that the social situation in the U.S. has moved off-center, to the point where allegations of sexual misconduct are treated as a conviction before they're even examined.

Many Masculists claim that rape laws are designed merely to protect women and discriminate against men by taking the woman's story for truth most of the time. Men feel that they are guilty until proven innocent in the majority of these cases. Consent laws are so easily turned against men in false accusations. Men's rights activists also say if it's rape to attack a woman's genitals, then an attack on a man's genitals is rape, too. Legal experts and pop-feminists alike disagree, and assert that attacking genitals is not rape, but sexual assault, and that rape is an exclusively male domain: "There is nothing absolutely certain about rapists apart from the fact that they are male." (Women on Rape, Jane Dowdeswell, p 36)

Jane Dowdeswell has repeatedly said words to the effect that all men are rapists, but most have not yet been convicted, which tends to make some men a little irate. Most people know that every male is not a rapist, yet only a few decent feminists are standing up to the absurd anti-male generalizations of radical feminists. Men are trying to unite to reject this feminist propaganda.

Women have comfort groups and many other options for help and comfort after a rape has occurred, yet men feel that they are overlooked when it comes to seeking positive encouragement after being assaulted. Some male extremists even feel that when a girl offensively attacks a boy's testicles, he may be in need of as much treatment as rape victims. A recent study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that one in ten boys between the ages of 10 and 16 has been kicked in the groin by another child, usually as a prank. Many men are becoming disgusted and sensitive to all of the television comedies and movies in which the audience laughs when women hit men in the testicles deliberately, giving children the impression that it is OK to do so when irritated by a male. These male extremists ask, "If women were repeatedly hit in the breasts in movies for humor, would women still be laughing?" Most likely, they'd be offended and be up in arms.

In that same survey conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association, they found that after most boys' genitals were attacked, they did not tell an adult about the assault. But 25% were injured. A year later 25% had signs of depression and 12% had post-traumatic stress symptoms. Young men's suicide rate is astronomical and society does not pay enough attention to this startling fact.

Men now feel it is time to fight for equal representation for victims of physical sexual assault in the United States. Even though there are plenty of these help centers that are funded by public tax dollars, reports indicate that many will not accept and help males. Feminists do not seem to be saying anything about the blatant discrimination taking place in this area, so many men are now standing up and speaking their minds.

In Wisconsin a woman who is drunk cannot give sexual consent even if she is not passed out. The next morning, she can charge her lover with rape. However, the same consideration is not given to her lover who also might have been intoxicated. Women want to be equal, yet they expect men to continue to take the sexual initiative. If they are pleased by the overtures of a man, they are delighted. If they are not pleased because he may be the wrong man or because of his style of responding to general flirtation, they may accuse him of sexual harassment.

Men feel it is unfair that they are still usually expected to pay for dates and take the initiative to ask the women out. Men know that rejection hurts, and women have the real control over dating, sex, and money, in the opinion of may male extremists.

Abortion is another topic several men feel strongly about. Men do not have a right to choose in the United States, yet it takes two to make a child, and half of that child is biologically his. If a man wants a child and the woman aborts the child, if he grieves most people do not recognize his grief as legitimate.

Domestic abuse is a crisis that many women have to deal with. However, men are now claiming more often that they too are abused. Research strongly suggests that women initiate physical assault far more often than men: violence by women is by no means 'statistically insignificant', and may be as significant a problem as violence by males. This fact may be unpalatable to many, and may even be described as 'anti-feminist', but it is a fact that must now be addressed. (People's Equality Network - January 1995) Violence by men against women is recognized as a significant problem; violence by women is not often enough seen as the serious issue that it is. Feminists feel that these complaints by men are just designed to take away the feminist's thunder and judicial influence in this particular area.

Feminists claim they want equality in the military, but will not lobby for women as a matter of civic duty to be obligated to sign up for the draft or be required to fulfill their obligation of combat duty. "Women and children first!" Do men's lives not have the same intrinsic value? Men want feminists to realize that most males are willing to die for females, but many females take this for granted and are not willing to do the same for men.

Pop feminists defend excusing a woman from crime on the basis of a post partum or PMS defense. Men receive 58% longer prison sentences for conviction of the same crime, furthering men's anger about criminal discrimination. (Dateline NBC, 1998) Men's rights activists report that even though statistics and studies show that more than 50 % of accusations of sexual assault are false, most district attorneys will not bring charges against the lying party even though it is a felony.

Men are still mocked and looked down upon if they are stay-at-home dads. Men protest that they do not get equal work leave, if any, when a baby is added to the family. Fathers are tired of being considered an outsider or visitor to their children by the courts. For example, just 9 years ago 37.9% of fathers have no access/visitation rights in America. (Source: p.6, col.II, para. 6, lines 4 & 5, Census Bureau P-60, #173, Sept 1991.) The percentage of men who pay child support is six times higher than the percentage of women who are ordered to pay child support. (The American Psychological Association, 1995) In the name of fairness, many people are beginning to say that children should go to whichever parent can support them best, as opposed to now when roughly 85-95% of the time children go to the mother purely by default and challenging that can bring down the wrath of feminist groups for no good reason.

Many feminists vigorously claim that there is little attention paid to their health care. Masculists respond by saying that breast cancer research receives 6 times more dollar subsidy than cancer of the prostate even though the rates of cancer are very similar. (National Cancer Institute, 1997) They ask how can it be said that women's health care is neglected when they are the primary users of the health care system and men live on average 7.6 years less than women. Other men are lobbying for infant's rights in regards to circumcisions of infant males in the U.S., claiming that it is genital mutilation without consent. Numerous men's rights activists feel that men are not receiving enough medical attention from the government.

These are just some of the commonly debated issues that the Masculists are trying to make the public aware of. It is obviously not fair for either feminists or masculists to claim that one gender is oppressed more than the other. This is where the controversy exists. Men and women both have certain troubles that they will always have to deal with. Sure women have many things worse off than men, but what men are now saying is that they too are oppressed by society and not enough attention is given to their tribulations.

I find it interesting that there are now many masculist extremists popping up, just as feminist extremists began to gain in numbers shortly after the woman's liberation movement in the 1960's. History does seem to find a way of repeating itself, but not exactly. I find it very saddening that these extremists on both ends of the gender issues are so recognized by society. The aspect I find most disgusting about gender activism is the radical views on both sides.

However, it seems that both sides go about what they're trying to accomplish in the wrong way, through exaggeration, scare tactics, and occasionally even lies, but those represent the extremists. What's sad in the Feminist movement is that those extremists are highly regarded by many. On the Men's Rights side, the extremists are pretty much universally regarded as crackpots.

I feel that the Feminist movement is heading in the wrong direction, too often following its extremists, and that doing so could well be disastrous for the movement in general. For example, if the feminists want women in the military then the proper way to go about it would be to push for the exact same treatment as men. This means the same boot camp, the same living quarters, and certainly the same draft registration that is now required for men at the age of 18.

Society is slowly beginning to listen to some of these men who feel oppressed, but not yet on the scale that they listen to and accept feminist issues. The U.S. Government has all but ignored the men's movement so far, but I believe that will soon change. As with all true social ills, the current discrimination against men will one day be recognized, and legislature will be put into place to try to level things back out.

The Feminist movement should put its own house in order before trying to affect the world around it, removing those extremists from its organization and being far more careful in its research than it has been in the past. A certain amount of extremism is sometimes necessary in order to be heard and get things rolling in the right direction. Once things begin to roll, as they have for feminists, the extremists should not have as much influence as they once might have.

I think that people should be selected for their job solely based on their capability, not the color of their skin or their gender or sexual orientation. As a humanist, believing in equality and equal rights for all people, I also feel that laws that give special protection to certain groups must also be closely examined and reformed. There is plenty of room for both women and men to fight for rights, but both sides need to start taking into account the other side's reasoning. Everybody needs to look at and take in the whole picture instead of narrowly focusing on one side of the spectrum.

The extremist feminist craze must end now, before it further warps the perceptions of the generations that have already suffered for it. If the existing laws do not serve as sufficient deterrent, then perhaps they should be strengthened, but by no means should we add more laws that enshrine certain groups as somehow more worthy of protection than others. Men are beginning to take a stand, and rightfully so. Once men and women begin to recognize each other's problems and learn to work together to fight the social ill of discrimination, the free pursuit of happiness can be achieved on a much larger scale. I hope that we can all learn from each other and one-day see harmony between the sexes. I am a Humanist. To improve the lives of all humans is a truly worthy goal, one to which we should all aspire in the name of the pursuit of happiness.

If you'd like to get in touch with Justin, please contact for his e-mail address. This was done at Justin's request (and to avoid spam bots).

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