Why Women Should Be Concerned About Men’s Rights Groups

We write often about domestic abuse issues here on The Frisky and the discussions get quite heated. Those of you readers who get very passionate about the subject absolutely must read the story “Men’s Rights’ Groups Have Become Frighteningly Effective” by journalist Kathryn Joyce on Double X, about the rise of the “men’s movement.” Many men’s rights groups sound innocuous enough at face value. Who’s against men’s rights? Who’s against reporting domestic violence accurately? Who’s against letting dads see their kids? But on closer inspection, writes Joyce, their causes are pretty sleazy: they often seek to discredit women who report abuse and advocate for sharing custody of children on principle, regardless of prior criminal history of the father. Some of these men are utter nutters. One men’s rights blogger Joyce interviewed for her article told her he would refer to her not by her name but by the title “Feminist E,” because he does not use real names for feminists. He thinks men “must verbally oppose [them ]… until our flesh oxidizes into dust.” Uh-huh. Right. Other men’s rights groups appear to espouse more reasonable arguments (even if some of the men in the groups themselves have criminal histories of domestic abuse), which is why groups like Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting (RADAR) gain traction in the media. This should concern all women because upon closer examination, Joyce writes, men’s rights groups use the same scare tactics as abusers:

“Critics like Australian sociologist Michael Flood say that men’s rights movements reflect the tactics of domestic abusers themselves, minimizing existing violence, calling it mutual, and discrediting victims. [Men’s rights activist] groups downplay national abuse rates, just as abusers downplay their personal battery; they wage campaigns dismissing most allegations as false, as abusers claim partners are lying about being hit; and they depict the violence as mutual—part of an epidemic of wife-on-husband abuse—as individual batterers rationalize their behavior by saying that the violence was reciprocal.”

There Joyce has touched upon two of my biggest frustrations about domestic violence, which, incidentally, men’s rights groups are promoting: 1) manipulation of the facts to equate violence by women against men with that of men against women, as if they occur 50/50, and 2) the denial of societal dynamics where men have been privileged over women.

Read the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice statistics if you don’t believe me. It says right up at the top of the page, “Females are more likely than males to experience nonfatal intimate partner violence,” and then there’s a litany of statistics to back this up. Obviously, it’s as morally wrong when a woman abuses her partner or her children as when a man does it, but let’s get past a debate which gets stuck at statements like, “Well, I know a woman who hit her boyfriend …” — that’s a moot point. Violence is a problem in general, yes, but violence against women is more of a problem than violence against men. That is not an opinion we can debate; it’s a fact.

On to my second frustration with men’s rights groups, as well as the people they’re able to influence: these people willfully ignore how intimate partner violence fits into broader societal dynamics. I cannot be convinced otherwise that, in American society, men/Caucasians/American citizens/the wealthy have historically had more privileges than women/people of color/immigrants/the poor. I’ll acknowledge that yes, throughout history the inequalities have improved vastly for some and bit by bit for others. And speaking strictly for women, I’m proud that at this point in history, women have more equal rights (the right to vote, the right to equal pay, the right to equal funding for school sports, etc.) than ever before.

However, isms, like racism, classism and sexism, undeniably still exist. Men’s rights groups ignore that, generally speaking, women are less privileged than men, and it is even worse for poor women, green-card holding women, women of color, etc. Look at reality: the playing field, so to speak, is not level. Women who are societally less privileged face difficulties when they are being abused, and that’s the part of intimate partner violence these men’s rights groups shamefully obfuscate to further their own cause of discrediting mothers with full custody and women who report abuse.

All the female college graduates, all the female police women, all the female-headed households in the country should be lauded, but they shouldn’t lull us into a complacency over the societal dynamics of inequality which still exist. American society is still undoing centuries worth of inequality—and that’s a reality that men’s rights groups willfully ignore.