Somewhere in Michigan, in the last week of June, a bunch of men sat around and aired their grievances.
To say it more plainly, they whined and complained about how the world got to be so cold.
The Washington Post covered first International Conference on Men’s Issues, something so absurd in its existence that I hope that Lorne Michaels catches wind of it and brings Tina Fey back to do the writing for an SNL skit.
According to Monica Hesse, the reporter who covered the event for the paper’s style section, “Men, attendees believed, were the ones under threat of attack. This conference was their response, their rallying call to action.”
The men want their rights. “The same rights as the ‘privileged women,’ as various attendees described the female gender,” according the Hesse’s report. Women who had been defined by some as narcissists.
What these rights are, in particular, the article doesn’t say. (Honestly, I wish these people had a 10-point program.) Hesse mentioned some that were worth consideration: The careless disregard for the lives of young men who are enlisted in the U.S. military, custodial rights (and related societal expectations) for men. Domestic abuse and incidents of rape committed against men.
These aren’t just men’s issues. They are issues for any sensible, compassionate person who is informed and wants justice. (Much like feminism is not just for women.) But this conference, this idea of “men’s rights,” seems like the sophisticate’s "He-Man Woman Haters Club." Especially once the anecdotes about wives and ex-girlfriends start rolling in. The resentment creates a breeding ground for hate, the kind that brought us the likes of Elliot Rodger.
The head of the organization, Paul Elam, wants us to believe that the piece he wrote wanting the month of October to be “Bash a Violent Bitch” month — you know, the one where he says, “literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall” — was satire. Obviously.
The majority of conference attendees were white and male — the stronghold of privilege in this country (and arguably, the world). As voices of non-privilege and dissent grow louder — from people of color, from the LGBTQ community, from women — the silence that maintains privilege begins to crumble. Social media has been an incredible tool in amplifying, and in some cases, unifying and intersectionalizing these voices.
If the privileged seem nervous that they are losing ground, perhaps it is with good reason. There is a black family living in the White House. Gays and lesbians can legally marry in many states. Contraception has been made available to women for free. If the DREAM Act passes, their world may implode.
The curious thing about privilege is that it is selective and blinding. Often, those who possess it are unaware of how much they've gained institutionally by being born exactly as they are. Helpfully, a reminder comes to “check your privilege.” Having said this a time or two myself before, it can be like kicking a hornet’s nest.
“People tell me to check my privilege, and I just laugh, because they have no idea what I’ve been through,” one man is quoted as saying in the piece. There are others near him who agree, and again cite personal obstacles as a means to affirm their supposed disenfranchisement.
As the society becomes more inclusive, perhaps we should expect the rise of more of these organizations to emerge and convince us that the world is flat. After all, like Elam says on his site, A Voice For Men, he “grew up in a much different world than we live in today.” It seems to take some folks a bit longer to adjust.
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