Men’s rights activists are feminists favorite punching bag. Whenever feminists encounter someone or something they do not like, they associate it with the men’s rights movement. This is particularly true when they encounter criticism of feminism. Many feminists find it difficult to believe that anyone would reject or oppose their ideology. The only reason feminists can fathom someone would do that is that the person is guided by misogyny. What is the primary source of modern misogyny according to feminists? The men’s rights movement.
It is therefore no surprise that when Sarah Khan wrote an article about a date gone wrong due to political disagreement, her first impulse was to accuse the man of being a men’s rights activist:
I’m on OKCupid (again), Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish and Happn; I go on many dates. Sometimes there’s fiery chemistry and the date lasts for hours and hours. Other times there’s such an absence of any sort of spark or attraction that I genuinely mourn the time wasted. But even the worst date I had had didn’t come close to being as bad or emotionally trying as the one with the closeted MRA.
I have a feeling that the problem will not lie with the “closeted MRA”. Indeed, Khan quickly proved that point:
Now, the “closeted MRA” description is purely my own and based on the conversations we had on our six-hour date. I met him on Bumble and thought he was better looking than the average guy. We had a cheeky, playful repertoire on text and I had fairly high hopes for the date. Hell, I was even looking forward to it.
Everything started off okay. He wasn’t as attractive in person and I didn’t like the way he talked, but I gave it a chance because he seemed to be intelligent and capable of conversing like an adult.
Here is a suggestion for would-be daters who want to share their experiences: if you would like people to feel sympathy for you, it would be best not to start your story by insulting your date’s looks and voice. It looks petty and makes you look judgemental.
We butted heads immediately when talk about military and war came up (he completed the mandatory enlistment in Israel and I’m a staunch anti-military pacifist), but it was amicable. I took him home that night, but he couldn’t keep his erection. So, we took a break to see if it would return in a little while, and this is when we ended up talking about real feminist issues.
Yes, I am sure the discussion of “real feminist issues” will bring his erection raging back.
I don’t know how we got on to the topic of men’s safety, but we did. He claimed that men get attacked and assaulted more than women do. This fact was verified with a Google search, but he failed to listen when I pointed out that it was also men who committed most of the crimes against men and women alike.
That is likely because this point is irrelevant to the discussion. The discussion is about who faces a greater risk. The statistics show that men face a greater risk of violence compared to women. Who commits that violence has nothing to do with that fact. It could be committed primarily by men, women, illegal aliens, or koala bears. It tells us nothing about what makes people target men over women.
Bringing up that men commit more violence is simply a way of deflecting that men face greater risk of victimization by blaming men for their own assaults.
This line of talk inevitably led to talk of domestic violence. He claimed that men were victims of domestic violence just as much, if not more, than women—a fact that Google disproved, but he conveniently ignored this.
No, Google does not disprove that. The second article listed under the search ‘male victims of domestic violence’ reports on a 2010 CDC survey that found that “roughly 5,365,000 men had been victims of intimate partner physical violence in the previous 12 months, compared with 4,741,000 women.” The sixth article listed under the search ‘male victims of domestic violence statistics’ lists that same survey in more detail.
The statistics on domestic violence against men vary. They vary from state to state and country to country. This is largely due to methodology, particularly whether men are actually included in the studies, how they are included, and how the results are tabulated. It is also affected by the biases of the researchers. If the researchers already conclude men cannot be victims, they may design a survey that would result in lower reporting from men.
This appears to have been the intention with the CDC survey, however, it backfired because of how broad the questions were and that the researchers gave the same questions to both men and women.
That said, the available research suggests that men represent between 30% to 50% of domestic violence victims.
We moved on to talk of parental rights: he said that, unlike women, men could not legally give up their paternal rights, which is actually true in Canada. I agreed with him that that was a sexist law and pointed out that while feminism works to repel gendered laws like that, its first and foremost responsibility is to women.
His response to that was, “When feminists champion for men’s rights as much as women’s rights, then I will consider them allies.”
This entitled son of a bitch literally stated that a movement started by women for women to better the lives of women was only worthwhile if it catered to men as well.
Two points. One, he did not say the movement was only worthwhile if it catered to men as well. He said that he would consider feminists allies if they supported men’s rights as much as they supported women’s rights. Taking issue with this by claiming that feminism is really a movement by women for women implies that the movement is not about equality.
Two, I do not think this conversation happened. Just looking at the things this man supposedly said so far, every one of them is right out of the feminist guide to bashing a men’s right strawman. It does not sound like the type of discussion a person would have on a date. It does not sound like the discussion one would have with friends. It barely sounds like what might find on the internet. It moves too easily from talking point to talking point. For example:
I was sputtering with anger at that point, and it only got worse when we began talking about abortion rights.
“If women had the option of removing the fetus and letting it grow outside their bodies, would abortion ever still need to be necessary?” He asked me.
“Yes, absolutely,” I replied immediately. “It’s a woman’s right to decide whether she wants a fetus to grow into a child—inside or outside her own body.”
“But if the whole abortion debate is women fighting to control their own bodies and the fetus doesn’t need the woman’s body, then women have nothing to complain about.”
At the time I didn’t really have a response to this except to weakly argue that the last thing the world needed was more kids who needed families and tried to change the topic.
Who would have this discussion? How would it happen? How would the conversation shift this quickly from so many issues that concern Khan? Think about your last conversation about abortion. Did you jump to the next controversial topic because you had a weak response?
The conversation sounds designed to hit all the points feminists think men’s rights activists care about. The odd part is that Khan makes no effort to disprove those points. She merely asserts her feelings about them and moves on to the next “could you believe he said” portion. That makes it sound made up. Here is another example:
He claimed feminists issues weren’t issues at all because statistics pointed to men being the worse off because women have it better when it comes to employment, education, divorce, child custody and healthcare. I tried to debunk this belief by pointing out how a woman is paid approximately $0.79 for every dollar a man makes (and that’s just white men and women), and this guy smiled the sinister smile of the sort of asshole who gets off on telling little kids that Santa isn’t real and said, “The wage gap is a myth.”
It was two in the morning, I had been up since six am the previous day, I hadn’t gotten laid, and here was a man telling me—a woman of colour—why I had it better than the average white, heterosexual male. I must have looked visibly distraught because this stain on humanity retorted with, “I really love having intellectual debates like this.”
The wage gap has been debunked thoroughly, so one can fairly say it is a myth. It is also a myth that this likely fictional man accused Khan of having it better than the average white straight man. It appears his argument is that the wage gap does not exist. That makes no statement on the status of women of color.
More curious is Khan’s claim that this conversation lasted until two in the morning. If Khan were having such an unpleasant time, why would she stay this long with this man? If she found him to be a “stain on humanity”, why continue to talk with him? What could she get out of such an encounter?
Again, it sounds like this is pure fabrication, and Khan gives us an idea of where she got it from:
Before this date, I had only encountered people like this guy in the comments sections of feminist websites. It’s one thing to fight against a person like that from the safety of a keyboard where you also have the time to calm yourself after hearing wildly sexist opinions, but it’s wholly another experience to meet the beast face to face.
It is another experience, largely because there are so few people who identify as men’s rights activists. It is highly unlikely that someone would stumble upon a men’s rights activist on a dating website. It is more unlikely that a self-avowed feminist would end up on a date with one. Granted, Khan is the one labeling him a men’s rights activist. Yet even if he were not one, it is improbable that someone with his views would want to date someone like Khan.
This “date” reminds me of the Christian apologists who always bump into atheist professors. These professors hear that the apologist is Christian and run through the general list of nonsense the apologists think atheists believe. The professors are always hostile, always unforgiving, and always smug. The only difference between those fictional encounters and Khan’s is that the Christian apologists usually end it with their side winning. Khan ends her story with:
This horrendous date left me shaken. I fell into a depressive rut for a week following, self-harmed for the first time in months because I had the epiphany that despite how much progress feminism has made, we are still miles and miles away from achieving the goals of intersectional feminism.
It is not enough that the “closeted MRA” left Khan depressed because her ideology did not give her the tools to present a basic counterargument. It is not enough that the man did not have sex with her after hours rigorous debate. Now she must also contend with the depression he caused her. It is entirely possible that Khan has a history of self-harm. It is improbable, however, that her “epiphany” about the dire need of progress for intersectional feminism caused her to self-harm. It could have happened, yet I am skeptical.
It seems more likely Khan wants to present herself as a victim, mostly of the men’s rights activists who dare to challenge her point of view:
Women like me who are loud and unapologetic about pointing out the problems in society are regularly hounded, harassed and even assaulted, simply for daring to speak out and point out how fucked up things really are and how we’ve gone long enough in ignorance.
That is not how this works. That is not how any of this works. Feminists like Khan make public statements that other people disagree with. Voicing that disagreement is not hounding, harassing, or assault. Feminists like Khan have a bad habit of also making inflammatory statements about other groups, yet complaining when those groups do the same to feminists. One can argue that the tit-for-tat tactic is immature and pointless, however, the issue is that feminists like Khan see no problem with attacking those they oppose. It is only wrong when it happens to them. When they do it to others, it is fair game.
Case in point, imagine if some men’s rights activist wrote the above article about a feminist he dated. Feminists would barely discuss the ideological issues because they would be too caught up on his deriding the woman’s looks and complaining about not getting laid.
Khan ends her article by stating:
Sure we’ve made great strides and are a long way from our foremothers, but the battle is far from over. What we need are egos—of all genders—to be put aside. We need to see the world as it is not only from our individual points of view, but as a whole society. Only then will we be able to accurately pinpoint and begin to really solve the problems. We need more progress, and men like my fruitless date and the alarming number of seemingly well-adjusted men who hold similar views are only creating more problems and unnecessarily prolonging the battle. And, I’m embarrassed and disheartened to say that I’m starting to get tired of fighting.
That usually happens when you spend your time fighting your own shadow. The issues we face as a society are much bigger and more nuanced that Khan’s narrow-minded ideology can handle. She is right, however, that in order to address those issues people will need to set aside their egos. People will need to stop looking at the situation from their individual points of view and look at the whole society. Perhaps if Khan took her own advice she would understand why an “alarming number of seemingly well-adjusted men” reject her ideology.
She would also have the time to go on real dates instead of making them up.