For several months now, I have been fascinated by the phenomenon known as the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM), also sometimes called the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM). I have spent hours perusing literature, watching videos, listening to online conversations, and generally finding myself engrossed in this new world.
I should first state that I wish to remain anonymous. The subject of men’s rights is a tenuous one. It is a newly discovered world, teeming with promise, danger, and intrigue, and as the pioneers on its frontiers, we are only beginning to feel out our place in this strange land. It comes as no surprise that we are often misunderstood and maligned. “Othered,” if you will. The powers that be have always had much to gain from silencing any conversation on human dignity. The powers of this world have always used, and continue to use, hatred, discord, jealousy, selfishness, and violence (sound familiar?) to brutalize dissenters. Remaining anonymous serves two functions; first, it places emphasis on the ideas being discussed rather than the person offering them; second, it is a means of prudent self-preservation. I have a career and relationships to safeguard.
However, I feel I should disclose some personal information to provide context for this endeavor. I am a member of a historically progressive mainline Protestant church, many of whose members and clergy would not be sympathetic to this blog. Generally speaking, I will not be writing about Christianity from a socially conservative point of view. I embrace ambiguity and questions, rather than certainty. (Faith, not doubt, is the opposite of certainty, as they say.) I was not raised as a Christian, but converted in college. My favorite fruit is pineapple. I constantly break buttons off things.
I will offer my perspective on the intersection between Christianity and men’s rights because Christianity is what I know best. I have more to contribute to the wider conversation in that corner. To non-Christians, I don’t know how useful this blog will be for you, but you are certainly welcome here. What led me to the world of the MRM was, as for many others, feminism. I have advanced degrees in the liberal arts; as such, I have taken many classes in gender studies and women’s literature. Here, at least, individuals are encouraged to question themselves as gendered creatures, affected by their sex. For many (especially men), it seems, such a question is a foregone conclusion.
At the risk of alienating everyone, let me also state that much of this literature, especially the early literature, can apply to men as well as women. It speaks to longing, to secrecy, to the hitherto unexpressed. Virginia Woolf, in her famous essay “A Room of One’s Own,” writes the following.
“…when a subject is highly controversial — and any question about sex is that — one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one’s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker. Fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact.”
Here, then, we see that it is by sharing our stories that we grasp how and why we stand where we do now. Especially stories that have not been heard, that have been drowned out by the powers that be.
Below is another excerpt from “A Room of One’s Own.” The narrator, a novelist, is reading (and critiquing) an amateur’s writing when she discovers something out of the ordinary.
“Then I may tell you that the very next words I read were these —’Chloe liked Olivia . . . ’ Do not start. Do not blush. Let us admit in the privacy of our own society that these things sometimes happen. Sometimes women do like women.
‘Chloe liked Olivia,’ I read. And then it struck me how immense a change was there. Chloe liked Olivia perhaps for the first time in literature. Cleopatra did not like Octavia. And how completely Antony and Cleopatra would have been altered had she done so! As it is, I thought, letting my mind, I am afraid, wander a little from [the novel], the whole thing is simplified, conventionalized, if one dared say it, absurdly. Cleopatra’s only feeling about Octavia is one of jealousy. Is she taller than I am? How does she do her hair? The play, perhaps, required no more. But how interesting it would have been if the relationship between the two women had been more complicated. All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. So much has been left out, unattempted.
Read that again, this time replacing ‘women’ with ‘men.’ Does it ring true? Men’s lives have often been caricatured, cloaked with a mask of chivalry or stupidity. Men are, at last, beginning to speak to one another. To tell their own stories, instead of having them told for them. To discuss manhood as men. So much has indeed been left out, unattempted. So much has been simplified, conventionalized.
So let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about homeless men, about industrial accidents and deaths, about prostate cancer, prison violence, and war. Let’s pursue an end to that violence, instead of settling for caricature and the status quo, for “business as usual.”
I’m excited to begin the journey.