Feminism is a well established movement that’s been around for more than 200 years; perhaps the starting point can be said to be when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792. Masculism (a k a men’s rights activism), on the other hand, has been around for a few decades at best, while only gaining some traction in the 2000s. Apart from the fact that feminism is a movement which is much older and stronger than masculism, is it possible to compare these two movements, and can men’s rights activists (MRAs), learn something from feminism’s strategies and theories?
First of all, what does feminism contain, what are its different components? The way I see it, the major components are:
- A desire to work with women’s issues
- A political conviction that women as a group are oppressed by men as a group, and therefore need to be liberated
Performing the same kind of overview of masculism, yields these results:
- A desire to work with men’s issues
- A political conviction that feminism does not fit with the facts, and needlessly vilifies men
The key difference here is that feminism paints men as a group as a problem in society, while MRAs paint feminism as a theory (and its vocal proponents) as a problem in society. As I see it, it is crucial for any and all masculists around the world to keep differentiating between feminism and women, since it is only as long as masculism takes a step into the future and learns from the past mistakes of feminism that it can reasonably be said to take the moral high ground in the discussion on gender issues.
Another important distinction that arises from the two lists above is that you needn’t be a feminist to work with women’s issues. You can work on all kinds of important women’s issues around the world, political or otherwise, without buying into the political ideology that is feminism or radical feminism. Personally I believe that there are still lots of important women’s issues around the world that need to be dealt with, and while I am not a supporter of feminism or feminists, I fully support people who work with women’s issues.
The core agenda of masculists is to work with men’s rights and men’s issues. However, since feminism dominates the political discourse on gender issues in most countries, the need to deconstruct feminism and point out its inconsistencies and factual errors, becomes just as important as the core agenda. Criticizing feminism is not an end unto itself, but a means to simply create the space needed to infuse men’s issues into the gender discourse. If feminism were to be replaced by interest groups that work with women’s issues without attacking men, and without trying to monopolize the gender discourse, then masculists would be able to focus completely on working with men’s issues, without needing to analyze and criticize feminism. However, that is not the world we live in.
Many feminists would of course claim that feminism isn’t anti-male, and that feminism is simply a political movement working for gender equality. This might seem reassuring at first, and some men actually exert a lot of energy instructing masculists that they should simply joint the feminist movement and work for gender equality under that banner.
But what feminists forget to mention is that a prerequisite to be part of the feminist movement is that you accept the ideology that men as a group systematically oppress women as a group, and that women’s issues always take precedence over men’s issues. That stance is hardly attractive to a man (or a woman) who has taken a deeper look at gender roles and seen that both gender roles can be problematic in a range of different ways, with many men’s issues (such as male disposability) being so acute that they simply cannot take the back seat to women’s issues. Furthermore, feminists’ primary claim that feminism isn’t anti-male, is contradicted by their secondary claim that men as a group (i.e. all men) oppress women as a group (i.e. all women).
My conclusion can only be that masculism is a movement that is much needed in the world today, both as a force to put important men’s issues on the political agenda as well as a movement that dares to confront the political ideology that is feminism–without attacking women and without attacking people who work with women’s issues.