Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Good Men Project and the Men's Rights Activists

I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, and it probably felt like the right thing to do, but I wonder if the Good Men Project might be regretting, just a little bit, making themselves the target of the MRA crowd by giving them a platform and also giving space to those who reject their views.

The introduction to the series, Meet the Men’s Rights Movement, by Senior Editor Henry P. Belanger, tried (I think) to be fair, but basically came across to me as antagonistic - which is probably exactly what would happen if I tried to write the same article (so I am in complete sympathy).

For some unknown reason, I spent well over an hour last night reading the comments (344 and counting) to just this first post. Wow. And . . . no wonder feminists think men are angry. Some of the exchanges were just poorly argued rejection of ideas that neither side seemed to grasp - and it certainly was not a conversation.

In general, it seems MRA guys see ALL forms of feminism as evil and oppressive to men - which is like saying all Christians are hateful and want to see you burn in hell. As long as each side demonizes the other (and feminists certainly demonize the MRA guys, see Amanda Marcotte's comment in this first thread), lumping all variations into one big pile of "enemy," the division will fester like an open wound, equally shared, with both sides periodically pouring salt or bleach into the wound and adding to the collective pain.

In general, the MRA guys (with the exception of Pelle Billing, who I know and like even when we disagree on some things) come off (at least in the comments) looking pretty angry and hateful. The feminists come off looking self righteous and dismissive. LOSE-LOSE-LOSE = MRAs lose, feminists lose, solving-the-problem loses. Sad, that.

Here is the beginning of the first article, followed by links to the others.

Meet the Men’s Rights Movement

Who are men’s rights activists, and what do they want?

The Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) is a growing and disproportionately vocal group that believes Western culture and its institutions are contemptuous of men. Men and boys, they argue, are systematically disenfranchised and discriminated against by feminists and their allies. Once dismissed as the looniest and fringiest of the lunatic fringe, men’s rights groups have “gone mainstream” (Salon) and become “frighteningly effective” (Slate), influencing family law and domestic violence legislation, and imposing their views on our national conversations around gender and a host of other social issues.

Today and over the next week, the Good Men Project Magazine will be taking an in-depth look at this controversial movement. Despite the attention they’ve drawn and their relentless effort to make their voices heard, their ideas have yet to receive a thorough and fair hearing by mainstream media. That is, until now.

We’ve invited leading voices in the movement, as well as its outspoken critics, to help us better understand what men’s rights activists believe, why they believe it, and whether we should take their claims seriously.

Men’s rights activists (MRAs) can be easy to dismiss as crackpot extremists. Perhaps best known for descending like outraged locusts on the comments section of your favorite online magazine, newspaper, or blog, bewildering readers with esoteric epithets like “mangina” and “white knight,” they tend not to make a favorable first impression. But if you have the curiosity and thick skin to engage these guys, you’ll find that beneath the hysterical, dogmatic rhetoric lie some valid complaints.

It’s impossible to have a complete discussion of masculinity in the 21st century without acknowledging the men’s rights point of view.

So strap in and leave your delicate sensibilities at the door—it’s time to meet the Men’s Rights Movement.


Men’s rights and other men’s movements have been kicking around since the 1970s. Many sprung up in response—some sympathetic, some hostile—to second-wave feminism. Like feminists, these movements have taken various forms in the pursuit of various, often contradictory goals.

Broadly speaking, they fall into three categories:

  • The weekend-warrior, drum-circle, pass-around-this-wooden-phallus-and-talk-about-your-dad movement, popularized by poet and author Robert Bly. Known as the mythopoetic men’s movement, these groups tend to focus inward, on interpersonal issues around their own manhood.
  • The pro-feminist Men’s Studies guys, who like to question and re-imagine standards of masculinity and gender roles. Their conclusions have often led them to take political positions, but their focus is primarily intellectual and academic.
  • And the men’s and fathers’ rights activists, who believe that men have been oppressed since, well, a really long time ago. They focus on political, legislative, and cultural reformation, from the unjust family court system to entrenched media bias. It’s these guys—the MRAs—who are making the most noise these days. (The “A” in MRA can also stand for “advocate,” depending on which MRA you talk to.)

According to movement leader Paul Elam, whose website,, is among the most popular online MRA hangouts, the MRM is largely comprised of “men who have been screwed over by a corrupt and oppressive family court system—and those [who] don’t want to be.” Thus anger and frustration—at the courts, at their ex-wives and women in general, at pervasive injustice—tend to be the animating emotions behind the MRM. The down economy, which by all accounts has hit men hardest, continues to boost MRA recruitment and sympathy.

Dan Moore, the publisher of Menz magazine, has been active in the movement for nearly 20 years. He’s “bullish” on the immediate prospects of social change. “I think it will be less than a decade before these issues are resolved. And yes, that’s largely because of this recession,” he said. “But honestly, I think we’re changing the world.”


MRAs are well known for their tactical assaults on the comments sections of offending feminist and “misandric” (man-hating) blogs and websites. “If you write about them, it’s like feeding a stray cat tuna fish,” a feminist blogger warned me as I was soliciting stories for this package. “Except more like if you feed 100 cats tuna fish—they just show up and hang out and mewl and will completely swarm the place.”

That warning came too late. MRAs haven’t had many nice things to say about the Good Men Project Magazine since our launch last June. Here’s a representative appraisal:

I believe this site, and the viewpoints expressed within it, are toxic, and EXTREMELY harmful to boys and men. And I find the cynical attempt to paint yourselves as helpful in any way to be most disgusting of all. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Toxic, cynical, disgusting, and shameful. Actually, that’s one of the nicer ones. (A healthy percentage of the comments we get from MRAs aren’t fit to reprint here.) When we started getting comments and emails like this one, we were surprised. We were aware of the existence of men’s and fathers’ rights groups, but we had no idea how angry they were, and we certainly didn’t expect to be targeted as feminist “mangina” conspirators, bent on destroying the lives of men and boys everywhere.

Read the rest of the introduction.

Here are the other articles posted so far.

Other stories in in this special package:

Hugo Schwyzer: How Men’s Rights Activists Get Feminism Wrong

Paul Elam: On Misandry: What’s Wrong With Men?

Tom Matlack: Adultery’s Double Standard

Amanda Marcotte: The Solution to MRA Problems? More Feminism

Zeta Male: The Top 10 Goals of Men’s Rights

Kaelin Alexander: Men’s Studies: Teaching Masculinities in the Margins

Pelle Billing: Unlocking the Men’s Rights Movement

David Futrelle: Dismantling the Men’s Rights Movement


JD said...

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Porky D said...

The above is spam