They call themselves "men's rights activists," and we've let them get away with it. They have been clever, using language of "rights" and liberal ideas of equality, all the while demonising women and reinforcing sexist oppression. A Voice for Men, Masculinist Evolution New Zealand (MENZ), the New Zealand Equality Education Foundation and the Union of Fathers have stolen liberatory language while they work on restoring men to their rightful place as top of the heap.
It's about time feminists called this out. Second wave feminists in the 1960s and 1970s called sexists male chauvinist pigs. They didn't let MCPs define the terms.
This international "men's rights" movement includes "activists" celebrating domestic violence murders as men fighting back.
Then there is A Voice for Men and their take on fathering daughters:
The night winds on, with discussion of rape and the smothering of penises, the sorrows of false accusations and the narcissism of young girls. A sore point for Factory, who has two daughters, who, like young women everywhere, he says, compete for the most exaggerated rape claim. It is, he says, a status thing. When one of his daughters came home one night and said she’d been raped, he said, "Are you fucking kidding me?" Sitting with us, he hikes his voice up to a falsetto in imitation: " ’Oh, I just got raped.’ " He laughs. There’s a moment of silence. A bridge too far? "I told her if she pressed charges, I’d disown her."
Here in New Zealand MENZ help men to avoid protection orders for domestic violence and tell you what to do if you're accused of rape. The face of MENZ is John Potter, convicted child sexual abuser. Posts and comments on the page are Misogyny 101.Elam, whose attention has drifted, grins through his beard. "That’s good fathering," he says."
Let's call these male chauvinist pigs, with all-new equality lingo, what they are. Sexist Protectors of Extra Rights for Men.
SPERMs have many concerns, what with all the feminism. Recently they got worried about Mad Max and Hollywood being unfair on men. I'm just going to leave this here, thanks Human Rights Commission.
Increasingly though, the focus of SPERMs is domestic and sexual violence. They argue men are just as likely to be victims as women, and women are just as likely to be perpetrators as men.
This argument is well-advanced in Aotearoa, and while MENZ and John Potter may seem fringe, SPERM academics like David Fergusson and MSD's new Chief Science Advisor Richie Poulton who focus on undermining "ideological" approaches to gendered violence, do not. Nor do the regular deluge of emails from other SPERMs to policy analysts inside government.
Fergusson and Poulton have been arguing for years - with super approving commentary at MENZ and elsewhere - that women are as violent as men, based on research which uses the Conflict Tactics Scale. I stab you, you push me away, we've been equally violent. The CTS has been heavily critiqued for missing self-defense, not addressing context like whether or not you're afraid, and not measuring sexual violence in relationships.
Fergusson and Poulton can't explain the gender differences in hospital admissions, rates of seeking protection orders, rates of reporting to the Police, numbers of families in Refuges. Even they haven't been able to pretend sexual violence is gender neutral.
I do not wish to pretend that men never experience domestic or sexual violence. There's good evidence that boys are targeted for sexual abuse at previously unsuspected rates, if not at the same rates as girls. And with emerging data showing high rates of victimisation for trans* and intersex people, acknowledging diverse experiences of violence is vital.
But saying violence is always an awful thing - whatever your gender identity - is not the same as pretending it happens at the same rates across gender. SPERMs are not happy with acknowledging male victims exist; they need them to exist equally with female victims. And they need female perpetrators to exist equally with male perpetrators. Contrary to evidence.
New Zealand's Family Violence Death Review from 2013 tells us that in 55 cases of violence which led to death:
- 51 deaths were of female victims of men's violence; 1 death was of a male victim of women's violence; 3 deaths were new male partners killed by ex-male partners
- 53 murders were committed by abusive men; 2 murders were committed by abusive women, one of a male partner, one of a female partner
One area he's likely to attack - because SPERMs hate it - is the White Ribbon Campaign, which focuses on ending men's violence towards women. White Ribbon commemorates 14 murders by a male engineering student who killed women on a course he missed out on in Montreal in 1991. Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, Family First and MENZ all come out swinging on this one, pretty much every year. They actively campaign to stop others participating - one comment on the MENZ link above explains how they stopped New Zealand Courts displaying any White Ribbon materials. They argue the White Ribbon campaign should be about male victims too, despite how insulting that would be to the 14 murdered women the campaign honours.
One final note. I've trained close to 50 sexual violence prevention practitioners in New Zealand over the last few years, with nearly an even gender split. The vast majority of the men doing that work understand gendered dynamics well, and are constantly looking for new ways to encourage other men to behave in respectful, playful and equity based ways when they are sexual with other people, and to intervene if they see men around them supporting violence.
Just one SPERM in that time is probably pretty good going, though I still worry about the damage he may be doing with the young people he works with. Our training included how to facilitate a session on "Blurred Lines" to encourage conversation about gender norms. The vicious misogyny of this song, when you actually read the lyrics, is difficult to miss. The SPERM was most concerned about these lyrics:
"So, hit me up when you pass throughHe was worried that young men who don't have big enough penises to "tear asses in two" would not feel masculine enough. This SPERM was thinking like a rapist.
I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two"
"Men's rights activists" are not fighting for rights and equality. I'm sick of being polite about them, using their language and having to re-prove, over and over again, that sexist oppression exists. Sexist Protectors of Extra Rights for Men want to always be the centre of attention, setting all the rules, having all their needs met, being the only voices heard. Enough. Let's take it back.
For the first time, I am closing comments on a post. I've been the target of SPERMs in New Zealand before, and while I can't control what they write about me on their own sites, I'm choosing not to allow that here, for this post. Apologies to all our fabulous readers who would no doubt enjoy discussing and debating the issues above.