I Was a Men’s Rights Activist
As Told to MEL

I have found that I can’t be near misandry any more than I can be near misogyny. I used to think of myself as a Good Feminist Ally. I had a stomach for it, and every time my friends tweeted cruel and thoughtless things about male behavior, I would spend the next few days stewing on it quietly, thinking, “this hurts, but they’re right, so I need to hear it and I need to feel it, for everyone’s sake.” What a hero I was!

But I got tired, and I started wishing my friends would lay off, at least with the stuff that insults me too. But so often when I ask people not to verbally (and in a few instances, physically) assault my male friends, they reject my plea out of hand and refer to me as an “MRA sympathizer” as though pleading for mercy in an individual situation is itself a form of misogyny that needs to be prevented.

I agree that the “men’s rights movement” seems to have hate at its core, but the deliberate, gleeful “misandry” (they call it that; I just call it violence) that my well-educated, empathetic, passionate feminist friends (who I love and respect) perpetrate on a daily basis in the name of feminism is something I just can’t be around if I want to stay mentally and emotionally healthy. As a society, we empower men and disempower women, and that’s a problem, period. I’m glad my friends are fighting to make things better and I want to do the same. But is forcing myself to tolerate broad, thoughtless anger on a daily basis fixing anything?

And so I’ve lost a number of friends in recent months. For the simple reason that, when a friend perpetrates violence against me or someone else, I defend the person I see being attacked. I feel the pain and confusion and anger that comes as a result of their (just) punishment, and I want to help them survive it and grow and recover. Yes, even when they’re the offender. I don’t think their lives are worth more than their victims. I don’t think they should feel good about what’s happened. But we can only help people heal from the traumas we understand, and while I have read and heard and been told a lot about what it’s like to be a woman and be hurt by a man, I haven’t lived it so I don’t understand it. But hurting someone irretrievably through my ignorance? Oh yeah, I’ve done that. And I know the pit of depression, substance abuse, and sadness that I’ve gone through in the wake of it. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else if I can help protect them from it.

This isn’t an ideological stance about the worth of men vs women in society. At least, I don’t intend it to be. It’s just me saying: I’m a man, so I’m gonna work with the men on the things I know they’re feeling and that I know how to deal with. Because someone needs to do that if we’re going to change things. I try to hope that men creating safe, empathetic spaces to experience being men in a misogynistic world is something that can help make us more empathetic and help clear space for women to build the same things for each other. But even if it doesn’t, there’s still work to be done over here in the Boys’ Club, and someone’s gotta do it.

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