The advent of feminism spawned the rise of a male counter-movement, known as “Men’s Rights Activism”. A few years back, I used to consider myself a men’s rights activist. I mean; women were now expanding their roles, norms, and general acceptable forms of self-expression, and becoming more “liberated”, so to speak, so why couldn’t men do the same? But then I would have a revelation on the true nature of their movement. You see, when MRAs talk about “men’s rights”, many of them actually mean “hegemonically masculine” men’s rights; in other words, the right of “hegemonically masculine” men. Furthermore, even as non-feminist male, I found myself highly put off by their misogynistic and stereotypical 1950s concepts of women, and their seeming inability to discuss issues which affect men without putting women down in one way or the other.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the portrayal of women in GQ magazine (whose hetero-normative and bigoted politics in which I have ardently expressed my distaste). Now as I said; I’m no feminist, but I do find it a strange coincidence that of all the “Women of the Year” GQ places on its covers, not a single one of them has clothes on, while the men are fully clothed. To me it all comes across as being more than just a striking coincidence, considering that in all these years since GQ came about in 1931, they could have placed anybody from Hilary Clinton to Ellen Degeneres, to Oprah Winfrey or Aung San Suukyi or Lady Ambiga, but that’s never happened.
The MRA’s school of thought goes something along the lines of, “GQ is a man’s magazine; men are drawn to nude women, but the male body does not have the same effect on women, hence the reason why they always showcase naked women and fully clothed men.”, or “Men like seeing women naked/in revealing clothes, but for women, it’s a man in a nice suit, hence the reason why men are covered up and women nude.” Many of the comments dropped by heterosexual men defending GQ (No doubt many of whom are passionate subscribers of GQ) in this lady’s blog is reflection that the female gaze on male beauty is believed to be absolutely non-existent, as far as the typical straight male is concerned. (Perhaps these men don’t like the idea of women possibly physically comparing them to other men, the way they compare women)
I find it a little sad that in all these years since the repressive 50s, many heterosexual men still cling to the erroneous notion that “men’s bare bodies don’t have any effect on women”. Not only do these men deny themselves the pleasure of being an object of (tasteful) voyeurism typified by the flamboyant metrosexual; they seem to subscribe to the traditional 1950s patriarchal theory of only women’s bodies being sexual objects, while jeering at men secure enough in their sexuality to display their physical beauty openly. Here’s what a passionate reader of GQ, Rusty Moore had to say about short shorts and tight tank tops on men.
To me, it seems that what most MRAs want, is not for an expansion of the acceptable forms of self-expression for men, but rather for the gender norms, both male and female to go back to the repressive 1950s, where men were obviously free to ogle and women were obliged to be ogled. (Women were expected to be “feminine”, which included dressing and behaving unnaturally “girly” for the heterosexual male gaze)
You see, many men these days are confused. I don’t mean sexually confused, or confused about their gender. When I say “confused”, I mean that they are confused about the time period in which we live. When I flip open contemporary mainstream “boy media” such as Askmen.com, GQ or FHM, I am bombarded with notions that should have gone extinct by the 60s. The notion that women do not gaze at the male form in the same way as men do the female form
The idealized 1950s gender norms of the typical “Men’s Rights Activist”, the idea that women are there to be passively ogled and fondled, while it is the men’s “right” to have the monopoly on ogling and fondling. Classy, GQ.
is an outrage – Yet time and again GQ continues to perpetrate this fallacious 1950s straight male cliché; that only women’s bodies are “pretty”, and “sensual”, and worthy of display, while men’s bodies are “junk”. Believe it or not, when a man hates on another man for wearing a tight tank top/V neck shirt/short shorts in public, it stems from two things: Male chauvinism and homophobia. Male chauvinism, because it presupposes the notion that women ‘s bodies are somehow more “sexual” and “display-worthy” than men’s, and that it is a woman’s role to display her body and the man’s role to look, and homophobic, because of the obvious discomfort stemming from viewing another man’s body in public, and anything associated with homosexual men. In other words, most MRAs from what I’ve found, will support a man’s right to ogle women, but will fiercely contest his right to BE OGLED, or be the sort of man that doesn’t fit within their narrow definition of masculinity, as is reflected by this MRA’s (Mark Mc Allister) comment on boys who want to wear skirts:
“No, I don’t like this…further kowtowing to 3rd wave Feminism; all the Women who lied and said this was ‘sexy,’ should write a future apology note to their daughters for when they meet this Man’s son and he breaks their heart because they found his dress collection and ‘other life’.
“…it’s the erosion of gender reinforcement that makes a son grow up thinking it’s somehow wrong to display masculinity…and thus when you eventually get mugged or attacked with your new metro-sexual Man-child, and lose respect for him because he ran and left you to be raped. Remember he grew up in estrogen soaked society and thought girls would like him better if he didn’t take karate.”
Has it ever occurred to you Mr Allister, that perhaps some boys just don’t feel comfortable emulating the so-called “role models” on Mad Men and GQ, any more than many women feel comfortable emulating the so-called “role models” on Cosmopolitan Magazine? This boy is just being himself, so let’s stop with all the hate for people who simply express themselves differently from us.
Needless to say, the typical MRA’s ideal society is shit. It’s shit to men who don’t meet the rigid and inflexible notions of masculinity in Anglo-Saxon society, e.g. Don Draper, James Bond, Tony Abbott, The GQ editors, and it’s shit to women who don’t fit within the realm of hegemonic femininity (the GQ man’s hyper-sexualized woman).
If the MRAs had their way, we would all be going back to the repressive 1950s, hence destroying all the good that feminism has fought so hard to achieve for women (and to a certain extent, men). While I am hesitant to call myself a feminist, I do NOT want to live in a society crafted out by most of these so-called MRAs. Needless to say, as for women, homosexuals, minorities, and any man who does not meet GQ’s approval (e.g. the “geeks” and the “nerds”, feminine men and the “nice guys”); it would be a terrible place to live in.