By Patrick McTague.
Edited by Jessica Sutton.
A common trend seen whenever a group of people are fighting for rights, for equality, or for justice, is others attacking the group for not including them. This selfish mindset is especially prevalent as a means to attack feminism, with men using different reasons to discredit the movement. This selfishness is borne out of generations of patriarchy teaching men that they deserve more, simply for being men.
The most toxic and extreme example of this are men’s rights activists (MRAs), who like to take anything relating to women’s rights and flip it on its head, typically using baseless claims, so that feminism appears to be an attack on men’s rights instead. When talking about domestic violence as a form of gender-based violence against women, MRAs will be heard arguing “what about male victims” and “actually, the rates of female on male violence are much higher”. When talking about rape, MRAs will be heard arguing “what about the men whose lives are ruined by false rape claims made by women”. When talking about the challenges of being a single mother, MRAs will be heard arguing “the family law courts discriminate against men”.
No matter what the issue, MRAs find a way to make it all about men, wilfully ignoring the fact that the issue being actively discussed is about what is affecting women. By turning the conversation towards them, they can diminish the amount of discussion had about women’s rights and slow the already glacial movement towards equality and a world where men are no longer the dominant sex.
But it’s not just MRAs who display this mindset, it’s seen in all situations where men are “casually misogynist”. These are the type of men who get upset when women say they don’t want to be harassed in the street. Their rallying cries contain, “It’s like you can’t say anything to a woman these days”, or “I was just giving you a compliment”. These men think they’re losing their rights because women are fighting for their right not to be harassed. In reality, one group of people demanding the right to walk down the street in peace, to dance at the club with their friends without being assaulted, and to not be hit on when being served coffee or beer, does not in anyway remove any rights these men have. They don’t have the right to harass women in the first place. This may seem like “censorship” to certain men, and therefore they push back, because they’re not used to being told they can’t do something that they want to. They are exercising a selfish mindset which treat women as object rather than equals. These men’s hurt feelings are far less important than the rights of women.
Businessmen may outrageously claim that women are replacing all the men in the office, and that somehow “men can’t get a job anymore”. In fact, the overwhelming majority of CEOs are still men. In 2018, female CEOs represented just 4 of the top 100 NZX companies, and only 5% of Fortune 500 companies. It’s the same thought process that has men say it’s “PC culture gone mad” when a female-led superhero movie is announced. Just because they’re making a female-led superhero movie, doesn’t mean they’ve stopped making male-led movies, and similarly, women being more valued in the workplace takes nothing away from men. What they’re really complaining about, is having to compete with women in the workplace when earlier, their very gender gave them the advantage. The fact that women who have previously been pushed aside because of their gender or ‘feminine’ professional traits, now having the opportunity to succeed, doesn’t mean that men can’t; it just means that men have to work harder than they used to.
Even within feminism, some people feel this selfish sentiment. They feel like they have fought so hard against patriarchy for their rights and their spaces that now, they don’t want to share. You see this in trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) who fight to exclude transgender women from women-only spaces for various reasons. What they don’t consider seems to be how vulnerable trans women are as a group and that including them wouldn’t make cisgender women more vulnerable, it would only make trans women safer.
Patriarchy teaches men that women are less-than and so any attempt for them to gain rights should be shut down, because they don’t deserve them like men do. Patriarchy has seen men be in sole charge of workplaces for most of history, so they feel like they’re being replaced when women start to gain a few of those opportunities. Patriarchy has taught women to just accept men harassing them whenever they feel like and has taught men that they can and will get away with it. It is in our media; it is in our history. So entitled men are going to be confused and upset when they’re told no, women are human beings worthy of respect.
Patriarchy is the reason men lash out at women, it’s the reason they feel entitled for no discernible reason, it’s the reason for their selfish mindsets. It’s impossible to avoid, but it is possible to see it for what it is. It’s not people fighting for their own rights against a rising tide of feminism seeking to replace them; it’s simply people wanting to prevent others from gaining equality. And that’s why it’s important to keep shining a light on patriarchy wherever you see it, call it out when you hear it, and to not let others’ selfishness keep you from speaking out and fighting. Because the harder feminists fight, the louder these men will complain, but your actions will beat their words every time.