Culture

Yes, Men Have Problems — But The Men’s Rights Movement Doesn’t Come Close To Dealing With Them

Wherever there is a man feeling sad about his place in the world, there the men’s rights movement will be: defending to the death his right to blame a woman for it.

When I first heard about the Men’s Rights Movement, I was naturally extremely interested. After all, I am a man, and I quite like having rights. In fact, I’m in favour of rights for all men, so any movement which supported that, I thought, would be right up my alley.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered the Men’s Rights Movement is not so much a group of men making a serious attempt to address issues of importance to men, or trying to help male fellows everywhere become the best men they can be in the modern world, as it is a sort of United Federation of Crybabies: a semi-coordinated international network of drooling paranoiacs who think women are their enemy and take every advance made by a group that doesn’t include them as a direct attack on their basic human rights. To many men’s right activists, the only possible response to anyone suggesting a little nudge of the balance away from the male side is rabid, fang-baring aggression, savage attacks – that manage to be simultaneously noisily brutish and pathetically childish – on the people they think are their enemies, which run the gamut from women, to men who like women.

These sad, strange creatures exist in a state of cat-like readiness, a permanent pose of spittle-flecked defence against what they are certain are real and deadly threats to their way of life. They will, to be sure, stand up for their rights: wherever there is a man feeling sad about his place in the world, there the men’s rights movement will be, defending to the death his right to blame a woman for it.

The world is infested with men who believe they are under attack, and whose only response is a zero tolerance policy: to scream oppression and turn the cannons on every woman who causes them discomfort. We saw it last week in the lunatic response to rumours that Sue Perkins would be taking over Top Gear – wishes of death, of burning alive, directed at a woman for the sin of hypothetically appearing on one’s favourite TV show. We see it in the minimisation of atrocities perpetrated by men, and the attempts to blame women for the violence visited upon them: the provocation defences of wife-beaters; the “what was she doing out that late?” of the Jill Meagher murder; the “he’s a good boy really” of the Luke Lazarus case, and others like it. We see it in the unhinged extremes of the abuse piled upon female politicians, in the shrill rants of Alan Jones against Julia Gillard, or the idiotic belittling by Tim Blair of women whose politics he disagrees with. We see it in the right-wing commentator who claims Hillary Clinton is “too ugly” to be President, and in our own prime minister’s babbling about ironing. We see it in Sam Newman’s vicious slurs on women in the football world, and in every hysterical protest against female encroachment on male sporting realms. We see it in the mad crusades of the Gamergaters. We see it in the staunch defences put up by men-only social clubs, and indeed in tireless efforts of so many men to keep women out of all the little clubs, the fraternities, the spheres that they for so long thought reserved for them by divine right.

Everywhere, men are crying foul over women encroaching on their world, and are convinced that all the problems bedevilling their lives are a direct result of it. And it’s this mentality – this idea that men are being hunted, persecuted and emasculated by a world of man-hating harpies – that gives birth to the Men’s Rights Movement: a movement that devotes itself to a warped looking-glass version of what it claims to represent.

I have news for those of my fellow men who designate themselves defenders of “men’s rights”, those of my fellow men who snarl and spit at the idea of feminism as a conspiracy to castrate. That news is: we have problems, brothers, and you’re not even close to identifying what they actually are.

Oh, I understand. Sometimes women are mean to me, too. That’s life, guys: sometimes people aren’t nice to you. But you think it’s the feminists who are going to destroy you? You think it’s shrill, screechy harridans who are going to bring your world crashing down around you? You need to wake up, shut up about “men’s rights” and start thinking about actual men’s actual rights.

Men have got problems. We get sick. We get depressed. We hurt ourselves, and kill ourselves. And we hurt others, and kill others – about 80 percent of violent crime in Australia is committed by men. If a woman is assaulted or murdered, a man probably did it. If a man is assaulted or murdered, a man probably did it. There are men and women being attacked by women out there, but we know which way the numbers lean – and if you pretend that you don’t know, pipe down and let the grown-ups talk.

Men have got problems. Men are destroying lives – and let me be very clear here: it’s not just their victims, but their own lives they’re destroying. There are times I fear that my daughters might grow up to be victims of a violent man, but just as often I fear that my son might grow up to be a violent man. And while the former is something I simply have to hope doesn’t come about, the latter is something I can, I believe, have some little influence on.

And that’s men’s rights, right there. If you want to stand up for men’s rights, how about we stand up for the right to grow up to be a good, decent man, to be all that a man can be? Let us, as men, support the right of our fellow men to not ruin their own lives with hatred and violence. Let’s push for the right of all men to live happily alongside women as equals. Let’s fight for men’s right to live in the modern world as fully-developed people. Women are not the enemy, and they never were. The enemy is anyone telling us it has to be this way, that there really is a “battle of the sexes”, anyone keeping a wall between men and women because they’re more comfortable with the status quo, and they’d rather be comfortable and unhappy than find a way to change things for the better.

Men have got problems. A man who will start a fight outside a pub has problems. A man who will hit his girlfriend has problems. A man who will explode with rage and tell a stranger he wants to see her burn has problems. I believe every man has the right to not have problems like these. Do the men’s rights activists agree? Or is the only right they’ll defend the right to waste your life in pointless fury? It’s their choice.

Ben Pobjie is a writer and comedian, whose work is seen in The Age, New Matilda, the Guardian, the Roar, and more. He tweets from @BenPobjie

Screen shot from Parks and Recreation