It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
What Should You Do When Someone You Love Becomes a Men’s Rights Activist?
While I normally would not entertain the typical feminist rant against men’s rights activists, I found this one intriguing. Anna North wrote about a recent “Dear Prudence” article on Slate in which a young person wrote about her father’s activism:
Q. Dad-Related Dilemma: My mom left my dad for another man 10 years ago, when my brother and I were in grade school. She took us with her, and the loss of his family turned my father into a bitter man. He now considers himself a men’s rights activist. From what I can tell, the men’s rights movement my dad belongs to believes that American law and society has institutionalized misandry. One website my dad frequents warns men not to date single mothers because their children might accuse the boyfriend of molesting them to reap the benefits of victimhood. My dad speaks often about the men’s rights movement, and when my brother and I don’t want to listen, he accuses us of being brainwashed by feminists. His behavior doesn’t come across as crazy so much as it does misogynistic. Now I’m 18 and could stop seeing him if I wanted to. But my brother is younger and still has to see him. My mom doesn’t know the full story because we don’t want her to overreact. What should we do?
A: Your mother leaving him may have caused your father’s personality change—it may also be that his personality was in place and your mother couldn’t take it anymore. Both you and your brother are old enough to have some direct discussions with your father about your relationship with him. Talk to your brother and see if he wants to join in such a conversation, and if he doesn’t, make some time alone with your father. He needs to be told that his activism is his business, but you don’t want to be his audience anymore. Say that you both understand he has strong feelings about women and the legal system, but being lectured to is poisoning your relationship. Reassure him that you love him and want to spend time with him, but you want to talk about things that are less painful and volatile. If he won’t curb his enthusiasm, then you can start peeling off from your visits. Now that you’re 18, spending less time with your father would be bound to happen anyway. But if you do that, be a sounding board for your brother on how to deal with Dad’s ugly obsession.
This prompted North to ask Hugo Schwyzer and Manboobz to comment. As if playing a feminist version of the Wonder Twins, the pair attacked the men’s rights movement. Schwyzer was surprisingly more cordial than usual:
In terms of advice, it’s not easy for a son to challenge his Dad. But drive the conversation towards individual women — not the “bitches” and “harpies” of his father’s imagination, but the women Dad has loved. A mother? A sister? An ex? There is inside every MRA I’ve ever met a stopped-up well of compassion and love for women. It’s getting to the good stories (and there are always GOOD stories) about women that is so vital. And from those stories about individual women Dad has loved, perhaps the son can talk about what those women went through and experienced.
I will come back to Schwyzer’s comment in a moment. Manboobz kept his usual misandrous vitriol:
Unfortunately, in most cases, I don’t think it’s possible to talk someone out of a Men’s Rights obsession. For most of them, it seems to be driven not by facts — they’re happy to simply make up facts to fit their worldview — but by feelings, most obviously by rage at women. […] For most MRAs, the closest they come to activism is leaving angry comments everywhere online — or harassing individual women online in a manner similar to the ways abusers stalk the objects of their obsessions.
Not to be outdone, North added her own dig:
I wouldn’t ordinarily advocate trying to get to the bottom of a men’s rights activist’s pain — lots of MRAs talk about how much they’d like to inflict pain on women, and frankly, I don’t have much empathy for them. But in this case we’re talking about a dude (or maybe a lady) and his dad. This is someone he loves and someone his brother has to have regular contact with — and it’s not clear that DRD wants to cut his dad off, either. That’s always an option — Schwyzer notes that there could come a point when “it becomes too painful” for DRD to keep engaging with his dad. But if he hasn’t reached that point yet, it may be worth trying to reach out. After all, if anyone’s going to get MRAs to stop spewing hate, it’s probably the people they love.
For the record, the bit about “lots of MRAs” talking about hurting women refers to a post written by Manboobz in which a whopping two men’s rights activists joked about using a medieval torture device on women. I do not know what kind of math North uses, but the math I use says that two people out of thousands of people is nowhere near “lots.”
But let us set side the feminist anti-men’s rights stance and get back to the original question. Here is the first line of the child’s question:
My mom left my dad for another man 10 years ago, when my brother and I were in grade school. She took us with her, and the loss of his family turned my father into a bitter man.
How many people do you know who would be fine with their spouse ditching them for someone else and taking the kids with them? Does that not sound like something that might justifiably make a person bitter?
Neither North, Schwyzer, or Manboobz paid that comment any mind. They quickly skipped over it to trash the men’s rights movement, and that makes Schwyzer’s “And from those stories about individual women Dad has loved, perhaps the son can talk about what those women went through and experienced” particularly stupid. Is this man really supposed to listen to what his ex went through and experienced?
This man may be angry, and based on what we know he has every right to be. We do not know what he went through trying to get custody of his kids, how often he was allowed to see them, whether his ex had an affair, whether she is a feminist, whether she tried to turn the kids against him, or whether the courts screwed him over.
Likewise, feminists conveniently miss that much of their commentary is nothing but female anger. If one goes to Jezebel, one will not find much intellectual discussion. On Manboobz it is just a bunch of feminists spewing hate on men and men’s rights activists and a site owner ironically harasses individual men online “in a manner similar to the ways abusers stalk the objects of their obsession.” Schwyzer tries to mask his vitriol, but even he spends a great deal of time trashing men and men’s rights activists.
Most political movements are built around emotions, often anger and frustration. The idea that it is wrong only when the movement is for men reveals an impressive bias. Yet it is particularly stupid to take one man’s justified anger over how he got treated by his ex wife and turn that into an attack on men’s rights activists.