The Enemy of my Enemy: Why Men Need Feminism
The modern Men’s Rights Movement is little more than a reactionary uprising against the feminist movement, mostly populated by right-wing anti-feminists, but MRAs are not necessarily without a legitimate cause. In her video titled ‘Men’, Natalie Wynn (aka Contrapoints) discusses at length the modern crisis of masculinity that has led many young white men to join far-right extremist groups. In it, she points out that while men at the top of the social ladder enjoy a life of incredible privilege and power, middle class and working men often suffer at the hands of patriarchy as well. The theory is intuitive and widely observable: the gender role of men, as being protectors of the weak and innocent, are often deemed expendable in the pursuit of this ideal. Men make up an overwhelming majority of combat fatalities, suicide, etc., with society considering most forms of actively dangerous work — soldiers, police, construction workers, etc — to be distinctly ‘masculine’ lines of duty.
Additionally, she points out that men are also usually never the exclusive focus of attention, that often, in contrast to the unnecessarily excessive attention women receive on dating apps, for example, men receive close to none. As a gender role, seeking attention is not ‘masculine’. Further differences can be found in social circles, with women often showing more overt adoration and emotion, while the stigma of being affectionate or openly showcasing emotions results in the competitive nature of men’s circles, with most men hiding their feelings of friendship behind jokes and jabs. Being a man in a society where men are predominantly responsible for crimes against women adds to the issue. The rape culture has resulted in a general fear of men by women, and the average man suffers as a result. Make no mistake, “not all men” is not the solution. As long as sexual assault is supported by structural sexism, fearing men is a very reasonable response, and dismantling patriarchy is the only way to put an end to the issue. Unlike violence against women, most right-wing talking points like ‘false accusations’ are not systemic issues. They are exceptions, not the rule.
The emotional toll that being an average man exerts often pushes them to search for a cause to fight for. While being a woman, queer, or a person of color gives you a struggle that you can join, the average white male has no such struggle and responds by joining white supremacist groups in an attempt to convince themselves that they are wronged and can achieve the ideal of masculinity by liberating themselves. The deep interconnection of violence with masculinity is the source of crisis for men that cannot find a war to fight.
So, how do we solve this problem? The first thing that comes to mind is to redefine masculinity — the creation of a new ideal of masculinity that includes men of color, gay men, trans men, and non-binary people, that rejects the traditional role of the sacrificial pawn in a society that no longer needs that role to be filled. It necessitates the active challenging of the male gender role, by supporting those that do not conform, standing up for other men, and calling out toxic masculinity at every turn. The next is the expansion of the feminist movement, to raise awareness of the implications of patriarchy for men, and to create a welcoming environment within the movement to engage with and educate men, finding allies to the cause. Providing safe spaces for men to express themselves starts with being empathetic to their struggle.
You can find the Contrapoints Video here: