Students at Arizona State University have been noticing flyers for an organization called the Men's Rights Movement Group. And the group's website claims that "Women have NEVER been systematically oppressed." We talked to the MRMg's president to find out what these collegiate men's rights activists are all about.
The flyers, visible on the MRMg's website, bear a variety of men's rights messages. One (at left) lists a variety of "privileges and rights that ONLY WOMEN get in society," including "right to incarcerate opposite sex by simple accusation" and "right to be brought up by the belief that females are superior." Others say "Society Has Daddy Issues" and "All Male Students At ASU Are Guilty Until Proven Innocent." They also advertise a series of meetings, beginning September 1. A fuller statement of MRMg's purpose, also available on its website, reads in part,
This is to clear the name of my father and my father's father and my great grandfather and on up the line. Women have NEVER been systematically oppressed by any of my ancestors or their institutions. I take great offense to the defamation of the name of my paternal ancestors at the hands of feminist lies. It is offensive to suggest that men have systemically oppressed women and everyone is offended by it. My ancestors never conspired to hold down and oppress women in any way shape or form, no majority of any human paternal ancestors did so. On the contrary women were tirelessly protected and nourished. Because it was the man who went outside in the morning to do the manual labor only to return at dark. The man held the responsibility of bringing home the bread in a cut throat deadly wilderness. While she stayed indoor with the kids, churned butter and baked biscuits, my forefathers were out there getting attacked by robbers, getting attacked by wild animals, natural disasters, plagues, mental and physical exhaustion you name it. Who was inside sitting next to the fire reading a book? Women. Who was it who risked his life to save the woman and children? Men. Who is it who fends off wild animals of fangs and claws, fends off roving bands of barbarians? Men didn't have time to oppress women. They were themselves oppressed.
When I contacted MRMg president Zachary Morris via email, he explained his motivation for starting the group thus:
I believe gender warfare is the root of all societal problems, and a keen lens from which to understand all human affairs. While there are many women's groups and gender focus on women in college courses and on campus there are none for men. So I decided to start one to give this perspective and knowledge-base a voice.
The group's mission, he says, is "to offer an alternative to feminist party line dogma, open up people's minds to knowledge-base outside the normal conventions of society in lieu of gender and feminist ideological doctrine, allow that it may better serve men, boys, and their own self-image; promote a more male-friendly environment, institution, and world by correcting destructive and false self-serving feminist propaganda and speaking against societal and institutional forms of misandry." Specifically, MRMg advocates for the establishment of a Male Studies Dept. at ASU, and against new standards for prosecution of campus sexual assault cases, which the group feels unfairly favor the accuser. Morris said his group doesn't consider any specific campus women's groups its enemies — "however, since much of feminism is built on top of falsities and half truths in order to manipulate, women, men and society, and promoting the adoption of an aristocratic vengeful victim mindset against males, natural man, or masculinity, testosterone (you name it), the Men's Rights Movement Group at times will be targeting the feminist political power base and rhetoric in effort for reformation for the benefit of all."
I talked to Prof. Georganne Scheiner, head of ASU's Women & Gender Studies Department, who disagrees with the notion that women's rights on campus come at the expense of men's. She notes that her department serves men as well as women:
[O]ur introductory courses are hugely popular with over 1000 students a year (both in live and on-line classes) and attract a diverse following from members of the Greek community, to LBGTQ students, to feminists, to members of the ASU football team (in fact, we are very popular with a range of student athletes). We attract a wide proportion of male students as well and our surveys are now about 40% male. We have at least 10 male majors and approximately 20% of our minors are male.
Scheiner is aware of the MRMg, but says,
Their understanding of what we do in WGS [...] seems limited. For example, they argue that in WGS we teach that because we live in patriarchy, women are automatically oppressed and men are not. Of course we don't believe that and our critique is much more nuanced in that we tend to talk about a hierarchy of oppression and that men can be oppressed by patriarchy as well. They complain about the lack of focus on men in our classes, but they fail to see that we changed the name of our program (as have most Women's Studies) programs to Women and Gender Studies because we are committed to looking at gender, not just women, as a category of analysis.
And she adds,
We don't believe that equality is a zero sum game — that it's us against them — that in order for women to succeed, men have to fail; that in order for women to have political power, men have to lose theirs. As Mary Wollstonecraft said, "I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves."
Her argument is a far cry from the "aristocratic vengeful victim mindset" Morris describes. However, his rhetoric is in line with that of many men's rights activists online and elsewhere. Though he told me "we are not officially attached to any off-campus men's rights groups, our master is simply the good, the true, and the beautiful," MRMg's website includes a quote from noted MRA Paul Elam and links to AntiMisandry.com and Reddit's Men's Rights subgroup. The Men's Rights Movement Group could be evidence that MRA ideology is trickling down to the college level. On the other hand, it's not trickling very fast — Morris says his group has "only 3 brave members not including myself."