Gender Issues Impacted by Masculinists
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
By Wendy McElroy
Gender issues are being rocked by masculinism -- sometimes called men's rights or the Men's Movement (search ).
Advocates claim it is a last chance to restore sanity between the sexes and justice for families. Feminist foes accuse masculinists of wrongdoing that verges on criminal acts. High-profile clashes will almost certainly erupt between the two and public policy will change. But what is masculinism (search)?
To understand a position, you need to explore the explanations offered by its mainstream supporters. Only afterward is it helpful to listen to its critiques and extreme exponents in order to gain perspective.
Father's rights activist Mark Toogood offers a prevalent definition: "1. A male-friendly framework for understanding social problems. 2. The belief that equality between the sexes requires the recognition and redress of prejudice and discrimination against men as well as women. 3. A complementary, not oppositional perspective to feminism."
The dominant theme of mainstream masculinism is the demand for a gender-neutral approach to social problems such as broken families, domestic violence and reproduction. For example, in approaching domestic violence it demands that the police, court system and social networks cease to pre-define victims as female and to recognize that men are often victims of domestic violence as well.
By contrast, feminist critics claim that masculinism promotes an exclusively male point of view at the expense of women. They point to extreme and angry expressions of masculinism as being representative of the entire movement. Then, based on material from this radical fringe, masculinism is called anti-woman.
In recent years, masculinists have focused on father's rights in custody, visitation and reasonable child support. They believe children need both parents and that divorced fathers should have rights as well as responsibilities. Given the high level of divorce in North America, these are non-trivial issues that deserve honest and vigorous dialogue.
The prospect of that dialogue occurring has been dealt a stunning blow by "School Success by Gender: A Catalyst for the Masculinist Discourse" -- a $75,000 tax-paid report requested by Status of Women Canada, a department of the Canadian federal government. The report has been called a declaration of war against men's rights activists both in Canada and the United States.
"Success by Gender" looks at a wide range of masculinist Web sites in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere -- from father's rights to anti-circumcision sites, from Promise Keepers to Men's Health Network. It finds, "these groups are largely composed of white, heterosexual, middle-class men who have not been successful in coping with the challenge to masculinity posed by feminism." Hundreds of sites and individuals are named and accused of creating hatred against women.
Among the report's recommendations: The establishment (at taxpayer expense) of an Internet monitoring organization to focus on men's hate speech against women; the publication, and dissemination, of a list that warns of "misogynist groups" -- that is, men's rights groups; and, an investigation into prosecuting such sites under section 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code which addresses hate speech.
Ken Wiebe of BC (British Columbia) Fathers, one of the named sites, comments: "I have very little patience for feminists. ... But I have a wife, I have daughters. This notion that because we are opposed to the feminists' political agenda, that that somehow equates to a dislike of women, is just propaganda. That's some kind of smear campaign." The front page of BC Fathers proclaims, "Individuals have been named who may soon be targeted for legal, financial and legislative harassment intended to silence any dissent to the radical man-hating variety of feminism."
The attack upon masculinists is not unique to Canada. California NOW's much-touted Family Court Report 2002 aimed at making the California family court system even more mother-centered. Section 4 of CANOW's report was entitled "A Brief History of the Father's Rights Movement." It attacked men's groups for competing with feminists for federal funds and engaged in wholesale ad hominem attacks on prominent men's rights figures. It concluded that the "agenda" of father's rights groups was "to avoid child support, impoverish women, perpetuate a patriarchal suprastructure by which women and children are subjugated to property status."
Judging by the backlash, masculinists are having an impact. I know this personally because my Web site Ifeminists.com, which advances equal rights for men, has experienced a dramatic increase in harassment and hate mail from gender feminists in recent months. Every blast centers on men's rights.
The tension will only heighten. Men who claim the right to be an active part of their children's lives will not back down. Women who recognize the justice of those claims are not intimidated.
On May 24, the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) published an open "Memo to NOW" which spoke of "countless bright young women frustrated by rigid feminist propaganda of male hatred ..." With their funding doubled, IWF announced, "We're issuing fair warning: extreme feminists, get to your foxholes because IWF is on the attack."
The gender war has shifted toward direct confrontation. Men should take heart from that fact. As Gandhi once explained: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.
Feminists slurping at the public trough
By Wendy McElroy
The feminist report "School Success by Gender: A Catalyst for the Masculinist Discourse," sponsored by Canadian taxpayers, recommends the monitoring of http://web.archive.org/web/20050408164921/http://www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2003/0603.html
masculinist sites for possible prosecution under hate speech laws. An http://web.archive.org/web/20050408164921/http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/pubs/0662882857/200303_0662882857_20_e.html#2 appended list of "hate mongering" sites includes American ones such as Promise Keepers. One of the report's authors, Pierrette Bouchard has publicly responded to the backlash against her recommendations: she blames the critics who took her seriously.
Bouchard provides a valuable window into the tactics used by PC feminists to sidestep criticism. Sleight of hand. In http://web.archive.org/web/20050408164921/http://sisyphe.levillage.org/article.php3?id_article=533 the
French-Canadian periodical Sisyphe, Bouchard states the crux of her defense. Namely, the list of masculinist sites is unimportant, "an appendix, for purely descriptive and informational purposes." But the appendix follows the report's http://web.archive.org/web/20050408164921/http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/pubs/0662882857/200303_0662882857_19_e.html Recommendations in which the authors advocate expanding Canada's hate speech laws to explicitly "protect" women. Moreover, the report pointedly discusses the relevance of these laws in the section "The Typology of Masculinist Groups." Given that Canadian law allows the imprisonment of "hate criminals" based solely on their words, this recommendation is a direct threat against the sites listed. If this is not the intention, then a retraction and an apology should be
Strenuously denying the obvious. Bouchard claims journalists have mistaken a report on "the media treatment of school achievement gaps between boys and girls" to be a "denunciation of some masculinist groups that use the Internet as a hate-mongering tool aimed at feminists."
The alleged misinterpretation derives not only from the report's content but also from its title: "School Success by Gender: A Catalyst for the Masculinist Discourse," which announces the link between "the media treatment" and masculinism. Even the interview meant to dispel this "misinterpretation" states that the report "unmasks an ideology that 'claims gender groups [women] are symmetrically advantaged'."
Assigning guilt through association. Bouchard explains how sites came to be listed in the appendix. "None of the groups state on their Web pages that they do not wish to be associated or confused with any specific group of the same type." Translation: if you are a father's rights site and you do not post a blacklist of objectionable "same type" sites, then you are deemed to be associated with them, including those with which you may be unfamiliar. I know of no site that posts a blacklist of same type sites -- including http://web.archive.org/web/20050408164921/http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/about/about_e.html Status of Women Canada, which sponsored the report. This is worse than guilt by association. It is guilt by non-disassociation.
http://web.archive.org/web/20050408164921/http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ad-hominem.html Ad hominem accusations. The narrative leading into Bouchard's interview opines, "One can only wonder whether media pundits and the Official Opposition have read the work they are lambasting." Having the honor of being the only lambasting journalist mentioned by name, I should assure Sisyphe and Ms. Bouchard that I had the dubious pleasure of reading every word of the report.
Creating hysteria. Bouchard's definition of hate mongering is so broad as to include any site that uses phrases like "ideological feminists" or "feminihilists." The report reprints one site's image of a swastika altered to incorporate the "F" of feminism. Underneath are the words, "We are all tired of feminaziism. So stop it, okay?" The report concludes that the message "is a barely veiled threat by the authors of the site."
This interpretation is puzzling until you read the fast-following sections entitled "Prohibited Acts Under Section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada" and "Legislation Related to Hate
Propaganda." Only by misinterpreting a clumsy insult as a threat can the offending site fall under criminal law.
The use of obscuring jargon. Bouchard explains that the report required "a number of socio-historical and political factors...to converge." Those factors included, "the publication of gendered data that from now on provided a basis for comparison using indicators" and
"the intergenerational mobilization in modest and middle-income families to promote their girls..."
The report manages to describe masculinists in clear terms, however, as "groups are largely composed of white, heterosexual, middle-class men who have not been successful in coping with the challenge to masculinity posed by feminism." Lamenting Internet freedom of speech, the report states, "This accessible and virtually universal medium gives them [masculinists] the opportunity to say and post almost anything. It is no accident that this medium is being used by those on the extreme right, pedophiles and pornographers." Thus, we return to guilt by the loosest of associations. http://web.archive.org/web/20050408164921/http://www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2003/0708.html
Double-thinking double-speak. Bouchard states, "Our recommendations include no blame for journalists. However, in the report we do criticize certain processes, such as distortions [sic] and generalizations..." The non-critical criticism is offered to encourage journalists and readers to "accurately focus on the issue." The report itself seems concerned that naive journalists are being "fed information" by masculinists. Thus, another recommendation is to
establish a centralized government-source of information, presumably to feed journalists the "accurate focus."
As a piece of research, the report is a farce. As a glimpse into the mindset of PC feminists, it is fascinating. And, with the Canadian House of Commons http://web.archive.org/web/20050408164921/http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/2/parlbus/chambus/house/debates/112_2003-06-0 5/han112_1450-e.htm debating whether "a project that is a poorly-disguised attack on men and the family unit" should have received $75,000, no wonder Bouchard is miffed. Feminism's days of slurping at the public trough may be ending.