“The first wisdom of sociology is that things are not always what they seem.”
-Dr. William Thompson, professor of sociology, A&M-Commerce
“The weakness of men is the façade of strength; the strength of women is the façade of weakness.”
– Dr. Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power
A brief note concerning labels
It is an unfortunate characteristic of the human condition that we invest ourselves in labels and establishments to such a degree that the values they are supposed to represent are sometimes neglected and forgotten. With that in mind, this site regards attitudes and values as more important than political labels.
That being said, the purpose of this page is to introduce the basic principles of the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM), a new approach to gender equality that rejects compulsory gender roles, misandry, and the zero-sum approach advocated by Feminism.
I do not claim to speak for everyone, but rather of my understanding of its basic concepts. For a more expansive exploration of men’s issues, read The Myth of Male Power by Dr. Warren Farrell.
Core Issues of the Men’s Human Rights Movement
Differences between the Men’s Human Rights Movement and Feminism
Perhaps the most important contribution of the Men’s Movement to the discourse on gender equity is its expanded and more inclusive perspective on relations, inequity, and power dynamics in regards to gender and its rejection of the zero-sum approach to gender equity.
The status quo in the discourse on gender equity is the Feminist perspective, which focuses on the disparities between men who are overrepresented (and the women who are underrepresented) at the top of the spectrum of socioeconomic status. For example, it is men who are the dominant group among the most prestigious and financially rewarding jobs, such as politicians, doctors, lawyers, and judges. From this it is then presumed that men’s dominance in those areas invariably or overwhelmingly correlates to a society run for the benefit of men generally – an ideological construct called patriarchy.
Those who adopt the Feminist perspective on gender equity then believe that any disadvantage men face is incidental to what they call patriarchy, whereas those women face are central to it. Thus, to those who adopt the Feminist perspective, women’s issues are to be a matter of first priority for society, whereas men’s are secondary and can be deferred, ignored, or even at times suppressed while doing no substantial damage to men and boys as a group, as they (presumably) already have a power structure in place that looks out for the general well-being of men and boys at all levels of society. Example:
“To be a feminist, I believe, requires another ingredient: the felt experience of oppression. And this men cannot feel because men are not oppressed but privileged by sexism. To be sure, men do feel oppression, but are not oppressed as men.”
- Dr. Amanda Goldrick-Jones
The fundamental problem with this perspective is that it is also – and always has been – men who are overrepresented at the bottom of society as well (“the common man”), and just as the base of a pyramid is wider at the bottom, there are far more men at the bottom than at the top, with women more concentrated in the middle. A few examples:
Men at bottom
If one were to narrowly focus exclusively on the disparities between men who are overrepresented at the top and women who are overrepresented in the middle – as we have been doing since the 1960s – he or she would walk away thinking that women as a group get singled out for a bad deal. But if we broaden our perspective to include the disparities between men who are the majority sex at the top and women who are overrepresented in the middle, and the disparities between women who are overrepresented in the middle and men who are the majority sex at the bottom, we get an expanded and more inclusive perspective. We also begin to realize that the world is not as simple and black-and-white as we have been (mis)led to believe; that it is in fact filled with complexity, grey areas, and the ebb and flow of intermingling tides of power.
Feminists are quick to say “yes, traditional gender norms disadvantaged both sexes, but this is actually the fault of patriarchy. Patriarchy hurts men, too.” But since men are the majority sex at both the top and bottom of society, and since there are far more men at the bottom than at the top, it begs an important question: if a “system of male power” (“patriarchy”) disadvantages far more men than it empowers, was it ever a system of male power to begin with? The answer, of course, is no. You could say, of course, that some particularized areas of society are patriarchal, and some are matriarchal, and present confirming evidence for those claims. But the evidence does not support broadly generalizing society as either.
It is also well to remember that there is evidence for virtually any claim. What is critical – especially in gender issues – is whether the evidence is proportionate to how broadly the claim is being generalized. And when we view the men dying in coalmines, in war, who commit suicide, who live shorter and less healthy lives, when we look at the overwhelming number of men in prison and who live on the streets, many intellectually credible persons who appreciate nuance find it hard to to maintain the simplistic broad generalizations characteristic of Feminism.
Feminists have been quick to point to men’s dominance in public institutions (such as government, corporations, etc) and use that 1% of men (by itself an unrepresentative sample) to say “look, society is run by men for men.” The idea that politicians, rulers, and corporations have an overwhelming reservoir of empathy for the common man is a ludicrous fantasy that flies in the face of any honest analysis of history. In addition, there is far more to power than simply public institutions. There is also the power of human biology and its impact on human psychology, and in turn human psychology’s impact on our culture, a culture which corporations must market to if they wish to stay *in power.* We have always lived in a culture where men are socialized to be disposable in the workplace, in war, or in the sinking of the Titanic when women received lifeboats and men went down with the ship. The Barbie dolls sold by Wal-Mart may perpetuate (and reflect) a culture that confines women to the kitchens, but the toy soldiers the next aisle over also perpetuate a culture (and reflect a culture) that confines boys to graves.
Feminists shore up the myth of patriarchy by historical revisionism wherein they either ignore the conditions that men and women historically lived in, or fraudulently impute onto previous centuries conditions that only exist in modernity and then blame men of today for women in the past not having them. Examples of such are public education as a human right for everyone, contraception and other feminine medical care that liberated women from biological constraints, post-industrialized jobs that do not require brute strength distinctive to men, and so forth.
Pre-industrialized societies depended upon the efficient use of scarce resources. If many men died, no worries – they could be easily “reproduced.” If a great many women died, however, the family, tribe, or country would die out because only women can bear children. Because resources in such societies were scarce and because men and women are fundamentally different in terms of physical strength and reproductive capabilities and burdens (including the required period of gestation period for women, a time in which they are especially vulnerable), men and women self-segregated themselves into the roles they could most easily perform at the time. It would not do well for the survival of a pre-industrialized society, for example, for pregnant women who did not have access to contraception (which did not exist at the time) to take up work in a coal mine, nor for those who had no experience in such a line of work to direct others in how best to do so.
In addition, men and women had much shorter lifespans; indeed, in the 1700s both sexes lived to be roughly 45 years of age. If a woman in the 1700s were to defer having children until her late 20s (as many women do today), by the time her children would have finished high school (which – we should well remember – did not exist back then), she would have already died from old age. Thus women raised the children and men raised the money. Males were disposable in work and war, and many women died in childbirth. In essence, both sexes made substantial sacrifices, and neither “had it all,” nor could they. Thus the oppressive factor was neither men nor women, but rather the fear of the family, tribe, or country not surviving.
When industrialization and advanced technology emerged, gender roles became not only outdated, but also in many cases dysfunctional. Machinery and modern weaponry replaced the need for men’s physical strength. The birth control pill largely liberated women from childbirth and allowed them to enter the workforce for a more extended period of time. New DNA testing technology made it easier for juries to convict in rape cases. In the early 1900s, public education became regarded as a right to which all citizens are entitled. As medical technology advanced, the lifespan of women increased by 30 years. We owe the creation of none of these things to Feminism, and the absence of these things – which did indeed limit women’s choices – has nothing to do with a mythical, malevolent “patriarchy,” the default argument of Feminists. On the contrary; it is men who have created most of these things, which means that if men as a group are deserving of our blame, they are certainly deserving of our gratitude as well. Which do you suppose is more acceptable in our society?
Acknowledging the needs of women does not threaten or invalidate the worldview of the Men’s Movement, because our fundamental perspective is that traditional gender roles privileged and disadvantaged both sexes – each in different ways – and that both are central to the structure of society. The same cannot be said for Feminism. In order for Feminism to maintain its worldview that we live in a patriarchy wherein female disadvantage is central and male disadvantage is incidental, it must also maintain (and impose on others) a narrative that the needs of men and boys are substantially less in importance and urgency relative to women’s, regardless as to whether such is factually true, or otherwise (which would be oppressive).
The evidence is increasingly coming to light, however, that the world is not as one-sided as we have been led to believe; that both sexes have – and have always had – substantial needs, and that neither has ever “had it all.” Gender equity is not a zero-sum game, and both sexes deserve our compassion and support.
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