Sarah Moglia explains:
MRAs care exclusively about straight white dude issues. You don't see MRAs championing for equal pay for black men ($0.74/white dude's $1)
— Sarah Moglia (@Mowgli3) April 13, 2013
What an incredible argument. Why hasn't the men's rights movement packed it in and gone back to their white supremacist groups?
Let's dissect the situation here. The argument is that 'feminist' groups generally support 'equal pay' legislation. The motivation behind this is a desire to fix the male-female pay disparity, particularly in the United States.
The legislation/activism may not necessarily be limited to inequities related to gender, but also other attributes like race, religion, sexuality.
Therefore it can be said that 'feminist' activism at least does this for black men, who also have to deal with a pay gap.
Meanwhile men's rights activists do not generally advocate addressing issues related to income inequality, therefore there must not be much representation of minorities in MRA groups and may be predominately "wonder bread".
The line then becomes "
Is that accurate?
Let's look at the issues that the stereotypical online men's rights activist might care about:
- Prevalence of male circumcision
- Legal system being biased towards females, particularly in matters in divorce/family law
- False accusations being made against men, either as a whole or as individuals, particularly concerning crimes such as rape and sexual harassment
At first glance, it does sound like all three of these issues are entirely something only a rich while male could worry about.
The picture cast by 'feminists' is that the typical MRA is a rich white man, unhappy about his circumcised penis, unhappy about his divorce settlement, unhappy about losing custody of his kids, and deals with his past as a drunken fraternity brother by telling himself that women lie about rape.
The men's rights activist: A single, lonely, socially maladjusted, impotent, balding, white Republican john!
Presumably the only thing that might make this bogeyman concerned about the needs of minorities was that he would be one of the few people that felt sympathy for Tiger Woods after Elin Nordegren 'took' a large sum of money from him.
It is likely there is a self-identified 'MRA' that fits this description, just as there really are people that fit the man-hating 'feminist' stereotype quite well.
But is this a critique of the men's rights issues in general? Let's revisit the three issues, this time appending how they may apply to non-whites in particular.
Circumcision - Interestingly enough, male circumcision is a practice that spans the globe and in certain areas it is actually becoming more prevalent. In Africa, circumcision is touted as a large part of the anti-HIV fight. 'Intactivists' have responded to this by criticizing the methodology used by the studies in support of the practice.
Since the scope of the continent's HIV problem is massive and the sacrifice to be made by males deemed shallow, circumcision will likely continue to be advertised to prevent HIV infection to some degree without challenge as nobody sees reason to make the time to be skeptical about the claims.
Routine infant circumcision is not seen as barbaric by many in the west, so it follows that the procedure is given wings when it has the trappings of being medically necessary.
Divorce/family law - By a wide margin, it can be assumed that white people as a group have the most money up for grabs right now in divorce court. The relationships of Newt Gingrich come to mind.
It's a mistake to think that divorce is a problem for rich people. Rich people can usually afford divorce - even if the figures in absolute terms are ridiculous, a rich man will find this less burdensome than a poor person. There is a comparison to be made to progressive tax rates. On the other hand, poor men and women may see more lifestyle changes due to a dissolution of a relationship even if it doesn't happen to involve a divorce court. (This is best described by the great philosopher Chris Rock, on his insightful discussion of the subject of alimony. Look it up)
As for custody battles, it turns out that single parent homes may be highest among African Americans.
In addition to all this, many ethnic minority communities in the west find themselves subject to religious arbitration of family matters, which has a tendency to lean too far in favor of males.
Could it be that getting family law right in our secular courts would matter to ethnic minority groups?
Criminal justice system - The typical 'feminist' view of internet posts is the angry white male that wants legal immunity for his brothers in Phi Sigma Kappa Kappa Omega Beta Beta fraternity from the allegations made by passed-out drunk college girl.
While certain people do embody this picture of evil, [example: Steubenville] what this view is missing is that the innocent do go to jail in the United States. Cases like the Central Park jogger case are real - not merely fiction created for television.
What is interesting about the Central Park Five for the purposes of this discussion is that none of the accused were white.
The case highlights one of a few interesting things about being accused of a crime in the United States - that it might be in your best interest to not be black or Hispanic like the Central Park Five, or easily coerced into confessions like the Norfolk Four.
However these examples do not truly match the criteria for a true false accusation of a crime by a female in order to use the 'bias' in the justice system to punish males.
The Duke lacrosse case might be the most famous example of the false accusation scenario becoming a reality.
How frequent are false allegations of abuse aimed at males? How many innocents have been jailed?
This article does not care to speculate. For the purposes of this discussion, it must only be agreed that if false accusations were a problem, it would not necessarily be problem affecting only white males.
Now we're at a point where we might be able to say that those crazy MRAs might not be racists. But didn't we forget about economic inequality?
Equal pay and men's rights activists
Why don't we hear the MRAs talking about pay equity issues? Assuredly there exists an 'MRA' that despises pay equity based on a personal vendetta. But what other reasons could there be?
Some reasonable suggestions:
- Perhaps people are merely interpreting silence as opposition when it is actually indifference?
- Perhaps some MRAs actually support the legislation?
- Perhaps some MRAs think the legislation would be counterproductive?
It could be that certain people have decent reasons to not get excited about equal pay legislation.
For example, when the government arms a disadvantaged minority with more legal avenues to punish their employer, their employer has more reason to avoid hiring that demographic entirely.
Those familiar with how mercilessly opaque pay scales and bonuses are in many organizations already will understand that getting lawyers involved may be pouring fuel on the fire.
Organizations small enough to ignore additional rules will continue as-is, if not becoming even more discriminatory as a result. Corporations will either comply by changing pay grades or obsessively documenting salary decisions.
This is not to say equal pay legislation is all bad. It simply may explain why Regular Jack and Jill MRA don't invest his/her online ranting in favor of it.
What could feminism do to support non-white communities?
Sentencing reform, sex work laws and drug policy reform
One example could be addressing incarceration in the United States. Feminists could do more to support drug policy reform and addressing some issues with mandatory minimum sentencing.
Incarceration is important as the United States is the world's biggest jailer, and incarceration has a lopsided impact on different ethnic groups. Certain minority groups are very overrepresented in the prison population.
Another step in the right direction is reforming sex work laws. Prostitution has a profoundly negative effect on the poverty stricken and undocumented migrants.
However the Twitter 'feminist' banter rarely speaks of prison outside of pointing out that it's full of men.
Further the 'feminist' crowd's solution to complex problems like sex trafficking and murders of prostitutes is simply banning porn and putting more johns in jail. There are many issues with this approach, discussed here and more directly here.
It seems that many 'feminists' wouldn't mind seeing more "stop and frisk" and policy that would lead to a much larger incarcerated population.
Increased criticism of religious codes and religious arbitration of family disputes
It's interesting to see what happens among 'feminists' when someone like Amina decides to make a statement.
Instead of rallying behind a single cause, many 'feminists' chose instead to accuse FEMEN and other groups of being counterproductive in their use of nudity in protests.
These 'feminists' often also accused FEMEN of being 'islamophobic' and looked approvingly upon the rather bizarre #MuslimahPride response to the discussion Amina started.
Apparently more important than actually helping people like Amina is ensuring that people of different skin color do not regard you as a part of racist, colonialist, imperialist patriarchy as it were.
What do we learn from this?
'Feminists' have white girl problems. And that's okay.
Putting some focus on an anon comment left on this article about 'intersectionality':
The intersection part is very interesting because it's often used against feminists. As you wrote, "The theory is basically that every maligned group shares a common underlying issue so all the problems can be addressed at once.":
Example of this kind of reasoning:
Quora: What are some things that feminists do to oppress women?
When feminists perpetuate or turn a blind eye to the racism, homophobia, transphobia, cis-centrism, classism, xenophobia, ableism, and other oppressions within their movement.
"This is, by far, one of the biggest (if not the biggest) issues of the "popular" feminist movement."If 'feminists' want to talk exclusively about the problems faced by Lena Dunham, no one should knock them for that.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with identifying with a particular group with a unique set of problems and attempting to address them.
White women in the United States may want to see equal pay for equal work become a reality. As a group, they also may remind everyone that their proposed legislation helps us all regardless of gender or race.
Let's simply stop short of believing that 'feminists' are magically less racist than their counterparts, or that feminism as a movement is immune to racism.