I’ve been meaning to write on a topic that I’ve had strong feelings about for some time, but I never quite found the time until now. In line with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I thought it would be fitting to talk about an article I read concerning the Men’s Rights Movement and its radical figurehead Paul Elam, and just how regressive this phenomenon is. Granted, the article was published in GQ magazine, not a paragon of serious journalism by any stretch, but its contents enraged me enough to warrant this blog post. I must preface what is to follow by saying that I acknowledge the harms that toxic masculinity imposes upon men, and this article does not attempt to trivialize what challenges men experience due to hypermasculinity. However, the Men’s Rights Movement does not even remotely resemble an effective solution to such issues.
Paul Elam (whose last name is ‘male’ spelled backwards) believes that our society is feminized and misandrist. Yes, you read that right. I try my very best not to question his sanity as I believe in hearing out an argument before responding to it. I’m sorry, Paul Elam, it sucks how statistics like 1 in 3 women experiencing violence globally, Hispanic/Latina women earning 54% of what white men earned, and state legislatures having introduced 468 restrictions on women’s bodies and zero for men, seem to be preventing me from joining you for a beer and a hearty session of feminist-bashing. So don’t hold your breath.
Men’s rights activists like Paul believe that feminism has overturned the natural order of the world and poisoned the minds of human beings. “Women gone insane with the power of the pussy pass” is what Elam identifies as the reason for the good work he does, in an essay called “When Is It OK to Punch Your Wife?”. I beg you, my reader, to humor me as I explore some of the ideas that this Good Samaritan has deigned to enlighten us with. First, Elam proposes to make October “Bash a Violent Bitch Month,” in which men should take the women who abuse them “by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.” Thank you Mr. Elam for setting such high standards for all of humanity. Elam’s website, ‘A Voice for Men’, serves as the center of the manosphere, which refers to a cyber-network of men allied in support of the patriarchy. Who exactly inhabits this dimension, you may ask? Allow me to tell you.
The term was heavily featured in reference to Elliott Rodgers who, in May 23, 2014, murdered six people in California in revenge for the world’s failure to grant him the beautiful girlfriend he felt he deserved. Following the publicity this incident provided Elam’s site, he organized the first International Conference on Men’s Issues. After being shunted from their first venue due to an outcry from the public (those feminists are worse than the Illuminati, I tell you) the members convened to discuss their victim status experiences with the deeply entrenched, time worn culture of misandry. One participant said that he was awakened to the fearsome, omnipotent control that women have on society when he bluntly propositioned a co-worker at the office, expecting a forthright attitude to be the best way to gain consent, but was accused of sexual harassment. My sympathies, of course, lie with this poor, misunderstood individual. Gaining consent is important (I am genuinely glad that he understands this) and it’s tough to navigate in a world which subscribes to standards of decency and respect for other human beings, and requires us to attend to social cues to understand if another human being may welcome our advances. But at least he’s in good company among people like ideologue Gunther Schadow, who has made it his purpose to denounce feminist infiltration of abuse research and demonstrate to the world how women are more violent in relationships than men, at a ratio of 2:1. Activists like Albert Calabrese fervently believe the age of consent should be 12 years old (isn’t it just so annoying when society tries to protect children? I mean they just transitioned out of Disney movies and primary teeth, so they’re practically adults right?). And then you have people like ‘Factory’ (the name he assumes in the men’s rights world) who claims to be a victim of emotional abuse—violence which peaked at him lying down the floor curled up in a fetal position while his ex-wife hovered threateningly over him brandishing a butcher knife. She denies all of this. If his account is true, then I do feel compassion for his case. However, it must be understood that women are not socialized to be violent and abusive and that in this particular case, his ex-wife’s gender had nothing to do with her behavior. A terrible example of humanity could be male, female or of any other gender, and the latter would be inconsequential. One cannot take a terrible human being and generalize their flaws to an entire demographic. If women were inherently abusive, then methinks Elam’s proposal to batter them would face a few problems.
As ridiculous as all of this sounds there is a very real danger in the regressive, sexist drivel that the likes of Paul Elam spout. In 2014, his site had approximately 9 million visitors. And satellite sites abound, such as the all too delightful Return of Kings (which publishes even more delightful articles such as ‘Stop Being Such A Fucking Faggot’, A Simple Tweak To Help You Crush Women And Life, and even cosmopolitan pieces such as Bang Ukraine: How to Sleep with Ukrainian Women in Ukraine). It is not enough to read such garbage and laugh or be enraged for a few minutes. It is of utmost importance that, especially those who identify as men and can influence masculine culture, openly speak about the harms of imbibing such ideologies. As representative as men’s rights activists try to be, their world vision has no place for homosexuals, trans* men, and other identities that don’t conform to hypermasculinity. Allowing even a handful of men to continue believing in such vitriol pushes back the achingly slow progress that humanity has made in bettering the position of diverse identities, but especially the women of the world.