My alma mater, the University of York, around which joblessness and a Jordan Belfort-esque refusal to let go means I still skulk, has recently been making national headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Universities in the national newspapers invariably means one of two things, a sports club social gone wrong, or feminism. On occasion the stars and moon align perfectly and you get the double whammy, but we can but dream of those rare incidences of peak campus.
On this occasion, the University of York has cancelled its previous decision to mark International Men’s Day after opposition from left wing and feminist groups on campus. Cue a counter campaign by campus MRA caricatures and the timely interjection of noted right wing journalist/ebin may-may man/patron saint of the #gamergate movement, Breitbart UK’s Milo Yiannopoulos.
What we have at time of writing is a full blown, entrenched internet war where both sides’ worst prejudices about the other have been stridently reconfirmed. Shrill, shrieking stereotypes level vitriol and suspicion against one another until everybody moves on to the next reason to bust a blood vessel at your keyboard and start a Change.org petition.
Moderate’s and centrists, weep.
Now, I am a man, and for that reason, I’m not going to monologue and speculate unduly about the feminist movement at the University of York, beyond the fact that I actually thought the decision to mark International Mens Day was a rather good strategic coach and horses through the ranks of the MRA. By acquiescing to their more reasonable demands, the decision would show good faith to moderates and waverers, whilst true misogynists wouldn’t be able to clutch at these straws to avoid arguing some of their more contentious beliefs. The people who claim that they just want “true equality” almost always do not. They don’t just want a day marking men’s issues and a day marking women’s issues. They want to further the patently false notion that somehow it is worse to be a man, overall, in today’s western society, than to be a woman. They will find that far more difficult to argue, because it simply isn’t true.
I brought this up on a Facebook comment thread which included some people who knew me reasonably well, all of whom were in the midsts of an eye-rolling circle jerk against International Men’s Day (hur, hur, men with problems). Nobody replied to me, so I have no thoughts on what could be wrong with that analysis of the situation.
But this kind of lack of engagement isn’t the real reason why we can’t discuss men’s issues, merely a symptom. The fact that the feminist movement seem to have put up these walls, seem to get so endlessly defensive and seem so rarely willing to engage with people with moderate beliefs, earnest questions and well intentioned critiques is because the minority of venomous MRA’s have made such a dialogue impossible.
Yes there are extremists on both sides, but it is those who want to talk about men who appear the pettiest and the most noxious by the simple metric that the male grievance is weaker. We never had suffrage denied to us because of our genitalia. We were never forced to marry against our will or sold off by our fathers for a goat. By allowing issues such as the worrying rate of suicide amongst men, be championed by the kinds of people who willfully deny that prejudice against women exists, or who seem to endorse a by gone era where men were men and women knew their place, we are essentially tacitly endorsing their right to speak for us.
Such was the chief complaint of the man (and it was a man) who started the petition to the university demanding that International Men’s Day not be marked. He cited in a post on Facebook that those behind International Men’s Day were complicit in MRA rhetoric, that men’s issues and women’s issues somehow can’t be advanced side by side. He is wrong to think this. It is exactly because the champions of men’s issues are often less than perfect champions of equality that moderates, centrists and other reasonable people must make their voices heard and take these causes back. Don’t let men like the current self-appointed leader of the International Men’s Day campaign at York, who basically stopped a little short of implying that a YUSU Women’s Officer was a feminist because she was fat and ugly (that old chestnut), get away with posing themselves as representatives of men in general, and of important, moderate causes like the spike in male suicide.
Male mental health and issues surrounding modern masculinity are issues worth discussing in our society, particularly amongst young people, and they are not, as some are keen to argue, exclusively issues already covered by feminism. Feminism will always advance the cause of women before it helps men, and so it rightfully should. But it is simply specious and without foundation to say the only reason why men are killing themselves in ever greater numbers is because they get called sissies for not living up to unreasonable expectations of masculinity. That’s why we need to have this discussion, we simply don’t know why these things happen, and those who pertain to represent men are just as guilty of preventing this discussion from happening as those on the radfem extremities who want to put all complaints in a box marked “male tears” and throw away the key.
In short guys, don’t let yourself be represented by Milo bloody Yiannopoulos. He, his followers and his ilk are in a large part responsible for why these issues can’t be discussed reasonably or openly. There might be radical feminists who prevent discussion from the other side, but as a man I’m merely addressing my own gender. My message to you is that if you describe yourself as a moderate, as a reasonable person and you want to talk about these issues, then it’s time to stand up and say that you’re mad as hell, and you’re not going to let the MRA ruin it for you anymore.
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