Men's rights movement
|Rights by claimant|
|Other groups of rights|
The men's rights movement (MRM) is a part of the larger men's movement. It branched off from the men's liberation movement in the early 1970s. The men's rights movement contests claims that men have greater power, privilege or advantage than women and focuses on what it considers to be issues of male disadvantage, discrimination and oppression. The MRM is considered to be a backlash or countermovement to feminism, often as a result of a perceived threat to traditional gender roles. The men's rights movement has been involved in a variety of areas related to law (including family law, parenting, reproduction and domestic violence), government services (including education, compulsory military service and social safety nets), and health that they believe discriminate against men. The men's rights movement's beliefs and activities have been criticized by scholars, the Southern Poverty Law Center and commentators, and sectors of the movement have been described as misogynist.
- 1 History
- 2 Issues
- 2.1 Adoption
- 2.2 Anti-dowry laws
- 2.3 Child custody
- 2.4 Circumcision
- 2.5 Divorce
- 2.6 Domestic violence
- 2.7 Education
- 2.8 Rape
- 2.9 Female privilege
- 2.10 Governmental structures
- 2.11 Health
- 2.12 Marriage strike
- 2.13 Military conscription
- 2.14 Paternity fraud
- 2.15 Prison
- 2.16 Reproductive rights
- 2.17 Social security and insurance
- 3 See also
- 4 Footnotes
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
The term "men's rights" was used in Putnam's Magazine, issue 38, February, 1856. Three loosely connected men's rights organizations formed in Austria in the interwar period. The League for Men's Rights was founded in 1926 with the goal of "combatting all excesses of women's emancipation". In 1927, the Justitia League for Family Law Reform and the Aequitas World's League for the Rights of Men split from the League of Men's Rights. The three men's rights groups opposed women's entry into the labor market and what they saw as the corrosive influence of the women's movement on social and legal institutions. They criticized marriage and family laws, especially the requirement to pay spousal and child support to former wives and illegitimate children, and supported the use of blood tests to determine paternity. Justitia and Aequitas issued their own short-lived journals Men's Rightists' Newspaper and Self-Defense where they expressed their views which were heavily influenced by the works of Heinrich Schurtz, Otto Weininger, and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels. The organizations ceased to exist before 1939.
The modern men's rights movement emerged from the men's liberation movement which appeared in the first half of the 1970s when some thinkers began to study feminist ideas and politics. The men's liberation movement acknowledged men's institutional power while critically examining the costs of traditional masculinity. In the late 1970s, the men's liberation movement split into two separate strands with opposing views: the pro-feminist men's movement and the anti-feminist men's rights movement. Men's rights activists have rejected feminist principles and focused on areas in which they believe men are disadvantaged or oppressed. In the 1980s and 90s, men's rights activists opposed societal changes sought by feminists and defended the traditional gender order in the family, schools and the workplace.
Men's rights activists see men as an oppressed group and believe that society and state have been "feminized" by the women's movement. Sarah Maddison, an Australian author, has claimed that Warren Farrell and Herb Goldberg "argue that, for most men, power is an illusion, and that women are the true power holders in society through their roles as the primary carers and nurturers of children."
One of the first major men's rights organizations was the Coalition of American Divorce Reform Elements, founded by Richard Doyle in 1971, from which the Men's Rights Association spun off in 1973. Free Men Inc. was founded in 1977 in Columbia, Maryland, spawning several chapters over the following years, which eventually merged to form the National Coalition of Free Men (now known as the National Coalition for Men). Men's Rights, Inc. was also formed in 1977. In the United Kingdom, a men's rights group calling itself the UK Men's Movement began to organize in the early 1990s. The Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) was founded in 2005, and in 2010 claimed to have over 30,000 members.
Men's rights groups have formed in some European countries during periods of shifts toward conservatism and policies supporting traditional family and gender relations. In the United States, the men's rights movement has ideological ties to neoconservatism. Men's rights activists have received lobbying support from conservative organizations and their arguments have been covered extensively in neoconservative media. Political parties focusing on men's rights have been formed including the Australian Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) and the Israeli Man's Rights in the Family Party.
Relation to feminism
The men's rights movement is considered to be a backlash or countermovement to feminism. The men's rights movement consists of diverse points of view which reject feminist and profeminist ideas. Men's rights activists have said that they believe that feminism has overshot its objective and harmed men. They dispute that men as a group have institutional power and privilege and believe that men are victimized and disadvantaged relative to women. Men's rights groups generally reject the notion that feminism is interested in men's problems and men's rights activists have viewed the women's movement as a plot to conceal discrimination against men.
Sectors of the men's rights movement have been critiqued by some as exhibiting misogynistic tendencies. The Southern Poverty Law Center has said that while some of the websites, blogs and forums related to the movement "voice legitimate and sometimes disturbing complaints about the treatment of men, what is most remarkable is the misogynistic tone that pervades so many."
The men's rights movement is concerned with a wide variety of issues, some of which have spawned their own groups or movements, such as the fathers' rights movement, concerned specifically with divorce and child custody issues. Some if not many men's rights issues stem from double standards, gender roles, and patriarchy. Furthermore, some issues may also be linked to issues that affect other genders.
Men's rights activists seek to expand the rights of unwed fathers in case of their child's adoption. Warren Farrell states that in failing to inform the father of her pregnancy, an expectant mother deprives an adopted child of a relationship with the biological father. He proposes that women be legally required to make every reasonable effort to notify the father of her pregnancy within four to five days. In response, philosopher James P. Sterba agrees that for moral reasons a woman should inform the father of the pregnancy and adoption, but this should not be imposed as a legal requirement as it might result in undue pressure, for example, to have an abortion.
Men's rights organizations such as Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) state that men are subject to dowry harassment when women misuse legislation meant to protect them from dowry death and bride burnings. SIFF is a men's rights organization in India that focuses on the abuse of anti-dowry laws against men. SIFF states anti-dowry laws are regularly being abused to settle petty disputes in marriage and that they regularly receive calls from many men whose wives have used false dowry claims to imprison them.
Family law is an area of deep concern among men's rights groups. Men's rights activists argue that the legal system and family courts discriminate against men, especially in regards to child custody after divorce. They believe that men do not have the same contact rights or equitable shared parenting rights as their ex-spouse and use statistics on custody awards as evidence of judicial bias against men. Men's rights advocates seek to change the legal climate for men through changes in family law, for example by lobbying for laws that would make joint custody the default custody arrangement except in cases where one parent is unfit or unwilling to parent. They adopted the feminist rhetoric of "rights" and "equality" in their discourse, framing custody issues as a matter of basic civil rights. Some men's rights activists suggest that the lack of contact with their children makes fathers less willing to pay child support. Some others cite the parental alienation syndrome as a reason to grant custody to fathers.
Critics argue that empirical research does not support the notion of judicial bias against men and that men's rights advocates interpret statistics in a way that ignores the fact that the majority of men do not contest custody and do not seem to want it. Academics critique the rhetorical framing of custody decisions, stating that men's rights advocates appeal for "equal rights" without specifying the constitutional rights that they believe have been violated. Critics assert that the men's rights rhetoric of children's "needs" that accompanies their plea for equal rights helps deflect criticism that it is motivated by self-interest and masks men's rights advocates' own claims. Deborah Rhode argues that contrary to the claims of some men's rights activists, research shows that joint legal custody does not increase the likelihood that fathers will pay child support or remain involved parents.
Men's rights groups in the United States began organizing in opposition of divorce reform and custody issues around the 1960s. The men involved in the early organization claimed that family and divorce law discriminated against them and favored their wives. Richard Doyle wrote of the view of the men's rights movement concerning the court handling of divorces and child custody processes:
Divorce courts are frequently like slaughter-houses, with about as much compassion and talent. They function as collection agencies for lawyer fees, however outrageous, stealing children and extorting money from men in ways blatantly unconstitutional... Men are regarded as mere guests in their own homes, evictable any time at the whims of wives and judges. Men are driven from home and children against their wills; then when unable to stretch paychecks far enough to support two households are termed "runaway fathers." Contrary to all principles of justice, men are thrown into prison for inability to pay alimony and support, however unreasonable or unfair the "obligation."
Men's rights activists have argued that divorce and custody laws violate men's individual rights to equal protection. Gwendolyn Leachman writes that this sort of framing "downplays the systemic biases that women face that justify protective divorce and custody laws."
Men's rights activists assert that domestic violence by women is ignored and under-reported, in part because men are reluctant to describe themselves as victims. They state that women are as aggressive or more aggressive than men in relationships and that domestic violence is sex-symmetrical. They frequently cite family conflict research by Murray Straus and Richard Gelles as evidence of sex-symmetry. Men's rights advocates argue that judicial systems too easily accept false allegations of domestic violence by women against their male partners. Christina Hoff Sommers has commented that "false claims about male domestic violence are ubiquitous and immune to refutation." Men's rights advocates have been critics of legal, policy and practical protections for abused women, campaigning for domestic violence shelters for battered men and for the legal system to be educated about women's violence against men.
Some critics have rejected the research cited by men's rights activists and dispute their claims that such violence is gender symmetrical, arguing that the focus on women's violence stems from a political agenda to minimize the issue of men's violence against women and to undermine services to abused women. Donileen Loseke, Mary Cavanaugh and Richard Gelles cite as an example the challenge to the Minnesota Battered Woman's Act by the Men's Defense Association claiming that it was discriminatory because it protected women but not men.
Men's rights activists describe the education of boys as being in crisis, with boys having reduced educational achievement and motivation as compared to girls. Advocates blame the influence of feminism on education for discrimination against and systematic oppression of boys in the education system. They critique what they describe as the "feminization" of education, stating that the predominance of female teachers, a focus on girls' needs as well as a curricula and assessment methods that favour girls have proved repressive and restrictive to men and boys.
Men's rights groups call for increased recognition of masculinity, greater numbers of male role models, more competitive sports, and the increased responsibilities for boys in the school setting. They have also advocated clearer school routines, more traditional school structures, including single-sex classes, and stricter discipline.
Critics suggest that men's rights groups view boys as a homogeneous group sharing common experiences of schooling and that they do not take sufficient account in their analysis of how responses to educational approaches may differ by age, culture, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and class.
In Australia, men's rights discourse has influenced government policy documents; less impact has been noted in the United Kingdom, where feminists have historically had less influence on educational policy.
Creating awareness for male rape victims is an example of a men's rights issue.
False accusations against men
Men's rights activists are concerned with false accusations of rape and sexual assault and desire to protect men from the negative consequences of false accusations. Quoting research including that by Eugene Kanin and the U.S. Air Force they assert that 40-50% or more of rape allegations may be false. They state that false accusations are a form of psychological rape. They assert that the naming of the accused while providing the accuser with anonymity encourages abuse. Robert O'Hara of A Voice for Men stated in a June 2014 interview that "this is one of those issues that it’s so easy to draw so much hysteria about because we have this natural inclination to want to protect women, especially from rape, that this whole rape thing has been used by feminists to garner political power, lots of it, and money. The whole thing has been used as a scam".
The criminalization of marital rape
Legislation and judicial decisions criminalizing marital rape are opposed by Men's rights activists in the United Kingdom, the United States, and India The reasons for opposition include concerns about false allegations related to divorce proceedings and in India anxiety about relationships and the future of marriage as such laws give women "grossly disproportional rights". Virag Dhulia of the Save Indian Family Foundation, a men's rights organization, has opposed recent efforts to criminalize marital rape in India, arguing that "no relationship will work if these rules are enforced."
The men's rights movement denies the existence of male privilege (a position considered by Kenneth Clatterbaugh, an American philosopher, to be irrevocably anti-feminist). The movement is divided in to two camps: one camp believes that men and women are equally harmed by sexism, and the other camp believes that female privilege and male degradation are systemic in society.
Men's rights groups have called for male-focused governmental structures to address issues specific to men and boys including education, health, work and marriage. Men's rights groups in India have called for the creation of a Men's Welfare Ministry and a National Commission for Men, as well as the abolition of the National Commission for Women. In the United Kingdom, the creation of a Minister for Men analogous to the existing Minister for Women, have been proposed by David Amess, MP and Lord Northbourne, but were rejected by the government of Tony Blair. In the United States, Warren Farrell heads a commission focused on the creation of a "White House Council on Boys and Men" as a counterpart to the "White House Council on Women and Girls" which was formed in March 2009.
Men's rights activists view the health issues faced by men and their shorter life spans as compared to women as evidence of discrimination and oppression. They state that feminism has led to women's health issues being privileged at the expense of men's. They point to higher suicide rates in men compared to women, and complain about the funding of men's health issues as compared to women's, including noting that prostate cancer research receives less funding than breast-cancer research. David Benatar has suggested more money should be put into health research on males in order to reduce the disparity between men's and women's life expectancy. Some doctors and academics have argued circumcision is a violation of men's right to health and bodily integrity, while others have disagreed.
Some have critiqued these claims, stating, as Michael Messner puts it, that the poorer health outcomes are the heavy costs paid by men "for conformity with the narrow definitions of masculinity that promise to bring them status and privilege" and that these costs fall disproportionately on men who are marginalized socially and economically. In this view, and according to Michael Flood, men's health would best be improved by "tackling destructive notions of manhood, an economic system which values profit and productivity over workers’ health, and the ignorance of service providers" instead of blaming a feminist health movement.
Men's rights activists note American statistics showing that fewer couples are marrying, and that fewer men see marriage as an important life goal. They assert that men are consciously or unconsciously opting out of marriage and engaging in a "marriage strike" as a result of the lack of benefits in marriage and the emotional and financial consequences of divorce, including alimony and child custody and support.
In 1971, draft resisters in the United States initiated a class-action suit alleging that male-only conscription violated men's rights to equal protection under the US constitution. When the case, Rostker v. Goldberg, reached the Supreme Court in 1981, they were supported by a men's rights group and multiple women's groups, including the National Organization for Women. However, the Supreme Court upheld the Military Selective Service Act, stating that "the argument for registering women was based on considerations of equity, but Congress was entitled, in the exercise of its constitutional powers, to focus on the question of military need, rather than equity.
Men's and fathers' rights groups have stated that there are high levels of misattributed paternity or "paternity fraud", where men are parenting and/or supporting financially children who are not biologically their own. They hold biological views of fatherhood, emphasizing the imperative of the genetic foundation of paternity rather than social aspects of fatherhood. They state that men should not be forced to support children fathered by another man, and that men are harmed because a relationship is created between a man and non-biological children while denying the children and their biological father of that experience and knowledge of their genetic history. In addition, non-biological fathers are denied the resources to have their own biological children in another relationship. Men's rights activists support the use of paternity testing to reassure presumed fathers about the child's paternity; men's and fathers' rights groups have called for compulsory paternity testing of all children. They have campaigned vigorously in support of men who have been shown by genetic testing not to be the biological father, but who are nevertheless required to be financially responsible for them. Prompted by these concerns, legislators in certain jurisdictions have supported this biological view and have passed laws providing relief from child support payments when a man is proved not to be the father. Australian men's rights groups have opposed the recommendations of a report by the Australian Law Reform Commission and the National Health and Medical Research Council that would require the consent of both parents for paternity testing of young children, and laws that would make it illegal to obtain a sample for DNA testing without the individual's consent. Sociologist Michael Gilding asserts that men's rights activists have exaggerated the rate and extent of misattributed paternity, which he estimates at about 1-3%. He opposed as unnecessary calls for mandatory paternity testing of all children.
Men's rights activists point to differential prison terms for men and women as evidence of discrimination. Warren Farrell cites evidence that men receive harsher prison sentences and are more likely sentenced to death in the United States. He critiques society's belief in women as more innocent and credible, as well as battered woman and infanticide defenses. He criticizes conditions in men's prisons and the lack of attention to prison male-to-male rape by authorities.
In 2006, the American National Center for Men backed a lawsuit known as Dubay v. Wells. The case concerned whether men should have the opportunity to decline all paternity rights and responsibilities in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. Supporters said that this would allow the woman time to make an informed decision and give men the same reproductive rights as women. The case and the appeal were dismissed, the U.S. Court of Appeals (Sixth Circuit) stating that neither parent has the right to sever their financial responsibilities for a child, and that "Dubay's claim that a man's right to disclaim fatherhood would be analogous to a woman’s right to abortion rests upon a false analogy."
Social security and insurance
Men's rights groups argue that women are given superior social security and tax benefits than men. Warren Farrell states that men in the United States pay more into social security, but in total women receive more in benefits, and that discrimination against men in insurance and pensions have gone unrecognized.
- Men's movement
- Save Indian Family (SIF)
- Men's studies
- Mythopoetic men's movement
- A Voice for Men
- National Coalition for Men
- Paternal rights and abortion
- Reverse discrimination
- The Good Men Project
- Women's rights
- Women and children first
- Gavanas, Anna (2004). Fatherhood Politics in the United States: Masculinity, Sexuality, Race, and Marriage. University of Illinois Press. p. 11. ISBN 0252028848. "All these cases of perceived discrimination make up the men's rights view that men are considered, by government and society, to be more expendable than women."
- Stephen Blake Boyd, W. Merle Longwood, Mark William Muesse, ed. (1996). Redeeming men: religion and masculinities. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-664-25544-2. "In contradistinction to profeminism, however, the men's rights perspective addresses specific legal and cultural factors that put men at a disadvantage. The movement is made up of a variety of formal and informal groups that differ in their approaches and issues; Men's rights advocates, for example, target sex-specific military conscription and judicial practices that discriminate against men in child custody cases."
- See, for example:
- Maddison, Sarah (1999). "Private Men, Public Anger: The Men's Rights Movement in Australia". Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies 4 (2): 39–52.
- Doyle, Ciara (2004). "The Fathers' Rights Movement: Extending Patriarchal Control Beyond the Marital Family". In Herrman, Peter. Citizenship Revisited: Threats or Opportunities of Shifting Boundaries. New York: Nova Publishers. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-1-59033-900-8.
- Flood, Michael (2005). "Men's Collective Struggles for Gender Justice: The Case of Antiviolence Activism". In Kimmel, Michael S.; Hearn, Jeff; Connell, Raewyn. Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. p. 459. ISBN 978-0-7619-2369-5.
- Finocchiaro, Peter (March 29, 2011). "Is the men's rights movement growing?". Salon. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
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