Thursday, October 20, 2011

Of Forklifts and Potty Trips

It's story time, again. From the ages of 14 to 17, I worked at a lumber yard and hardware store. This was a well-connected mom & pop type shop. It was a hard, minimum-wage job - and the only reason I kept it was a sense of duty. In my small town, jobs for non-country-club kids who weren't 18 yet were hard to come by. It was either this, or have no spending money.

There was a problem with this job, though. I wasn't allowed to use the fork-lift. Every time someone needed items that were either up on shelving, like a pallet of shingles, or 8x8 lumber (which is too heavy to lift) I had to run around the lumber yard trying to find someone who wasn't busy to bring the forklift over, get the items, then return to whatever they were doing.

Meanwhile, the customer just sat there.  Eventually, a few of the regular contractors there refused to let me serve them.

I'll never, ever forget how that made me feel. I felt like less than whole - like a failure.

And all because of stupid paperwork that said I couldn't operate a forklift until I'd been on this planet for 18 years. I had my license - I could drive my Nissan across the country if I wished. But I couldn't use a forklift to move a pile of bricks four lousy feet.

Funny story (not really), I got in the habit of moving things with my hands that were too heavy - that I should've used a forklift to move - and because of that, I injured my back permanently.

OK, end of story.

Now read this:
(Edit: After some flak from Paul Elam and many people from A Voice for Men, it appears Jenna has taken down all of her offending articles. Register-her has saved a PDF of her original post with the first 100 or so comments. It can be found here:

I keep having to take deep breaths while writing this. This one article has made me angrier than I've ever been since I started blogging.

As someone who notices the way that men are the victims of sexism, I'm used to seeing this - but never so unabashedly.

Unabashed sexism is exactly what this is - and if you read the comments (which I don't recommend) she has plenty of supporters.

Jenna Myers Karvunidis has displayed the holy trinity of bigotry: bad statistics, bad faith and bad logic.

First off, she blithely states "99% of sexual predators are men, only 1% are women and girls are over twice as likely as boys to be sexually abused" with absolutely no citing of her statistics.

That's because she pulled them out of her ass. People from Reddit have flooded her comments with correct statistics - and yes, there is a skew towards male perpetrators but it's certainly not 99%! The ironly is that skew towards men could very well be due to a society that sees women as incapable of harming a child sexually - a society perpetuated by people like Mrs. Karvunidis.

Secondly, she belligerently attacks the commenters who call her out on her sexism by claiming that they're only angry because they're pedophiles who want the opportunity to molest.

Wow, so I guess all those middle-eastern people who are angry over being profiled as terrorists by the TSA are ACTUALLY terrorists who want to sneak by security?

Lastly, she openly admits that she isn't concerned with logic.

She says it best in her very own words:
"Again, why are you guys trying to change my mind? IT WON'T CHANGE. You may use perfectly sound logic, you may use unsound logic, you may bully me, you may scare me, you may send hate mail to my house but I will never, ever change my mind on this."

And best of all, she calls herself a "Feminist." Holy shit! At least she admits that she "pick and choose when I'm a feminist because I'm not down with man-bashing."

Actually, Jenna, you look quited down with man-bashing to me.

(takes a deep breath)

Frankly - I have no idea how to deal with this type of issue or person. There's no way to change her mind (as she has made painfully obvious).

I'm a little afraid at what some of my friends in the Men's Rights community might do about this. As of this post, she's just been added to, a site designed to highlight sexist, sexually abusive or false-rape accusers.

Her unabashed sexism makes it really hard not to take off the gloves - but I fear someone may go too far and take OUT the knives. I really, really hope that no one threatens her or her family with any type of violence or other inappropriate actions. Boycott her site, write letters to the editor, make blog posts like this one - but please, don't make it so she or her family can't sleep at night - no amount of bigotry deserves violence.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Masculist Issue, And A Joke About Monkey Abuse

The wife and I had a Google Chat conversation I felt like sharing. She works in financial aid.

me: Hey!
Did you know a transgender men are denied Pell grants because they aren't allowed to sign up for selective service?
Wife: yes, actually
they have to be legally female in order to qualify
or actually (and legally) male to register
Wife: also
same-sex marriages aren't recognized for financial aid purposes
even if they are legally married by state law
me: Oh really? I didn't know that
Wife: yup
me: What about polygamy?
Wife: those aren't legal anywhere
You can claim the wives/children as members of the household if you or your legal spouse provides 50% or more of their support
me: What about pets?
Wife: but if you're not legally married to your spouse and he provides support for you, you file your own taxes, and he claims your children instead of you, you'll have a tough time even getting them to count as members in the household
Wife: pets? uhh
me: what about monkeys?
oh oh! What about if you USE a monkey to make money - like an organ grinder, then use that MONEY to SUPPORT THE MONKEY?
Wife: it counts as your income and the monkey is not counted as a member of your household
me: Is the monkey an asset?
cause I think it would be a liability
or a dependent
unless I put it in a blender - then it would be a liquid asset
Wife: -_-
the monkey is not counted as a personal asset, but rather a business asset
the same as a car or building
I wonder if his value can depreciate over time as he gets older and less cute
me: I imagine that if you bought him some groucho marx glasses, his value could be increased
depending on how much he wears them
I suppose you could staple them to his head, but that would certainly depreciate his value
Wife: but would that be a legal appreciation or not?
me: I guess it depends on if Animal Control sees the staples

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Manliness is Not Next to Helplessness

Pinpointing the exact reason for my hesitation to claim the title of "Men's Rights Activist" or a member of the Men's Rights Movement has been a tricky subject for me.

The movement for men is a collection of men (like myself) many of whom have been brought up to think that "real men" are never helpless. We are DO-ERS. We GET SHIT DONE, SON.
In general, our ultimate goals are the same. I'd like to see a world where traditional male gender roles aren't the only option for those born with a penis. I'd like to see a world where people who naturally grow facial hair aren't expected to be violent. I'd like to see a world where persons with testicles aren't seen as the only perpetrators of crimes.

But still, something keeps me from waving the high flag of Men's Rights - and I think today I had a breakthrough.

One thing that nearly every single male MRA has experienced is what it's like to grow up in a culture where men are expected to be Men you know, a Man's Man. A Manly Man or a MAN.

Thanks to Feminism (no, really, THANKS!) women are feeling less and less pressure to be "Woman's Woman" or "A Womanly Woman" or "WOMAN." Gender flexibility for women is increasingly prevalent and that's a good thing for women AND men.

No thanks to Feminism (No, really, NO THANKS) men are still being told by each other and many, many women that they still need to be MEN.

The result is the mentality that a man who cannot act upon his surroundings is no man. This is Male Potency - and it is one of the core attributes of what it means to be a man.  Without it, we are impotent, pitiful, and even comical.  Barney Fife. 

For all our screaming and yelling – a habitual inability to affect any change is pitiable and unmanly. We don’t want to be Barney Fife – we want to be Andy Griffith.

Cool, calm, collected - but authoritative, effective and respected.
This hidden psychology is creating problems for men in the MRM, where they are drawn towards concrete issues with concrete solutions rather than the more intangible work of swaying cultural perceptions and overall societal biases.

If we do a quick run-down of the more concrete, policy-based issues that MRAs are concerned about, it might look something like this:
  • Military draft only applies to men
  • In custody disputes, women are considered default care providers
  • False Rape Accusations unfairly target men (and are hard to defend against if the accusation reaches the criminal court level)
  • Male adult victims of DV/rape/sexual abuse have essentially zero support resources
  • Sentencing disparities for crimes committed by men vs. women (doubly so for sex crimes)
  • Lack of parenthood choice for men - (Men's options for fatherhood end at conception, women may use Plan B, abortion or adoption)
And the following is a list of the cultural perceptions and societal biases that the MRM would like to overthrow:
  • Men being seen as the "expendable" sex
  • Men incapable of being "victims"
  • Men unable to control their sex drive - leading them to cheat/rape
  • Men being dirty
  • Men unable to "nurture"
  • Men being violent by nature

It’s not that the second list is unimportant.  In fact, many of those general concerns are folded into the aforementioned issues - the ways that men are stereotyped relates directly to the policies and stigmas that men face in the first category.  It’s just that we can’t directly fight against bias in the same direct way that we can fight for policy change.

This situation creates a whole new level of complexity when viewed through the lens of "Male Potency." Like any movement in its infancy, MRM must pick its fights in order to avoid the pitfalls of early defeat.

With that in mind, if you look back up at the issues men are facing - you'll see a problem.
All of the problems in the first category involve solutions that have the potential to harm women or children, though indirectly. If the amount of money being given to DV survivors is zero-sum, supporting men will mean taking support from women. If men are given an option to default "out" of parenthood, more children may be raised without child support. If we change the standard of proof for False Rape Accusations, rapists could go free and rape survivors could be wrongly charged with a crime.

Those are all bad things. But as it stands, MRAs are faced with the cruel reality that those issues are the only ones they are capable of changing.

So, the MRM faces a dilemma.  In choosing its battles, will the MRM choose to tackle issues where satisfying, concrete change is possible, or will the MRM choose to tackle the more intangible, less directly actionable issues of public perception and stereotypes?

The first category allows men to feel potent and effective in directly tackling a problem with a face and a name, and seeing progress in ways which can be measured and quantified.  But, it comes with the consequence of damaging the movement’s reputation when our actions are incorrectly interpreted as a battle against women and children. Sometimes Feminists may make this interpretation. Sometimes gender-inequality non-Feminists may make this interpretation - but either way it creates a Public Relations nightmare for our cause.

The second category would avoid that problem, as we are reaching out to create awareness and appeal to the empathy of others through outreach efforts.  But it feels less satisfying, as change in public perception is so slow and so difficult to see or measure.  You can’t really tell if anything you are doing is making any difference at all, and the efforts we launch now are likely to not come to fruition within our lifetimes. This is difficult for men who need action and want to feel empowered to create tangible change.

And I believe it is for this reason that the MRM has focused on policy changes and legislative action.  It’s tangible, progress can be measured, and it is concrete.  It isn’t that men don’t care about public perception - I'll bet most men would prefer a world where men aren't seen as "expendable" or "dirty." But how do we do that? You can't pass legislation to change public perception. Feminism has shown us that stereotypes and public opinion take decades, even centuries, to change — especially when the roots of such ideas are at the very heart of Western Culture. So instead, it’s that the MRM is drawn towards issues where concrete, effective change is possible, and can potentially be achieved quickly.

This focus is understandable, particularly for a group whose needs have been ignored and even ridiculed for so long.  But it is backwards.  Policy change flows from societal perceptions.  Until stereotypes are challenged, there will be no political expediency to change policies to become less discriminatory towards men.  And even more than that, when we fight the policies first, particularly with the potential negative consequences for women and children, we earn the movement a reputation as being anti-women or anti-children rather than being pro-men.  In this way, not only do we fail to create forward progress, but we actually create extra work for ourselves, because we must work backwards through the negative reputation attached to our efforts.  

Let’s look, for example, at the struggle for gay rights.  At first, all attempts to legislate equality failed miserably, and in fact resulted in a backlash where religious groups attempted, sometimes successfully, to pre-emptively define marriage as being only for straight people, in an attempt to prevent gay rights from becoming legislated.  This only changed once the movement focused primarily on public outreach - on encouraging gay people to come out of the closet and reach out to their family and friends and community. It was only once a majority of the public knew a person who is openly gay, that the stereotypes about what it means to be gay started to come down, people started to empathize with the plight of gay people, and public bias started to shift. Only then was legislative reform successful, when it came after a successful movement to shift public opinion.

And this is the reason why I hesitate to describe myself as a Men’s Rights Activist.  Because my focus is on awareness, public perception, overthrowing bias and stereotypes.  I can’t get behind all of the legislative policy change proposals of the MRM because I believe it will come at a cost too great to our movement.  We have to do this in order.

* We, as in us gender egalitarians.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Choice for Men: A Hypothetical Situation

Recently, a topic that never fails to get me riled up has been coming up on the gendersphere. The issue is "Choice for Men," and I think it is one of the few, genuine masculist issues out there.

As I've been mulling it over and talking with opponents of C4M (Choice for Men), ( I think I've drilled down to the core of their beliefs that prevent them from embracing C4M.

Embodied in two parts, I think it could be said like this:
1. Innocent children are due support from the people whose biological material lead to their conception.
2. Biology/bodily autonomy is responsible for women's ability to end pregnancy (and end the development of a fetus, which has no rights to support, before it becomes a child which does have rights to support.)

So now that I think I understand their position, I developed a realistic scenario that I want feedback on.

If you're reading this and have weighed in on either side of C4M before, I'd really appreciate it if you would please respond with what you think a just and fair child support system would do in this situation. You may leave an anonymous comment if you wish.

The Scenario 

James and Janet are married and have two children, two and four years old, Sam and Max. They want to have a third child in the near future if Janet gets the promotion she has been promised. James is a stay-at-home dad with no income and Janet is a consultant. James and Janet are also in an open relationship, and a few times a year they arrange for a weekend to engage in NSA sex with people outside the relationship. (Don't judge!)

Three months ago, James and Janet went off for a weekend and had sex with other people. James has sex with a woman named Annie and Janet with a man named Richard. For simplicity's sake, Annie and Richard are both single. Both use condoms. Both condoms break. Janet and Annie both become pregnant.

Janet, who was not planning on speaking to Richard again anyway, has an abortion. She desired to have a child with her husband, not Richard.

Annie, is different. Annie in her mid-30s and due to a medical problem when she was younger, was told by doctors that she was sterile. She contacts James and tells him she is pregnant. James says that he will pay for her to get an abortion - as he realizes he is partially responsible for her pregnancy. Annie refuses to have an abortion. She knows that James is well-off - he was wearing nice clothes and driving a nice car. Plus, he offered to pay for the abortion. She decides she will try to raise the child on her own, and if she cannot, she will get financial support from James.

She knows that this may be her only chance to have a biological child of her own. She decides to keep the child and gives birth to Charles.

Unfortunately, Annie underestimated the costs related to having a child. Unable to take the time off from work to care for Charles, Annie is forced to take a lower-paying job that allows her enough time to spend with her baby.

Caught in a difficult situation, Annie applies for child support, as she cannot supply her Charles with all of his needs on her income alone.

Unfortunately, James does not have a job - he is still a stay-at-home dad.

Imagine you are the judge who is making the decision about this situation. You have Annie, Charles, James, Janet, Sam and Max in the courtroom with you. How would you rule? What would be most fair to all the people involved?

Would you force James to get a job to support Charles, while taking him away from his own biological, planned children?

Would you take money from Janet to support the child - as she is the one who supports James in the first place - thereby removing support from Janet and James children Sam and Max?

Would you simply award 20% of James income to Charles - which essentially amounts to $0 - and only hope that Annie can find some form of support for her child through charity or fortune?

Would you work out some other arrangement?

Hopefully this exercise has made you think a lot about what presumptions you have when it comes to the way our child support system works. Now, I present one last challenge:

Imagine this situation in a gender-equal world where James and Janet could either be the sole breadwinner in the houshold. If men start becoming income-less house-husbands on a wide scale - do you think women would still be having babies and supporting them alone? Or do you think more women would abort their pregnancies because the man that got them pregnant has no income?