I’m going to touch on an uncomfortable topic for many of you, especially if you are a woman. We all know about the women’s equality movement, the equal rights movement, movements to support paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. But we know much, much less about a movement that is often ridiculed and ostracized called the Men’s Rights Movement.
The Men’s Right Movement, or MRA (for short) is a movement that has sprouted up to address the systematic silencing of those who address the needs of men. In other words, the MRA pushes back on the feminist talking points of patriarchy and oppression. Or at least they try.
But, let’s be real for a second. The idea men have all the power in the universe is absurd. Pointing out the fact there are more male engineers, politicians, that they earn more than women on average, we’ve only elected male Presidents are mere talking points to incite righteous fury that men hold all the power. Unfortunately, the data paints a much different picture.
The DOJ estimates one in three women will be physically abused by somebody while in an intimate relationship. Men are not behind at one in four. But, when is the last time you ever heard a story about a woman being arrested for hitting a man? Think about it another way. Where the federal government spends over a billion dollars a year to support hundreds of domestic violence shelters for women these same shelters turn away men. I guess it is okay to hit somebody as long as they are men.
In terms of life expectancy and job occupancy men are now behind women and the gap is widening. Historically, men have had shorter lifespans than women because they occupied more dangerous professions, served in the military, etc. All those same patterns still hold, only men are drafted, the vast majority of construction and blue-collar workers are men, but now men are also more likely to be drug addicted. Prostrate cancer kills just as many men as breast cancer does for women but the majority of funding goes to breast cancer (and heart disease).
It gets worse. While the vast majority of Fortune 500 businesses and political entities are run by men the truth is there are very few men able to be able to even replace them in the next twenty years. According to Pew Research, an analysis from US Census Bureau data finds in 1994 college enrollment for both men and women was roughly equal across racial lines. But, by 2012, the gap had widened to double digits for more women being enrolled than men (except for Asians). Along with this report, the US Department of Education completed a study of students who entered college in 2008 and completed their degrees by 2014. The study found 62.3 percent of women had completed their degree by 2014 compared to 56.5 percent of men. Additionally, “For students who entered two-year colleges in 2011, 32.9 percent of women earned an associate’s degree within three years. For men, the graduation rate was 28.1 percent.”
Of course, women exceeding men in college graduation rates is nothing new. More women earned associates degrees than men in 1982, Bachelors by 1987 and advanced degrees by the mid-2000’s. But, what is stunning is that it is estimated 10 million more women have earned degrees than men since 1982 and more importantly, fewer men are even enrolling in college. We want women to succeed when they enter college but how can men if they either choose not to or are not deemed worthy of being accepted in college?
Even before college the results are dark. According to the US DOE boys account for 71 percent of suspensions, boys account for 67 percent of special education students, five times more likely to be classified as hyperactive and ten times more likely to be on the autistic spectrum and, even worse, 30 percent more likely to drop or flunk out of school. Those are truly ghastly numbers for anybody who cares about our education system.
Moving beyond education the data is even more stark. Despite more women being incarcerated than men in recent years, men make up the vast majority of prisoners in America. And before you say, “Well, they commit the most crimes,” consider a study from the University of Michigan found men on average receive 63 percent longer prison sentences than women who commit comparable crimes. Worse, the same study found women are twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted of a crime. Most shockingly, the study estimated the gender gap in sentencing could be six times as large as blacks and whites.
This is not even saying anything about the fact that societal and legal institutions have given women virtually every power when it comes to children. Men have few, if any, legal recourse when a mother seeks custody of their child if they are not married. The court system is set up to automatically assume women are better childrearers than men. Yet, anecodotally, I can say my brother with his children makes that belief a lie! This has even extended into LBGT issues whereby gay men have initially had a harder time adopting children than lesbian couples.
A lot of the issues facing men you would think would find common cause with feminists. Feminists should be outraged at the high incarceration rate of anybody, the fact loving parents lose legal rights to their children due to outdated social norms embedded in the court system, that domestic violence occurs against anybody and that our country’s kids, our future, are struggling. I wish they did. But the modern day feminist movement has moved to quash any discussion of these issues.
Beyond the riots and rallies trying to silence speakers from talking to audience members at college campuses, major feminist organizations such as NOW, Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List and others, oppose any legislation or actions seeking to remedy any gender based disparity. For example, when California was floating the idea of a new paternity testing bill that helped men establish whether they were the biological fathers of children, California NOW opposed the measure. There is no reason to oppose such a measure, especially since paternity fraud is a major issue and it has serious repercussions for the non-listed biological father and non-biological listed father of the child on the birth certificate.
The above makes modern day feminists uncomfortable because they have to challenge their own beliefs and assumptions. Much as feminists assume men oppose mandatory maternity leave, equal pay for equal work and gender equality because it challenges their basic assumptions the same thing challenges them. The broader feminist movement has not reacted well, especially because isolated incidents such as Oberlin College are becoming common.
There are some feminists, mostly younger, who have reached out to the broader male community. In 2014, Emma Watson (the female star of Harry Potter), spoke at the UN and said to men, “Gender equality is your issue too.” Certainly it is, but when men and women speak of gender equality often the issues are different and men are on the losing end of any action.
Take domestic violence or rape as an example. Few men and women deny that women fleeing domestic violence should not get help. But when it is men fleeing the situation they are ignored by the media and receive virtually no federal funding to support preventive programs. The media is quick to jump on stories about men victimizing women, especially on college campuses, but then ignore it when the story turns out not to be true (Duke Lacrosse case). Worse, when boys are victimized by girls or other boys the story is largely ignored. Studies have shown bystanders (men or women) will react when they see an unknown man hit an unknown women. But when the roles are reversed, bystanders say and do nothing and even react with amusement. In Hollywood, it is a staple.
Feminists are partly right that it has to do with traditional gender roles of masculinity and femininity. But, they miss the broader point that by ignoring the data and getting upset at boys being abused and raped they are supporting a system saying violence is okay (it only depends on who is being assaulted). In turn, by condoning violence in such a form they undermine their own efforts to stop violence against women.
But, mostly it is hard for men to find common cause with feminism when women’s domestic violence advocates throw their male peers to the wolves. Is it any wonder why men feel like feminism is a bad wrap for them or why the MRA even popped up?
Even the language used to discuss the issue is designed to exclude any discussion of male issues. For example, you often hear at rallies about the “patriarchy” and “male oppression”. Those words are meant to incite a gut reaction from women and an opposite reaction from men.
Let’s try this differently. If I were to say (as a man) that no women has been President because they are “inferior” candidates how would women react? They would react in much the same way men react to the feminist language of “patriarchy” and “male oppression.”
Language matters and it is why MRA’s and the Feminist movement have rarely found common cause. Such language has helped instill in many people the idea men are better off than women in society. Yet, we know, women between 22-29 earn more than men (I was in this cohort until recently). That changes at 30 and above yet we know this is partly because women are penalized for having children and it can even leak over to those who don’t. Yet, it is also true men are more likely to work longer hours and do more dangerous or onerous tasks than women whether they have children or not. One can argue whether that should happen or not but it has NOTHING to do with “male oppression.”
The data is unequivocal in saying men and boys are in trouble. Fewer men graduate college, are enrolled and far more likely to be punished in school and punished more harshly in the court system. Family courts largely favor women. Men have shorter lifespans and their successes are often considered proof of a system of oppression. The language of gender issues is not even neutral. It is designed to infer men are the problem.
Men and women deserve to have a serious conversation about gender issues and how it impacts America. Women have made great strides and they should certainly strive to occupy more political offices, run more Fortune 500 companies and seek equal pay for equal work. But they should also seek to address issues that impact men just as men should for womens issues. But, that will not happen as long as men are left behind and feel society is just fine with that!