Should feminists be in charge?
By Rod Van Mechelen
Should acceptable discourse on men's issues be determined by feminists? Big surprise, feminist think so.
2003 Olympia, Wash. - Since the 1970s, feminists have dominated public discourse on gender issues. Indeed, as Congresswoman Patricia "Men Just Don't Get It" Schroeder noted a few years ago, such was the power of feminism that, in the 1970s Congress rubber stamped almost everything feminists demanded.
Like many African Americans, who presume to own the franchise on race, for decades many feminists have expressed, by word and deed, that they believe men are subordinate and ought to be subservient when it comes to gender issues. For example, starting in 1972 efforts to promote the Equal Rights Amendment were entirely dominated by women, and male participants were instructed to shut up and take orders: in their view, men had no say in the matter of equal rights.
During the nearly 15 years since I began writing about feminism and men's issues, I've run into this attitude so many times, as in an e-mail to the editor I received today, that it no longer surprises me:
"I am a woman who identifies as a feminist and is passionate about women's and men's issues and our mutual development towards a better future. I therefore looked at you website with interest. Unfortunately, despite its impressive scale, your site seems to be more concerned with projecting highly emotive but uninformed and insubstantial arguments where gender issues are concerned."
Susan B. Anthony's essays on women's suffrage could, if taken out of their historical context, be described as "uninformed and insubstantial," too. Much has changed since we published the first issue of The Backlash! in April 1993. Moreover, if women had (have?) the right to be angry over women's oppression (remember the "Women + Rage = Power" Ms. Magazine cover?), then why not men? Can't we be angry over the malicious lies and sexist stereotypes employed by feminists to demonize men?
"Frequently I came across writing which trivialised and mocked obstacles that women have faced in the past, oversimplifying the difficulties of improving gender relations and demonising feminists in the process. You must be aware that many feminists feel that men also suffer oppression in modern society, and importantly, that women's equality and empowerment is bound up inextricably with that of men. In short, we are both enslaved in different but intermeshed ways-a better future requires the freedom of both."
Indeed I am aware, as any reader who perused rather than skimmed through my essays would have ascertained from my use of the term "pop feminist," which I coined to distinguish between pro-equality feminists and those who speak loudly of their commitment to equality for all, but whose actions demonstrate they believe women are more equal than men. The term never caught on, however, so finally I gave up on it. Besides, the right word to describe "feminists" who truly do support equality is Equalitarian.
"Men's issues and development deserve to be dealt with in a serious, informed and sensitive way. At the moment, there is a serious shortage of information concerning men's own conflicts in modern society, and far more reactionary, anti-feminist ranting."
Feminist dogma and extremism is, in itself, one of the conflicts men experience in modern society. Beyond that, however, had she actually read more than a little of our collection of articles and essays, she would have discovered a wealth of information about other conflicts men experience. The joke, however, is that this is not, nor has it ever been, the primary mission of this publication.
The banner on The Backlash! 'zine stated that our purpose was to "expose and oppose anti-male bigotry." Delving deeply into men's issues was never a primary mission, as there is anything but a "serious shortage of information" on these topics. Anybody familiar with the work of Warren Farrell, the National Coalition of Free Men, Choice for Men, DADS and the Men's Defense Association, to name a few of the many men's and fathers' organizations listed here and on my links page, know they have amassed a truly awesome amount of information about men's conflicts in modern society. Rather than reinvent the wheel and compete with them, it makes more sense to support them.
"Unfortunately, your website, in my view, fits into the latter category. As such, it will have little influence on those who are genuinely interested in and committed to producing a better future for all, including myself. If you too are passionate about improving society for both sexes, I encourage you to project more balanced, informative and genuine writings on your website, and provide a resource that will be invaluable to this goal."
Here she reveals her true agenda: the old "balanced" complaint. While I disagree with her that "balance," as in presenting women's side, is necessary when so much of what passes for news and commentary on television and in newspapers is dominated by feminist dogma, the fact is that had she truly delved into my site, she would have quickly discovered that, unlike the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. Magazine, I actually started to work toward providing this kind of balance on my site.
In 2001 and 2002, I published a women's section until, early last year, I finally succumbed to the clinical depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that have eaten away at me for more than 30 years. (Side note: Ironically, it wasn't psychiatric drugs or therapy that helped me overcome these serious conditions, but SAMe, a nutrient I began taking a couple months ago with astonishing results.)
Although I have no intention of attempting that kind of balance on this site again, I haven't given up on the equalitarian agenda. It's just so typical, however, for feminists to presume to nag men on what constitutes "balanced, informative and genuine" for men. I don't buy it. If feminists don't like my work, too bad. As for my fellow Equalitarians and our agenda, that's a whole different and very exciting project.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.