Ever since the shootings in Santa Barbara, California that sparked the powerful hashtag #YesAllWomen, I’ve been paying more attention to the so-called men’s rights movement; men who follow this perspective believe we are actually in a matriarchal society, that women have significant control over men, and that women should abdicate authority – particularly when it comes to who they date. We have seen this movement become violent, not only in Santa Barbara, but in the threats some female game designers, critics, and players have experienced in #Gamergate.
Others have written eloquently about the foundational ideas behind this movement, the personalities who are stirring up the movement, and the day-to-day anger and violence against women that this movement seems to encourage. With every article and news report, I get angrier and more frustrated. I have shaken my head in disgust so much I have a permanent crick in my neck. I have dropped my jaw in shock so much I have TMJ.
But one day, after reading profiles of Warren Farrell and Paul Elam, I began to feel something like pity and compassion. I began to wonder how we have failed these men. What did we miss in our care for them that they turned to petulant anger? What messages have we mistakenly sent to suggest that they are victims? Is it because we haven’t sufficiently addressed the issues Susan Faludi wrote about in Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Male – the standards by which we measure men? How did we blow it? Were we not supportive enough in our classrooms and churches and extracurricular activities and home life? How did we fail them?
I have no answers; I watch what were decent, everyday men get sucked into a spiraling frustration that is fed by others. Their reasoning is circular, their reactions to women are baffling, their compulsion toward violence even more so. I know there’s some sense of a loss of privilege – but I can’t help but wonder if somewhere in our work toward equality, inclusion, and justice, we forgot to teach those with privilege how to both recognize and use their privilege to help everyone up.
In a perfect world, everyone sees the fullness of their identities, and recognizes that others’ identities do not threaten but rather enrich their own. But we’re not there. I pray every day that one more man who’s sucked into this destructive movement gets what he needs to see his own inherent worth – and everyone else’s. And I pray we are there to help them, not give them reasons to stay in a cycle of anger.