Politics June 15, 2018
It's not funny to be sexist.
Perhaps you have been at the dinner table, discussing the sexual harassment you faced at work that day. Suddenly, your male cousin piped up and said, “Hashtag MenToo.” Maybe you have been in a college classroom, discussing the sexualization of women in media. That was when a male student protested, demanding “Magic Mike” to be a clear exploitation of male sexuality. These are just a couple of examples of the arguments meninists make. What is a meninist, you ask?
A meninist may be defined as a follower of meninism. Meninism in itself is not a legitimized movement, and it seems to have originally started on Twitter as a hashtag. It is often referred to as satirical, with its main purpose to respond to and point out the flaws of modern feminism. Regardless of its goal or intent, meninism has offered a platform for men to voice hurtful and demeaning arguments against feminists. The repeated meninist accusation–that women are simply unable to take a joke and thus aren’t laughing at meninism–only worsens the problem.
While meninism is not regarded as an actual movement, there are several genuine men’s rights activists (MRAs) and organizations considered legitimate. Sometimes, these MRAs state the same grievances as meninists.
Though not all of these MRAs are negative, it is important to be aware of the motives of some of the more potentially harmful MRA organizations. Perhaps the most obviously problematic MRA is A Voice for Men. Their website lists their mission statement as, “to provide education and encouragement to men and boys; to lift them above the din of misandry, to reject the unhealthy demands of gynocentrism in all its forms, and to promote their mental, physical and financial well-being without compromise or apology.”
A Voice for Men’s website includes several articles that argue against the feminist terms for gender equality. They depict feminists as insensitive and often self-victimizing. Meninists and several MRAs alike have focused on the topic of rape, specifically the injustice of women being able to falsely accuse men of sexual assault and thus ruining men’s lives. The basic argument of organizations like this potentially boils down to, “What about men?”
So what about men? Are there statistics to back up the arguments that meninists and MRAs are making? Is it really unfair to take the spotlight off men in order to focus on gender equality, as meninists may believe?
Meninists seem to be poking fun at feminists for depicting themselves as victims. They do so by pointing out the supposed oppression of males. Regardless of any humorous intentions, this argument calls for some investigation. Meninists and MRAs such as A Voice for Men have often mentioned the lack of a male #MeToo movement. Their argument seems to be that we should talk about male sexual assault as much as female sexual assault. The problem for these men is that men are getting less recognition for experiencing assault.
As previously mentioned, another argument from meninists is that women are repeatedly destroying men’s lives by falsely accusing them of rape.
Here are some statistics on sexual assault from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:
“One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.”
“The prevalence of false reporting is between two percent and ten percent.”
“Ninety-six percent of people who sexually abuse children are male.”
Based on these facts, one can assume that women are more consistently victims of sexual assault than men. Therefore, it may seem logical that discussions around rape focus more on the female experience of rape than the male’s. This doesn’t mean we should exclude men from the conversation altogether. Instead, it is merely of greater demand to discuss female rape in the current state of the US. This is due, of course, to the higher ratio of women being assaulted.
Also, the actual percentage of false reporting is relatively low. Therefore, it seems unfair to blame all female victims of sexual assault for the imprisonment of their attackers.
Another hot topic for meninists is the sexualization of men in the media. With movies like “Magic Mike” or even the “Thor” franchise taking to the screens, some men may feel they are just as much a target of objectification as women. However, according to National Post, several studies point out the lack of harm in seeing men in less clothing compared to women.
For instance, one of the studies listed on National Post claims that the male brain’s center for empathy is dimmed when men are shown photos of women with very little clothing on. Another study on the National Post’s website says, “Men see women as less likable and intelligent when presented with photos of only their bodies rather than faces.” The understanding that one may take from these studies is that objectification is something men actively perform on women. The reverse of this is not necessarily true.
It is also important to point out, as National Post does, that the sexualization of men in media is not so often accompanied by sexual harassment or less pay, as it is with women.
As is so often the case with any form of discrimination, intent does not discredit action. Regardless of the potentially humorous goals of meninism, the act of weakening women’s voices in order to promote male voices is inherently sexist.
Feminists throughout time have worked hard to assist in the development of gender equality. By giving the microphone to men merely seeking attention, meninists force the movement for gender equality to take a detour. As women are still not equal to men in so many areas, it is crucial that the path to gender equality stays as clear as possible.
Standing up for yourself is one thing. Doing so at the expense of an already oppressed group of people is another.
We are seeing larger divides in the US as people attempt to avoid those with dissimilar beliefs. While it can be frustrating and painful to confront those with oppressive views, it is sometimes a necessity. If you are engaged in a discussion about gender issues and you notice a man saying things that may be linked to meninism, you may become uncomfortable and unsure how to address it.
It is in no way your direct responsibility to educate oppressors if you are a member of the oppressed group. However, if you feel so inclined, here are some ways in which to do it.
One option for addressing oppressors is to ask questions. Sometimes, those who proclaim problematic views are just repeating something they heard or saw without knowing its true meaning. Ask them why they think that, where they found their information and what it is they feel they need. This may disarm the oppressor and force them to really self-reflect on their values. However, of course, this is not always the case.
Another option in these cases is to state facts. Within this article, you may have found some useful information in presenting your argument. It is much more difficult to argue with someone who has an artillery of factual evidence at the ready. Therefore, this is a great way to calmly shut down a potentially harmful conversation.
Perhaps the most important argument against meninism is this: you cannot oppress the oppressor. While some may debate this, it is widely accepted and easy to remember. It can be considered impossible to be sexist towards men. This is because men are most closely linked to developing sexism in the first place. Therefore, the need for male activism can be seen as irrelevant, since there is no true sexist attack against men that needs fighting.
Meninism may be an unofficial belief, but it recognizes a very real threat to feminism. When someone’s privilege is at stake, it can terrify them. From this fear, they may feel the need to grip onto their own struggles. Thus, the argument that follows is a sort of, “I can’t possibly be an oppressor when I, myself, am struggling.” This dangerous mentality has a tendency to get in the way of several human rights movements. It is the “alligator tears” argument of politics, distracting from the real problems at hand. Being aware of and able to shut down these arguments is key for anyone attempting to stand up for under-represented groups. These things may start out as jokes, but if we are too busy laughing at them, we may miss the opportunity for progress.
Send this to a friend