Editors: Signature, Oneiorosgrip
The gender rights debates primarily have four (non-exclusive) movements, each with their own subgroupings. The primaries are: the feminist movement, the traditionalist movement, the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer) movement, and the men’s rights movement. It is very possible for an individual to self-identify as a member of multiples of these movements.
Due to the recent rise in publicity and proliferation of the men’s rights movement – arguably the newest and smallest of the movements – there has been a certain amount of recent conflict between those who identify with the principles of the men’s rights movement, or MRM for short, and those who identify with the principles of the other movements. This is, in part, due to the poorly defined nature of the men’s rights movement, which draws members from former and current feminists, traditionalists and LGBTQ supporters, each with their own views about the status of men, the nature of “maleness”, the concept of rights, and the nature of “equality”.
A common conflict within the reddit communities is whether or not feminism can coexist with the MRM, or, rather, whether a feminist can be a member of the MRM.
In order to understand the compatibility of feminism and the MRM, it is important to understand different views on the nature of “equality”. A common theme within feminism is the view that social equality can be determined with equality of outcome measures, while a common theme within the MRM is the view that social equality can be determined with equality of opportunity measures.
From the Wikipedia entry on equality of outcome:
Equality of outcome, equality of condition, or equality of results is a political concept which is central to some political ideologies and is used regularly in political discourse, often in contrast to the term equality of opportunity. It describes a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth or in which the general economic conditions of their lives are similar. Achieving equal results generally entails reducing or eliminating material inequalities between individuals or households in a society, and usually involves a transfer of income or wealth from wealthier to poorer individuals, or adopting other measures to promote equality of condition.
Thus, measures of equality of outcome include things that measure “equality in the central and valuable things in life” – average salary for men/women, numbers of CEOs/managers who are men/women, number of political leaders who are men/women, etc. These are deemed valuable things in life. Feminists who hold this view of equality will then cite the gender pay gap and glass ceiling studies to support their claims of the unequal (lower) status of women in our society. Of note, this very specifically ignores the problems of the “glass cellar”, where men suffer higher death rates, workplace injury rates, mental illness, and other negatives of society.
From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on equality of opportunity:
Equality of opportunity is a political ideal that is opposed to caste hierarchy but not to hierarchy per se. The background assumption is that a society contains a hierarchy of more and less desirable, superior and inferior positions. Or there may be several such hierarchies. In a caste society, the assignment of individuals to places in the social hierarchy is fixed by birth.
Thus, people within the MRM that hold this view consequently believe that gender should not be a factor in the social and economic status of individuals, just as feminists do. However, the equality of opportunity view leads to the belief that outcome-dependent-measures do not allow for the complex effects of choices that individuals make. In particular, this view can be criticized as ignoring the lasting effects of institutional sexism, where the social prejudices of elders pass on biased views to younger members of society.
A commonly cited study supporting this point of view is the CONSAD report on the gender wage gap, which attempted to take into account the effects of choices by only comparing the wages of very similarly employed people (similar job, similar education, similar work experience, etc). The CONSAD report had this to say in its concluding statements:
As a result, it has not been possible to develop reliable estimates of the total percentage of the raw gender wage gap for which all of the factors that have been separately found to contribute to the gap collectively account. In this study, an attempt has been made to use data from a large cross-sectional database, the Outgoing Rotation Group files of the 2007 CPS, to construct variables that satisfactorily characterize factors whose effects have previously been estimated only using longitudinal data, so that reliable estimates of those effects can be derived in an analysis of the cross-sectional data. Specifically, variables have been developed to represent career interruption among workers with specific gender, age, and number of children. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.
Additional portions of the raw gender wage gap are attributable to other explanatory factors that have been identified in the existing economic literature, but cannot be analyzed satisfactorily using only data from the 2007 CPS. Those factors include, for example, health insurance, other fringe benefits, and detailed features of overtime work, which are sources of wage adjustments that compensate specific groups of workers for benefits or duties that disproportionately affect them. Analysis of such compensating wage adjustments generally requires data from several independent and, often, specialized sources.
The disagreements between the two groups then arise as a result of, or perhaps a fear of, the consequences of the solutions proposed by the “opponents”. Equality-of-outcome-ists wish to resolve gender based inequality by imposing employment quotas, increasing benefits/subsidies/scholarships to under-achieving groups, and other wealth-transfer methods. Viewed from the perspective of using these to help women achieve similar measure values as men, it is easy to see why equality-of-opportunity-ists would be combative as these methods distinctly reinforce a gender-based caste system. Equality-of-opportunity-ists, on the other hand, wish to resolve gender based inequality by strong penalties against those who discriminate based on gender, and improve education on the negative social impacts of gender discrimination. Again, it is easy to see why equality-of-outcome-ists would be combative towards these methods, as they argue that these represent the current and historical methods used, which have not yet completely eliminated the gender-inequality measures that they support – thus, are viewed as ineffective.
As a concluding note, “not all feminists are like that” (NAFALT), and similarly “not all men’s rights advocates are like that”. These are cliched phrases used to defend the diversity among these two groups. As Christina Hoff Sommers distinguishes, feminists can be classified into (at least) two groups: equity feminists and gender feminists. (Note: typically gender feminists support equality of outcome while equity feminists support equality of opportunity.) And while equity feminism is not necessarily incompatible with the views commonly held by the men’s rights movement, thus negating the necessity for conflict, it has been argued that diversity among feminist viewpoints does not remove the culpability of equity feminists for the effectiveness of the gender feminist lobby. If those who lobby for equality-of-outcome under the generic title of feminism use as support the entirety of those who self-identify as feminists, without protest from such feminists, then such feminists are similarly responsible for the effectiveness of the lobby. If the MRM had a similar lobby, then a similar argument would apply.
It is a result of this last argument that some members of the MRM treat all feminists with a similar combative stance, regardless of the diverse individual beliefs held by all feminists, as all feminists are believed to share some responsibility for existing measures that were lobbied for under the guise of generic feminism. As recently stated by reddit /r/Feminism moderator, demmian,
Collective responsibility is not by any means an universally accepted standard. Nobody is held responsible, morally or legally, for the actions of others who happen to share their democratic/republican/christian/hinduist/buddhist/etc views, and also committed various questionable acts. It is an effective propaganda tool to easily blame all people for the presumed actions of a few…
Whether this argument holds or not depends on the ethical principles of the individual.
None-the-less, the disagreements still stand. Each side feels threatened by the proposed solutions of the other, and this fuels the ongoing conflict.
A few side notes:
Of the remaining two movements, the LGBTQ movement does not necessarily exist in conflict with either of the feminist or men’s rights movements. Some conflicts do arise between the LGBTQ movement and members of the MRM primarily due to high rates of LGBTQ members also self-identifying as feminists. Additional conflicts between the LGBTQ movement and the feminist movement arise due to the views of some feminists regarding issues like transgenderism.
The traditionalist movement, however, appears to be in perpetual conflict with members of all three other movements. Traditionalists will often argue that the success of historical societies was in large part due to the complementarity of the gender roles, where the natural size and strength of men were useful for labour, while the necessity and vulnerability of women bearing children suggested a prominence in house care roles. In a modern society in which physical labour is less common, and the act of child care can be outsourced readily (the vulnerability and necessity of child bearing is still shouldered by women), some will argue that these roles are no longer central and should either be abolished (extreme) or left to individual choice (moderate). Within the traditionalist movement, people who do not identify within the binary, complementary gender roles are also of little/no use to society, which leads to conflict with the LGBTQ movement.