When Men’s Rights Activists Attack Other Men

An examination of the bizarre #CallThemOut campaign championed by the ‘Brotherhood of Fathers’.

Matilda Fairholm
Feb 28 · 9 min read
Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

My interest in the ideology behind Men’s Rights Activists was first birthed almost six years ago when I escaped from my first marriage, a relationship in which I was coercively controlled and emotionally, physically and sexually abused, at gradually increasing intensity for more than 18 years. When I finally got away the first thing my ex husband did was join a support group.

A support group for male victims of domestic violence.

I was astonished. After eroding me to the point where I felt I had no soul and that suicide was my only option, he turned the tables and commenced to play the victim. Years later he still is.

I wrote of my experience of being painted as the perpetrator, and the misogynistic groups that encourage men to minimize their own violent behavior and instead blame their victim in this article.

MRA’s reject the concept of men’s privilege at the expense of women. A great deal of them go further and perpetuate a message that it is women who have the advantage, to the detriment of men. These men are strongly anti-feminist, pushing a narrative that it is the women’s movement that is responsible for the struggles of society.

Responsible for the struggles of men.

And angry men, feeling disenfranchised because they have ‘lost their money and family’ flock to these organisations in their droves.

Coercive control as a criminal offence.

Australia is in the midst of a fresh opportunity to bring coercive control out of homes, suburbs and the private lives of countless Australians and into the light. Australia is considering following the example of Scotland, England and Wales and making coercive control a criminal offence.

And plenty of people, predominately men, are angry about it. Many have dragged their ignorant weight into the debate, including the racist, sexist, climate change denying and right wing extremist Mark Latham. Mr Latham, who ironically almost led the Labor Party to victory in 2004 is now the golden child of Australia’s most predominate far right political party, One Nation.

Mark Latham’s submission to the NSW Parliament Joint Committee on Coercive Control included this purler. Speaking about the Coercive Control laws being considered by the current NSW government he said:

“They represent a dangerous departure from the established rule of law, threatening to criminalize many aspects of regular, responsible behavior in the family home. They constitute a new, frightening peak in the march of social engineers seeking to control all aspects of private life. This is the real controlling threat: the obsession of publicly funded activists to extend the reach of the state into private homes and relationships.”

Yikes.

Contrast this ignorant statement with the following excerpt from the submission made to the same Joint Committee by Evan Stark, author of Coercive Control, How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. A man who actually knows what he is talking about:

The advantages to creating a serious offence of coercive control are both normative and practical. From a normative perspective an offence of coercive control takes the powerful step of acknowledging the wrong of domination in personal life for the first time in the criminal law, by designating as criminal a class of acts that violate personal rights and liberties alongside physical and psychological harms.

It identifies ‘woman abuse’ with a class of harms we associate with crimes against liberty, such as kidnapping, rather than as a violence crime, thus acknowledging that protection from abuse derives from a person’s rights to equality, dignity and autonomy as well as to physical safety and psychological integrity. It recognizes a widely documented reality about abuse, that its most devastating presentation is as a continuing offence or ‘course of conduct’ rather than a discrete act, and that crimes such as harassment, stalking, threats and surveillance constitute a more serious and continuing offence when they occur in the context of coercive control than when they occur separately. It sends a clear message that coercive control is a crime that will not be tolerated. Finally, it validates victims’ experiences of abuse, which, in the context of an offence that destroys the victim’s very notion of self, is especially significant. Survivors tell us that being able to frame what has happened to them as a serious crime is an essential factor in their recovery process.

Anyone who has been a victim of coercive control reads this extract from Evan Stark’s submission and feels, first and foremost seen. Coercive control is a form of domestic terrorism. Its objective is to wear down the victim to a point where the perpetrator has her in a place where she is totally surrendered to his control.

She is completely subordinate to him.

We are not talking about people who yell at times, or engage in insensitive behavior or are mean, and then feel bad and make amends. This isn’t about every day relationship squabbles.

This is a pattern of behavior that worsens over time to a point where the victim has entirely lost her agency, and the perpetrator has achieved what he originally set out to achieve, complete dominance over her life.

It is not, as the brilliant scholars over at the Brotherhood of Fathers so ignorantly state in their submission to the Joint Committee:

… a Mother continually threatening her husband that she will ruin him financially and permanently take the children from him if he does not comply with her demands.

No, that’s just a woman being a bitch, it’s not coercive control.

Fortunately for the crucial campaign to criminalize coercive control, few take the Brotherhood of Fathers, and groups like them, seriously. Their oral submissions to the Joint Committee were frankly embarrassing as they were themselves called out for having no evidence to back up their claims.

MRA’s don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

The #CallThemOut campaign.

Now that we have a bit of background on the Brotherhood of Fathers let’s examine their #CallThemOut campaign.

The Brotherhood are asking their members to publicly ‘call out’ any man who ignores male victims of domestic violence.

Here’s an excerpt from their website:

We need to call out the men who ignore male victims of domestic violence!

It’s all to common to see men who hold a public office or a position of influence in our society, who are choosing to deliberately ignore the failures of policy and legislation to deliver services and support to male victims of domestic violence… and it’s time to call them out on it.

If you know a bloke who has turned his back on his brothers by ignoring his duty to help improve domestic violence services for Australian boys, men and fathers we want you to help us Call Them Out.

We need policy reforms that deliver intervention and prevention strategies, along with crisis support for male victims and their families.

To make that a reality we need to be working together to Call them Out so we can see these reforms happen.

Use the hash tag #callthemout so they see the error of their ways.

Ask any expert what it will take to bring about real change in the tragic epidemic of violence against women and they will tell you the same thing.

It is men, not women, who will bring about the deep cultural change that we so desperately need to end violence against women.

We need men, who will call other men out for their behavior. We need men who are prepared to risk their friendships to tell them that is isn’t okay to feel entitled to know the whereabouts of their partner at any given moment. To give her a slap because he felt disrespected, to install a tracking device in her car.

It’s unacceptable to demean their partner in public, to control her access to money, especially money that she earns, to criticize her appearance, tell her what to wear, alienate her from friends or family or not take no for answer when it comes to sex.

Society needs men who find the demeaning soul destroying treatment perpetuated by perpetrators of coercive control as abhorrent as women do.

These are real men, men who see the value in women, and in other men. Men who can reach men who are addicted to control and help them to unravel the deep insecurity that perpetuates their need to gain power and hold onto it. We need these men who will call out abusive behavior and teach young boys that power and control over women is not their birthright.

The idea of men calling out other men for their treatment of women makes MRA’s like the Brotherhood of Fathers angry.

Really angry.

Because they don’t want cultural change, change that teaches our young boys that girls and women are their equals and are entitled to respect, not people they need to learn to subdue and destroy.

The Brotherhood of Fathers attack men who support this change. They do this because they know it is men who will bring a new narrative, and that is something they do not want.

Because men like them, think they are entitled to abuse and control women, and not be held accountable.

Think I’m being harsh, check out this screenshot from their website.

Screenshot from Brotherhood of Fathers website, captured by author

Let’s examine the blokes who have turned their backs on their brothers by standing against violence against women.

We have Assistant Commissioner of the Queensland Fire and Emergency services, called out for supporting White Ribbon Day; MP Cameron Dick called out for saying that family violence has no place in our communities, not now not ever; and Julian Pace, founder of Happiness Co who says “just because you don’t do it yourself isn’t enough — stand against those who do”.

That’s just three. If the Brotherhood has its way, members will be trawling the internet desperate to name and shame any man who dare speak out against perpetrators of domestic violence.

What’s the motivation?

One can’t help but wonder what it is that would make a man absorb and believe the narrative that violence against women is not a gendered issue.

I can only come up with two possibilities. Either they genuinely are a victim of domestic violence and feel abandoned in their desperate need for support. Or they are motivated, for whatever reason, to deflect attention from the devastating social issue of violence against women.

We know that some men are victims of violence in intimate partner relationships. In the majority of those cases, that violence is perpetuated by their male partner. Some do suffer at the hands of a woman, but the evidence shows that this is a comparative few. It is a fallacy to suggest that the vast majority of MRA’s are victim survivors. More likely they are disgruntled men who are furious that their victim has escaped.

My first husband perpetrated domestic violence against me for more than 18 years. He is vehemently opposed to any suggestion that the vast majority of domestic violence is perpetrated against women by men.

I honestly believe that the vast majority of supporters of the Brotherhood of Fathers and similar movements are motivated at the core by a desire to deflect attention away from male violence.

Could it be that the men behind the perpetuation of the narrative that is spread by the Brotherhood of Fathers and others like them are men who have been called out for their own abusive behavior? Men who have been wounded by a woman who has found the inner strength to get away.

To get away, and then to stand up against a culture of violence against women.

This makes the Brothers angry.

Because they were perfectly happy with the status quo.

Equality Includes You

Speaking up for humanity through intersectional social…

Matilda Fairholm

Written by

Survivor of long term Domestic Violence and Coercive Control, adult convert to Christ, writes about the life lessons of rebuilding from scratch in my forties.

Equality Includes You

Speaking up for humanity through intersectional social justice. Open to all.

Matilda Fairholm

Written by

Survivor of long term Domestic Violence and Coercive Control, adult convert to Christ, writes about the life lessons of rebuilding from scratch in my forties.

Equality Includes You

Speaking up for humanity through intersectional social justice. Open to all.

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