Whammon's spaces: the gatekeeping of human rights considerations | HBR Talk 89


A comparison between two of reddit’s gender issues subreddits, /r/mensrights and /r/feminism, would reveal dramatic differences in comment moderation policy. Mensrights has the usual restrictions against spam, unlabeled NSFW content, and illegal things, and some statements on Harassment and hate speech that indicate the moderators take a hands-off approach unless the conflict gets extreme. In the feminist subreddit, however, you are not allowed to post unless you are a part of the cult, a requirement described by the mods as posting “from an educated perspective” that is free of “biases coming from a position of privilege,” and “misogyny, racism, homophobia, (and) transphobia.” It is a whammon’s space, and the feminist perspective on whammon’s issues is not permitted to be questioned or criticized there. 

Feminists frequently post in /r/mensrights not only questioning and criticizing what they see as the men’s rights movement’s perspective, but outright condemning participants for daring to discuss gender issues from a perspective not controlled by feminism. They’ve done that since the subreddit was created, even though they would not tolerate such behavior from MRAs in any feminist forum. Some even go so far as to treat debate against their criticisms as a form of censorship.

Further, they’ve repeatedly tried to get the subreddit banned for having the audacity to give men a place to discuss men’s issues without being subject to female approval. They even attempted to use manufactured evidence to smear reddit MRAs as backward-thinking advocates of misogyny and violence. Prior to reddit introducing an asterisk to show that a post has been edited, there were a rash of posts with similar behavior. They’d come from throwaway accounts and contain heartwarming men’s issues success stories such as court victories against abusive, custody-hogging ex-wives, students using reports done on men’s issues to educate their teachers, guys surviving false allegation ordeals, etc. After the post had gathered multiple congratulatory or celebratory comments, the poster would then go back and edit the text, so it looked like the commenters were thrilled about a reprehensible act like intimate partner or sexual violence. Then they’d report the post, trying to use it to get /r/mensrights banned. This ended when a bot was made to archive posts in the subreddit to be used as evidence of the edit, with the scam made entirely useless once reddit added the asterisk to posts edited more than a minute after publication.

The question is, why? Feminists have multiple forums on the site, and there were no sitewide restrictions preventing them from discussing gender issues in those spaces as they saw fit. They had set them up to be safe spaces for feminist women. Their speech wasn’t under anyone else’s control, and they didn’t have to use /r/mensrights for anything. 

They just didn’t have control over discussion that took place there, and that, apparently, was the problem.

It’s a common theme in gender issues discussion. Wanna talk about men’s reproductive rights? Don’t ask feminists. They’ll tell you, “no uterus, no opinion,” as if every mother’s baby isn’t also a father’s baby. Do they tell men to butt out after the baby’s born, bringing new expenses into the picture? Not financially! Now, the birth is all his fault and he’s got to pay! 

So can we talk about his right to maintain a parental relationship with and mentorship of his child?
Don’t try that with the National Organization for Women. They’ll respond by demonizing you as deadbeats and abusers who only care about fatherhood as an excuse to harass mothers and take away their child support. 

What about issues like violent crime?

When #MeToo exploded on Twitter, men posting their experiences as victims were criticized as invaders of a women’s discussion. “Go create your own hashtag!” they were told, so some of them did… #HimToo, and #MenToo were both coined, only to be invaded by angry women accusing the men posting in them of trying to distract and detract from #MeToo. And god forbid any of the discussion focus on the issue of false allegations. Why, differentiating between victims and liars is obviously an attack on victims, guys. That’s not allowed!

Eventually, feminists actually coined #HimThough to hammer home the idea that it isn’t just perpetrators and certainly not both sexes of perpetrators, but the entire male population (and only males) bearing responsibility for sexual violence, and other women jumped on it enthusiastically, even condemning criticism of the hashtag’s one-sidedness and marginalization of male victims. Again, critics - especially men - were told “Don’t post that here! Create your own hashtag,” but why should they? Men don’t impose collective guilt for individually perpetrated violence on either sex. 

The pattern isn’t just in social media and in other discussion forums. 

When men’s groups on university campuses want dedicated spaces for men similar to the women’s centers that exist at most institutions, feminists protest that, too. We’ve seen the leaders of such initiatives go through false allegation ordeals, struggle with hostility from administrators, and face widespread defamation by mainstream media. Feminists’ main objection to men having their own space under their own control? “It’s not needed! The entire world is a men’s space.” 

But is it?

Where on university campuses… or for that matter, in the rest of the world... can men’s issues just… be discussed? Surely not in public.

When men’s advocates try to meet in person, host speakers on men’s issues, or attend showings of The Red Pill, our gatherings are protested both online and off, with complaints and often threats issued to managing staff at the venues where our events have been announced. Several, from informal meetups and Red Pill showings to the first and fourth international men’s issues conferences, have had to change venues because of pressure from women’s advocates and even threats. Other events have seen such violence as to require police presence, and recently there have been assaults against attendees, followed by false allegations and defamation campaigns against the groups hosting the events. Justice for Men and Boys was the target of such a protest at one of their recent events, with violence against their attendees resulting in pending legal action.

Even in government, men’s issues are forced onto the back burner by women’s advocates. As a result, discriminatory law and policy goes unaddressed or even gets expanded, as the violence against women act and Title IX in the United States do every few years. Initiatives to address men’s issues get shelved, and government-funded programs on everything from so-called gender violence to food assistance are focused on women’s needs, and men’s obligations. At an international level, this manifests in programs like #HeForShe, with young spokes-actress Emma Watson lecturing the men of the world on how the challenges they face as men further obligate them to pedestalize, provide for, and protect women.

Cooperate, and women’s advocates will happily sweep men’s issues under the rug, or put them on hold forever while they wait for feminists’ infinite and increasingly petty litany of grievances to come to end. Complain, and they will be happy to tell you that of course there’s room for men’s issues discussion, right after all of their complaints are addressed to their satisfaction.

Until then, sit down and, well… you  know. 

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