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This article was written on 11 Oct 2013, and is filled under General.

Feminism and Antifeminism

by The Patriarchy

Editors: Sillymod, Oneiorosgrip

WomenVersailles

When a lot of people first encounter the Men’s Rights subreddit, they are shocked to find vocal opposition to feminism. For the longest time, “feminist” was synonymous with “egalitarian”, and to people still operating with this (slightly outdated) mindset the obvious conclusion is that all of those antifeminists must be anti-egalitarian. But “feminism” and “egalitarianism” aren’t quite as synonymous as many seem to believe.

Generally, the term “feminism” is used to broadly describe the feminist movement, and the fundamental ideology of this group. The movement itself is huge, with all sorts of different conflicting factions. You might have ideological conflicts between Postmodern Feminism and Liberal Feminism, or Gender Feminism and Equity Feminism, but there is still one constant set of beliefs permeating every form of feminism. That set of beliefs is what distinguishes feminism from simple egalitarianism. And disagreement with that set of beliefs is why MRAs like myself are considered “antifeminists”.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy spells it out pretty clearly:

[...] a Liberal approach [...] might define feminism (rather simplistically here) in terms of two claims:

(Normative) Men and women are entitled to equal rights and respect.
(Descriptive) Women are currently disadvantaged with respect to rights and respect, compared with men […in such and such respects and due to such and such conditions…].

The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (James, 2000), makes it even plainer:

Feminism is grounded on the belief that women are oppressed or disadvantaged by comparison with men, and that their oppression is in some way illegitimate or unjustified.

And the Oxford English Dictionary’s entry on Feminism glosses over it:

the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Do you see what I’m getting at yet? To truly be a feminist, you need to not only believe in equality between the sexes, but that women are oppressed and men are privileged – that the fight for equality is necessarily a fight to remove this disparity. Some feminists might attempt to remove that disparity by raising women up to the perceived level of men, while others might attempt to bring men down to the perceived level of women (or some combination of the two), but all are operating from the perspective that men are privileged and women are oppressed. To understand why an egalitarian might be an antifeminist, and to understand why many feminists oppose the MRM, you need to first understand that this women = oppressed / men = privileged belief is not just excruciatingly common amongst those in the feminist movement, but a fundamental part of the very core of the ideology “feminism”.

Egalitarianism, on the other hand, is just a vague belief in equality. It doesn’t specify where one would like to see equality, let alone which type of equality one supports. In relation to feminism/the MRM, it’s generally used to mean “gender-egalitarianism”, which would be the belief that men and women should be equal to one another (again, in an unspecified way). As I’ve explained above, feminism is centered on a belief in equality. Because of that, it can be viewed as a subtype of gender-egalitarianism. But because it involves additional beliefs beyond “women and men should be equal”, it is not the only form of gender-egalitarianism. Disagreeing with or opposing the application of those additional beliefs might make one an antifeminist, but it does not make one an anti-egalitarian.

Patriarchy” is a fairly important feminist concept. It encapsulates the essence of feminism quite well, though it has many different definitions. A very liberal definition of “patriarchy” would be a society which privileges men above women (though, definitions run the gamut from the extremely vague “society which is oppressive to women” to the traditional definition of “a society which is ruled by fathers”). In such a society, feminism and egalitarianism are functionally indistinguishable from one another, as striving for equality necessarily means increasing the status of women and/or reducing the status of men. But as a society makes itself more equal, a schism appears…distinguishing the two terms from one another.

Many within the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM), myself included, believe that most (if not all) post-industrial Western nations have become equal enough that “patriarchy” can no longer accurately describe our society. We look around us and we see that women have the same basic opportunities as men (along with some extra opportunities), and we see a lot of men struggling in many areas where they lack the same opportunities as women. We read the feminist arguments insisting we live in a “patriarchy”, and we see glaring problems in them…leaving us unconvinced. “Patriarchy” might be an apt description of places like Saudi Arabia, but it doesn’t really describe New York or Toronto in 2013. When we attempt to address the instances in which we feel men and boys are struggling, we are met with strong opposition from feminists. This is not the sort of rational discourse befitting opposition in a civilized society, but demonization, slander, threats of violence, and other attempts to silence our discussions which should have been left behind generations ago.

Because we disagree with a central tenet of feminism, we are labeled “antifeminist” and viewed as the inhuman scum of the earth. Well, when you have a pejorative hurled at you regularly, you’ll tend to look into it. And many of us have come to the conclusion that yes, we are antifeminists. But that doesn’t mean we oppose equality, hate women, or anything like that. Antifeminism, as defined by the editors at Wikipedia, is simply “opposition to feminism in some or all of its forms”. By that liberal definition, the disagreement I outlined above would make one an “antifeminist”. One could still technically be “pro-feminist” in places like Saudi Arabia, while opposing feminism in places like Toronto.

Many within the feminist movement, like Michael Kimmel in his 2004 essay entitled “Antifeminism”, would proffer a more persuasive definition of the term, labeling it as “opposition to women’s equality”. But that doesn’t really make much etymological sense. Surely some antifeminists are opposed to women’s equality, but as the defining feature, it seems more fitting as a definition for “anti-egalitarianism”. Feminism is more than simple belief in equality…it’s belief that we live in “patriarchy”. Disagreeing with that, or “opposing” it, would also be “antifeminist” as well…without opposing “women’s equality”. In the absence of any other competing definitions, I choose the definition which seems most reasonable to me…and that’s the Wikipedia definition.

I am an MRA. I believe that men and women should be equal. And I am an antifeminist.

4 Comments

  1. Randy
    October 18, 2013

    Thanks for your post. I agree with much of it.

    But, while your stated philosophy is egalitarian, your self-labeling is plainly not. If you are egalitarian, your movement should not be gender-based. I believe men and women should be equal. I am antifeminist. And I am not an MRA either (but I am thankful that at least MRA sites don’t censor me like the feminists almost always do).

    I’m looking for an all-inclusive gender-egalitarian movement that almost never uses gendered words to describe itself or its policies. Men, women, and others, should be treated equally, and that is best achieved by explicitly working together toward that goal by focusing on our common dignity, rather than individual chromosomes or body parts.

    • sillymod
      October 18, 2013

      I understand your point of view – certainly the gender indicators in the titles “men’s rights movement” and “feminism” suggest that the groups are not egalitarian. Few within the men’s rights movement would blame you for claiming to be an egalitarian while rejecting both the MRM and feminism.

      I think that the “men’s rights movement” is gender-titled because it is a statement to force people to recognize that the patriarchy concept should not be used to deny men equal rights. There is the perception among feminists – in fact a central tenet of feminism – is that sexism and denial of rights requires institutional power. According to patriarchy theory, that institutional power is entirely in hands of men. And thus, men do not deserve the same protections.

      I agree with you that a gender-titled movement should not be needed for an egalitarian society, but the existing gender movement infrastructure is focused on feminism and anti-patriarchy efforts, which means that men are marginalized and excluded. Once the MRM goes mainstream, then I think most people in the MRM will shift over.

      (Of note, we also own another domain name that is egalitarian centric. So we have a backup when times comes to switch.)

    • The Patriarchy
      October 19, 2013

      This article was mainly to explain how one could be an antifeminist while still being an egalitarian. As far as the title of MRA being gender-specific, this is true. However, it does not preclude one from also being a WRA. MRA simply means you advocate for the rights of men. It implies no specific ideology, or belief, it simply describes an action. IF you advocate for the rights of men, you could accurately refer to yourself as an MRA…even if you disagree with most other MRAs on pretty much everything. You could be a feminist, or an anti-egalitarian and still have as much right to the label as any other MRA…as long as you do advocate for the rights of men.

      Assuming that’s clear, I’d like to focus more on the gender-specific label right now. This same criticism has been leveled against the feminist movement by MRAs for quite some time. It’s a criticism I personally have leveled against feminism as well. Yet I consider myself a “Men’s Rights Advocate”, so wouldn’t that make be pretty hypocritical?

      Perhaps you’ll consider it to be “mental gymnastics”, but I don’t think so. I don’t have a problem with gender-specific names for movements per se. I have a problem with X-specific movements denying the right of Y-specific movements to exist. When I criticize feminism for the gender-specific name, I’m doing so in response to claims that feminism is already handling any issues men may face…that it’s the only movement for gender-equality that needs to exist…that the MRM should not exist. If a movement’s proponents are claiming to represent ALL gender issues, yet in practice the movement only addresses the issues faced by one gender and has a name specifying its focus on only one gender, then there’s a disconnect between the claims of the proponents and the reality of the situation. The point is to highlight that, no, feminism does not and can not represent all gender issues…it is fundamentally tied to women’s issues. And that would be fine, if they didn’t claim domain over the MR-issues which they never address (or only address with token words of support after being chastised for inaction). Unlike the feminist movement, the MRM doesn’t claim to handle WR-issues. We make no claims that it should be the ONLY gender-equality movement, or anything of the sort. We simply believe that men’s issues need to be addressed as well.

      In a society where both men and women have their own issues, and where women’s issues already have a powerful advocate, those of us looking to get men’s issues addressed believe we need a movement specifically for that. Some day, when the feminist movement isn’t quite so huge, and when more people at least recognize the need to address men’s issues, maybe we could roll them all into one big gender-neutral movement for equality. But right now, many of us feel the need for a movement specifically for men’s rights. You don’t need to align yourself with that movement, but I hope you can at least recognize our right to exist.

  2. CosmicKeys
    October 20, 2013

    Great article.

    Personally I say “I’m not a feminist”, rather than “anti-feminist”. Anti-feminist can make people perceive you as being the opposite of feminism, therefore they will try and skewer you as traditionalist. When you say you are not a feminist but pro gender equality, all of a sudden they are in a position where they have a harder approach to criticizing you.

    Second point is that while we don’t live in a “Patriarchy” as feminist theory posits, I think it’s important MRAs don’t come across as delusional by denying patriarchy exists given a limited definition. i.e., men hold many positions of high authority and leadership in our hierarchical models. This is factual and quantifiable, so if you try and deny “Patriarchy” exist it doesn’t come across well without explaination. What needs to get across to people is what’s missing from that apex fallacy type description of “Patriarchy”.

    As an example, Hanna Rosin was instantly dismissed by feminists based on the title of her article “Patriarchy is dead” alone. Saying things like that gives people the impression that “women were oppressed before, but now it’s ok because we have a few token women in office!”. Feminists view any sign of male authority as oppression, so until they see total gender equality in authority figures they will see society as oppressive to women.

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