I’ve been to court to be a witness twice in my lifetime. Both times were cases of domestic abuse. In both cases I turned up and waited outside the court only to be told that the abuser had, on being told there was a witness outside preparing to testify, admitted his guilt. I know that me turning up was a deciding factor because up until both men were told that a third party was will to tell the world about what they had done they had both been ready to lawyer up and fight the case tooth and nail, presumably thinking it was going to be a he-said-she-said wash of a case that would get them a telling off from the judge at worse. Both these men seemed to be going into the court with the assumption that what they did was entirely justifiable if not, then understandable. It certainly didn’t occur to these men that someone (particularly a dude) would care enough about the women they had beaten to tell a court of law about it. Thinking back to both those instances the fact that these men just gave up and accepted their guilt after weeks of insisting on their innocence because I walked through the door is always the unnerving part, it’s almost as though in their minds whilst a woman wouldn’t be taken seriously by the court, a nod from a man would be enough to render their defense meaningless. These two incidents are what come to mind when I read anything about or by Men’s rights activists. I’m not saying All men’s rights activists think bros should get away with abusing women – there are probably like 20 who don’t – however the ideology and culture that has sprung up under the guise of fighting for “Men’s rights” has created scenarios in which a group of twisted human beings, who mourn women being unable to own property, have managed to influence the thinking and language of a depressingly significant amount of uninformed people and given cover and encouragement to the foot soldiers of rape culture.
It’s fashionable among certain kinds of pseudo academics to consider MRAs to have a point; the seeming logic being that Women, People of color, and the Queer community all have a civil rights struggle that has apparently achieved all it’s goals and can now be looked back on with pride on specific days of the year, (reducing the experiences of those who live at the sharp end of our society to a version of the Orange order with better music) thus making it wholly unfair that the achievements of white straight men aren’t celebrated with a day because celebrating the struggle for rights is apparently the demographic equivalent of a participation award. This isn’t helped by the fact that MRAs have managed to stumble onto the edges of valid problems in our society before managing to misunderstand the cause and therefore possible solutions to these problems, sort of like Ron Paul being against rigid border control for insane reasons. The lack of analysis within the Men’s rights world seems to stem from it being a largely white, straight group. A good example would be this chart;
This is a telling chart as by only using Gender as it’s marker it is ignoring the fact that People of Color and Trans-gender people are disproportionately more likely to Join the Army, and thus get killed (It should also be pointed out that women were banned from front line combat in the U.S. at least until 2013, and the number of female Civilian causalities – you know the kind of casualties that can’t fight back – has always been much higher and in fact is on the rise just in the last few years in conflict zones. These charts also obviously fail to mention the sexual violence in combat zones that happens almost exclusively to women). African American men are specifically more likely to go to jail for longer than their white counterparts, the same of which is true for African American women v White women. The facts about custody and industrial accidents are a confusing stat to reference when you’re trying to prove Matriarchy exists as maintaining the status of men as workers outside the home and women as housekeepers and childrearers isn’t some wild social experiment first dreamt up by lesbian separatists in the 60s nor is the idea of women as the natural gender of child rearing something that any serious feminists advocate: the fact of women obtaining custody of children is a combination of social ideas of female responsibilities within the home dating back thousands of years, and minor reforms from the nineteenth century giving women the right to own property. That’s the social norm that has grown up out of the heavily patriarchal application of Capitalism we’ve experienced for the last three hundred or so years.
M.R.A.s have manage to produce essentially imaginary causes for actual symptoms, such as suicide actually more common among men. However to stop analyzing the reasons for self harm at the gender disparity would ignore the higher percentage of Indigenous people who commit suicide, as well as the disproportionate number of L.G.B.T. people who commit suicide. By simply claiming that these things are the result of women empowering themselves means that the actual causes go unabated to the extent that the need for movements to address those causes is dismissed whilst counterproductive posturing and in some cases draconian policies are installed to protect people against the wrong culprits.
The frustration and alienation that groups of straight white men feel toward modern political trends isn’t there because people of color, queer people and women have made positive strides towards there own empowerment. We are all victims of the kind of disaster capitalism pushed by libertarians and numerous governments around the world to cope with the fact that the wider economic system doesn’t work very well without a strict enforceable and easy to denote hierarchy. The fact that our grandfathers and great grandfathers and great great grandfathers ad nausium for the most part spent almost all their lives working boring, unpleasant and dangerous jobs for very little money was compensated by the myth that by digging holes for 16 hours a day men were the later day equivalent of hunter gathers protecting there womenfolk at home even though for the most part women didn’t stay home, they were working as hard as men in equally unpleasant conditions without the kind of pay or mythologizing that men get. The fact that the means by which numerous men have defined themselves throughout history have come unstuck in the current society we have is somewhat more a reflection on their self definition and that society’s readiness to dispense of people than the empowerment of any other group. This is somewhat reflective in the fact that far from wanting to explore why gender roles came about, there relative usefulness and dispensing with the destructive ones, as the bumper sticker slogans seem to claim; It’s super hard to find an article on any M.R.A. blog or website whose underling assumptions are not based on the enforcement of rigid gender rolls and the subordination of women. There also seems to be an odd idea floated by M.R.A.s that Feminists want to subordinate men – an myth that is as old as women asking for rights – and that somehow believe that we don’t feel pain or emotions, which is a weird thing to try and pin on feminists because that’s the kind of stuff that literally every patriarchal social structure in the world has promoted.
If you are a Men’s rights activist in this day and age you are not just helping the forces of reaction keep feminism at bay you are aiding and abetting your own oppression. You are struggling to keep women in their place so that you can maintain a marginally higher one, somewhere near the bottom. There are may problems facing the average man today, but the fact of being a cisgender male isn’t one of them. Pretending that it is simply weaponizes the minor privileges you have for the use of the system that is causing you problems in the first place. Mainstream feminism doesn’t have all the answers and certainly has unpleasant problems of its own to deal, with but I try to be a feminist, in the same way I try to be an anti racist, and attempt to be positive about sexuality and gender identity because the nominal social benefits I get from being a white straight cisgender male is outweighed by the fact that I live in the kind of destructive society that requires bigotry to prop itself up. Therefore, fighting amongst ourselves is simply digging ourselves further into the ground. So even if you don’t think that trying shame women into pretending rape doesn’t exist is morally repugnant at least understand that the only way to advance and empower yourself is to aid and abet the empowerment of others, and that anything else is fundamentally destructive.
I miss a lot of things about the country of my birth; Chip shop chips, Irn Bru, free healthcare, the acceptability of lunchtime beer, etc. the list is long and really only of interest to myself, the prominence of items on the list constantly shift depending on my mood or who i’m talking too, the one thing that sticks in the top three is, and will most likely always be, the British Broadcasting Corporation.
My feelings toward the Beeb have been heightened just now by the fact that my Local N.P.R. affiliate is currently in the middle of it’s winter pledge drive. For the uninitiated public radio in America is based on a convoluted system of funding from various trusts and charities, a small amount from the federal government, individual donations to local affiliate stations as well as local companies underwriting individual programs. In theory this is a pretty good system, it certainly makes for a much better and interesting news outlet than literally any other American media outlet, and is generally the broadcaster of record for people who don’t sincerely believe the American dream was taken out back and shot on January 20th 2009. Unfortunately I’ve been spoiled by the B.B.C. being a ubiquitous presence in my life from birth.
Before I continue I should probably explain my feelings regarding the B.B.C.; as an organisation it shares the space in my heart I assume other people have patriotism with the N.H.S., Stilton and the Digger movement, It is one of the few things I really really love about the UK. For the uninitiated the B.B.C. is funded via a very unconvoluted system were by owning a a color television that receives outside transmissions requires paying for a licence which is the corporation’s main source of revenue along with selling merchandise and leasing out T.V. to other countries etc. This system, enforced by law and a weird level of intimidation does come off to the casual foreign observer as a little over the top and specifically to an American observer as down right Stalinist as it involves being required to pay for a shared enterprise that doesn’t involve killing anyone. However the B.B.C.’s system of essentially taxing people for the right to use one of it’s services is superior, not just in the resulting product but the attitude it breeds around it.
There are some basically superficial reasons I Think the B.B.C. is just better. I hate pledge drives; my experience of major broadcasters asking me for financial aid was – until moving to America – exclusively the preserve of comic relief and those times Blue peter asked for milk bottle tops (It’s sometimes very hard to make my childhood not sound like it happened in the 1950s), it’s therefore really jarring to hear someone on the radio ask you for money for themselves as opposed to an impoverished third party. It doesn’t help that the manner in which at least my local affiliate asks for money is an unpleasant tonal pendulum, swinging from begging and desperate to passive-aggressive guilt tripping, this is usually carried out by two people discussing pledging in these two styles, the gist of which is;
Person 1: Well we need money so we can continue broadcasting news and such every day
Person 2: Indeed, if you don’t call this second we will literally stop existing and you won’t ever hear from us again
Person 1: I mean it’s weird, because we know a lot of people listen to us but so few people send us money
Person 2: Oh that’s hard to believe, do you mean there are people who don’t care enough to give us as little as $10.00 a month?
Person 1: It’s sad but it’s true, I think there are in fact heartless people who listen to us but don’t think they need to pay for such quality broadcasting
Person 2: Wha? but people are innately good! who would even think of behaving in such a manner?
Person 1: I don’t know, but they must really hate us…. whoever they are…. Maybe you should give us a call.
To be fair pledge drivers do acknowledge that they’re annoying whilst they’re doing this weird arm twisting, this however doesn’t make it better despite the weird American cultural trope that being aware something is wrong is the same as nullifying it. To be much more fair I was raised in a middle class English household were to acknowledge that you are anything but financially comfortable is incredibly vulgar and as a result a direct appeal for cash, particularly from a middle class bastion such as N.P.R. crawls under my skin on a visceral level, so you can put my objection to pledge driving neatly under petty snobbery with short sleeved shirts and Iced white wine.
However this system of funding and the way it manifests itself is still infinitely inferior to the British model as shown by this commercial for the B.B.C. made about 17 years ago;
If you weren’t around in Britain in 1997, and this is the first time you’ve ever watched that video you did in fact just see David Bowie, Bono, Elton John, Shane McGowan and a symphony orchestra cover a Lou Reed song about heroine use with Lou Reed for the sole purpose of demonstrating how worthwhile enforced public funding of broadcasters is. The thing I love about that advert is that it’s point is the B.B.C. is for everyone and as many types of broadcasting as it’s possible to have. The B.B.C. manages to be the antithesis to the argument that free market capitalism = quality; Because the Beeb is a centrally organised, publicly owned by the whole country, it has to create things like BBC Radio nan Gàidheal, which is broadcast in a language that is spoken exclusively by people who also understand English fluently, there is no profit motive for such an enterprise, no one would underwrite such an economically pointless station, it only exists because the nature of the Corporation requires that it speak to everyone.
The BBC is probably the only thing that I have no control over and still some sense of ownership, and I don’t think that’s particularly weird, The BBC isn’t just a series of T.V. and Radio stations it’s a public service. A great example of this is that after facts came to light about a pedophile ring operating at the B.B.C., one of the B.B.C.’s flagship investigative journalist outlet investigated another flagship investigative journalist program for allegedly killing the story. This is in contrast to Sky News covering the Phone hacking scandal, whose coverage of the subject is minimal.
I don’t want to come off as dismissing N.P.R., or pretend the B.B.C. is a god-given example of perfection. N.P.R. is currently my main source of news and really is better than any alternatives in America, I should also mention that my local affiliate broadcasts the World service for about a quarter of the time. I’ve just been spoiled by the B.B.C. home service which is wonderfully unapologetic about the licence fee whilst N.P.R.’s tin-rattling always sounds like it comes through an embarrassed smile which is always going to hobble the station because constant worrying about were the next underlining check is coming from doesn’t make for the most diverse or interesting programs possible. I hope everyone in the U.K. reading this feels lucky that they live in a country with such a well funded public broadcaster because I can tell you that life without one isn’t better. My life is not richer because I don’t get to hear Britain’s most senior Rabbi clumsily try to make current events relevant to Judaism at ten too eight in the morning any more. I also don’t know what about having to listen to companies fit commercials in between news items adds to the whole experience. If thinking these things makes me a servile lack of the state, I suppose I’ll have to live with that but until we dispense with hierarchy in all forms of life and create collectivized mass media I’m still going to think the B.B.C. has the best model for a broadcaster in the world.