The Man (formerly) from Planet X / anon.
As a man in my early twenties, I have spent years hearing that men are from another planet, that they’re uncivilised, trash, or words to that effect. Words like these have left the lips of many women in my life from all demographics and age ranges. I started hearing this from an early age, from everything including popular media to my own mother shouting at my disinterested and defeated father. Ugh, women: amirite lads?
As much as I can joke about my lived experience in an attempt to give context to my politics and cope with a traumatic childhood, it had an effect on me; I began to think that it was normal for women to hold a natural disdain for men, and that we were born incompetent or ignorant (see image). I had always - and still do - look up to and respect my mother, and used to think that everything she said was right. Before I had even begun to cultivate my own ability to question ideas and form my own opinions, I had already been indoctrinated.
Or, at least, a sense of ‘indoctrination’ is critical to the ideology of Men's’ Rights Activists (MRAs). An environment of continual degradation of Men from the Planet X is the platform that gives MRA sentiments a space to grow.
Consider a young boy that has grown up accepting these thoughts forming his own opinions and thus beginning to question his pre-held beliefs.
“I’m not completely removed from reality. I’m not sexist. I’m not a male chauvinist. It’s so unfair that I have to carry this reputation and weight because of the actions of other men.”
He is not the only young boy that feels this way.
“Why do people think like this. Why do people hate men? What’s wrong with being a man?”
He had a good upbringing in a nice area, nobody had taught him to segregate and hate. This was an incredibly upsetting shove into the real world.
Along with many others like him, these young boys take their GCSEs, then their A Levels, and then go to university. The young boys continue to hear this disdain for men while learning more about Suffrage, feminism, and wage gap statistics. To them, the idea of equal rights is of no question; that they boys see is an intolerance of men and to masculinity. They’ve seen it for years, ever since they were young. At best, they see an ignorance of the plights of the male experience. They think women have been at the forefront of political discourse for decades; they are the types to follow Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro and Dave Rubin.
“Oh those poor white men! Won’t somebody think of them and their fragile feelings!” say the public sarcastically. Educated, civilised, normal people, or at least they must be if white men are uncivilised and live on another planet.
Do not mistake me, I am not saying that white men don’t have privilege; I am in no way saying that women and BAME cultures have ‘hogged’ the spotlight. I am a white man, after all, what do I know?
What I am arguing is that it is incredibly frustrating when genuine issues that men suffer from are minimised, ignored or evem pushed to the side. I’ve been told that men have no right to complain when we oppressed women and enslaved millions of people for centuries. That as the most privileged in society, our problems aren’t problems.
Those who minimise or even laugh at issues affecting men would not do so if they observed the symptoms of the increasing squeezed charity Samaritans, with suicide being the biggest killer of men under 50. They would not laugh if they could see the reactions of lawyers telling 90% of men in custody cases that they have lost the custody of their child due to the notion that men aren’t good carers. They would not laugh if they had to witness the only acceptable form of genital mutilation left in the Western world and listen to the screams of a newborn baby.
Of course, neither am I arguing that feminists and regular people do not care or acknowledge these issues just as MRAs also may acknowledge the issues women face. It’s not about trivialising the issues that women face and the issues that feminists stand for, but rather bringing men’s issues back into the public conversation. MRAs believe one thing above all: that we are taken for granted and our issues are ignored. You’re also not wrong to notice the parallels in the notions that MRAs and feminists stand for -- they’re two sides to the same coin.
Let’s take a look at /r/menkampf, a subreddit that does one simple thing very effectively: it takes tweets, posts, or news headlines condemning and generalising men and replaces “men” with “Jews” and asks -- “is this tweet/post/headline now anti-semitic?”. If so, the logic proceeds that the original statement about men was sexist as headlines are demographic-based prejudice, only the demographic has changed. It raises awareness for socially acceptable sexism in a shocking way, which as we can see, is very effective. For example:
Yes there is indeed hyperbole, but justifying this kind of message is disgusting.
I wish to apologise to anybody patient enough to read this far.
“What a crock of shit!” you may be thinking.
Let me tell you what made me a feminist.
For the longest time, I was an ‘egalitarian.’ I wanted to support feminist thought without taking the stigma surrounding the toxic label and the culture of feminism. It was only until someone I was very close to -- someone who had many times said that men are trash, offending and upsetting me through the last socially acceptable prejudice -- told me about the rape committed by somebody we both knew. I was disgusted. I stood and gripped the back of the dining room chair for an hour until my knuckles were white. It suddenly hit me.
The penny had finally dropped because it suddenly felt real. The unproportionate sexual assault of women was no longer a statistic that I could be blissfully ignorant of. The suffering and the scarring of the victim was not just something I had read about, and I was disgusted at my privilege of being so distant from it all.
Disgusted at the rapist, disgusted at the existence of sexual harassment and assault towards women, and disgusted by myself that it took me this long to understand, that I believed what I use to believe.
Upon reflection, I realise that I understood the implications of rape and feminism before that night, but I didn’t - and couldn’t - comprehend its terrible reality. There was no way for me to appreciate something so abstract to my life as a man and my lived experience.
That was when it ‘clicked’, and I understood my privilege; I finally realised the irony of my previously held beliefs and opinions.
On the other side of this, this is why I can appreciate and do not expect people to empathise with MRAs, because the lived experiences of young boys and mencannot be appreciated by an outsider. But having now seen the issues affecting the ‘other’ side, I can empathise from a unique perspective.
This is why I completely expect readers to think I am writing utter drivel.
To see a similarly complex journey from hard-core feminist to nuanced centrist like me, Norah Vincent’s Self Made Man is a fantastic read.
It is for this exact reason that it is so hard to explain mental health to people who have never suffered, why it’s so hard to get people to empathise with the suffering Syrian children face, why the Save The Children adverts were so effective. It brought it closer to home and closer to our lived experience, where we could find it easier to empathise.
So my wisdom, to MRAs and feminists alike, is that you are more similar than different. My belief is that more empathy and understanding has to be a part of discourse; all it took for me to understand was one sincere, unpatronising, empathetic conversation; one where all the statistics and arguments in the world did nothing. Understand that you do not yet see from each others’ perspective; appreciate the core values that the other stands for; and finally, prepare yourself for the possibility that your own opinions aren’t always true.
And so I conclude with the message that men aren’t born evil, malicious, or ignorant as if we come from the Planet X; we, just as women, are sculpted through words heard, experiences felt, and the world seen; in order to address womens’ suffrage, it is imperative to address men’s as well.
Words by anon.
Edited by Hannah Crosbie