Note: The subject of this blog post is gender equality. I understand that a bunch of you have no interest in reading about this, so if you’re one of those people, you’re welcome to skip it. I promise not to talk about Goblins stuff or anything else that you’d prefer not to miss out on. You’re safe to ignore this post.
EDIT NOTE: Since writing this post, I’ve discovered that I’ve been broad-brushing men’s support groups and lumping them all into the title of ‘Men’s Rights Activists’. This is inaccurate, as there are other groups that believe in and discuss men’s rights that don’t identify as MRA. I apologise for the oversimplification.
The more videos, podcasts and interviews I listen to about gender equality, the more I notice a growing chasm between feminists and the MRA (Men’s Rights Activists). The reason this bothers me so much, is because I believe it pushes us away from the end goal that most of us want to reach. Gender equality.
There are douchebags on both sides of this chasm. Both feminists and the MRA have people saying insane and hateful things about the other side. But both sides also house some really decent and intelligent people who genuinely want gender equality for absolutely everyone. One trend I’ve noticed, is for individuals from one side to point at one of these insane douchebags and declare “See? All Feminists/MRAs behave this way!” while the other side might declare “That’s an extremist minority who doesn’t represent our views”.
Let’s ignore the insane folks who write blogs about how the other genders need to be rounded up in camps, etc and focus on what I believe to be the meat of both groups. The people who want real equality. A seemingly growing number of these people claim that in order to reach equality, the other group must be eradicated. I don’t see this as the most effective path to equality.
Both sides have attacked the other for claiming to be victims of various levels of oppression. I can only speak from my own personal experience, but I grew up in a house full of women. I lived with my Mum, my Nana and my two sisters (one of them black). As a white male, I’ve experienced almost no direct sexism or racism, but I’ve seen a lot of both of those things smack my family hard in the face. So when women stand up and claim that they face painful or frustrating sexism on a daily basis, I believe them. It seems callous to simply claim that they’re wrong or lying. On that same note, it seems equally callous to declare it a hate crime whenever a group of men want to get together and discuss men’s rights or how sometimes it sucks to be a man. I believe that anytime anyone claims to be a victim, step one should be listening to them. Step one should never be to declare them a liar.
Many of us have seen the people tweeting things like “Men only need to do two things. Apologize and STFU!” or “Women should stop talking and go make me a sammich!”. In my opinion, neither of these people are advocates for the rights of their gender. They’re just bullies. Saying that these people are truly fighting for their gender is like saying the bully who smashed my Marvel Comics lunchbox in grade one was truly fighting for DC Comics. He simply wanted to hurt those who were different than him. That’s what bullies do.
When someone says “women’s rights” or “men’s rights” online, there seem to be various groups of people who’ll react to those phrases as though someone had said the N-word. Sure, “human rights” is a far more inclusive and accurate phrase, but it isn’t wrong to say “Men have rights” or “Women have rights” anymore than it’s wrong to point at Joe over there and say “Joe has rights”.
To me, the feud between feminists and MRAs is like two people sitting in a room. One person says it’s too cold, while the other claims it’s too hot. Both people would be happy with the thermostat set at room temperature, but no one is touching the thermostat, because they’re too busy yelling at each other over whether it’s currently too hot or too cold and which one of them is the real victim.
I don’t think that we can aggressively force gender equality. Sure, we could force people to behave in a certain way with laws, punishments and even rewards, but in order to have true equality, we have to genuinely believe in it. The only way we’re going to believe in it, is if we listen to everyone objectively and with an open mind.
This issue is incredibly important. We need to try to rise above whatever frustrations or hurt feeling we’ve picked up and realise that this is bigger than each of us. Have you ever seen really intelligent people disagree and debate each other? It’s amazing how some of them are able to do that without automatically considering the other person to be stupid, evil or insane simply because they disagree. If we can do this to some extent… If we can disagree with each other without anger, disrespect or prejudgment, I think that discussions might be far more enlightening.
I’m far from an expert on this and I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve read literature from both sides. With both feminists and MRAs, I’ve found things I agree with and things I disagree with. I DO believe that men have rights and that sometimes it sucks to be a guy. I believe that it can be healthy for men to discuss this with each other and hear someone say “I know, right? I hate that!”. I also believe that misogyny is a terrible problem that we all need to address. I think that women get screwed over in a lot of unfair ways and we need to listen to and learn from a lot of the people who are pointing at it and saying “Look!”. I think things like GeekGirlCon, a place to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of women in geek culture are much needed, great ideas.
It’s almost certain that you disagree with at least part of what I’ve written here and that’s cool. In fact, it’s healthy. But you can disagree with parts of what people say without vilifying them. Even if I’m fumbling around and going in all the wrong directions, know that I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m just seeing that a lot of people are uncomfortable and I’m doing my small part to try to get to the thermostat.
As always, thanks for reading.
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