If you’ve ever debated gender politics online, chances are you’ve encountered some not so compelling arguments against men’s rights advocacy:
“Men’s rights and feminism are just two sides of the same coin!”
“Men’s rights is just the gender-reverse of feminism!”
“Feminists and men’s advocates are the same because they both say they’re fighting for equality.”
“Men’s rights activism is just a backlash against feminism’s progress for women! Sure, feminists have gone too far, but we don’t need a gender-reverse of feminism to correct that. Just go back to the first wave when feminism was good!”
“Men face disadvantage but they don’t need a movement. MRAs go overboard just like feminists do!”
“I recognize men’s issues but I don’t support men’s rights. Feminism is already taking care of these problems.”
These types of arguments, which we hear mostly from centrists and traditionalists, are false equivalence fallacies. That involves presuming two factors equal, or the same, if they have anything in common. For example, a paper airplane and a Boeing 747 have wings and flying in common, but considering their primary uses, and the materials they’re made of, they’re clearly not the same, or equal. While there are ways to rationally compare them, there are also ways in which those two details would not justify a comparison.
Let’s look at the Two-Sides fallacy, or the Balance Fallacy, a subtype of false comparison. This involves presenting an issue or argument as if it involves two sides of equal weight or significance, regardless of any evidence of the sides’ respective merits, creating the false impression that the best position is somewhere in the middle. For example, Bob says his jet is a useful transportation device, and shows video of his flight. Sally says her paper airplane is just as useful, and shows a clip from the anime Read or Die. Dawn says they both have good arguments and feels that she could safely choose either method of transportation. How do you think that’s going to work out for her?
Moral Equivalence fallacy is another subtype, described by Purdue University’s writing lab as (wrongly) comparing minor misdeeds with major atrocities, suggesting both are equally immoral. For example, Bob ridicules the design and materials used to make Sally’s paper airplane. She sets his jet on fire and yells, “Ha! Now we’re even!”
Comments that equate the men’s rights movement with feminism rely on both of these subtypes of false equivalence. While the two movements have jargon in common and may often sound the same to anyone not involved in either one, observation of our political positions and our real-world activism reveals two very different sets of attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes, from differing concerns, beliefs, and intentions to different levels of engagement and success with government and corporate entities.
Feminism has a huge gap in standards of ethics and morality for the two sexes based on its patriarchy narrative, a conspiracy theory that women are oppressed because men are in charge, and men can only stay in charge if they oppress women. Their argument is that women have historically been uniquely subjected by men to deliberate “systematic, institutionalized discrimination,” creating a victim identity for women, and relegating men’s identity to that of “perpetrator.” The ideologue’s political opinions are determined for them by viewing every related issue through that filter.
They have spent more than a century successfully promoting that to lawmakers, resulting in due process infringements, family court bias, sex-specific criminal law and victim’s services, workplace discrimination and gender-imbalance in government-mandated public education. Each of these is a direct result of the influence of feminism’s oppression narrative and their patriarchy conspiracy theory on public policy.
The men’s rights movement does not have an equivalent to that, especially when it comes to influencing public policy. However, outsiders to the movement do often falsely equate the term “gynocentrism” with Patriarchy. That is a misunderstanding. As explained on gynocentrism.com, it is simply the term for “a dominant or exclusive focus on women in theory or practice, or advocacy of this.” It’s not seen as a deliberate conspiracy perpetrated by one sex, nor is malice or authority implied. This is more of a genderless cultural handicap stemming from a traditional moral imperative. It doesn’t result from anyone being “in charge,” but can be used to influence authorities. Our objection isn’t to consideration for women, but to its exclucivity; rather than viewing everything through a sex-specific filter like feminists do, we fight to remove that filter and base real-world actions on solid evidence, particularly when discussing law and policy.
Equating a political faction that determines its positions through sex-specific bias informed by a crazy conspiracy theory with one whose fundamental principles include rejecting that kind of bias in favor of equal consideration and evidence-based action is a two-sides fallacy. Equating criticism of wrongful discrimination with deliberately promoting it as a part of a society’s laws, even to the degree that it is entrenched in them, is a moral equivalence fallacy.
The problem is not just with centrists and traditionalists, however. Feminists use false equivalences, too, when objecting to our criticism of their movement. The men’s rights movement has nothing in its ranks or its history that is anywhere near equal to feminism’s history of influence on legislators, yet when their lobbying history is brought up, the first thing we hear from them is that we need to clean our room before criticising theirs.
We actually do that - if someone within the movement begins advocating something reprehensible, even if we’ve agreed with reasonable things he said in the past, that person ends up being rejected from the movement, even to the degree of his writing being unpublished and repudiated. If someone tries to twist arguments that we’ve made into support for things like bigotry or abuse, that gets rejected as well. We’re not a catch-all movement for malcontents. Can feminists say the same about their movement?
Ask them about Professor Mary P. Koss, whose research method was a survey that allowed her overwrite people’s lived experiences with her own beliefs, imposing a victim narrative on women who didn’t consider themselves victimized, while denying equal consideration to men who described the same experiences. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem ensured Koss’s work would have influence by publishing it in Ms. Magazine.
Statistics from Koss’s survey were used on the senate floor to promote the Violence Against Women act of 1994, which gendered the provisions of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act of 1984 and has since put a chokehold on abused men’s access to legal recourse and resources in the United States. In promotion of their rape culture narrative, feminists all over the country cite Koss’s 1-in-5 statistic as reported by the Centers for Disease Control, which used Koss’s survey method and her definitions for rape as guidance for their National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence surveys during the past decade. When alerted to this, do feminists clean their room?
No. They whine about being criticized, demonize their critics as “rape apologists,” or flee the conversation altogether. They claim that Koss, a second wave feminist, is not a feminist and doesn’t represent feminism. They deny that her work had any influence.
While pointing the finger at violent men who have never been involved with, never identified as part of, never influenced, and never been demonstrably influenced by the men’s rights movement as examples of “MRA violence” and “MRA-inspired mass-shooters,” feminists accuse us of trying to push their movement in a direction its supporters don’t approve. Are we, as they allege, imposing embarrasingly bigtoed, uninfluential nonfeminists on the feminist movement in order to demonize them?
Koss’s work was referenced by legislators during a legislative process and cited by government agencies as a guide for their research. Is that influence? Feminists continue to use, as part of their advocacy, terms Koss coined as part of her gendered narratives on sexual violence: "date rape", "hidden rape", "unacknowledged rape", "acquaintance rape", and "campus rape," all lifted from her published work. Is that influence? Meanwhile, they continue to treat her research and its findings as legitimate, and a compelling basis for feminist talking points about sexual violence as well as an ever-increasing wave of attacks on due process in sexual violence cases, all in women’s name, whether we agree or not, just like Koss... because that totally doesn’t make her ideas and behavior feminist ideas and behavior, right?
And when we criticize the discriminatory legislative and policy results of the work a prominent, respected, influential and ideological precedent-setting self-identifying feminist, that’s totally the same as trying to exploit some previously unknown, uninvolved, uninfluential random guy, after he becomes notorious for being a man who committed a heinous crime, to discredit all men’s issues considerations and advocacy throughout the men’s rights movement’s entire history, right?
No… and we don’t have to accept that kind of fallacious argument from anybody. Our opponents are declaring themselves victims of our refusal to cooperate when they lie about what they are, and using that proclaimed status to excuse lying about what we are and accuse us of wrongly judging them. Our right to be judged on our actual merits is held hostage for the ransom of our approval and cooperation with them regardless of theirs. That’s an unfair, unequal trade, and we are not obligated to accept it.
That’s one of the secrets to maintaining a clean room: Knowing the limits of your space and refusing to store other people’s rubbish.