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Through Jon Krakauer’s book, “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” and Mariah Blake’s article “Mad Men: Inside the Men’s Rights Movement—and the Army of Misogynists and Trolls It Spawned”, we can see the worst of the men’s’ rights movement, as well as we why still need feminism. While Krakauer’s books isn’t specific to men’s rights or feminism, it does provide compelling evidence for why feminism is necessary and why most of the men’s rights activists aren’t truly fighting for men’s rights, but fighting to take away the progress the women’s rights movement has made. Meanwhile, Blake’s article showcases the original good intentions of the men’s activism movement that turned into the violent, sexist movement it is today.
The men’s rights movement was essentially spawned from the feminist movement, with Warren Farrell, a former feminist advocate and friend of Gloria Steinem. “Farrell argued that women were not the only ones hindered by sexism: Gender roles hurt men too, by forcing them to shoulder the financial burden of supporting families and stifle their emotions.” (Blake) Farrell mainly advocates for father’s rights. Some of the other issues he is interested in are male victims of domestic violence, male emotions, and recognizing the labor of fathers. However, he also has some off-kilter claims, including that the wage gap is false and that false rape claims are common.
These kinds of statements, while untrue, also allow rape apologists and potential rapists or abusers to have a platform, and think they’re legitimate. In fact, false rape allegations are extremely rare; only about 2% of rape reports are false, roughly the same as any other crime. (Krakauer 122) It is also a drastically under-reported crime, according to Krakauer. “Carefully conducted studies consistently indicate that at least 80 percent of rapes are never reported to law enforcement agencies. Analysis published in 2012 by Kimberly Lonsway, director of research at End Violence Against Women International, and Joanna Archambault, formerly a police sergeant in charge of the San Diego Sex Crimes Unit, suggests that only between 5 and 20 percent of forcible rapes in the United States are reported to police; a paltry 0.4 percent to 5.4 percent of rapes are ever prosecuted, and just 0.2 percent to 2.8 of forcible rapes culminate in a conviction that includes any time in jail for the assailant. Here’s another way to think of those numbers: When an individual is raped in this country, more than 90 percent of the time, the rapist gets away with the crime.” (Krakauer 123) It is absolutely vile how easy it is for rapists to get away with the crime, or get off with such minimal punishment. I have heard of people getting harsher punishments for things like petty theft or possession of drugs, much less serious crimes than rape.
In addition, Farrell makes an argument that women who report rapes are just on a power trip and think that men didn’t ask “properly”. “And thanks to feminism, he argued, when women felt ill-treated they could now more easily pursue sexual-harassment or date rape charges—a notion that carries strong currency among today’s men’s rights activists. ‘No one has taught men to sue women for sexual trauma for saying ‘yes,’ then ‘no,’ then ‘yes,’’ Farrell opined. ‘Men were left with less than one option. They were still expected to initiate, but now, if they did it badly, they could go to jail.’” (Blake) The statistics from Krakauer show that very few women are reporting sexual harassment and date rape when it happens, and also that very few of the reports are false, thus contradicting most of what Farrell stated. I find it disturbing that someone seemingly well- intentioned and honorable like Farrell would even suggest this.
If the men’s rights activists in Blake’s article wanted to help men, one thing that they should do is help male victims of rape and sexual assault. Men don’t get raped as often as women do, but they are still traumatized by it, and often don’t report it or even seek medical or mental help, due to a number of factors, the main one being toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is the idea that all men should be tough and angry and emotionless, that they shouldn’t like things that are “feminine”, that they always want sex, that they should always be powerful. This is harmful and untrue. Men are allowed to have emotions, they are allowed to say no to sex, and they are allowed to have whatever hobbies they want, whether it’s a traditional male pastime like football or repairing old cars, or whether it’s something more feminine like cooking or sewing. This is what true equality looks like, and this is one thing feminists fight for. Most of these men’s rights activists don’t seem to have that attitude, however. “For some, the ‘manosphere’ offers a place to air real grievances about issues such as bias in family courts or sexual abuse suffered by men. But it also has spawned a network of activists and sites that take Farrell’s ideology in a disturbing direction. “ (Blake)
Therefore, these activists lash out at women online. “A Voice for Men’s founder, Paul Elam, who is a friend and protégé of Farrell’s, has justified violence against women and written that some of them ‘walk through life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING B**CH—PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.’ Other activists have published names of women they consider enemies and have praised online stalkers, such as the ‘Gamergate’ mobs who bombard feminist critics with rape and death threats.”
These men act violently because women are finally speaking up when they’re being raped or abused. They have even brought people into cases they weren’t even apart of, as seen with Rachel Cassidy. “Publicizing personal information to make someone a target of harassment (a.k.a. “doxing”) is a common practice among men’s rights activists. In late 2013, someone posted photos of Rachel Cassidy, a 20-year-old college student in Ohio, on the anonymous online forum 4chan, alleging she had lodged false rape accusations. Nolan, who has made it his mission to ‘name and shame’ women who wrongly accuse men, dug up every bit of information he could find about Cassidy and posted it to Crimes Against Fathers. Police and university officials were explicit that Cassidy had nothing to do with the rape charges in question. Nevertheless, she was inundated with hateful messages and death threats, forcing her to delete all her social-media accounts and quit attending classes.” (Blake)
While Farrell seems pretty reasonable most of the time and somewhat respectable, men like Elam are the problem. Yes, Farrell said that he disapproves of these tactics, but he also feels that they are necessary. (Blake) They absolutely aren’t necessary. I certainly wouldn’t want to help a group of men who insult me and say I deserve to be raped and killed. It blows my mind that anyone would think sending threatening messages and harassing people would help them achieve any kind of goal.
In addition, it’s not just the act of rape itself that harms women. It’s also the medical exams if they choose to get one, the trial if they choose to report it, the physical injuries that some receive, the worries about pregnancy and STD’s, and PTSD. These fears and problems can cause the victims to become withdrawn, fall behind in classes and work, and cut off social ties. Krakauer presents several examples in his writing of this. “When she (Kerry Barrett, a sexual assault victim) finally emerged and ventured onto the grounds of the university, she had a chance encounter with Kaitlynn Kelly, a smart, feisty junior she had known since the fall of 2009. ‘She was crying’, Barrett said, ‘which was unbelievable to me, because Kaitlynn is the toughest girl I have ever met. So I knew something very serious had happened to her.’ When Barrett inquired why Kelly was upset, she confided to Barrett that three days earlier she had been raped.” (Krakauer 71) Allison Huguet had similar issues after reporting her rape as well. “She felt like she couldn’t come home, and couldn’t be in Missoula because people were so horrible to her. And when she went back to school, she couldn’t focus. And she had a hard time finishing college at the end, because she had so much to deal with here, and couldn’t be present in school.” (Krakauer 216)
There is a great deal of victim blaming, and a great deal of blind defense for some of these rapists because they’re football players that make the school look good, or the local townspeople have known them since they were babies and think they’re “good guys” or that they “wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Many of the men’s rights activists make similar arguments to these when they claim false rape accusations are very common. The fact is, they just aren’t.
While women have advocated for victims’ rights and better rape and sexual assault prevention, there are now good men like Jon Krakauer that are, as well. Krakauer also seems that he understands that there are male victims, yet he isn’t radicalized or violent like many of the male activists are.
In conclusion, one of the main problems with the men’s rights movement is their belief that women lie about being raped, sexually assaulted, or abused for attention or because they’re bitter against men. In turn, these men get more violent and lash out. If they would listen to facts and reasoning, they’d understand what victims really go through. They may also come to learn that most of their problems of “male oppression” are results of a patriarchal societal structure and the toxic masculinity they refuse to acknowledge. Maybe they will never understand that feminism is the only thing that can liberate us all, but perhaps if it is rebranded as “egalitarianism” or “human rights”, they’ll reconsider.
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