July 20 to 22, the 4th International Conference on Men's Issues
(ICMI) took place in London, England, organized by Mike Buchanan,
leader of the British political party Justice For Men and Boys
(and the Women Who Love Them) and by Paul Elam, founder of the
American online magazine A Voice For Men. The conference
program featured speakers from around the world addressing men's
health, social, legal, and educational issues. Though the majority
were men, women were also prominent participants. The keynote
address, "Why women must consign feminism to the dustbin
of history," was delivered by Canadian YouTube sensation
Karen Straughan, a one-woman industry of common sense and cogent
argument. Each day's program was opened by a female presenter,
while another Canadian, Alison Tieman, delivered the final full-length
talk, "How Compassion for Men Shapes Civilization."
Tieman and Straughan are both members of an advocacy group called
The Honey Badgers, who post regular podcasts on cultural and
political affairs from a male-positive perspective.
presenters included politicians, academics, businessmen, lawyers,
teachers, bloggers, and many ordinary blokes. Darren Deojee,
after being piped into the room by a bagpiper, addressed the
audience in a kilt and carrying a nuin to talk about positive
masculinity. Ian McNicholl spoke without rancor of his personal
hell with a physically violent woman who promised to have him
murdered if he ever left her. The Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes spoke
with erudition and wit on "How feminists have destroyed
the Church of England beyond repair." Some of the speakers
consider themselves men's rights activists (MRAs), but perhaps
the only unifying idea of the conference was that men deserve
a public hearing even when their words contradict feminist dogma
about male power.
a radical request these days. The event received little journalistic
coverage, none of it mainstream and all scathing, yet organizers
were thankful that at least protesters didn't force a cancelation,
as they are wont to do. Feminist Lara Whyte, writing for an
online publication called 50.50, characterized the gathering
as a white supremacist and woman-hating "Alt-Right"
meet-up in which men's "fury and frustration" were
palpable and in which the attendees were united by what she
interpreted as their "shared mourning of an idealized past."
Robert Jackman, writing for Vice magazine, admitted
that he went to the conference "partly to find out what
actually happens at these events" – he seems to have
expected something like a blood sacrifice or the swearing of
an oath to the god Thor – "but also to see whether
the attendees really all were the women-hating wackos they are
believed to be." Not surprisingly, perhaps, his worst fears
(or hopes) were largely confirmed. He reported that men's rights
groups are regularly condemned for misogyny by the Southern
Poverty Law Center and faux-lamented that attendees' "caricature
of feminists as angry misandrists" (where's the caricature,
exactly?) makes the movement "hard to take seriously."
writers' mockery was as predictable as it was unfair. Contrary
to Whyte's disingenuous claim that most of the facts and statistics
presented at the conference were "lightly sourced"
and "cherry picked" (far better descriptors of her
own article), presenters based their arguments on a solid foundation
of fact. Anyone with doubts about the validity of the conference
platform should take a good long look at the statistics on male
disadvantage, carefully collected in William Collins' presentation,
which can be found on his site The Illustrated Empathy Gap.
And contrary to Jackman's assertion that advocates for men show
an "inability to empathize with women who might be in a
similar situation – or even build bridges with women's
campaigns," the fact is that men have tried for decades
to form alliances with feminists on anti-violence, poverty,
and mental health campaigns, only to be consistently rebuffed
for wanting even a small piece of the public sympathy pie.
what was so inflammatory about the conference? (Full disclosure:
I was a presenter and have for many years considered myself
both an anti-feminist and a supporter of men's rights.)
the speakers' various arguments could be summed up in one statement,
it might be that while it has long been recognized that women
as a class benefit from advocacy based on their experiences,
needs, and challenges, men have rarely had the opportunity to
advocate for men as men.
social message we most often hear, in fact, is that men have
for too long been at the center of things and should be thinking
not about themselves, but about helping women and children.
Most men are aware that their value to society is based mainly
on their willingness to sacrifice for the good of others.
is the heart of our current problem. Men were once rewarded
with public respect for their willingness to sacrifice their
bodies in labor and (potentially) their lives in war to maintain
and protect their families. Now such respect has dried up: we
rarely hear praise for men as men – even when they are
involved in a dramatic rescue operation, as recently occurred
in Thailand. Men are still expected to protect and defer to
women, and our society has a deep, perhaps unconscious, aversion
to needy or vulnerable men. As a result, male troubles are not
only little recognized in Western societies, but often actively
denied and ridiculed.
the conference speakers discussed, men and boys are falling
behind in educational attainment and, subsequently, lag behind
their female counterparts in the job market. Men are nearly
four times more likely than women to commit suicide; are far
more likely to be homeless; are far more likely to die or be
seriously injured on the job; are far more likely to lose contact
with their children after divorce (and to experience bankruptcy
and mental illness as a result); and are far more likely to
be arrested, charged, tried, and convicted for the same crimes
as women – and to receive 60% higher criminal sentences
than women do.
men who spoke at the conference were justifiably angry about
these matters – and the journalists condemned them for
that, too, with Lara Whyte sighing that "the list of MRA
grievances is long" and Robert Jackman claiming that "MRAs
commonly have a victim mentality." But a victim mentality
is a delusion of victimhood, from which one derives pleasure
and power. Those who aim to help men know that showing male
wounds is no route to power.
are told repeatedly that they are socially privileged and must
apologize and make amends for the many unearned advantages they
supposedly possess. Any man who fails to manifest the necessary
chivalrous shame is told he is a woman-hater.
my experience, very few of the men who oppose feminist blame
feel any hatred for women; on the contrary, many men have a
built in (even self-destructive) desire to please and care for
them. But if our society continues to slap men down whenever
they try to speak honestly about their experiences in a man-blaming
culture, we may succeed in turning them against their own better
also by Janice Fiamengo:
I Am an Anti-Feminist
be That Feminist