Recently, I’ve been making the mistake of mentioning the men’s rights movement to people. Generally the response is “eh?”, “cyah cyah!” or “you mad or what?” It’s to be expected.
The idea of men somehow being denied their rights, or facing some sort of oppression goes against nearly everything we believe.
Who leads most of the governments? Who makes up most of the Avengers?
Look at our society – saga boys and patriarchs. How are men being oppressed? Forced to steer the grocery cart at TruValu? What do the protests look like, a throng of burly men burning their jock straps and chanting, “Equality now”? It’s kind of hard to take seriously.
There is, however, a world of men that most of us don’t see. I certainly didn’t see it for a long time.
Men run most of the corporations, but they also hold most of the grimy, backbreaking, life-shortening jobs as well. They head governments, but they also make up the majority of armed forces, do the vast majority of dying in those forces, and, in most nations, are the only ones required to do so.
Men, on average, die several years before women. They make up the bulk of workplace deaths.
By “us” I mean women AND men. Men are as likely to laugh at the idea of a men’s movement as women.
A big part of being a man is (or used to be) a willingness to endure pain, hardship and danger. Ever watch a rugby, or American football match? MVP should stand for most violent pulverization. As men’s rights activist Warren Farrell states: “Every culture that has survived has survived by training its men to be willing to die. Every culture has an unconscious investment in disconnecting men from their feelings.”
Women often ridicule men for their machismo, and emotional remoteness, but in the same breath disdain men who don’t have these qualities, when they are needed. In fact, men without these qualities (and there are increasingly more and more of them) are like those male pandas raised in captivity, and then released into the wild – they won’t survive past a fortnight.
Women often ridicule men for their machismo, and emotional remoteness, but in the same breath disdain men who don’t have these qualities…
It is in this space, created by shifting societal norms that men’s activists came to be. It first started, as a backlash to second-wave feminism, in the late 1970s, as men saw women relinquishing their traditional roles. Then they began to deal with what it even means to be a man.
Some of the most incisive men’s rights activists are now asking deeper questions about their roles and relationships. Many, quite frankly, are tired of society’s persistent demonization of men and maleness.
A couple months ago, while surfing the Internet, I came upon a YouTube video called “Feminism and the Disposable Male” by a woman with the handle “GirlWritesWhat”. Sounds daunting. And with her butch haircut and ‘wife beater’ vest, I was expecting a rant about what scum men – all men – are. It was instead a video by a member of the men’s movement.
I soon discovered oceans of digital ink on men movements. It’s not a massive movement by any means, but it is exploding in popularity in the US and UK. That’s something to consider, when looking at our culture in Trinidad and Tobago, and the wider Caribbean, and wondering if we need some kind of men’s movement. Many of our dynamics are different to theirs – but some are the same. After all “man is man.”
There are several factions of activists – from pick-up artists, who are essentially anarchical relationship coaches, to traditionalists, who want to return to the days of man as breadwinner and woman as homemaker (many female men’s movement activists fall into this category), and activists who focus on imbalances in the legal system in areas like divorce and parental rights. Then there’s MGTOW (men going their own way), who disavow any role that society has for men – especially husband. However, they all agree that men and boys are in crisis, and are looking for solutions created by men for the benefit of men.
Many will agree that men are not doing well. In work and school, women are outpacing the hell out of them. There are disturbing little factoids like every year men lose an estimated 1% of testosterone. In Japan, the “grass eaters” (young, low-ambition, metrosexual men who prefer decorating their apartment to having sex) are frightening the nation with the spectre of baby-less populations.
What happened to the cowboys? I regularly encounter attractive, successful women, who are just about ready to settle down, and start a family, but can’t find a man to do it with.
If so many people see the problem, why does the men’s movement stress finding its own solutions? Well, look at how the problems are framed.
Men are in crisis because they are not meeting the needs of others – women and society. They aren’t properly filling the roles of husbands, fathers and producers.
What about what men actually want? Remember those things I mentioned early on – the workplace death gap and so on – those are examples of men fulfilling their roles.
The revolutionary idea behind the movement is the belief that it should figure out what men want to do with their lives, instead of what society needs them to do. That, after all, is what feminism did for women. Feminism wasn’t about making women better wives and mothers. It was about giving women the freedom to choose the kind of life they’d like to live.
So does T&T need a men’s rights movement? It’s a hard sell, even for someone like me who has been reading and researching this stuff for months. As Dr. Farrell states: “The myths that we have about men are so imbedded into our belief systems that when we confront them they invite disbelief, anger and ridicule.”
But this is a healthy discussion. And in a society where young men are measuring their manhood by the price of their smartphone and the crispness of their Barcelona t-shirt, at-risk boys, four generations deep in fatherlessness, are choosing “gangster” as a career, and the ambition of some adult males is to get their death knight to level 85, it’s way past time for men (not just men indoctrinated in the teachings of feminism) to be part of the discussion about themselves.
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