I'm All For Feminism, But We Need A Men's Rights Manifesto
Names can be misleading.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for example, has a name that could, to the unlearned, create some serious misconceptions about what it actually is. But it’s still hard to shake off the natural inclination to assume that a the name of a group, or a movement, in some way accurately describes what that group or movement is. So when I heard about the Men’s Rights movement, I originally thought it sounded like a pretty okay idea.
After all, I am a man, and I am a big fan of rights. Men, in my opinion, should have rights. So a Men’s Rights movement was fine with me.
That was before I started looking at the Men’s Rights movement, and listening to Men’s Rights Activists, and discovered that while its general stated purpose is advancing rights for men, there are subsets of the Men’s Rights movement also involved in lashing out at womankind and blaming feminism for the world's problems.
This angers me not just because hostility towards women is bigoted and dangerous, but because the idea of a movement that supports men in facing the challenges that affect them is actually a good one. Men have, of course, tended to hold the lion’s share of power and privilege in our society, but that doesn’t mean we don’t suffer from problems specific to, or disproportionately affecting, our gender -- and frequently those problems are all but ignored.
So an actual Men’s Rights movement, I reckon, would be a pretty good idea. And since nobody seems all that interested in starting one, I guess I have to do it myself.
The Actual Men’s Rights movement, or AMR, starts right here, and right now.
Its mission: to help men, promote awareness of and solutions to men’s issues, and fit into the space that the faux “Men’s Rights” movement should’ve been in, but abandoned in favour of vitriol.
The Actual Men’s Rights movement will be focused on issues like men’s health, both mental and physical; male suicide; male violence -- which men are most often the victims of; men’s safety at work -- men are overwhelmingly at greatest risk of dying at work; and the pressures that society places on men to conform to certain roles and stereotypes, just as it does to women.
When considering the question, “What is AMR?” we first should define, very strictly, what AMR is NOT.
AMR is NOT an anti-woman movement.
Anyone who wants to rail against women or blame them for our problems is not welcome in AMR. An AMRA (Actual Men’s Rights Activist) respects and values women, and has no wish to improve his own lot at women’s expense.
In the same vein, AMR is NOT a competitor to feminism.
An AMRA recognises the massively important role that feminism has played in the advance of equality, and that feminism is a worthwhile cause. An AMRA may disagree with the opinions of individual feminists, but does not have any issue with the existence of feminism, and acknowledges the need for women to fight for their rights.
AMR is a movement focused on men, but fully supports the work of movements focused on women as well. AMRAs recognise, in fact, that there are many areas where AMR and feminism can work together – for example in the area of male violence, a problem we all have great motivation to solve.
AMR is NOT an exercise in self-flagellation.
If you want a place where you can wail about how awful men are, and beg for forgiveness for all the atrocities committed by men, look elsewhere. An AMRA recognises that men have done, and continue to do, awful things: this movement isn’t about beating ourselves up over what other men have done, it’s about looking for positive ways to make men better going forward.
AMR is NOT abusive.
We will have opponents, and we will have those with whom we vehemently disagree. We are not going to meet them with abuse, but with strong, passionate argument.
AMR is NOT about power.
Men have historically held far more power than women, and AMR is not interested in either perpetuating this, or trying to “take back” power that we believe we have “lost”. AMRAs aren’t trying to hold power over anyone, or promote male dominance of society. We’re about making better lives for men everywhere, not reinforcing patriarchy.
AMR is NOT a denial of other people’s problems.
The movement is aimed at addressing certain issues affecting men. This doesn’t mean we’re claiming these are the only issues that matter. An AMRA does not try to take oxygen away from other activists dealing with other issues.
So, if that’s what it’s not, what is it?
AMR IS a movement trying to make men’s lives better.
An AMRA cares for men who are unhappy, unwell or struggling in life, and recognises that often the challenges confronting men are downplayed or disregarded by society at large. AMRAs want to change that.
AMR IS entirely inclusive.
Anyone can be an AMRA -- there is no sex, gender, sexual preference, race, religion or background that disqualifies one from joining the AMR. We welcome everyone -- all that is required is a belief that there are issues that disproportionately affect men, and a desire to help.
AMR IS opposed to stereotyping.
There is no one right way to be a man, and a central part of AMR’s mission is making that message heard loud and clear. Stereotypical ideas about masculinity have been horribly damaging, and we’re out to break them down.
AMR IS positive.
This is not a movement created to attack, but to support. It’s not a movement created to complain, but to find solutions. That means the problems need to be identified and named, of course, but an AMRA’s priority is always on making things better, not on moaning about how terrible everything is. When men look to the AMR, we want them to see support and hope, not negativity.
AMR IS welcoming of former MRAs.
If you are a Men’s Rights Activist who is tired of the bitterness, the anger and the blame, and wants to find a more constructive way to improve the lot of men, this is just the place for you. We know that MRAs are frustrated and in pain, and we don’t want to crush them, we want to offer them a better path.
AMR IS a movement with a sense of humour.
We love men, we think men are awesome, and we also know that sometimes men are ridiculous. Every movement is stronger if it’s able to laugh at itself from time to time. AMRAs take their movement very seriously, but they can take a joke too.
Most of all, Actual Men’s Rights is an attempt to find a better way.
A better way to improve men’s lives. A better way to navigate the modern world. A better way to deal with the tensions and stresses and confusions that men and boys are feeling every day. A better way to reduce violence and harm. A better way to save lives.
This is just the beginning. Actual Men’s Rights is in its infancy, and there’ll be a lot refining to be done. Anyone is welcome to hop on board and put forward their own ideas about how AMR should proceed, how we can best organise and pursue our aims. For now, what I want to do with AMR is reach out to men everywhere and say: you are not alone. Your struggles are my struggles, and your pain is my pain. Please let us work together to help ourselves, and each other.
Actual Men’s Rights is about embracing men, in all their diverse glory. It’s a project that seeks to make happier men, healthier men, and better men. I hope you’ll join me in this crazy dream.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about suicide prevention, depression and mental health visit R U OK?, contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.