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Posted on May 22, 2013 in arguments, critical thinking, responding to arguments | 21 comments

Thoughts on A Voice For Men

In my previous piece, I linked a video interview I had with Robert O’Hara of A Voice For Men. Some have wondered what my thoughts concerning A Voice For Men are. Following are those thoughts in reference to the posting of my video interview at Women in Secularism 2.

As per terms of the fundraiser which had funded my Women in Secularism 2 experience — and various statements I made throughout and prior to the conference — I agreed to speak with whomever* approached me at Women in Secularism 2. Prior to the conference, Robert O’ Hara contacted me to arrange a video interview and, because of my promise, I obliged. In addition to Rob, a magazine reporter had sought me out at the conference and similarly requested a recorded interview (more details are hopefully to come). Conference speakers, staff, and even some attendees also had engaged — although not with recorded interviews — in discussion.

As a proponent of critical thinking and skepticism, I endeavor to converse with individuals* holding divergent perspectives. Rather than putting myself into an echochamber and refusing to speak with people, I have an ‘open-door policy*’ by which individuals can reach me through various mediums. This is an extremely important because engaging with others helps keep me honest, exposes me to new ideas, and allows for others to critique my ideas following discussions.

Despite this open door policy and a history of speaking with and even interviewing people who hold divergent perspectives [consider just two ‘extreme’ examples – local protestors of LGBT events and members of the Westboro Baptist Church], critics have objected to my speaking with contributors to A Voice For Men. One such objection is that I am involving myself with a ‘hate site’ designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)….although the SPLC never considered A Voice For Men to be a hate site. A representative from the SPLC says,

First, A Voice For Men has not been labeled a ‘hate site.’ This has been admitted by a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center who said, “It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement; nor did our article claim that the grievances they air on their websites – false rape accusations, ruinous divorce settlements and the like – are all without merit.”

As a skeptic, I do not consider representatives of the SPLC — or any organization for that matter — to be the authority-on-high of what is and what is not a ‘hate site.’ Rather, examples of alleged objectionable content ought to be provided and evaluated…and even if there are some objectionable articles and comments on the website — as may be the case with any website and especially is the case really popular websites like You Tube, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, etc. — it ought not be the case that we discount entire websites because of some objectionable content.

Various perspectives are represented on websites who have many contributors and commenters. Within A Voice For Men, I find perspectives/sentiments I enjoy including the importance of finding value on one’s own terms rather than adhering to traditional gender role expectations, the importance of including men and boys in discussions of sexual violence victims, the repulsive nature of male circumcision [designated genital mutilation] forced upon children, and the importance of including concerns of men and boys in conversations of sexism [men, young boys, women, and young girls].

On the other hand, I disagree with some perspectives and sentiments included within A Voice For Men including the treatment of feminism as a monolith [I believe various approaches to feminism exist and is is not accurate to ‘paint with a broad brush’], passionate rhetoric attacking individuals and name-calling, and their motto ‘Fuck Their Shit Up’ which may appear extremely adversarial and close doors to discussion. Additionally, it would be nice to see more concerning issues directly facing men and boys and less attention to opposition to feminism and feminists which may indirectly harm men and boys.

A Voice For Men is much unlike other websites discussing issues of gender and is often not ‘diplomatic’ by any means; they are often out to ‘take names’ and slam ideological opponents. This is not an approach I often employ, but I also understand that, in any movement, whether it be movements to advocate for men and boys or for separation of church and state — there will be ‘firebrands,’ ‘diplomats,’ and many people in-between who do not quite fit a label. Nonetheless, I am happy to speak with MHRAs and feminists alike regardless of agreements and disagreements.

I do not, though, identify as a feminist or an MHRA because the labels are confining and say little about what I actually believe. Instead, I would like to talk about particular issues, one at a time. Considering feminism and Men’s Rights Activism includes divergent perspectives — only some of which I agree with — I refuse to label. I agree and disagree with perspectives within various approaches to feminism and the A Voice For Men website.

To summarize: I am happy to speak with people whether they label as feminists or Men’s Human Rights Activists. I want to encounter new ideas, share my thoughts, and be challenged by various perspectives; this is what being a skeptic and a student of philosophy should be about. I refuse to limit myself and be maligned because I associate, however loosely, with individuals who and websites which may include perspectives people may disagree with whether they be feminist or MHRA websites. I don’t want to label myself as ‘feminist’ or ‘MHRA’ because — although I agree with some ideas from both camps — I find the labels limiting and would rather not be thought of as a caricature or assumed to be in agreement with any given idea on a feminist or MHRA website. Rather than attempting to undermine my beliefs because of whom I may associate with, respond to my ideas on their own merits.

*My open-door policy may mold over time, but at this moment, I am wary of speaking with individuals who pose a legitimate threat to my life and want to harm me rather than discuss ideas. I have — if I recall correctly — banned only one individual from commenting here because of vile accusations against other commenters including unsubstantiated charges of racism, homophobia, and the like. [David Mabus and associated likenesses may be banned because he/they post links and do not contribute anything to discussions.] I really don’t want to ban anyone, but a line ought to be drawn somewhere (and Skeptic Ink Network has a comment policy)!

What are some of my perspectives on issues pertaining to gender and divergent perspectives within feminism? Consider various pieces within the category of ‘gender‘ on this website. Better yet, ask questions below because — as always — comments are open so that readers can interact. Feel free, too, by taking the discussion off this website and using the contact form above.

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  • I take SPLC seriously, but you are correct, they did not designate AVfM a hate site, in the same way they’ve designated, for example, the Family Research Institute a hate organization for its relentless anti-gay propaganda and political action. I know this because I bothered to check on-line (which took five seconds btw). The SPLC (correctly I think) points out that a lot of MRM material is problematic and carries tones of misogyny. Example: the so-called “women like to be raped” article. Although this too is being distorted by people on-line in a way, it’s set up like a satire to highlight faulty research methods. But it’s still revolting to read and apparently there are MRA’s who took it seriously and agreed with it. That’s problematic.

    I don’t know much about the MRM, but I did listen to the podcast yesterday. Maybe it’s my own liberal background and feminist leanings, but I have to admit some of the stuff the host said sounded off to me. The rhetoric was overblown, reminded me of some conspiracy theory videos I’ve seen on YouTube. Or maybe it’s because I had just watched Magnolia, and I had Tom Cruise’s misogynistic guru character in my head still, haha.

    Idunno, really I’m still not that interested in the MRM. It doesn’t feel like it concerns me at all, since I’m not straight. Women are nothing more nor less than equal humans to me. Whatever sexual issues straight men and women have between them is their own to deal with.

    Two quick points though:

    1. Despite that I got the sense of the host being someone I would probably disagree strongly with on many issues, *his description of Ron Lindsay’s speech was FAR more accurate than the twisted fantasy being promoted by people like Rebecca Watson and Amanda Marcotte*. He also correctly pointed out that Lindsay isn’t anti-feminist at all and nothing in his speech was an attack on feminism. People like Marcotte are constructing an utterly false narrative in which everyone who dares to question her are automatically against all feminism. Bullshit. Plenty of feminists disagree with her distorted view of reality.

    2. I still think the bickering MRA’s and radfems are like two peas in a pod and should just get it over with and get married already. :D

    • The problems with feminism have virtually nothing to do with heterosexual sexual relationships.

      When an organization, like Femen, which is a radical feminist organization, but is supported by an awful lot of feminists, chooses to display on their website a half naked Femen protester with a bloody sickle in one hand and a pair of bloody testicles in the other.. Well, that concerns the whole society.

      When feminists state that virtually all domestic violence agressors are male and all victims are female you are going to have problems. People do eat this shit up and it affects the way we think about DV and the way we allocate our resources and do legislation.

      When feminists state that out of a hundred rapists only 2 ever spend a day in jail, they are going to scare rape victims away from reporting crime to the police.

      And so on and so on, the list is long.

  • Oooo but I do have a question Justin, were there any ideas or arguments you were exposed to at WiS2 that challenged your preconceived notions and changed your views on feminism or issues related to it?

    • The biggest takeway, something reinforced, is that feminism ought not be treated as a monolith. Jacoby and Cornwell were great and — if all feminists were like them — I would perhaps consider using the label. More to come.

  • You what? You’re open to what other people have to say, even when you disagree with them? Misogynist!!!

    • So, David got a downvote from someone. I’d like to stress that his comment is not far-fetched satire. This sentiment was the exact heart of multiple protests organized by feminists against Warren Farrel, for example. Check YouTube, if you are skeptical.

      It is an absolutely reigning idea amongst feminists, that if you criticize feminism or doubt its dogmas then you must hate women.

  • Ronlawhouston

    I think a lot of the men’s rights movement began out of issues in family courts. I remember when a group called Texas Fathers for Equal Rights (“TFER”) started. I actually see a lot of parallels between groups like TFER and feminists. In the beginning TFER was seen as a bunch of cranks and kooks not because their issues lacked validity but because of the anger and vitriol that accompanied their advocacy. Similarly, I think there are valid issues raised by feminists but when groups use anger and vitriol to express them, the message tends to be dismissed.

    Eventually TFER settled down. Sure there are still a number of angry cranks in the group, but their overall message has been heard and actually resulted in some fairly substantial changes to family law in Texas.

    I will say that male/female issues do seem to be one that makes people often act less than rational. My personal theory is that some of that is because of family of origin issues.

  • alephsquared

    As per terms of the fundraiser which had funded my Women in Secularism 2 experience – and various statements I made throughout and prior to the conference — I agreed to speak with whomever* approached me at Women in Secularism 2.

    But in your interview with AVFM, you said that the interview with them was part of an agreement to provide an interview to donors to your WIS2 trip. In which case, I think the question is: why would you accept money from a site like AVFM.

    • Yes, there were two items mentioned: people who approached me at conference and people who contributed to fundraiser. As I posted, I have mixed thoughts about AVFM — as I do with feminist websites and many others — and don’t see it as all bad. They want to talk? They want to donate? No problem.

    • What is AVFM “like”, in your opinion?

  • I enjoyed reading this article, and watching your interview with Robert O’Hara. I think, though, that you have over simplified one issue.

    One, AVFM is an amalgamation of over 200 writers. There is not a monolithic opinion about a lot of things, including whether feminism is monolithic.

    In fact, our editor-in-chief John Hembling has written several articles where he acknowledges many different flavors of feminism, and I agree with him. His contention, as is mine, is that where it concerns matters of governance and the dominant voices in academe (think University of Toronto) there is a negative monolithic feminist influence on law and policy.

    I see the same thing in the secular community right now. There is certainly a diverse group that would identify as feminist. They are all but drowned out by the likes of Rebecca Watson and PZ Myers, et al. And they are largely drowned out because most of them are not speaking up to the forced dogma that “other” feminists are hawking out in the open.

    It certainly wasn’t a diverse voice that came after you, Justin.

    So again it is not that we believe that feminism is a monolith, but that simply put we observe that it might as well be given the effective impotence and silence in the face of dogma that is currently infecting the secular community with very little real effort to stop it,

    • Can we safely assume that despite the hundreds of authors there are a few core tenets or values that the AVfM supporters pretty much hold in common? I mean something beyond the usual notion of gender equality.

      • Can we assume that you like hit-n-run slander and endorse censorship of that which deviates from orthodoxy? You called me a hate monger and provided no evidence. Cough up Damion, or you are no better than Benson/Zwan/Myers –

        • What I found hilarious is that @D4M10N:disqus calls you a blight on the atheist movement and later on you said that he’s a moral vacuum and for that EdClint cautions you to not throw personal insults, but not him.
          All these comments get deleted of course.

          • Yes, it’s a convenience store. Barf up a slogan, “thank you, please come again”.

          • You are quite mistaken, I did have words with Damion. We agreed the whole tangent, his comments included, were not productive.

  • Mikail2

    I would take anything the $PLC says with a grain of salt. Some of the organizations that they label as “hate groups”destroy their credibility. So, even if the $PLC did label a voice for men as a “hate group”, that doesn’t make it so. In fact, it might be a badge of honor to be considered a “hate group” by the $PLC.

    Professor Thomas DiLorenzo has called the SPLC a “left wing hate group.” I think that’s an accurate assessment of the $PLC.

  • There’s a post on ‘Background Probability’ about Paul Elam & AVFM AVfM – A Hate Site? citing 3 instances, and arguing why anyone would associate with it. In the comments, he argues that he’s posted this bcoz of perception that skepticink is getting linked to AVFM, however thinly.

    I was about to post this comment there, but the comments got closed. I hope you wont mind my posting it here, as this is the only thread even remotely associated with the issue.


    1) Re: the Satire that you think its a steaming pile of shit.. I dont see you offering any arguments here .. other than moral outrage. Even if its an “Extended Rape Joke”, so what? Are you saying Rape Jokes are off limits?

    2) RE: The Jury Nullification piece..
    Its still on AVFM.. On Jury Nullification and Rape, and you are missing the point if you summarize it as ‘arguing that all accused rapists should be acquitted‘. A better summary would be ‘The system is totally rigged against accused rapists, and all attempts at reform have failed and men continue to get savaged by the system. This is acknowledged by judicial experts. The only recourse citizenry has in such situations is Jury Nullification. Lets use that to bring the system to its knees and force the Govt to fix things‘. There also been a debate between a “skeptic” and Paul on this subject
    Jury nullification debate – part 1

    If you think thats being ‘cavalier about rape’, thats just your opinion. I would argue that you are being cavalier about how broken the system is in handling ‘false accusations of rape’. Even non-MRAs have been talking about this for a long while. for e.g
    The Crying Rape Game
    has documented the wide varieties of situations where such accusations are made, with devastating effect on the men accused. When even a police officer is scared to death of being falsely accused, you know the system is deep shit. MSNBC: False Rape Allegation Thwarted By Police Camera

    To me, you are exhibiting a cognitive bias that people in the skeptic community dont seem to be aware of.. the Women Are Wonderful effect

    The “women are wonderful” effect is the phenomenon found in psychological research which suggests that people associate more positive attributes with the general social category of women compared to men. Related to ambivalent sexism, this effect reflects an emotional bias toward the female gender as a general case

    • I wonder if the pro-feminist “skeptic” men of skepticink will address the intentional, direct damage to men done by feminism.. starting with the law.
      The standard refrain of feminists when men’s issues are pointed out is that Patriarchy Hurts men too, and if you just support feminism more, then your problems will be magically solved too.
      An Anti Feminist woman has this nice article Effeminition: Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too where she provides information on how exactly feminism has lobbied to hurt men.

      What locus standi does one have critiquing AVFM for “hate”, when one supports something that does serious real world physical harm.. when you are part of a hate machine?

  • First, A Voice For Men has not been labeled a ‘hate site.’ This has been admitted by a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center who said, “It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement

    Contrast this to what an established LEADING feminist organization NOW has to say very recently, in its Fall 2012 Newslatter
    On Page 8:

    Men’s Rights Extremists = Hate Groups
    Hatred of Women a Common Theme – A number of leaders of fathers’ custody advocacy
    groups are clearly misogynistic and use their Internet sites to exhort men to take action against ex-wives, using hate-filled language. More extreme men’s rights activists (another term for fathers’ rights activists) are identified as members of hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center in their Spring, 2012, Issue 145 of the Intelligence Report: The Year in Hate and Extremism, 2011. They are described as displaying virulent misogyny,
    spreading false anti-woman propaganda and applauding and even encouraging acts of
    domestic terrorism and extreme violence against women and children, up to and including

    On Page 1, Intro:

    This Special Report of the NOW Family Law Ad Hoc Advisory Committee focuses on the destructive ability of abusive parents (usually the father) – aided by fathers’ advocacy groups or fathers’ rights groups – to deny the protective parent (usually the mother) custody of minor children. Discussed in this issue is how abusers deny custody, and the damage it causes to a half million or more children exposed to continuing physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

    There you go.. the abusive parent is usually the father and the protective parent is usually the mother. This mainstream feminism, for last 50 years.

    Anti-Science and Anti-common sense as well.

    WHEREAS, the term Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was created by the psychiatrist,
    Richard Gardner. It is used as a tactic in courts by litigating attorneys as a defense strategy for batterers and sexual predators that purports to explain a child’s estrangement from one parent, or explains away allegations against the estranged parent of abuse/sex abuse of child, by blaming the protective parent;

    THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women (NOW)
    denounces Parental Alienation Syndrome and recommends that any professional whose
    mission involves the protection of the rights of women and children denounce its use as
    unethical, unconstitutional, and dangerous.