A father and son promoting a father’s campaign in Kansas City
A burgeoning civil rights movement, focused on eliminating what its members see as broadening social and legal disparities between men and women, is using social media and the Internet to spread its message demanding parity.
Active in North America but also evident in increasingly visible efforts abroad, the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) is fighting proposed and existing legislation its members see as “misandric,” while challenging social customs and traditions its activists believe favor women over men.
According to Judith Baer’s “Historical and Multicultural Encyclopedia of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States,” the MRM, which Baer calls the Father’s Rights Movement (FRM), traces its origins to the early 1960s. She specifically identifies the Internet as the means through which the FRM gained momentum.
“After the World Wide Web took off in the 1990s,” she writes, “FRM cites [sic] proliferated on the Internet.”
Amid the spread of fathers’ and men’s rights groups on the Web, the book widely considered to be the foundation of the MRM, Warren Farrell’s “The Myth of Male Power,” was published in 1994.
“I wrote ‘The Myth of Male Power,'” Dr. Farrell explains, “because I came to understand that historically neither sex had real power – both sexes had real obligations, responsibilities, and roles.”
He decries what he sees as the “disposable” position of men in contemporary society, citing higher suicide rates, lower life expectancies and other social indicators unfavorable to men. He outlines various legal and financial disadvantages men experience across a broad range of scenarios.
Farrell also draws the tie between the FRM and the MRM as necessarily an outgrowth of those legal and financial issues.
“When men are younger,” he told WND, “they are more concerned with the balance between how to fit in and how to be different; when they consider marriage, they are focused on sex until they fall in love. It is only when men encounter failure that we begin a fundamental questioning of our roles. Usually that’s if they are a dad and there’s a divorce. Then men are shocked to find they have few rights if their rights are challenged by the mom.”
The movements for fathers’ and men’s rights were once firmly, and briefly, associated with drum circles and weekend retreats. Today, however, the MRM comprises members ranging from prominent figures such as Internet radio host Paul Elam of the organization A Voice for Men, to YouTube activists such as Bernard Chapin, to pseudonymous bloggers such as “Angry Harry” and Elam’s colleague “John the Other.” Using podcasts, social media and their Internet media, these self-described men’s rights activists take advantage of the immediacy and interactivity offered by today’s technology to spread their message.
That message encompasses a wide variety of issues considered touchstones of the MRM, including inequity in the family court system, a lack of social support services for men, the decline of college enrollment among men versus women, and legislation like the Violence Against Women Act, which activists believe emphasizes violence against women at the expense of ignoring or marginalizing violence against men.
While “gender feminism” is frequently blamed as the root cause of these problems, few issues within the MRM inspire as much vocal outcry as false allegations of sexual assault.
“We have men literally going to prison and having their lives destroyed, their reputations… all over finger pointing,” Elam says. “This is a huge problem across the movement.”
Elam and his fellow activists have fought back by creating their own website, “Register Her,” which purports to be a public database of false accusers, violent female offenders and even public figures who have advocated against men.
One of Elam’s more prominent targets among the latter is Mary Kellett, an assistant district attorney in Maine, whom the site calls a “corrupt public official” who “has distinguished herself by prosecuting numerous cases of rape and domestic violence against men within her community based on no evidence.”
Calls for comment to Kellett’s office were not returned.
The MRM has its own vocabulary and catchphrases. Paul Elam and listeners to his Internet radio show frequently speak of “taking the red pill,” a reference to the film “The Matrix.” Men motivated by self-destructive chivalry are “White Knights,” while the acronyms MGTOW and NAWALT signify “Men Going Their Own Way” and “Not All Women Are Like That.”
Activism over men’s rights has gone global, with visible men’s rights groups active in Australia, the U.K. and other Western nations. In Japan, a growing “herbivore” movement comprises Japanese men opting out of traditional social roles while expressing little or no interest in women or sex.
The movement for men’s rights is not limited to men, either. One prominent activist is Dr. Tara Palmatier, a clinical psychologist and counselor who runs the website Shrink4Men.
“I was and am personally very concerned by the double standard our culture and the field of psychology practices when it comes to female perpetrated abuse and criminality,” Palmatier says. “As a society, we need to disabuse ourselves of the penurious notion that all women are victims and all men are aggressors. This is a simplistic lie with serious implications.”
Elam echoes Palmatier’s sentiments while insisting that activism for men’s rights is not denigration of women.
“It’s not dismissing women’s issues to say, ‘Wait a minute, no, we’re going to talk about men right now,'” he says.
Elam is also frank when asked what he hopes to achieve with his activism.
“The end goal is admittedly ambiguous. From a social standpoint … the whole idea is to try to restore some sort of sanity between men and women [so that] we can repair some of the widespread gulf that’s created between the two in this culture.”
YouTube activist Chapin is quick to describe that gulf.
“I’m a devil four times over,” he says. “I’m white, I’m male, I’m a Christian and I’m a patriot.”
What he wants, and what he hopes to achieve as a men’s rights activist, is even more direct.
“Stop lying about me,” he demands, “and stop lying about males in general.”