Jewish World Review June 4, 2003 / 4 Sivan 5763

Wendy McElroy

Wendy McElroy
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Gender issues impacted by masculinists | Gender issues are being rocked by masculinism -- sometimes called men's rights or the Men's Movement.

Advocates claim it is a last chance to restore sanity between the sexes and justice for families. Feminist foes accuse masculinists of wrongdoing that verges on criminal acts. High-profile clashes will almost certainly erupt between the two and public policy will change. But what is masculinism?

To understand a position, you need to explore the explanations offered by its mainstream supporters. Only afterward is it helpful to listen to its critiques and extreme exponents in order to gain perspective.

Father's rights activist Mark Toogood offers a prevalent definition: "1. A male-friendly framework for understanding social problems. 2. The belief that equality between the sexes requires the recognition and redress of prejudice and discrimination against men as well as women. 3. A complementary, not oppositional perspective to feminism."

The dominant theme of mainstream masculinism is the demand for a gender-neutral approach to social problems such as broken families, domestic violence and reproduction. For example, in approaching domestic violence it demands that the police, court system and social networks cease to pre-define victims as female and to recognize that men are often victims of domestic violence as well.

By contrast, feminist critics claim that masculinism promotes an exclusively male point of view at the expense of women. They point to extreme and angry expressions of masculinism as being representative of the entire movement. Then, based on material from this radical fringe, masculinism is called anti-woman.

In recent years, masculinists have focused on father's rights in custody, visitation and reasonable child support. They believe children need both parents and that divorced fathers should have rights as well as responsibilities. Given the high level of divorce in North America, these are non-trivial issues that deserve honest and vigorous dialogue.

The prospect of that dialogue occurring has been dealt a stunning blow by "School Success by Gender: A Catalyst for the Masculinist Discourse" -- a $75,000 tax-paid report requested by Status of Women Canada, a department of the Canadian federal government. The report has been called a declaration of war against men's rights activists both in Canada and the United States.

"Success by Gender" looks at a wide range of masculinist Web sites in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere -- from father's rights to anti-circumcision sites, from Promise Keepers to Men's Health Network. It finds, "these groups are largely composed of white, heterosexual, middle-class men who have not been successful in coping with the challenge to masculinity posed by feminism." Hundreds of sites and individuals are named and accused of creating hatred against women.

Among the report's recommendations: The establishment (at taxpayer expense) of an Internet monitoring organization to focus on men's hate speech against women; the publication, and dissemination, of a list that warns of "misogynist groups" -- that is, men's rights groups; and, an investigation into prosecuting such sites under section 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code which addresses hate speech.

Ken Wiebe of BC (British Columbia) Fathers, one of the named sites, comments: "I have very little patience for feminists. ... But I have a wife, I have daughters. This notion that because we are opposed to the feminists' political agenda, that that somehow equates to a dislike of women, is just propaganda. That's some kind of smear campaign." The front page of BC Fathers proclaims, "Individuals have been named who may soon be targeted for legal, financial and legislative harassment intended to silence any dissent to the radical man-hating variety of feminism."

The attack upon masculinists is not unique to Canada. California NOW's much-touted Family Court Report 2002 aimed at making the California family court system even more mother-centered. Section 4 of CANOW's report was entitled "A Brief History of the Father's Rights Movement." It attacked men's groups for competing with feminists for federal funds and engaged in wholesale ad hominem attacks on prominent men's rights figures. It concluded that the "agenda" of father's rights groups was "to avoid child support, impoverish women, perpetuate a patriarchal suprastructure by which women and children are subjugated to property status."

Judging by the backlash, masculinists are having an impact. I know this personally because my Web site, which advances equal rights for men, has experienced a dramatic increase in harassment and hate mail from gender feminists in recent months. Every blast centers on men's rights.

The tension will only heighten. Men who claim the right to be an active part of their children's lives will not back down. Women who recognize the justice of those claims are not intimidated.

On May 24, the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) published an open "Memo to NOW" which spoke of "countless bright young women frustrated by rigid feminist propaganda of male hatred ..." With their funding doubled, IWF announced, "We're issuing fair warning: extreme feminists, get to your foxholes because IWF is on the attack."

The gender war has shifted toward direct confrontation. Men should take heart from that fact. As Gandhi once explained: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

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JWR contributor Wendy McElroy is the editor of She also edited Freedom, Feminism, and the State (Independent Institute, 1999) and Sexual Correctness: The Gender Feminist Attack on Women (McFarland, 1996). She lives with her husband in Canada. Comment by clicking here.


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04/30/03: No oil for food
04/28/03: The Great Lie
04/16/03: War may redefine gun control
04/09/03: Why we must discuss a post-war U.S.
04/02/03: Leftist feminists using war as podium
03/26/03: Laying down 'the white woman's burden'
03/19/03: Iraq War may kill feminism as we know it
03/13/03: A woman to replace Saddam
02/19/03: Elder abuse demands family solutions
02/13/03: Iraqi women brutalized by Saddam
01/29/03: There ought not to be a law
01/22/03: Gambling with race and gender cards
01/02/03: The future of fatherhood
12/26/02: U.N. complicit in forced sterilizations
12/20/02: Compassion, kindness killed by fear, paranoia
12/11/02: Affirmative action insults immigrant contributions
12/04/02: Stand up for yourself
11/27/02: Feminist fighting: Aren't we all women?
11/20/02: Rights & responsibilities
11/14/02: Feminist "urban legends"
11/06/02: Equal access does not guarantee equal outcome
10/24/02: Battered Women's Syndrome: Science or sham?
10/17/02: I demand a civil society that respects the individual and acknowledges the existence of honest disagreement between human beings of good will
10/09/02: Abortion debate is about to be ratcheted up yet again
10/02/02: 'Restorative justice' offers battered women more options
09/25/02: Why is prez promising to embrace UN radical social engineering programs?
09/18/02: Dirty dealings kill men's panel
09/11/02: Taking back your power
09/05/02: Calm down, Hootie!
08/21/02: Will Congress empower a group of radical feminists to oversee money slated for Afghan women?
08/14/02: Empower the U.N. with power to sculpt American laws and institutions into the image of gender feminism!?
08/01/02: Practicing 'intellectual virtue'
07/24/02: All male, bad. All female, good: Your tax dollars at work
07/11/02: Put Up or Shut Up
07/03/02: NOW they've done it, again!
06/19/02: A dark cloud shades U.N. Women's Treaty
06/10/02: This Father's Day, send justice
05/31/02: When good women do nothing
05/28/02: Feminists claiming motherhood as liberal cause
05/20/02: Wounds in health care system are self-inflicted: Or, why "my son the lawyer" makes more sense
05/10/02: Are parents boycotting public schools?
05/03/02: Women can't be gun-shy about defense
04/25/02: The Bill of Intellectual Rights
04/19/02: World Bank or World Government?: The World Bank is blackmailing impoverished nations
04/12/02: Victims From Birth: Engineering Defects in Helpless Children Crosses the Line
04/05/02: The professor made me cry, now I will make him pay!
03/31/02: Doctors and teens --- parents be on guard
03/22/02: I was born, now I'm suing you!
03/15/02: The 21st Century is knocking at the barricaded door of feminism
03/08/02: Fun and games at the Ms mag Bulletin Board
03/01/02: Andrea Yates, NOW, and Feminist Jurisprudence
02/22/02: Lady, Your Slip is Showing
02/14/02: 'Abusing' Valentine's Day
02/11/02: Is NOW Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion?
02/01/02: Are 'fathers' rights' a factor in male suicide?
01/25/02: Is the U.N. Running Brothels in Bosnia?
01/18/02: 'Freedom' at another's (moral) expense
01/11/02: Feminists hit Ground Zero with WTC funds grab
01/04/02: Males winning "diversity discrimination" cases is good?
12/21/01: Good will toward men
12/14/01: "Boss Tweed" feminism
12/07/01: Call me 'anti-woman'

© 2001, Wendy McElroy