Men’s issues: it’s complicated

In Editorial /

Guest editorial by Allyssia Alleyne

I was going down the escalator at Angel tube station in London when a poster caught my eye: an ominous photo of a rugby ball pieced by a nail with the headline “Real Men Get Raped.” I was floored but intrigued, not used to seeing subject addressed so directly. Survivors UK, the men’s sexual abuse support service behind the poster, had caught my attention and just over a year later, I’m discussing it with my friends and family, both male and female.

This poster is the first thing that came to mind when I heard that a pair of students at Ryerson was hoping to start a men’s issues group on campus. Assuming that the organizers have only the best intentions, they’re also trying to spread awareness about little-discussed issues facing certain groups. I appreciate that. While I don’t believe the prejudice males sometimes experience is anywhere near equal to the oppression that women face (Just take a look at the gender wage gap; the fact that the vast majority of spousal homicide victims are women killed by men; the fact that women make up 50 per cent of the population, but only 25 per cent of federal politicians), I can’t deny that there are ways in which they suffer disproportionately. Their suicide rate is higher, their post-secondary dropout rate is higher and fathers can have a hard time winning the custody of their children.

Do I think it’s important to discuss these realities? Yes. Do I agree with the RSU’s decision to muzzle these organizers? Absolutely not. (In fact, I’ve written about that issue for this newspaper before.) But do I think that starting this new group is the best way to go? It’s complicated.

While I do respect that, especially as a university, we have a responsibility to accommodate contentious conversations, something about the idea of a “men’s issues” club (the organizers are very clear about the fact that they are not a men’s rights club, which you can interpret however you want) makes me cringe.

Maybe the amount of misogynistic vitriol spewed by so-called men’s rights activists on online forums like Reddit is what’s giving me pause.

Or maybe it’s just exasperating to see that a group that is so widely represented and privileged casting a group that is actually oppressed as villains. I have to wonder how the organizers will ensure that this club would be a safe, inclusive space for everyone, when so many male-dominated spaces seem to rank women as second-class citizens. (See the worlds of politics, finance, and clubs south of Queen Street.) It also disappoints me that men (or, in this case, women) feel as though they can’t work with feminists to solve the issues that impact men. I mean, who better than feminists to get involved with conversations around sexism, patriarchy and gender roles? Let’s not forget that the same system of patriarchy that has kept down women historically is what’s hurting men today.

But I am more than willing to put my personal reservations aside.

I would love to see this group get off the ground and prove me wrong, because the last thing I feel is threatened. If feminism can secure the vote for women, bring in awesome workplace harassment laws and ensure cheap and affordable birth control, it can handle a group of people who just want to talk.

Comments

  1. The so-called “pay gap” is only a snapshot of average yearly full-time salaries, which does not account for overtime (90% male), commute distances, work flexibility, and numerous life choices, which, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor, are more likely the causes of the pay gap than discrimination. The fact that men make the majority of elected officials and business owners does not mean men’s issues are adequately addressed. That is what Warren Farrell aptly calls “the myth of male power.” (See “The Myth of Male Power; Why Men Are The Disposable Sex” by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.)

    Men have been systematically discriminated against in parenting rights, child custody, criminal entencing, military conscription, education, domestic and sexual violence laws that neglect male victims and support false accusations, reproductive rights, genital integrity laws, international forced labor laws, public benefits and more, while men and boys face societal misandry and male bashing. Men make 80-99% of homeless adults, job deaths and injuries, incercarated persons, combat deaths, dropouts and suicide deaths (“attempted” suicide rates are unreliable because it is unlikely men report failed suicides as often as women do). Men also die younger than women and have higher mortality rates for 13 of the 15 leading causes of death.

    Thankfully, not all feminists are so reactionary as to dismiss the men’s rights movement by mischaracterizing it and ignoring the real issues. This is especially true of minority women’s groups, who tend to be very accepting of men’s rights. Many minority women’s groups disassociate with white feminist narrow-mindedness and misandry, and instead call themselves “Womanists.” As this article says, “One of the primary ways Womanists differentiate themselves from feminists is their concern about men’s rights and their willingness to include men’s rights within their advocacy issues.” http://wesleyanargus.com/2011/03/25/womanist-house/

    Just a few examples of widespread discrimination against men:

    In India, only men can be prosecuted for adultery. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2687318.ece

    In Germany, unmarried dads have no custody rights unless mom says so. The European Court of Human Rights had to intervene on behalf of fathers. http://www.thelocal.de/society/20101221-31945.html http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8395456.stm

    In Israel, women can retire at age 62, men must wait until 67.
    http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000693857

    In Isreal, fathers are automatically denied equal child custody as a matter of law. On 12/6/11, the United Nations had to intervene on behalf of fathers. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/150455

    In Japan, fathers are automatically denied custody of their kids.
    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/36959398/ns/today-parenting_and_family/

    Male slaves are frequently ignored by human rights laws.
    http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/05/14/headlines/headlines_30034148.php

    Male slaves in parts of China have had trouble getting their slavemasters prosecuted because only women were protected from slavery. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-06/15/content_895414.htm

    In the U.K., funding for sex abuse victims is frequently denied for males on the basis of gender alone. http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/CityandRegion/2007/06/25/4287949-sun.html

    Fathers in the U.K. and elsewhere are denied parental leave. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/8149702.stm http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/stories/2009/12/02/1245d8f7621c

    As late as 1971, the Minnesota State Bar Association’s handbook advised lawyers and judges that “except in very rare cases, the father should not have custody of the minor children. He is usually unqualified psychologically and emotionally.” Time, 11/11/03, “Father Makes Two,” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101011119-183968,00.html

    In many countries including parts of the U.S., only boys are prosecuted when two minors have sex. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/courts/boy-facing-sex-trial-as-court-upholds-romeo-and-juliet-law-3030524.html

    For decades California excluded male domestic violence victims and their children from state-funded services until men sued the state and won. The problem persists despite the court ruling.
    Woods v. Horton (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 658. http://www.metnews.com/articles/2008/wood101508.htm

    According to an Urban Institute study, child protective services attempted to contact fathers of children at risk in their mothers care only a little over half the time, even though they knew the father’s identity in 86% of cases. http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/06/cw-involve-dads/rs.htm

    The U.S. was successfully sued for firing men for not registering for the draft.
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/01/05/man_who_didnt_register_for_draft_sues_irs_over_firing/

    UNICEF and others gave food only to Haitian women but not men. http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/31/haiti.food.aid/

    Men get higher criminal sentences than women even when all other factors are accounted for. http://www.terry.uga.edu/~mustard/sentencing.pdf
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/PrintStory.pl?document_id=2008782782&zsection_id=2003925728&slug=courtstudy25m&date=20090225

    A drunk driver will receive an average of a 3-year higher sentence for killing a female than for killing a male (compared to a 2-year higher sentence for killing a white instead of a black). (“Unconventional Wisdom,” Washington Post, Sept. 7, 2000.)

    Swedish men report about as much sex discrimination as women.
    http://www.thelocal.se/article.php?ID=2983&date=20060203

    Some states in the U.S. still prosecute only males for sex between minors who are close in age.
    http://www.crimevictimsinstitute.org/documents/Adolescent_Behavior_3.1.11.pdf

    Walgreens was sued for discrimination against men.
    https://secure.aclu.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=TX_Walgreensalert&s_src=UNW100001ACT&s_subsrc=101122_acluo&JServSessionIdr004=xackgun1j2.app226a

    A court in California ruled that that the laws says only men can be guilty of indecent exposure, until it was challenged and finally overturned. http://www.metnews.com/articles/2007/garc091207.htm

    A Judge in Queens, NY says the Probation Department discriminated against males.
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/12/01/2010-12-01_judged_bashes_probation_department_for_gender_bias_in_favor_of_leniency_for_girl.html

    British Airways and others made policies of not allowing men to sit next to unaccompanied children.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11061577

    Male servers successfully sued Lawry’s for sex discrimination.
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5if_cO6QvP_dH-enPMOajusk_3TSQD9BNLM700

    Male bartenders at Caesar’s casino in New Jersey successfully sued for sex discrimination.
    http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newjersey/ny-bc-nj–togabarlawsuit0224feb24,0,112854.story

  2. “Maybe the amount of misogynistic vitriol spewed by so-called men’s rights activists on online forums like Reddit is what’s giving me pause.”

    Allyssia, let’s see if you can find me a MRA that has created a manifest to cut up women, who advocates putting women in concentration camps, allowing baby girls to starve and creating a castration day where all women would be ritually humiliated and castrated, and we’ll talk about vitriol (hint, I can find feminists who have advocated those things towards men)

  3. Also, check Christina Hoff Sommers’ article

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-hoff-sommers/wage-gap_b_2073804.html

    “The AAUW has now joined ranks with serious economists who find that when you control for relevant differences between men and women (occupations, college majors, length of time in workplace) the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing. The 23-cent gap is simply the average difference between the earnings of men and women employed “full time.” What is important is the “adjusted” wage gap-the figure that controls for all the relevant variables. That is what the new AAUW study explores.

    The AAUW researchers looked at male and female college graduates one year after graduation. After controlling for several relevant factors (though some were left out, as we shall see), they found that the wage gap narrowed to only 6.6 cents. How much of that is attributable to discrimination? As AAUW spokesperson Lisa Maatz candidly said in an NPR interview, “We are still trying to figure that out.” “

  4. Taken charitably this piece is just wilfully ignorant.

    Nice job from Marc and Altair, hopefully the author follows some of those links. I’ll add my 2 coppers mostly regarding the domestic violence issue.

    The truth is out there and easy to find if you care to look for it. At the moment anyway, initiatives like VAWA are continuing to blur the distinction of what constitutes violence and sexual assault to inflate the numbers and continue to ignore men while vilifying them as the whole problem. Eg. in the UK if a drunk man and woman have sex, the man is a rapist. Thanks for making me out to be brainless cow who can’t think for herself!
    Not to mention the rise in “Men can stop x!” campaigns which just further puts fear into women and marginalises and demonises men.

    Women are roughly half the perpetrators of domestic violence and men roughly half the victims.
    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/crime-stats/crime-statistics/focus-on-violent-crime/stb-focus-on–violent-crime-and-sexual-offences-2011-12.html (Notice minor sexual assault, an almost pointless category as it’s expanded to include “violations” so weak no right minded individual would dare call it assault, is included in a stat with serious sexual assault, which is tiny for men and women. Feminists love to use the total and present it all as “sexual assault”, usually inflating it in other deceitful ways while ignoring the male half of the issue.)
    This has always been the case according to Erin Pizzey, the founder of the first domestic violence shelter for women, who was put through a campaign of terrorism, including real threats of violence, including death (not just harmless internet trolling) by feminist groups for daring to tell the truth. Eventually resulting in the death of the family dog and having to go into hiding, fearing her personal safety and that of her family shortly after that.
    You can find mirroring stats from the CDC etc if you care to look. Although most places still frame it as “violence against women” despite the numbers.

    “It also disappoints me that men (or, in this case, women) feel as though they can’t work with feminists to solve the issues that impact men. I mean, who better than feminists…”
    As an intelligent woman capable of doing some simple research who rejects the lies of feminism, this made me laugh out loud.
    If Patriarchy, the Holy Grail of Feminism, was really a thing, Feminism would have been boot stomped into oblivion on conception and never seen again.
    Thankfully, the industrial revolution and the invention of reliable birth control allowed women en masse and avoid being a permanently pregnant so you could reasonably expect to be in a position to take jobs that weren’t likely to kill you. The vote was coming naturally as a result of all that, like it came for working class men, I don’t really think Feminism had much to do with that.

  5. Looks like I mangled the last paragrapgh, being up at 4am with insomnia will do that to you 🙂 It should read:

    Thankfully, the industrial revolution and the invention of reliable birth control allowed women en masse to avoid being permanently pregnant so you could reasonably expect to be in a position to take jobs that weren’t likely to kill you. The vote was coming naturally as a result of all that, like it came for working class men, I don’t really think Feminism had much to do with that.

  6. Actually, there is nothing complicated about this at all The RSU is opposed to such a group because they are just another fringe ultra left wing organization that kowtows to the will of the NDP and other such organizations. What the RSU is forgetting is that males have the same right as females in all aspects of life and university life , but rather than accept this as fact and reality, they have so called executive and board members who want to decide for us as students what we should think and what we should accept. Well, what would you expect from an organization that welcomes anarchists as student groups but denies the basic rights of students in general, including students with disabilities.

    1. I feel it would be advisable for you to first learn to think. Your comment clearly indicates you seldom, if ever, have done so.

  7. As someone who doesn’t get too involved in gender issues, I’d still like to support the men’s rights group. Do they need a list of student signatures or something? I don’t mind signing for that 🙂

    I agree with Frank as well… RSU/CESAR and its advocacy in no way represents what the majority of students actually feel. For example, many in Chinese community here at Ryerson don’t care for the advocacy/political agendas that RSU/CESAR is pursuing at all. But then again, how many of the directors/staff at RSU/CESAR are international students from China? None? Thought so.

  8. “, something about the idea of a “men’s issues” club … makes me cringe”

    So, you can’t exactly put your finger on why it makes you cringe, but men gathering to speak up about their issues creates a visceral reaction in you… I think that speaks more about you than it does about anyone else… I have a theory though…

    “Or maybe it’s just exasperating to see that a group that is so widely represented and privileged casting a group that is actually oppressed as villains.”

    Funny, many MRA’s think something similar, that it’s just exasperating to see the group that is so widely privileged, protected and entitled (even from the consequences of their own actions. Of course, you can try to present that as a negative, but you need to project malevolent intent onto others to do so) casting the group that enables all that privilege (through government fiat. AKA tax programs) as villains.

    The fact that you ACTUALLY believe want to believe you are “Oppressed” may be that visceral nawing at your gut, because if the conversation ever gets out of the feminist dominated narrative, you may lose the power that victim narrative grants, and that doesn’t “feel” good to you.

    Others have addressed your statistics with statistics, so I’ll just offer one more thing… Yes, there are equal numbers of men and women in the world, give or take, but so long as women have the CHOICE to opt out of work entirely, or to work for personal satisfaction, not professional success, there will never be equal outcomes in the upper teirs, because there are not equal numbers of men and women striving for those jobs… And I give you the following example:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daylle-deanna-schwartz/wealth_b_2841511.html

  9. ““It also disappoints me that men (or, in this case, women) feel as though they can’t work with feminists to solve the issues that impact men. I mean, who better than feminists…””

    One need only look at NOW’s official position on fathers rights groups (a group that has avoided engaging in any form of criticizing feminism for the longest time, simply because the courts were their focus). These men who want to spend time with their children, are accused of only doing so to control their ex’s and continue abuse. How much do you have to hate men, or feel entitled to always get your way and men must back down, does one have to be to see any man who doesn’t immediately give up on being a father in an acrimonious split, as someone who doesn’t care about the child, only abusing a woman. And sadly, this very comment reeks of the same expectation for men to back down in favor of women. Why is it always men’s groups that are the ones causing this conflict? Feminists have had 40+ years to make good on their assertions of being concerned for the equality of both sexes, and all they have to show is demands for special privileges for women only, intentional exclusion of men from gender neutral issues like DV, while demanding women be recognized in predominantly male issues like combat soldier deaths, and opposition to issues that concern men.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daylle-deanna-schwartz/wealth_b_2841511.html

  10. “It also disappoints me that men (or, in this case, women) feel as though they can’t work with feminists to solve the issues that impact men”

    Can’t you see the hypocrisy there Allyssia? Sarah’s group and its supporters have just as much right to be disappointed that feminists won’t work with THEM to discuss the issues that impact men. Instead feminists try to shut them up.

    “I mean, who better than feminists to get involved with conversations around sexism, patriarchy and gender roles?”

    But that’s EXACTLY what Sarah’s group wants to do, have an inclusive conversation that includes feminists about those issues. How does banning them help do that? Unless of course feminists are only interested in controlling the narrative. Then banning them makes complete sense.

    “Let’s not forget that the same system of patriarchy that has kept down women historically is what’s hurting men today.”

    Um, are men not allowed to have some input into the conversation about what’s hurting men today? Who’s actually being patronizing and condescending here?

    Anyway, I want to thank you for the overall tone of reason and common sense – or should I say UNcommon sense – you’ve shown in your article, and your open-mindedness. Nobody should be persecuted for simply wanting to have the discussion.

  11. (Just take a look at the gender wage gap;

    -It’s a comparison of average wages without examining that men and women choose different occupations. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

    the fact that the vast majority of spousal homicide victims are women killed by men;

    -This only represents about 0.01% of all domestic violence and according to statistics Canada male victims of spousal homicide are about 1/3 (not quite a “vast majority”)

    the fact that women make up 50 per cent of the population, but only 25 per cent of federal politicians)

    -Time to get to work then and encourage more women to give up their home life and get in to politics where they will be working long hours and travelling across the countr.

  12. I will be writing about the utter hypocrisy of the RSU and executive in my blog tomorrow. You will not believe how they contradict themselves an don’t even try and hide it anymore.

  13. There is heaps of documented scholarly evidence that gender ideologues in government have deliberately covered up male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. There is heaps of documented evidence of the Feminist movement labeling all men and boys as subhuman, defective, and assumed violent predators. There is heaps of documented evidence of the genocidal and supremacist attitudes of many Feminists with wide respect within the movement.

    You can address online misogyny if you want, but please don’t be a hypocrite about it.

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