Who run the world? Girls: Exploring the Men’s Rights Movement.

Words and illustration by Chanel Trezise

Content warning: misogyny, domestic violence, suicide

“…we refer to this as the red pill; when you suddenly realise that society doesn’t work the way you thought it worked.”

Over the phone, Robert Brockway, the president of the Men’s Rights Association Inc and a researcher at A Voice for Men, described to me in detail the way Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) believe gynocentric biases systematically oppress men.

The Men’s Right’s Movement is proudly Anti-Feminist through its belief that modern feminism has viciously corrupted society; it is because of this opinion that MRAs are often labelled misogynistic. Robert confided to me, however, that the Men’s Rights Movement is not misogynistic.

“We are not misogynists…. there seems to be this idea that MRAs want to get women back into the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, when we founded the Australian Men’s Rights Association, our first treasurer was a woman. Not only do we have women members — we trust them with the money.”

I did appreciate Robert’s sentiment, but his words did not reassure me. I was, however, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“We reject identity politics…we are looking at a gender blind view of the world,” Robert’s voice chirped with enthusiasm.

Samantha Kutner, Khalifa Idler Fellow, a researcher about deradicalisation, who specialises in the Proud Boys and the Manosphere harboured a different opinion about MRAs, “…these communities become really toxic spaces which leave them (MRAs) ripe for recruitment — for the proud boys for example.” Kutner detailed a grim reality of misogyny actualised in the Manosphere, spaces where MRAs frequent. Anecdotally, I witnessed an extent of this misogyny as I researched MRA forums. It seemed the deeper I scrolled through the dark memes and cascading conclusions of gynocentrism, the dizzier I felt.

In amongst some voices of reason barked posts which read, If your man has to beg for sex and a home cooked meal. You might as well help him pick his other bitch.’ Some posts pleaded to defund domestic abuse shelters and others detailed emotive rants following the line,

‘I hate what feminism has done to this society’.

Well, there definitely are Men’s Rights Activists who are sexist — although, a lot of posts did raise legitimate concerns about the welfare of men and boys; something which transcended the anger and misogyny. Valid issues of male suicide, gendered roles and fatalities were dotted amongst cries of male suffering. But why was male suffering being proposed as the by-product of some malicious, systematic bias against men?

One of the questions I asked Robert our MRA ambassador was ‘How does gynocentrism exist if the majority of those in higher positions are men?

His reply was that, ‘…this is the Apex fallacy- when we look at the men who are doing the best and conclude; ‘well most politicians are men, therefore men are doing well,’ but if you look at the bottom of society, you see men there as well…’

Well, of course there are a lot of men worse off than male politicians; while female poverty rates generally exceed that of men, men are often forced into labour-intensive, high-risk professions to make ends meet and hence, pose greater fatalities. Australian men die much more often at work than women. In 2019, 6 women died in the workforce compared to 177 men (Safe Work Australia, 2020). Staggeringly, men also die on average 6 years earlier than women, and male suicide rates exceed that of women (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018), (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021) .

Huh.

Kutner described that the Manosphere remove, “…nuance and complexity to situations by overcorrecting and going on the side of victimhood.” So did high rates of suicide, workplace fatalities, and earlier deaths really equate to a systematic oppression of men? Or rather, did these issues point to something much more complex than gynocentrism can offer?

Anecdotally, I cannot resonate or validate the Red Pill ideology, I am a woman after all.

But surely women do not run the world? If they did, wouldn’t things feel better for us?

Robert’s gynocentric diagnosis seemed desperate to subvert the liberating narratives of feminism I have consumed since I was a little girl; mostly because the Men’s Rights Movement in theory read like a counterpart to feminism. Feminism was supposed to liberate me from the toils of the patriarchy — as the Red Pill does to MRA’s perception of social matriarchy. The difference was: despite its promise of equality, the Men’s Rights Movement was dependent on the notion that the whole world is at the whim of women; a notion which an entire history of male domination would lead us to grimace at.

Kutner explained that the concept of gynocentrism and the Red Pill ideology villainised female liberation, and positioned men as victims. Kutner used the example of Jason Kessler’s radicalisation to substantiate this. Jason was an organiser of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesvile, Virginia, which led to the death of Heather Heyer.

Jason, as Kutner described, was once a Democrat. After completing his degree in psychology, Jason sought work at a local mental health agency. Jason was rejected however, and to his horror a woman got the job. Later, when suing the city due to his rejection, Jason claimed he, ‘… had been passed over due to protected characteristics.’

“He found all the reasons to justify why he should have had this job…” Kutner speculated that Jason’s job rejection fuelled his radicalisation, pushing him to short circuit an opportunity for growth, into one of hate. In his belief that he was the better ‘man’ for the job, Jason searched the underbelly of the internet, scratching at the wound of 4chan conspiracies and lapping up the blood it drew.​

‘I’m sure as a woman, you grew up with parents who told you that whatever you do, you better be 2–3 times better than the men,’​

Kutner explained that Jason’s rejection was a result of lacked qualifications compared to the hired woman.

‘Women who have had their access to positions restricted historically, wind up working twice as hard; therefore, a man, particularly a white man, who has been operating on the assumption… that because you’re a white man, your position is a given — he will operate under that assumption that whatever he wants, he can get… and so he may or may not have a competitive advantage, because a woman could get that position that normally was given to that man.’

Essentially, even if gendered biases did not exist in the hiring process, determined individuals by default would have a competitive advantage. However, gendered biases do exist in the workplace; and Kutner explained that the Red Pill ideology clung to its narrative in a desperate attempt to filter out the possibility of these societal, patriarchal biases.​

Outwardly, MRAs view the world through their perceived victimhood of gynocentrism; however, one could claim feminism perceives the reverse as true.

​Robert suggested that while feminism strives for equality, its activists have not implemented that. Robert used the example of domestic abuse shelters, which he argued predominantly and unfairly cater to women: ‘…there are government grants that go to organisations against gendered domestic violence…we are basically saying that their entire approach is flawed, and thus we are interrupting their revenue stream,’ he also added that in this regard, feminism is only ‘addressing half the problem.’

In contrast, domestic abuse did not actually adhere to a 50/50: male/female ratio. While intimate partner violence is troubling no matter the gender it is perpetrated onto, domestic abuse of women is significantly higher than that of men. For instance, 1 woman is killed on average every 9 days by a partner while 1 man is killed every 29 days by a partner; 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual abuse by a partner. However, 1 in 6 men, and 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019). Male suffering should never be belittled or ridiculed; and the sole focus of female victimisation is missing the point — but the struggles of women at the hands of an abuser should not be ignored or invalidated.

Towards the end of our phone call, Robert added to his opinion of domestic abuse,

‘… I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again I don’t think it’s possible to eliminate domestic violence because unfortunately some humans will act in a violent manner, despite everybody’s best efforts- without changing the human condition, that can’t be changed. I think there is probably a minimum level of domestic violence we can reach in society, and to be honest I think we are pretty close to it; I’d be very surprised if we could drop domestic violence levels from what they are now, unfortunately.’

Robert’s words felt heavy with suggestion. What was the need to point out that domestic abuse ‘had reached a minimum level’ if not to justify an attempt of defunding women’s domestic abuse programs and grants…?

Robert, like many of those within the manosphere outlined valid, logical issues which affected men, however they desperately tried to mould these issues into some sensational proof of female domination. Further, MRAs poised themselves as the helpless victims of female liberation.

I decided to ask Samantha if those of the manosphere believed female liberation antagonised them, to which she replied, “They perceive it as a threat.”

The Red Pill ideology seemed to latch onto the narrative that women are a malevolent, ruling force which preyed on men.

The Red Pill ideology position women as this unrelenting, ominous force which has crept into every corner, of every workforce and government and pulled the strings of male officials, CEOs, and authority. Those of the manosphere seemed desperate to cling onto gynocentrism, like some might cling to the notion of the patriarchy — and I think that might be the divine point of it all. Amongst the nastiness, violence and hate which circulated the Men’s Rights Movement, was this challenge to linear thinking.

The Red Pill Ideology, despite its toxic comradery and violent justifications, was an attempt to validate trauma and suffering. As much as I, a feminist, do not want to admit, there are things modern feminism can miss amid the process of dismantling historical, defiant obstacles. We need to address male suffering; we need to address female suffering — but I do not think we need to take the Red Pill to do it.

Article originally published here.

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Ivan Jankovic, Stasi Kapetanos, Isobel Moore, and Michelle Roylance. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com