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Global issue 20

Global Insight Women then overshot equality, with women instead receiving preferential treatment. This perception of feminism as driving forward rights for women while crushing men underfoot has led to the creation of various men’s rights groups, some of which raise perfectly valid points and draw attention to men’s interests in fields where they may be compromised. For instance, UK organisation Fathers for Justice advocates men’s rights for access to their children while Whiteribbon.org raises awareness on domestic violence regardless of gender and age. “We are living in a world of huge double standards when it comes to domestic violence and our men are on the bad end of the deal,” reads a post on Whiteribbon.org. “When a man commits domestic violence he is punished very harshly. But when a woman commits domestic violence she gets cheers, chuckles or is all too often ignored.” The idea that violence against men is not taken seriously is a common theme for those advocating men’s rights. “Male victims are almost invisible to the authorities such as the police, who rarely can be prevailed upon to take the man’s side,” John Mays of men’s rights campaign group Parity told The Guardian. “Their plight is largely overlooked by the media, in official reports and in government policy, for example in the provision of refuge places – 7,500 for females in England and Wales but only 60 for men.” In 25 per cent of reported incidents of partner abuse, police took no action. “It’s important to remember that domestic violence, the type of abuse where you are living in utter fear of your partner, isn’t a one-off incident: it’s about ongoing and repeated violence. Women make up 89 per cent of those who experience four or more incidents of domestic violence,” writes Polly Neate, chief executive of the UK’s national women’s domestic violence charity Women’s Aid, in The Telegraph. “We have been told by local Women’s Aid federation organisations that they are funded locally on the basis they have to provide services to male victims, and they are rarely used despite putting time and money into promoting this. This is happening at the same time that female victims and their children are being turned away because of a lack of space and funding,” says Neate, while emphasising that domestic violence is never acceptable, regardless of who it’s happening to. “It still surprises me that often when I am talking to someone about the lifesaving work that we do at Women’s Aid, the response that I usually get is ‘but what about the men?’” But the problem with many, if not the majority, of men’s rights groups is that they partake in a wilfully blind critique of feminism, using the movement as a scapegoat for their problems while ignoring the fact that we still live in a patriarchy. It is the reaction of a privileged group to having some of those privileges officially revoked. The National Coalition for Men (NCFM) in the USA, for example, argues that sex discrimination affects males as well as females. Coalition member Alan Millard wrote the following about the 2014 Santa Barbara shooting carried out by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who had released a YouTube manifesto which outlined his resentment of women, racial minorities and interracial couples prior to the shooting; had been seeing a therapist since the age of eight; and had been consistently bullied by classmates since ninth grade. “Female bullying of young men/older boys is a problem – commonly conveyed through rejection and humiliation in movies, other media, and is evident on college campuses – just as any other form of bullying,” writes Millard. “The counterpart hatred of men is the cause of Rodger’s condition, no different than the other forms of bullying that have resulted in school killings. Women are commonly cruel in rejecting males, and why is this female counterpart to the issue not acknowledged and addressed? “Some feminist sources even try to say in response that males are taught they are entitled to sex with women. However, this is as ridiculous as saying women are taught they need food to be healthy.” Too often, instead of working through a discussion, people become defensive for the simple reason that they feel they are being targeted or personally reprimanded – whichever side of the gender-rights fence they are on. And then the conversation devolves into a contest of “who’s more oppressed?”. A male student told The Guardian in 2012: “I feel like ‘feminism’ is often used as a cloak for thinly veiled attacks on men. Many – not all – people who identify themselves as feminists seem to be self-serving and employ double standards. Feminism doesn’t seem to be about equal rights any more. Women, legally speaking, have equal rights. Discrimination still exists but the feminist movement has moved to a point where the aim isn’t equality, it’s empowerment. They want to gain power and ‘punish’ men.” The NotAllMen hashtag that was popular in 2013-14, which had at its heart responses to the effect of “well I don’t do those things”, was a prime example of people taking an immediate defensive stance against what they saw as personal confrontation instead of listening and participating in a discussion about how our society treats different groups. “Feminists pretend to be for equality, I never heard them fight against MGM male genital mutilation, while they love to pretend men have full rights over their own bodies,” reads a post on Men’s Rights Halifax, a Nova Scotian men’s rights group, attacking feminists rather than the issue of MGM that it claims to address. Laura Bates wrote in The Guardian about three recent instances of gender inequality and the reactions to them: “Each features somebody www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 23 © Sunny Studio / Shutterstock.com © Alejandro Dans Neergaard / Shutterstock.com The majority of men’s rights groups partake wilfully in a blind criticism of feminism, using the movement as a scapegoat for their problems


Global issue 20
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