Men’s rights: Over-privileged or a right to defend?

In the past century, one of the biggest sociopolitical and cultural movements around the world has been feminism.

The movement has fought for women’s rights, from the right to vote to the right to divorce and the ongoing fight for competitive wages in comparison to men. The rise of feminism has also garnered a new movement on the side, the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM). MRM focuses on issues of perceived discrimination and inequalities faced by men. Major issues of concern are child custody or family law; domestic violence and rape, specifically on false accusation of rape; and divorce and alimony.

Samuel Jobson, a vocal men’s rights activist and blogger, has been part of the movement for three years.

“Men’s rights ha[ve] a history that began in the 1970s to defend the rights men perceived [they] were losing to feminism,” says Jobson, “Not many people know there is evidence showing the movement has roots going all the way back to the 1920s.”

According to Jobson, the MRM rejects feminist principles in a world where men’s rights are being eroded. Many critics have called the movement misogynistic and have even labeled it a hate group. Jobson disagrees with this and says the movement is not against women’s rights.

A crucial component of the MRM is the battle over child custody. Citing cases in the United States and United Kingdom, many men feel they do not have the same civil rights as their female counterparts.

Men have less contact time with their children and lack shared parenting rights. It has been interpreted that Western courts generally give mothers sole custody of a child without looking at any consequences of the action. Toronto-based Fathers Are Capable Too (FACT) and three other rights groups in Canada attempted to overturn child custody provisions in the existing federal Divorce Act. The groups claimed that the legal test used to decide which parent is granted custody is biased against fathers, thereby violating the discrimination provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Sheldon Gordon, a freelance writer for the Canadian Bar Association Magazine wrote, “Fathers’ rights groups point to data compiled by the Justice Department showing that 80 per cent of parenting orders have given mothers sole custody, while only 10 per cent have given fathers sole custody.”

Another concern with the current child support model in Canada is the 40 per cent rule. On one end, fathers may attempt to exploit the system and gain 40 per cent of shared-parenting to save money on child support. However, mothers may deny fathers 40 per cent of shared-parenting time to make money. Carey Linde, a Vancouver lawyer and fathers’ rights advocate believes this ratio is 1,000/2 (women/men).

Another crucial component of the MRM is domestic violence and rape against men. In the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, it was found that men are as susceptible to sexual violence as are women, 5.3 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively. Nearly 12 per cent of men in the United States reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime.

“Surveys attempting to report on sexual violence always run into one problem,” says Michael Krasnov, a member of the Rainbow Center at the University of Connecticut, “Because of the fear of being embarrassed, many men don’t report cases of sexual violence or rape, which skews the results.”

Krasnov believes the majority of people have a one-sided view on rape, thinking that men cannot be raped. He says that feminist thinking revolves around the belief that only women can be victims of sexual violence.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey also reported that 5 per cent of men were victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 5.9 per cent of women.

“There is this whole argument about rape culture that’s dominated by feminists,” explains Krasnov, “Yeah, it’s true that rape is wrong but you can’t just limit rape to one gender.”

The Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality reported a study regarding women as sexual aggressors. The study concluded that women are now taking an active role in sex.

According to Peter Anderson and Dyan Melson who conducted the study, “As many as 7 per cent of women self-report the usual of physical force to obtain sex, 40 per cent self-report sexual coercion, and over 50 per cent self-report initiating sexual contact with a man while his judgment was impaired by drugs or alcohol.”

The MRM is not aimed as an attack on women’s rights; the movement’s aim is to ensure that boys and men are not being ignored and it can be ensured that both women and men can have equal rights. Old laws regarding alimony and divorce; child support and custody; and perceptions about domestic violence and rape against men need to be changed as our society moves forward.

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