That’s right, internet. Apparently, some men feel that their rights are being trod upon, and they believe a men’s movement is required to end the discrimination against men.
Okay. I’m not really as sarcastic as all that about this. I do think there are definitely cases in which men get the short end of the stick, especially when it comes to things like divorce and custody battles. I also believe that male rape is more common than we think and that women can sometimes be very emotionally and physically abusive to their male partners. I also think that cultural expectations and definitions of masculinity are just as damaging as those of femininity, and it’s true that men’s cancers like testicular and prostate cancer aren’t as widely discussed as breast cancer (though men get breast cancer too).
But to claim that men are generally discriminated against enough to require a movement equal to feminism? I don’t think so.
Here I think we need to make a distinction between legal discrimination and social discrimination. Legal discrimination, to me, refers to things like women being charged more for health insurance because they’re women, or the pay gap, or birth control not being covered by insurance when erectile dysfunction medications are, or custody courts that favor the mother inherently, or divorce settlements that require unnecessary alimony. Social discrimination is where we get into ideas of what femininity and masculinity are, and where judgements are passed for adhering/not adhering to those ideas, etc.
I think the biggest so-called “men’s rights issue” comes from our cultural ideas of manliness. The problem is that while definitions of femininity are being adjusted to align more with what women actually are and what they actually want for themselves, the definition of masculinity has remained essentially the same: society wants a man to be a big, strong, clever-but-not-too-clever breadwinner who is more practical than emotional and who directs his life through his own sound judgement rather than through any kind of collaboration.
This model worked well with the old masculine-dictated femininity. However, feminism has carried us closer and closer to a feminine-dictated femininity that places men and women on equal footing. Equal is the operative word here, people. It’s about creating a society of partners, a society where leadership is based on merit rather than gender. It’s not about flipping it so that women are in power and men are begging for scraps. Frankly, it’s about ending discrimination against anyone. The rights of one should not be to infringe on the rights of another.
Rather than whining that the expansion of women’s rights has curtailed men’s rights or led to discrimination against men, I feel like men should be asking themselves what kind of people they want to be, rather than thinking about what society expects them to be. I mean, wouldn’t it be a relief to know that you don’t need to be the sole provider for a group of perhaps three or four people in this economy?