As I discovered at university, men's rights activism is a genuine thing. Some men (and women) boldly make the case that it is men who are routinely the victims of gender discrimination in the workplace, in the courts and in society.
The most prominent organisation in my country is probably 'Justice for Men & Boys' or 'J4MB'. I heard about J4MB once or twice and saw a few videos in which its figurehead, Mike Buchanan, explained how many aspects of social interaction are now biased in favour of women. Before I lost my respect for him after, in one video, he rudely told a woman to be quiet, Buchanan made some interesting points about the gender pay gap, something that he and many other people believe is either much smaller than people think or non-existent.
At face value, Buchanan's points seemed to be very articulate. Men and women tend to choose different lines of work and every individual of both sexes has their own idea of progress. Some people prefer to work as hard as they can whereas other are looking for a job that gives them enough freedom to engage in other pursuits and hobbies. Therefore, if it is true that men prefer to be doctors and therapists, earning them a higher wage, and women prefer to work on hospital wards and behind desks, it seems unfair to make comparisons about wages. Putting it another way, if men prefer to work in big jobs that earn big money and women prefer to work in small jobs that earn less, there is something unnecessary about complaining that men are earning more than women.
Note that I write 'prefer' in italics. I am hesitant about making these generalisations. People like Buchanan, Milo Yiannopoulos and co. would treat these kinds of generalisations as truisms. Isn't it just a fact of life that most secretaries are women? Isn't it just true that women don't want to join the military? I find these generalisations dangerous; they skirt over research and evidence that should inform how we approach things. Secondly, even if it is true that most secretaries are women, it does not mean that this is inherently the correct way of going about things.
J4MB came back into the news a few weeks ago when the Conservative Philip Davies MP was filmed speaking about feminism at a men's rights conference. Nonetheless, I strive to give everything a fair hearing. Buchanan and J4MB have something interesting to say about men's rights, feminism and other things.
So, I went to the J4MB website and took a look at the J4MB 2015 election manifesto. I did find some interesting things. Female genital mutilation has been in the news quite a bit, but I first heard about male genital mutilation in the manifesto (though J4MB's manifesto did not actually explain what MGM entails; for FGM I know about various societies in Africa that remove parts of a woman's genitals, either to symbolise her journey into adult life or to deliberately prevent her from feeling pleasure in sex, but for MGM I have only my imagination to understand it. Does J4MB mean circumcision as often practiced in Jewish communities?).
A lot of the arguments can be boiled down to a simple theme: men do more work / make up a bigger proportion in X field / are better at Y / prefer Z so women should not be given special assistance for doing less / not being as good. Men pay more taxes, men work in tougher jobs, men work longer hours, men do more this and that... And you can keep on boiling it down. Men do most of the work around here - so why do women get all the attention?!
You could read through the first seventy pages of the manifesto and hold the opinion that J4MB are in favour of gender equality and want an equal society. They are highlighting numerous examples of inequality in British society that have been overlooked or underaddressed by mainstream politics for the last few decades; they are shining a light on some of the difficulties that men face but tend to be brushed under the carpet. I can say from my own discoveries at university that there are a lot of social expectations that men are expected to meet - to be tough, commanding figureheads, impervious to emotional frailty and undefeated by any difficult situation, be it the end of a relationship or the passing of a family member.
But then you get to the seventy-first page. "THE MEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT, A VOICE FOR MEN, FEMINISM, GYNOCENTRISM, MISANDRY, MORAL AGENCY, SEXISM, THE RED PILL…" it is titled. J4MB traces an important text that is critical of feminism, published in... 1913. 1913! A lot of things have changed in society since 1913. Homosexuality is no longer seen as a mental illness; black people in America have the same civil rights as white people; we've even had a female Prime Minister and we might just have a female President of the USA; and Great Britain doesn't maintain control of a number of colonies across most of the globe. But then, many American conservatives still look favourably upon the values of the men who signed their constitution - maybe a text from 1913 can pass on some wisdom that maintains truth and usefulness today.
Actually, maybe not. J4MB has quite an opinion of feminism:
Feminism is built upon baseless conspiracy theories – such as patriarchy theory, the idea that men (as a class) oppress women (as a class) – as well as fantasies, lies, delusions and myths. For over 40 years feminists have lied relentlessly about issues such as rape and domestic violence, making women excessively fearful of men, and in consequence hateful towards men as a class. Radical feminists never retract their lies, even when challenged with evidence proving them to be liars, which illustrates the propaganda nature of what they say. This is reflected in the mainstream media which very rarely expose the lies of feminists, however outrageous the lies might be.
The party states firmly that it is the only organisation in the country to concentrate seriously on the welfare, socially, personally and legally, of men; but J4MB shouldn't be taken seriously at all. I refuse to take seriously a political party that describes feminism and feminists in such a hand-waving and pathetic way. I refuse to take seriously a political party that makes lists of the most "toxic," "lying," "gormless" and "whiny" feminists on its website.
J4MB takes the easy approach to a debate - if the audience hasn't been swung by your rhetoric and good argument, you can just describe the other side as dishonest fruitcakes and incompetent liars. Feminists lying "relentlessly" for forty years? Radical feminists "never retract their lies"? What sweeping nonsense.
As J4MB put it in the manifesto: "It should be obvious to the reader that the flipside of 'advancing the careers of women' must be 'holding back the careers of men.'" But it seems as though J4MB believes that doing anything to advance the lives of women will directly hold back the welfare of anything else. J4MB isn't a serious party and I won't be taking its members seriously until they behave like adults.