Friday, July 13, 2007

Heroes in training

I am often bemused by the fact that "feminist" blogs appear to attract so much more attention and commentary than do fathers' and men's rights blogs. I find it reflective of the reflex attitude with which the population has been infected with respect to perceived (if not always real) oppression of women in contrast to the failure to perceive men's and fathers' problems. The content of that commentary further illustrates the problem.  It is easy, in our modern world, to be volubly outraged by often cliched examples of mistreatment of women to the point of blindness to the wider context.  It is harder to identify the hurdles faced by men and fathers and when they are identified, it is harder still to make the passers-by fully aware of what we are talking about, encouraging a descent into incoherent rage.

Mistreatment of men is so ingrained that it is often only the bona fide victims who speak up. Just as poking fun at other minority groups in the past has been so acceptable as to be barely noticed in daily life, the same is now true of men and fathers. Thus the average person in the street is taken aback when their, at best, humor and, at worst, bigotry is challenged.  It is something vaguely incomprehensible to them and like many things that are unknown, to be fought against.

As a consequence, those who do complain are those whose eyes have been opened by direct experience, and they are often driven to reactionary positions, unable, or no longer willing to see how that furthers the alienation they experience. Even if it doesn't go that far, many will find that just trying to voice their grievances is interpreted as politically incorrect - it can be quite difficult to find a way to air a legitimate grievance in this topic without being labeled as misogynist, and hard too, to avoid reacting by claiming to have paid the price and so might as well commit the crime. Thus men's and fathers' rights activists become seen wrongly, but wholly, as a lunatic fringe.

Moreover, the lack of a politically correct stance from which to fight for men's and fathers' rights drives many to seek support in political stances which further polarize debate. For example, the men's rights movement is largely seen as allied with right wing political philosophies and one of my pet peeves is the way that fathers' rights are often discussed in religious terms, complete with old testament quotes. One does not need to be a republican to recognize that men have a right to respect for what they are, one does not need to be a bible-thumper to know that fathers have a right to participate in raising their children. Nevertheless, these positions, being sympathetic to the specific goals of these activists, become attractive in the urge to generate allies and the goals become diluted and distorted as a result.

For all our problems with hurt and damaged men claiming the problem is with women, when discussing an issue sanely and logically it is clear that we have much higher standards of reason and behavior in ourselves than do the opposition. The other side fights dirty. This is plain, for example, in the blatant censorship of debate in many "feminist" blogs and, more subtly, in the argument about PAS - obviously, all parents who claim they are being alienated are not abusers, but the opposition wants you to think they must be. The mob censors by reflex, without thought or hesitation, the empowered minority thinks carefully before it tries to shout anyone down because ideas are central to a vital movement.

Surrounded by this confused miasma, hanging onto the central points and pursuing them relentlessly while under sustained attack and without losing the plot can be exceptionally difficult. If I may say so, it is a particularly manly challenge to attempt this. Holding onto what is right and true in the face of unpleasant odds has always been a trait we ascribe to heroes. Another characteristic of a hero is the discipline to police himself, to rise above the simple fray to fight the more important battles. This discipline has to be learned. It is my hope that the MRA reactionaries and lunatic fringes are merely heroes in training.

A useful manual for such heroes in training is to be found here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well its me, the 24 year old college student (now college graduate). I've run across your blog again after a long period of insanity that accompanied graduating from college. I am a child of divorce. I'm writing this for two reasons.

1) to refuse to be one of the faceless many you say read your words, shake their heads, say "that's sad," and move on without leaving some sign. I'd like to think, I am not one of these people. When I'm moved by the words of someone, I let them KNOW.

2) The other is to say that while I might not agree with your portrayal of women post-marriage (chalk it up to the innocence of the unmarried, undivorced, and single-parent raised), I do back you up without question in one thing. Your endless desire to see your children and have a positive impact in their lives.
Thank you.
For me the distance lies not with my children (I have none) but rather how long its been since I've seen or heard from my father: At least 11 years.

I lost touch with my father right around the beginning of high-school. A little context: my father is a man I've met in person twice both times long (~13 years) after he left (By his own admission an alcoholic and he chose to leave rather then fight what would certainly be a losing battle).
We wrote back and forth for about a year after that first meeting, which I'm sure I was more then a little shaky at, then about 3 or 4 months later, the letters just stopped coming. I kept writing for a few months after his last reply, but the answer was silence. He promised he'd never move, or if he did, he'd tell me.

Being a somewhat tech savvy person I decided to look up my father following highschool. He hasn't moved, to this day, he resides in the same house he has since we began writing to each other. I felt only anger. I debated getting in my recently purchased first car and driving to his house.

Ultimately, I decided against it. I figured if the letters had stopped coming, he might have sensed what I had sensed at that first meeting at the age of 13 (but what was too young to interpret). He didn't know me in the least. All those letters prior to meeting him, and he had no idea who this person who bore his blood in his veins but had grown up completely away from him.
Even with this glaring knowledge staring both of us in the face, I still wonder why he stopped writing. And to a smaller degree, why he started writing in the first place if he didn't intend to continue.

In closing I urge all those disenfranchised fathers who read these words to pick up a pen (or keyboard, or piece of charcoal and write to your children. Perhaps you won't send all of what you write. Hopefully you'll keep your anger from them, as it will probably only serve to confuse them. Pick up a pen and write.
The alternative results in me.