Best-Of Advice

On men’s rights activists

Dear Coquette,

I just did some reading about men’s rights activists and I’m a little freaked out. What are your thoughts?

I don’t want to paint all men’s rights activists with the same brush, but most of what gets labeled as men’s rights activism tends to be a very crude form of reactionary gender politics fueled by flagrant misogyny, (metaphorical) impotence and narcissistic rage.

Gender dynamics in Western societies have been slowly and steadily shifting towards legitimate equality over the last century or so. After four waves of feminism, there was bound to be some blowback. That’s all this is, really.

It’s toxic stuff, but there’s no need to let it freak you out. In the grand scheme, the dark side of men’s rights activism is little more than a temporary subcultural side effect of broader social progress. 

I’m not saying it’s harmless. It’s potentially quite dangerous, but as long as no men in your life have made it a part of their identity, it’s not something you have to fear.

That’s kind of the point, really. These men are pathetic. They aren’t worthy of your fear, and deep down, a lot of them resent the hell out of the fact that they aren’t feared (or loved) by women. It’s not that women don’t want them. It’s that women don’t need them. Women are indifferent to them, and that indifference is worse than rejection or betrayal.

Pay close attention to the rhetoric coming out of the movement and you’ll notice that it’s fundamentally a reaction to indifference. To the ego, there’s nothing worse, and to the male ego, female indifference transmutes into emasculation. That in turn develops into a sort of chronic narcissistic injury where all women are to blame for the loss of their manhood.

It’s twisted, but that’s really what’s at the emotional core of these guys. Their involvement in men’s rights activism is based on a very personal and individual reaction to their own wounded male egos. The politics is just window dressing.

That’s an important distinction to make. Despite what the most vocal men’s rights activists would have you believe, this isn’t a collective movement based on a set of unifying ideals. Not really. Any unifying ideals are an afterthought, mere packaging to wrap around a lot of repressed anger and misogyny.

In that regard, the movement as a whole is not greater than the sum of its individual members. It’s just a bunch of dudes who happen to be resentful of approximately the same thing. They aren’t really victims of some greater societal injustice, so ultimately it’s all bound to fizzle.

That being said, it’s not fair for me to summarily dismiss all men’s rights issues because of the questionable character of certain men’s rights activists. A number of the issues themselves have some merit, especially those in regard to gender neutrality in the practice of divorce, paternity, and child custody law. 

Of course, the legitimacy of any particular issue doesn’t legitimize men’s rights activism in general, and it sure as hell doesn’t excuse the movement’s undeniable undercurrent of hatred towards women.


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