Really, I should be totally behind men’s rights supporters. After all, I really love rights, and more than rights I love everybody having rights together like a great big happy family of equality. There are not many rights-having-themed groups I don’t instantly love for that reason.
And yet, men’s rights groups often irk me. To me, they usually seem to be more about maintaining unfair privileges, rather than focusing on actual rights. Why is the gradual change towards equality in the context of a very long history of comparative over-privilege in law, authorship, and authority a type of victimization? Especially when there is so much evidence to demonstrate (some already wonderfully laid out in Humphrey’s post) that if anything, men are often not being victimized at all but actually continue to be unfairly privileged for their ‘gender-specific’ rights, whereas women’s groups are still struggling to get their very basic human rights to not be abused by known abusers.
The agenda of men’s rights groups is typically absurd. The feminist agenda is about equality between the genders, and requests that both genders should share housework, caregiving, fiscal responsibilities, and the like is ultimately not about over-privileging women, but about giving equal opportunity to both genders to the advantages and disadvantages of each responsibility. It has certainly been articulated as being about women’s rights, and continues to be so articulated (perhaps to its detriment, but also because women bear the brunt of the inequality) but it is ultimately about human rights.
Indeed, the ways in which men are disadvantaged in our culture typically tie right into the ways women are disadvantaged, but because women’s disadvantages have historically been so much greater (and in my opinion, still tend to be) women’s rights groups have been fighting these causes for decades already. As a feminist, I want both parents to be equally involved in the caregiving duties for their children. I want violent abusers of either gender to be punished and prevented from continuing promptly and efficiently. Ideally this would be replicated in the unfortunate cases of divorce by a relatively equitable split that allows the children to continue on with their lives with little disruption but still be raised by both parents relatively equally, and parents with violent histories prevented from the contact with their children which they clearly do not deserve.
However, in a world where women are still the dominant caregivers, are still highly unlikely to be violent towards their children in comparison to men, and are still considerably less likely to have demanding jobs which allow them little time to devote to childraising then the pattern of plenty of women getting custody of children in family court is hardly a surprise. And ultimately, these days, how many women do get full custody of the children when the father is equally competent? I’d like to see those stats, and compare them to the number of children who are abused by somebody who got custody when they shouldn’t have. Custody shouldn’t be a pissing contest between the genders, but if it must be as the men’s rights groups seem to demand, I would bet that many of the men unable to see their children may be so prevented because they have violent histories. Just as the man from the Parramatta siege shouldn’t, for very obvious reasons.
As already covered by Humphrey, women aren’t exactly being privileged right now, even as they supposedly do better legally in the one arena which has traditionally been female: the family. Men demand greater control over an arena they once considered wholly feminine and the legal system jumps, but women ask to not be abused and the legal system does nothing. I am all for rights, but men’s rights groups still seem to have problems distinguishing between their rights and their unfair privileges.