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A short guide to the Men's Rights Movement
MRM has grown in members and vitriol with the power of the internet, but it wasn't always that way
Online sites offer places for men feeling like this to commiserate — and lash out.
Online sites offer places for men feeling like this to commiserate — and lash out. (Thinkstock)
W

hile the Feminist Movement conjures up images of Gloria Steinem and The Feminine Mystique, the Men's Rights Movements (MRM) doesn't feature similarly famous figures or foundational texts.

The formerly all-but-ignored movement does, however, have Reddit groups and other online communities, which are helping it quickly gain steam. In fact, as R. Tod Kelly at The Daily Beast writes, it is "one of the quirkiest, fastest-growing, and most frustrating civil-rights movements in the Western world today."

MRM started in response to the growth of Second Wave Feminism. By the early 1980s, some men were articulating the need for greater attention to men's rights, but they were by no means socially conservative or exclusively in opposition to feminism. Some of the their key issues were child support obligations, female-on-male domestic violence, draft requirements, and social pressures on traditional male masculinity.

Like feminism, many in the MRM argued for equality between the sexes. One of the movement's earliest activists, Warren Farrell, told Salon, "I definitely agree with choices for women, but I do not agree with choices for women when they eliminate choices for men. I think that the sexes need to make choices that lead to the maximum amount of win-win for both sexes." And Farrell himself has some decent feminist credentials: He served on the board of the National Organization for Women (NOW) for three terms.

But Farrell was a moderate in MRM's earliest days. Today, there is more vitriol. The internet has given rise to the "manosphere," a community of MRM blogs, groups, and publications "where participants rant and spew ideas so misogynist they make Silvio Berlusconi look like Gloria Steinem," wrote Jaclyn Friedman at The American Prospect.

While there are many MRM sites, a particularly influential one is Paul Elam's A Voice for Men (AVFM). Elam's site is credited with taking already controversial MRM issues and making them even more contentious.

For example, Men's Rights Edmonton ran a poster campaign with the slogan "Don't Be That Girl," which accused women of lying about rape and stated, "Just because you regret it…doesn't mean it was rape." AVFM took it further, creating memes around "Don't Be That Lying Feminist" and "Don't Be That Bitch."

Rather than just offering a platform for misogynistic rants, AVFM, Crimes Against Fathers, and other MRM communities are now on the offensive, creating sites to post photos and contact information of women they claim falsify accusations in rape, pedophilia, and divorce trials.

Most recently and infamously, Crimes Against Fathers went after a woman, seen in a video publicly receiving oral sex during Ohio University's homecoming, after she said she was actually being assaulted at the time. Or, at least they thought it was her.

Ryan Broderick at BuzzFeed investigated the way MRM bloggers tracked down and publicized the identity of who they thought was the girl in the video. They posted photos from her Facebook and her sorority along with other personal information, which they shared with about 170,000 Twitter followers. However, Ohio University has stated multiple times that the girl is not the one from the video (not that this would be remotely okay if she were).

What's even more disturbing than this branch of MRM's perpetuation of false information is its mercilessness. Peter Nolan, one of the men behind Crimes Against Fathers, told BuzzFeed, "Absolutely, we know that we might injure this woman. If [she] goes out tomorrow and buys a gun and blows her head off that's not a problem for me."

This hate is especially unfortunate because a smaller branch of MRM is trying to tackle real problems. Lauren Strapagiel at Huffington Post writes that the movement is growing not only because of the trollish power of the internet, but because a growing group of millennial males, particularly in Canada, are now "watching their female peers outpace them in educational achievement, as a stagnant economy crushes traditional male career paths, and as the definition of manhood is picked apart." Many of the issues these men discuss are important ones, such as suicide rate of young men, which is higher than women's, as well as the disparity between male and female incidences of homelessness and workplace deaths.

But these issues are subsumed by the overwhelming amount of vitriol from the louder members of MRM. That's a shame because there's clear validity to some of these goals, from which men and women would both benefit. Cathy Young at the Boston Globe writes:

Perhaps what the 21st century needs is not a women’s movement (which was once essential to secure basic rights) or a men’s movement, but a gender equality movement. The problem today is not a "war" on anyone, but rather biases that limit and hurt both sexes in different ways, and the challenges of adapting to new rules and new roles. Men and women, we’re all in this together. Let’s act like we know that. [Boston Globe]

Emily Shire is chief researcher for The Week magazine. She has written about pop culture, religion, and women and gender issues at publications including Slate, The Forward, and Jewcy.

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