On Men's Rights and Issues
Like many men, I came reluctantly to men's rights and issues. I originally felt some sympathy for feminists, believing they meant what they said about "equality." They didn't, of course, and I soon had my doubts about some of their other claims.
I distinctly remember a campus protest about wage discrimination against women; my girlfriend expressed support, but I knew exactly how much she made-the same as I did as a graduate assistant. Sure, I made more money overall than she did--because I had a second job, though nothing prevented her from taking a second job except her choice.
Still, like many men, I observed feminism with some bemusement, not being too worried about its effects on my life.
Until I got divorced.
One thing divorce teaches a man is that women have real legal power, power backed up by the power of the state itself. A divorced woman's problems are the state's problems; a divorced man's problems are his problems. The state made sure I paid support; the state offered no remedy if she did not let me see the kids. It was hard to live this reality while being told women always got the short end of the stick. They don't, but by pretending they do, they can exercise victim power, and some nice legislator or judge will come rescue them. It's what the feminists count on.
Feminism had another effect: it encouraged women to carry a chip of their shoulders. Men are to blame for all the problems women faced, including the need to care for children, so contemptuous treatment of men is always justified. This attitude has become so common that it's unnoticed by many men until they discover its absence in women from certain parts of the world.
Many American women today are what I call FAPs-Feminist American Princesses. FAPs believe the world owes them everything-compassion, rights, money, freedom, respect. Or rather, that men owe them everything. The truth is that American women enjoy more freedom and more prosperity than about any other class of people in history-and still they complain. Because, of course, complaining gets them more.
Feminism has also been accompanied by incessant male-bashing. Anything male--especially anything traditionally male, such as the military--is treated with derision. Men go to war out of bloodlust; women go to war to prove their courage and equality. Men work long hours out of greed; women work long hours out of necessity. Men are bumbling fathers; women handle parenting with ease. Worse, many men internalize these anti-male attitudes, accepting them as unquestionable truths.
Men are portrayed on TV and in the movies as bumbling incompetents, as ultra-macho action figures, or as sweet and sensible gays. Only rarely are real men facing real problems portrayed positively. I recently caught the annual airing of It's a Wonderful Life-sure, it's a fable with a sappy ending, but the problems George Bailey faces reflect the real problems real men face. Like many men, George set out to lasso the moon, only to discover he'd sacrificed his dreams to the needs of others. Men do that, but you have to go back to a black-and-white movie to find it portrayed.
As a result of all this, manly virtues-honesty, integrity, duty, sacrifice, physical strength, heroism-are held in contempt, though for a brief moment, 9/11 restored the former glory of those virtues.
Feminism's changes to the law have made it necessary for men to speak up for themselves, however awkward most of us men find it, and to identify those issues that must be addressed. Men are beginning to rebel against the system in obvious and not so obvious ways. If their issues are not addressed, the system will eventually fail for the simple reason that men's contributions to society are so great. To revive an old metaphor, we all live by a social contract; if that social contract is always unfair to men, men will no longer honor it. And they shouldn't.
So here are a list of men's issues.
Father's Rights. Most men learn about the rights of fathers in divorce court. And mostly they learn fathers have few rights. Most divorces are filed by the wife, who receives custody of the children, child support, alimony, and the marital home. Dad is expected to take up residence elsewhere, pay his support, and see his kids when the court or his ex allow him to. If he fails to pay, he goes to jail. And this doesn't just happen to bad dads-any father can lose his right to his kids through divorce. Even very loving, responsible fathers. And men are blamed for all this-if men were just better husbands, why, women wouldn't be leaving them in droves. In the end, dad's rights are taken away without legal cause by a government that then hounds him with messages to "Be their dad" but does not hound women with messages to "Be their mom." Perhaps the latter would cause too much guilt in working mothers.
Visitation Rights. The same government that so willingly takes away the rights of dad to be with their children also fails to enforce their right to visit their children. Enforcing their right to visit their children would mean doing something to mom to force her to let dad see the kids. And that would include preventing her from moving thousands of miles away from where dad lives.
Child Support Enforcement. I don't have trouble with the notion that children need the financial support of the absent parent if a divorce occurs. I do have trouble with the notion that the federal or state government can jail a man for failing to pay, usually without benefit of a trial or an attorney. Jailing a man for failing to pay a debt assumes the man is guilty unless he can prove his innocence. As Sanford Braver points out, most divorced fathers pay their child support; if there's a problem with support payment, it's among unmarried fathers, most of whom are poor. Rounding up and jailing poor fathers is an unconscionable abuse of state power, especially when the state gives welfare money to the mothers-and then uses the threat of a jail to extract that money from dad to repay itself under the guise of collecting "child support." That's both dishonest and an unfair tax burden on poor fathers.
Reproductive Rights. At one time, women could be forced into parenthood but men couldn't. Today, that situation is reversed. A woman has a legal right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason, whether the pregnancy resulted from rape or consensual sex. The man has no choice but to abide by her decision. If he wants the child and she doesn't, he cannot prevent her from terminating the pregnancy. If she wants the child and he doesn't, then he is forced to assume all the legal obligations of fatherhood. And it doesn't matter if she retrieved his semen from a discarded condom or used the proceeds from oral sex to impregnate herself. Or if he was underage and couldn't legally consent to sex. Or if she lied to him about being "on the pill." If the man doesn't meet those legal obligations, he will be jailed. And if the state is going to jail men for failing to meet those obligations, the least it can do is offer men the same post-conception reproductive rights it offers women. That would include the right to refuse the legal responsibilities and rights of fatherhood in certain circumstances. Currently, post-conception reproductive rights are the only Constitutional rights reserved exclusively for women.
Paternity Fraud. The idea that a man should be legally obligated to support another man's child makes one man responsible for what another man does. That's more that unfair-that's similar to punishing one man for a crime known to be committed by another. Many men misidentified as fathers are forced to pay even if DNA tests prove they're not dad. And many divorced fathers who discover their kids were fathered by another man must also pay. The old "presumption of paternity" principle-under which the husband is legal father to any child borne by his wife-was never an absolute principle that forced a man to support a child everyone knew was not his. It simply put some barriers in his way if he claimed the child was illegitimate. It's time to end the right of a woman to lie about who fathered her child and to end the power of the government to back up that right to lie with force.
Domestic Violence. Every study ever done on domestic violence that includes both men and women shows that men and women either batter each other equally or that women batter slightly more than men. Yet the government portrays domestic violence almost solely as something men do to women. Men are more likely to be arrested for domestic violence, and once arrested may be required to undergo counseling that requires them to admit their guilt-in violation of the Constitutional prohibition against self-incrimination. Restraining orders against men are handed out like candy so judges won't be perceived as soft on domestic violence, but these orders often strip men of rights to their children and property. And virtually all domestic violence shelters accept women only. It's time to treat domestic violence as a human problem, not a "gender" problem.
Health. American men live about 7 fewer years than American women. Until about the 1920's, men and women had the same average life span. And men and women in less advanced countries have similar life spans. But the more a country progresses, the more the life span difference between men and women increases-in favor of the women. In the US, we spend about twice as much government money on women's health issues as we do on men's health issues, and about ten times as much on breast cancer as on prostate cancer. Men are far more likely to die on the job, in war, in auto accidents, and as a result of murder. They're also more likely to be executed for committing murder. They are four times as likely as women to commit suicide, ten times more likely if divorced. The powers that be then tell us the real problem is that men don't go to the doctor as often as women. Yeah, right.
Military Duty. Women can vote, but only men are expected to register for the draft. And far more likely than a woman to be assigned combat duty. And, even though women rarely see combat duty, this is not held against them in promotions, so women who've never faced combat themselves can order men into combat. Women are not proven warriors; their presence may hinder combat operations as much as help them, endangering mostly the lives of men. Further, the presence of women creates a new problem for the military to solve-rape and sexual assault. As the recent problems at the Air Force Academy indicate, the result is a favoring of women for leadership (because women are supposedly more sensitive to rape victims) and a treatment of men as the "problem." This turns men in the military into second-class citizens while requiring them to carry out the primary burdens of military operations. A pretty blond woman whose truck crashes and who is captured by the enemy becomes a hero, though she did nothing heroic, while her rescuers have remained largely anonymous.
Legal Punishment. Men receive longer prison sentences for the same crime as women. A man who kills his wife gets about 16 years; a woman who kills her husband gets about 8. A woman who kills her husband can claim the "battered woman" defense, a defense unavailable to men. If a man and a woman commit a crime together, he usually receives more jail time because she is considered merely an accomplice. And virtually every criminal executed in this country has been a man, with a handful of exceptions.
Rape. In California, a man received jail time for failing to withdraw immediately when asked to do so by the woman. Expanding definitions of rape intended to offer more protection to women subject men to greater likelihood of prosecution. If convicted, they must register as sex offenders. And rape shield laws hide the name of the accuser (the woman), but not of the accused (the man). Marital rape laws require a husband to obtain the consent of his wife each time he wants sex, but do not require a wife to obtain her husband's consent. And laws that define rape as "lack of consent" do not define what constitutes consent-for either the man or the woman. His consent his legally assumed. It's commonly argued that "no means no," but let's face it-virtually all women say "no" to sex initially while few ever state an explicit "yes." And women are almost never prosecuted for making false accusations of rape, though women have claimed rape for reasons as trivial as being late for curfew and DNA studies indicate about 25% of rape accusations are false.
So those are some issues, and I'll end with two comments:
I don't mind women enjoying greater freedoms than they did in the past.
I do mind when those greater freedoms come at the price of putting men in jail.
Paul C. Robbins, Ph.D.