Gender issues are being rocked by masculinismsometimes called mens rights or the Mens 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.
Fathers 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 fathers 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 mens 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 elsewherefrom fathers rights to anti-circumcision sites, from Promise Keepers to Mens 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 reports recommendations: The establishment (at taxpayer expense) of an Internet monitoring organization to focus on mens hate speech against women; the publication, and dissemination, of a list that warns of "misogynist groups"that is, mens 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. Thats 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 NOWs much-touted Family Court Report 2002 aimed at making the California family court system even more mother-centered. Section 4 of CANOWs report was entitled "A Brief History of the Fathers Rights Movement." It attacked mens groups for competing with feminists for federal funds and engaged in wholesale ad hominem attacks on prominent mens rights figures. It concluded that the "agenda" of fathers 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 Ifeminists.com, 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 mens rights.
The tension will only heighten. Men who claim the right to be an active part of their childrens lives will not back down. Women who recognize the justice of those claims are not intimidated.
On May 24, the Independent Womens 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, "Were 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."