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On engaging with the Men’s Rights Movement

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There is more wrong than I can describe in the column Emily Matcher wrote in the New Republic, “”Men’s Rights” Activists Are Trying to Redefine the Meaning of Rape”. From the slipshod reporting, to the false middle, to the acceptance of one sides arguments without apparent question it has managed to rise to a level of error I am unable to describe; fractally wrong doesn’t begin to cover it.

The problem is there are social issues related to gender which affect men. A number of them aren’t being well addressed. A large part of that is because of the “Men’s Rights Movement” (MRM, the members of which often call themselves, Men’s. Rights Activists, or MRAs) For those who don’t know, the MRM is a collection of people who are engaged in vigorous, rhetorically violent; and usually incoherent, backlash against the modern world. They do this in the guise of being against the “unreasonable aspects” of feminism.

In practice what this means is they rail against anything smacking of equality, and this makes it harder to talk about these issues. Anything which might possibly be seen as less than laudatory of their “movement” brings out the worst in them, baying like hounds for blood (just look at the first comment in reply to the Matcher piece; follow the links, if you have the stomach for it).

They have been described by the SPLC as being worth watching because they have the prototypical signs of a nascent hate group. The violent rhetoric, vicious othering, support for actual terrorists (One of the larger loci of MRM activity listed, for years, under its, “Activism” header, the manifesto of Thomas Ball. In his suicide letter he claimed he was driven to set himself on fire because of an unjust system) §, and a tendency to attack those whom they see as, “evil”.

Which is why Matcher failing to question the things they said, nor to look at their backgrounds when she legitimated their actions, is so disturbing. Her first failure is not making it plain that all three of her sources are from the same organisation (the aforementioned AVFM). Among the most egregious of her faults is that she took their comments about on False Rape Accusations (one of the MRM’s biggest bugbears) almost at face value.

The stats on false rape accusations are about the same as any other crime. Somewhere between 2-8 percent. Figuring this out is simple, take the number of reported rapes, divide it by the number of them deemed to be false. This is not the same as estimates of how many of some type of crime go unreported (e.g. someone stole my knapsack from work a year and a half ago. I didn’t report it; so it’s not listed in the stats for theft in NYC, but there are analysts who try to figure out what the “underlying rate” is for such things).

The MRM defines things differently, they see an unbelievable number of false rape accusations. Partly this is how they define “false accusation”. The general argument they make is that any case which doesn’t lead to a conviction = false accusation.
They are also incredibly fond of finding a single study/event which supports their position (e.g. that Nifong continued a prosecution which wasn’t tenable), and even when it doesn’t hold up; e.g. that a false rape accusation “destroys” a man’s life, forever, the moment it gets made (quick, tell me the names of the Duke Lacrosse Team who were prosecuted by Nifong). From that (because there are some bad studies out there) they argue that half of all reported rapes are false accusations. There is even a large segment of the MRM who will argue that half of all rape victims are men; and that the vast majority of those men are raped by women. *

Matcher just lets that in, doesn’t address any of it; presents the idea that half of all reported rapes are false as if it’s a reasonable position to hold. She also presents the people at AVfM (which is basically the flagship of whatever organised activism the MRM has) as if they were reasonable people. Paul Elam, the owner of the site wrote this,

That’s it. In the name of equality and fairness, I am proclaiming October to be Bash a Violent Bitch Month.

Now, am I serious about this?

No. Not because it’s wrong. It’s not wrong. Every one should have the right to defend themselves. Hell, women are often excused from killing someone whom they allege has abused them. They can shoot them in their sleep and walk. Happens all the time. It’ll even get you a spot on Oprah, and cuntists across the cunt-o-sphere will be lionizing you.

In that light, every one of those women at Jezebel and millions of others across the western world are as deserving of a righteous ass kicking as any human being can be. But it isn’t worth the time behind bars or the abuse of anger management training that men must endure if they are uppity enough to defend themselves from female attackers.

The better option is to kick her to the curb, figuratively speaking, and hopefully move on to some better choices. Besides, violence in self defense should be in some way commensurate with the violence of the attack.

I will say this, though. To all the men out there that decided to say “Damn the consequences,” and fight back, you are hero’s to the cause of equality; true feminists. And you are the honorary Kings of Bash a Violent Bitch Month. You are living proof of just how hollow “don’t fuck with us,” rings from the mouths of bullies and hypocrites.

In he spirit of feminists everywhere, you GO, boy!

Not to mention that he wears a shirt emblazoned with I ♥ FTSU: which stands in for, I Love Fucking Their Shit Up:, harkening back to this comment of his: “I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage. I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection.”

This is the man the movement Matcher says we need to listen to (lest we, cede the debate).  The man that movement has as its, de facto, leader. This is the philosophical underpinning of the MRM. When you read enough of them (e.g. John the Other, Dean Esmay, Karen Straughn, Fidelbogen, Theodore Beale [who calls himself, Vox Day, the hubris of which is incredible, all things considered] Tom Martin, Peter-Andrew : Nolan(c), /r mensrights, W.F. Price, Eivind Berg, et al.), you realise the kernel of their philosophy, from which all else grows, is “women aren’t fully human”.

So what does Matcher’s piece actually argue?  Her core is this false dilemma:

The MRM’s tirades and hijinks certainly don’t meaningfully add to the debate surrounding the way we handle sexual assault. But to totally ignore the issues that they raise does not further a productive conversation.

Not only are the issues not being ignored, but to address them doesn’t mean one has to acede legitimacy to a movement which celebrates the Marc Lepine, and George Sodoni’s of the world. If we want to have a discussion about the proper role of religion in the public sphere; it’s not helping to take the Westboro Baptist Church as the other side in the discussion.

She also plays some of her own fast and loose with statistics:

A man’s chances of being falsely accused of rape are incredibly small,” wrote Slate’s Amanda Marcotte. (To be fair to Slate and the range of perspectives that it offers, Marcotte’s colleague, Emily Bazelon has written that fairly conservative estimates put the number of false rape reports at 20,000 a year.)

Those two statements are not in opposition. Assuming there are approx. 150 million adult males in the US, and that Bazelon’s estimates are true&dag; the odds of being a random victim of a false rape accusation is about 1:7,500. I might not have used exactly Marcotte’s language, but it’s not false to say the odds of being falsely accused is incredibly small. That Matcher chose to allege that the 20,000 a year figure is based on “fairly conservative estimates” further moves to make it seem false accusations of rape are much more common than they are.

For some perspective on that, I have a pop quiz:

1: do you know anyone who has been raped?

1a Do you know more than one person who has been raped?

2: Do you know anyone who has been, with malice, falsely accused of rape?

Odds are that the answer to 1 is yes. The answer to 2 is likely to be yes. The answer to 3 is probably no.

But Matcher stresses the point to say we need to talk about the false rape accusations, and to say the ways in which colleges deal with rape on campus is flawed, in language which makes it seem the real harm is being done to men, that the women being raped aren’t being treated as well as they might be, but OMG, there are men who are being told not to rape, and this one time, there was a dude who suffered. She ignores completely the women who are punished for speaking out about being raped.

High School student reports assault, gets suspended for public lewdness

UNC student threatened with expulsion for, “intimidating” attacker she never named

UC Berkeley handles all accusations behind closed doors rapists get “same disciplinary process as those caught cheating on an exam, their punishment — sometimes as light as a warning and an essay — decided in informal talks with the university.” (at Stanford, until three years ago, the accused rapist got to cross-examine the victim in a closed door session).

These are the systems the MRM says are too kind to women who file reports. This is what Matcher is giving credit too. These are the people she thinks Progressive need to give credence to, “lest we cede the debate”.

I’m sorry, there is no debate to had with people who say women need to shut up, sit down, “know their place”, and let men run the show. When those same people say women who get beaten, raped, harassed, underpaid, and even killed, “deserve it”, because they are women…

No way in hell I’m going to cede a seat at the table to them. No more than I would let an avowedly racist group set the agenda on issues of race.

§ Thomas Ball was guilty of abusing his daughter. The Court ordered him to undergo a short session in anger management. He refused. As a result he was denied visitation. He lost his job, and did nothing to attempt to get his child support payments modified. As a result he was unable to pay them. He was therefore in contempt of the court’s order, and likely to be jailed.
There are, in that story, some issues of justice to be resolved (i.e. the use of contempt of court findings to create de facto debtors’ prisons), but that’s not a “Men’s” issue, so much as it’s one of actual justice. That so many men are in violation of child support decrees is a different problem, and one the MRM uses to paint women as evil.

*Yes, men can be raped. Yes, women rape men. Yes, it’s under-reported. No, I don’t think forty percent of all rape is perpetrated by women raping men. The ways in which the MRM gets to that claim are ridiculous: Abuse of stats is rampant. I cannot count how many times I have seen this study used to show that men and women are being raped, by the opposite sex, in roughly equal numbers.

†I have some doubts, given the FBI lists a total of 83,425 forcible rapes reported in 2011, and says that of the rapes reported to them 90 percent were forcible, which gives a total of roughly 90,000 rapes in the FBI database. If we are generous and assume that 25 percent of police forces/prosecutor’s offices didn’t report their annual stats to the police we can add another 20,000 rapes (assuming the numbers are large enough to show a tolerably accurate sample; accepting that rates are local). So Bazelon is arguing something on the order of 1 person falsely accused per five rapes, or a 20 percent rate of false accusations (for the sake of simplicity I am treating this as if 1 rape = 1 person accused). That’s at odds with the FBIs stats on the false reporting of rape. If a larger portion of agencies are reporting, then the ratio of false reports being bruited about is even less plausible.

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