Opinion

Why the feminists should hear out the menimists

Alongside lots of crazy talk sit many sincere questions and critiques about men's role in society

#MenimistTwitter, a hashtag advocating for men's rights, has gained traction on Twitter over the past year. Some of the menimists — as they call themselves — use it to mock feminism, others see it as an excuse to be horribly misogynistic. But one faction uses it to air out sincere frustrations about the various gender biases men experience. It's to this last group — and only to this last group — that I'd like to say, I'm all ears.

Some of these menimists are frustrated with the expectation to pay on dates or object to the unreasonable beauty standards of being tall and ripped that men feel that they face. Some menimists also take on more serious matters like the lack of support for male victims of domestic violence or fatherhood.

No, not every tweet on these topics is coming from a place of level-headed rationale. Still, the issues that they speak of are real and deserve to be heard out. Even by feminists. Perhaps especially by feminists.

A straight line can be drawn between #MenimistTwitter and the Men's Right Movement, who see the gains of feminism as losses for men. These pro-male activists, who have been around since the '70s, got a bump in popularity following the recent recession, during which men didn't fare particularly well. There is not shortage of cockamamie theories floating around the Mens Right Activist community (or MRAs as they are called), including the idea that women are responsible for all domestic violence because they married the guy, or the vast majority of women reporting rape are really just regretting drunken trysts, or that our predominantly male electorate "are merely puppets for their female electorate." There are also a lot of guys who say really disgusting things about women.

But alongside all this crazy talk sits many sincere questions and critiques about issues that matter to both men and women.

Some men are attracted to the movement because it gives them a framework to discuss how child custody laws are unfair to men, or how fathers are routinely portrayed as dopes in popular culture. Fixing these real issues are good for men and women. I too want a world where fathers are not viewed as mere accessories to a family unit in which the mother is indispensable. In fact, without it, I don't see the fight for gender equality unstalling any time soon.

Others have found a home for their complaints about the way mental health issues go untreated for men, especially veterans. With men accounting for 80 percent of all suicides in the United States, this isn't a petty gripe. The fact that these guys see this as a men's issue means that all of us have failed in making sure everyone with mental illness gets help.

Feminists have long made the argument that the patriarchy is not good for any gender. We are all held back by gender expectations, men by their role as macho providers and women by their role as fragile caregivers. While it's impossible to argue that men have been more oppressed than women (though many MRAs try!), there are certain aspects of the great gender equality project that won't be complete until men work out kinks in masculinity too.

In order to do so, men need to start by talking about it, and, assuming it is done in a respectful fashion, women need to listen. (Sure, not all women talk about their issues with men in a respectful fashion, but that doesn't stop a whole lot of us from trying.) It's all too easy, given that a very large number of these menimists act like real jerks, to reduce them all to buffoons. But their issues are serious, and the more feminists take them seriously, the more we create a conversation that exists outside of the snarky, and often misogynistic, universe of a Twitter hashtag. We can do better together.

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