Guy Matthew's recent stunt on the Houses of Parliament made him a prime target. Many of the complaints against him take the form of: "Why does he think that making such a spectacle of hiself will help in getting him contact with his daughter?" It doesn't seem to occur to them to consider the possibility that he may have exhausted all other options. None seem to remember Thoreau's exhortation to civil disobedience in the face of injustice.
Others claim that there is no injustice. They claim that the MRAs are making up the numbers and these can be easily refuted. I've seen no such refutation, anywhere; and I've looked. Rather, the majority of statistics presented are quoted in refutation of accepted, unsupported myths and stereotypes. Perhaps the most common example is the idea that men are by far the majority perpetrators of domestic violence, but the available studies show that both genders are approximately equally likely to engage in such behavior. I have seen no reasoned refutation of these studies, and you'd think that the feminists would have something to say. If that isn't enough, another, shining example is Drexler's book suggesting that boys are better off being raised in fatherless homes. Not only does this run in the face of very well established evidence to the contrary, but her sample itself is about as biased as it possibly could be. What honest human being could fail to be offended by that? I don't see the MRA claims being held up to contrary studies, nor gaping holes being found in the studies they are based in.
Should some poor sap stick up his head and offer personal experience, it will be immediately discounted as anecdotal and therefore irrelevant. If you want a definitive study, then yes, fine, that's true. But that doesn't render that person's experience invalid. Should said poor sap prove to be even braver, or perhaps more masochistic, and offer details of his experience, he's quite likely to be told "suck it up", "life's tough" or "quit whining". Can we imagine saying that to a deserted mother? Does that mother have to defend herself with statistical studies that people like her do indeed exist? The likely response is that the sap ducks down again and hides but some will persist. But these are bully tactics and the bully's goal is to drive his target to surrender or distraction.
The sport may yet go further and the target be accused of playing the "victim card". This is an interesting turn-around, because many of those labelled as MRAs are claiming exactly this of the opposition.
These are the defining characteristics of the victim card player:
- to claim to be a victim when not.
Occasionally, someone goes to jail for a crime they didn't commit. We know this happens, it's an inevitable result of an imperfect, man-made system. We build the criminal court system to be as secure against such failures as possible, but it still happens. Those that slip through the cracks, they're still victims. By the same token, some of those men out there will have been let down by an imperfect family court system. To deny the possibility is absurd. Some men will have been unjustly removed from their children's lives, damaged by false accusations, cleaned out by child support, and face an indefinite future working to pay off lawyers and malevolent ex-wives. Any justice system must always be open to careful scrutiny to avoid becoming despotic. The inevitable existence of injustice requires that we take specific claims seriously.
- to ride the shirt-tails of true victims to acquire advantage for other, selfish purposes.
History is loaded with examples of people fighting injustice towards others. Some of these people were undoubtedly in it for the power, the rush of attention and their own self-agrandizement. But does that make the cause unjust? If there are too many such people, and if the cause gathers such momentum that it crushes other, worthy causes, then its value is diminished, but it is not inevitably unjust. Are there MRAs doing this? I am quite sure that some of them are and it is a difficult point because it can undermine the case of those that are not, just as some feminists appear to have gotten carried away with their own cause and lost sight of the equality they had been seeking in the first place, as the MRAs would have us believe. But at the same time, any cause needs such people. Not all proponents of a cause will be tireless, selfless, bona fide victims. In fact, the true victims may well be unable to fight themselves, being so diminshed by their own victimization. Let us not forget that many suffragettes were not exactly society's most downtrodden and oppressed of women and I'm quite sure that some of them simply enjoyed the attention of championing a popular cause.
- to make oneself a victim to acquire advantages available only to victims.
This, perhaps, is the crux of the matter. What are we to make of the man or woman who accepts injustice, possibly even generates it, in order to expose it? (Some might be drawn to what they see as martyrdom, but such people are necessarily rare to any cause.) What kind of mentality would it take to force a wife to take everything that was worked for: house, kids, money, reputation, future while simultaneously fighting with all his might to prevent it? (And how is this different from said ex-wife claiming "look what you made me do"? Should she have the right to do it?) It seems almost pathologically perverse and it gets awfully close to blaming the victim for his own misfortune -- "He was asking for it, your honor!" -- so perhaps we credit the victim with too much cleverness. In the case of men's rights, is this likely to be a common possibility? It seems unlikely, as the epithet "loser" will attest. How often do we call a woman a "loser"? It is usually reserved for men and it is the last thing most men will want to be called. Perhaps what we have instead is the tip of the iceberg, with the vast majority silently swallowing their loss rather than be seen in public to be a "loser".
Are the MRAs playing the victim card? Possibly, but overall I don't think so and even so, it doesn't make the cause any less serious. Most especially, I think it is inhumane to dismiss any particular person as playing the victim card without hearing his story and attempting to redress any true injustice.
There are screaming commonalities between the MRAs and feminists - the feminists seek, among other things, equality in the workplace. The MRAs seek, among other things, equality with respect to their children. It is a modern power struggle and, with all power struggles, some will be in it for the power, because they like to fight, because they have an ax to grind. But at the same time, others will be in it for the honorable reason, because they perceive an injustice to be redressed. Some say that if the goals of a movement are just they will prevail, if they are unjust, they will fail. This may be true, but in the meantime, as in any war, there will be shots fired and casualties taken. The question is, who are the casualties and how much damage will be done before something is worked out, before a resolution is found?
All wars have their spectators, too. The wiser of the spectators will listen carefully to each side. Others will laugh to see such fun, ignorant of the pain of the combatants and the truths that they stand to defend, but fully prepared to take a share of whatever might be the spoils. The worst, like carrion, will pick at the wounded and fallen.