Opinion: Behold the Meninists

Meninism: just like feminism, except really shit

Feature by Samantha King | 01 Apr 2015

If you've been anywhere near Twitter in the past couple of months, you’ll have probably come across the hashtag 'meninism'. Although originally used as a platform to oppose and mock feminism, the infamous movement has since bred a subcategory of activists using #meninism to campaign for men's rights too. Which would be alright – if only their complaints addressed anything beyond fabled friendzones and lamentations of that one time the patriarchy forced them into buying their date’s Nando’s (who, by the way, didn’t even put out afterwards). But, sadly, that’s not the case – so we’ve got some constructive criticism to share.

Incidentally, meninists, when women are granted equal pay, we’ll happily sub your next peri peri chicken. But more importantly, if it’s equality you’re campaigning for, meninist discourse seems a pretty destructive way of going about it. Instead of pointing out the hundreds of important and valid ways in which equality campaigning could benefit all men, meninism comes across as basic backlash against feminism, and results only in making its advocates sound like whiny Twitter Spartans carrying a world of entitlement on their wee white shoulders.

With the notion of feminism having been conceived over 100 years ago, you’d hope that everyone would be on board with equality by now. But, alas, the cloud of negative stigma surrounding the F word still won't evaporate. People of all genders continue to reject feminism due to the misconception that female empowerment is synonymous with belittling men, overlooking the fact that feminism simply seeks equality, regardless of gender. Because of this lack of understanding, feminists continue to find themselves demonised (see: ‘feminazi’), or the butt of a joke, or both.

The odd thing about 'meninism' supposedly being used to bring light to men's rights is that feminism already does so, only feminism prioritises issues slightly more urgent than Nice Guys feeling inadequate because their ex called their beard patchy. Joking aside, the pressure of the patriarchy can have grave consequences for men. It contributes to domestic violence, undiagnosed depression, and the underreporting of rape and sexual abuse by male victims. Masculinity complexes, repressed sexualities, gender dysphoria – the list unravels. Given that feminism is a tool specifically for fighting the patriarchy and its consequences, surely any man who claims to care about gender equality should call himself a feminist – without question or having to change the first syllable?

Unfortunately, there’s a huge misconception that the only way to engage men with feminism is to shift the focus onto them – proven mostly to be untrue by the wealth of male feminists already participating in regular feminist discourse. Emma Watson's UN speech which inspired the #HeForShe movement is a perfect example of that fatal error: it's one of the most popular speeches on feminism of late, yet spends so much time reframing feminism for the consumption of men that it neglects to discuss issues affecting non-male-identifying LGBTQ people, women of colour, women who are disabled, and so forth. Another popular tactic is the reminding of men that it could be their sisters, mothers or girlfriends who are potential subjects of catcalling and assault. Granted, this is an attempt to contextualise such issues to drum up a little empathy, but it comes across as a refocusing onto the men indirectly affected, rather than the actual victims of harassment.

Perhaps it’s encouraging that meninists, in some strange way, are striving to engage in a debate about the patriarchy rather than remaining neutral. It may be a step in some direction which leads us away from UniLad, from death threats to feminists on Twitter, from tits on page three – but the male-centric and the meninist methods to date are problematic and trivialise the plight of women that feminism fights.

Agreed, the patriarchy is a bummer for men too – and we get what you’re trying to do, meninists. But we’d like to extend a formal invitation: why don’t you join us in trying to finish what we started with feminism first?

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