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What is Men's Rights About ?

Copyright: Peter Zohrab 2001

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Men's Rights is the ideology according to which men have intrinsic rights that are often denied them in contemporary Western culture -- indeed, according to this view, society does not usually recognize that men, as men, even have rights.

Feminists in western countries have, over about 200 years (since Wollstonecraft), established as a given the thesis that society is male-dominated and oppresses women. This is the meta-issue that Men's Rights activists raise, as a logical (but not necessarily practical) precondition to the raising of various specific issues.

Men's Rights proponents consider that Feminists have argued for "equality" in respect of self-selected issues only, -- using ad hoc (and seldom explicit) definitions of "equality" that they developed themselves, rather than (for example) calling a conference of all interested parties for the purpose of clarifying the issues. It is argued that Feminists have not sought gender equality on issues such as child custody, the decision to abort one's unborn child, compulsory military service, unsegregated professional sports, law enforcement relating to domestic violence, funding for men's and women's groups, Men's Studies vs Women's Studies, ministries of Men's Affairs to complement ministries of Women's Affairs, and health research funding.

Many Men's Rights activists also criticise Feminism for relying on a restricted view of political power, whereby a count of the relative numbers of men and women in important decision-making positions suffices to determine whether men or women are the more powerful. Men's Rights proponents point out that there are many other sorts of political power - e.g. control over the information and stereotypes that decision-makers rely on as the basis of their decisions. This information and these stereotypes, in the West, are largely under the control of Hollywood, the mass media, the education sector, and the bureaucracies - which are all strongly influenced by Feminist ideology, if not actually female-dominated.

The term "Masculism" (aka "Masculinism" or "Virism") may be used interchangeably with "Men's Rights", but conservatives in the Men's Rights scene often reserve the term "Masculism" for the liberal branch of the Men's Rights movement (as epitomised by ex-Feminist author Warren Farrell). Liberal Masculists (such as Farrell or Rod van Mechelen) take the position that Feminist aspirations to gender equality should be taken at face value, and men made equal to women in those areas where women are over-privileged. Conservatives (such as Richard Doyle, and religious individuals and organisations such as the Promise Keepers) would prefer to return to a traditional division of labour between the sexes. A third way is espoused in Peter Zohrab's book "Sex, Lies & Feminism", which demands that Society either abolish female privilege or revert to a traditional division of labour between the sexes, as a fall-back position.

The response of Feminists to the Men's Rights movement has not generally been to respond to Men's Rights at the ideological level. Rather, they have either ignored this movement, publicised new issues (e.g. eating disorders) where women might plausibly be shown to be disadvantaged, and/or tried to deny Men's Rights activists access to the media and publishers and influence in education systems and bureaucracies.

 

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