By Lyka Peng, G11
TW: Explicit language, mentions of sexual assault, suicide
If you have been on Youtube in the past couple of years, you may have come across an expanding number of videos titled things like ‘Feminist Cringe Compilation’ or ‘Social Justice Warriors VS Logic’. As a feminist and someone who tries their best to advocate for social justice, I was more curious than ever. I spent some time watching these videos myself, trying to get another perspective on what I believed was fundamental. Terms that I’ve personally have never heard of before, such as ‘Red Pill’, ‘MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way)’, ‘Incel (Involuntary Celibate)’, and ‘Meninism’ are words coined under a movement called the MRA, or Men’s Rights Activists.
My initial reaction was, ‘Cool.’ It seemed to me as though the MRA was a movement to advocate for men’s issues eg: male sexual assault, suicide rates, societal pressure in men, toxic masculinity and many more. These were issues that I believed should be brought up more in conversation as they are, admittedly, not as talked about because of what society believes men should be. These were also issues that I believed are of importance to feminism as well since the movement is working to dismantle the patriarchy (which affects both). After all, it is defined by Merriam Webster as ‘the theory of political, social, and economical equality of the sexes.’
As I watched more of these videos under similar categories, it seemed as though I’d spiraled down somewhat of a rabbit hole. It slowly dawned on me that the modern day MRA movement was more counterproductive than effective– there was nothing about tackling issues within the community, but rather an outlet for men (most notably middle class, straight white males) to criticise the feminist movement, deeming it as misandry and anti-men, or even belittling the opposite sex as a whole. It was baffling to me, as systems were designed to oppress or discriminate anything but those categories.
I found most of their critiques rather old school and contradictory, especially for the 21st century. For example, women should always be feminine and submissive. But of course, if you’re too much, then you’re a ‘prude’ or a gold digger. On the other hand, if women act in a way that strays from that stereotype– especially if certain women are career-oriented or particularly promiscuous, then they are masculinised; ‘whores’, ‘easy’, ‘scammers’ are just some of the words used to describe these women.
It was also harmful to men who don’t fit inside of their stereotypical and traditional roles. Anyone outside of the hypermasculine, dominant, sexually driven, alpha male are deemed as terms like ‘soyboy’ or ‘simp’. It becomes less like a community, but more like a competition. It was rather disappointing to see that there wasn’t really a safe community for men to go to for issues regarding mental health and societal roles.
Reddit was a site that I tried to avoid as much as possible, considering the polarising culture of the opinions shared. I come in (once in a blue moon) only to read the occasional review or analysis on things like books, music, and politics. Through a Community called r/AskFeminists, I stumbled across another one called r/MensLib.
At first glance, it was safe to say that I found the name ‘Men’s Liberation’ a little bit skeptical.
However, upon further researching, I learned that the Men’s Liberation is a movement that stems all the way back to the 1970s and is significantly different than its modern counterpart. The Mens Lib Reddit Community states within their bio, “The men’s issues discussion has been sorely held back by counterproductive tribalism. We’re building a new dialogue on the real issues facing men through positivity, inclusiveness, and solutions-building,” and often holds discussions that includes, but not limited to: mental health, relationship advice, sex, emotions, pressure, abuse, and many more. This is all done in a way that is wholesome, supportive, and non-discriminatory, regardless of how they meet the traditional masculine expectations.
This is definitely a breath of fresh air in contrast to its modern counterpart. A young leftist psychologist with the name of Jack Sawyer, wrote in an article titled, ‘On Male Liberation’ stating, “Male liberation calls for men to free themselves of the sex-role stereotypes that limit their ability to be human.” Manhood doesn’t have to be this one size fits all concept. I agreed. I often see a lot of men in and outside of my personal life crumble under societal expectations– to be this cold, rigid human being. Because boys are taught this from a young age, they grow up as emotionally unavailable men. It just becomes an endless cycle in which their mental health is rapidly deteriorating under the pressure.
As we are moving further into the future, it is important to understand that people are different. We cannot conform to something that we simply are not. We need to change the narrative and redefine what these traditional gender roles are. Men don’t have to be masculine, the breadwinners of their families, nor suppress their emotions all because it is expected of them.
Reshaping a positive and inclusive ideal of masculinity and manhood is our first big leap into becoming just a little bit more human.
Cover Image courtesy of The Conversation.
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