There is a disturbing trend growing in the movements for gender equality. Most likely a response to the gendered etymology of the word ” feminism,” many people are creating new movements that address issues of gender. From men’s rights activism to egalitarianism to humanism, these movements attempt to call attention to the fact that men today are often just as disadvantaged by our strict gender binaries as women are.
I am a very big supporter of most of the ideals that these movements espouse, however, there are many aspects of these new movements that rub me the wrong way.
MRAs (men’s rights activists) do not work towards achieving equality, but rather work against the gains of feminism because they believe that feminism has diminished their rights. MRAs would benefit from allying with feminism, but instead they create their movement in opposition to it. One of the largest issues that MRAs support is the gender bias that has become part of divorce and custody cases. There is a bias towards giving child custody to the mother in most cases, even when there is no evidence that the father would make a less competent custodial parent. This is one of the biggest issues discussed by MRAs and it is a feminist issue. The problem is not anti-men, pro-women bias in courts. The problem is outdated beliefs about gender roles in marriage and parenting in society as a whole. One of the biggest issues of modern feminism is contesting gender roles and media representation of both men and women.
Another misguided way that people for gender equality are rebranding the movement is by being against feminism but for “egalitarianism” or “humanism”. The concept of egalitarianism is a wonderful one because it addresses not only gender inequalities, but inequalities on the intersectional level. However, many who identify as “egalitarian” create that movement’s label in opposition to feminism. It assumes that feminism means that women want to be privileged over men and that feminist are only concerned with issues that affect women. The label of feminism includes the root word femin- because it was originally begun to make women more equal with men, who were clearly more privileged in society. Today, our levels of privilege are much more complicated. Many claim that since women can vote and attend college, we don’t need feminism. Though earlier waves of feminism have succeeded in earning women rights, less obvious issues of privilege, representation, and gendering still need to be dealt with. Feminism is a movement that has evolved over time, and its current evolution needs to be understood. Feminism is not just for women, not just by women, and not just concerned with issues that affect women. Modern feminism is inclusive to all people and fights against the gender binaries, sexual mores, strict gender roles, racism, sexism, ableism, and heteronormativity that affect men just as much as they affect women. And while there are plenty of issues that affect men and their rights (see Reddit’s MRA group), women, people of color, and LGBTQ people still suffer the most from the patriarchal system of society.
While feminism might benefit from a name change, I don’t think that is the best way to convince people that the movement is more than just a bunch of angry misandrists. Feminism needs to communicate to people outside the feminist movement that it is not just for women. The Good Men Project is a great venue that attempts to challenge notions about masculinity and men’s rights without being hostile towards feminism. I would also recommend checking out Hugo Schwyzer’s How Men’s Rights Activists Get Feminism Wrong, and Amanda Marcotte’s The Solution to MRA Problems? More Feminism.