About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (sort of a bad wordplay on Orwell and machismo) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear language'), the umbrella of several of my literary projects in Dutch. This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

MRA deconstructed (I)

Let's go back in time about a decade. Back then, I was right in the middle of my university years. As I said before, my thoughts on social progress and politics weren't as organised and coherent as they are now. Our alma mater offered a course on gender, for instance, but I wondered why it focused almost exclusively on women, as if men didn't matter. The answer is the same as the answer to questions why there are things like a Black History Month: because all the other stuff already (implicitly) focuses on men. It's the default.

If you grow up as a boy, you don't really see that. It's a thing that sits there in the background. What you do notice, is the steady portrayal of men as dumb savages or bumbling dads. You notice that men can be negatively portrayed in ways that women cannot be portrayed without drawing ire from various groups. You don't really know why that is, but you start assuming it's because of feminism. After all, you think, women have gotten the right to vote, have access to contraception and there are whole segments of the media and retail world devoted almost exclusively to them. Female-on-male violence, for instance, is also often played for laughs. You feel that that just isn't okay.

Fortunately, as I grew older and started burrowing deeper into the world of gender and social justice, not only did I discover the true reason behind forces like this, but I also gained perspective. While the 'savage caveman' caricature may be offensive, it was not created by women. Some women may believe it, but it was there long before they gained a voice in the media. Commercial industries that focus on women tend to do so in ways that reinforce gender stereotypes, and almost all of those focus on beauty or romance, not self-actualisation or intellectual development. Guess who leads those industries? I don't think I need to tell you that. Oh and when a woman slaps a man on television, it's because men by and large think men should be strong enough to take it, lest they be thought of as... a woman.

Now, this trip down the memory lane brings me to the topic I'd like to discuss: Men's Rights Activists or MRAs for short. They are mainly an American phenomenon, but I have no doubt that European men will be sensitive to some of the movement's messages as well. I certainly think that when I was around 20 years old, I might have found myself agreeing with a lot of what they were saying. This is the reason I'm devoting attention to MRA right now, in hopes of dissuading other men to go down their dark path.

Make no mistake: MRA is a hateful ideology through and through, akin to White Power and religious fundamentalism. While it couches itself in the language of the oppressed and may occasionally make an interesting point about masculinity, it is all about maintaining privilege. I will try to deconstruct some of MRA's basic assumptions and more seductive aspects here and prove why their movement makes no sense. In the next section, I will try to explain how their ideological foundation leads to other ideas and actions that makes it hard to ignore them as a factor in the debate about gender and equality, not matter how much I'd love to see them as little more than an absurd self-parody with no influence beyond a group of men that was already bitterly misogynist.

On to section II.