Much ink has been spilled about the recently cancelled event of an organization which presents itself as a cure to what ails the modern man. So much ink, in fact, that I won’t bother printing their name, or the name of their founder, who’s quick to point out that his essay on “legalizing rape on private property” was just a satirical thought experiment.
He, and his apparent legion of “alpha males,” boasted that this global meetup would be their public revealing, their time to exit from the shadows to the trumpets of men who’ve long suffered under feminist tyrants.
When counter-rallies were planned, the group cancelled their meetup, with their leader opting to stay in his mom’s basement to bask in the glory of page views and website ad revenue. It seems it was a publicity stunt designed to spread their ideas to like-minded men and stir up a response from their supposed ideological opponents.
And they definitely did prompt outrage in Windsor, with community leaders, activists and allies jumping to social media and newspaper comment sections to express their dismay.
“Your hate is not wanted or welcomed in my city,” tweeted Mayor Drew Dilkens, joining a chorus of dozens of municipal leaders across Canada.
Even though the group cancelled their rally, local counter-rally organizers followed through. What started as a Facebook page “exploded” into a full-fledged event supported by a wide range of community organizations, with representatives present from the Womyn’s Centre at the University of Windsor along with Gender Studies faculty, Hiatus House, Take Back the Night, and the Welcome Centre Shelter for Women.
“We wanted to show victims and survivors in Windsor that they’re supported, that they’re not alone, and that people don’t forget about a cause just because one group stops,” explained counter-rally organizer Laryssa Brooks. “Just because [they] cancelled their meetup, doesn’t mean that violence against women, misogyny and discrimination just stop.”
It was solidarity, a positive demonstration of strength in the face of a group and leader who preaches, among other vile notions, that the “end game of feminism is to make it impossible for a female to do any wrong,” that a male-dominated culture is part of the natural order, and the rise of feminism has emasculated men to the point of requiring a radical return to century old ideals of gender norms.
To backup their claims, they present a caricature of feminism as a monolith of radical women trying to bring men down, and in turn, society.
In reality, the “movement” of feminism is as diverse as any other, engaging individuals from all over the world in countless specific causes.
“Feminism actually speaks to things that affect men as well,” Brooks points out, further discussing how gender stereotypes and societal expectations can negatively impact men just as much as women.
It’s an important distinction to make, one seemingly lost on the proponents of neomasculinity. Gender equality isn’t a zero sum game, one group doesn’t need to be brought down for the other to be raised up.
And while the leader of the group would like to portray feminism as distinctly anti-male, it offers a much greater prospect of societal progress for men than the misogynistic ideology he provides.
Take for example, the University of Windsor’s Bystander Initiative, a project led, in part, by Dr. Anne Forrest, director of the school’s Women’s and Gender Studies department.
Dr. Forrest has seen a lot of young men go through Bystander program, which is dedicated to empowering students to speak out when they encounter sexual assault and social norms that support gender violence.
“When you talk to young men... they don’t want to be assaulters and don’t want women they know to be living with some sort of expectation that they would be overpowered by men, or seduced by men in order to be abused by men,” she explained.
The program recognizes the value of peer influence, making a concerted effort to bring men together to take a stand against violence. Men identify with other men, she explained, illustrating the importance of engaging them in progressive causes rooted in feminism.
While she wasn’t familiar with the group before it planned to meet in Windsor, Forrest dismissed them as “out of time and out of space.”
“This is not the young men I’ve experienced or have taught. It isn’t your cousins, it isn’t you, this isn’t who men are today,” she said, “They’re men who can’t get on in the world, who can’t accept women as equals... Those guys are gonna be losers.”
While it is easy to see them as a fringe group of misogynists, what they offer resonates with a substantial number of men, and even some women. There’s no shortage of websites and forums dedicated to their ideas.
And while I wholeheartedly disagree with what they say, perhaps they’re a reflection of the growing pains of changing expectations of masculinity and what “makes a man”? Maybe, in the face of growing gender equality, their gut reaction is to reverse their way into the 1900s, holding desperately to ideals of male breadwinners, female baby makers, and a strict gender binary.
Perhaps it’s an illustration of where we’ve arrived culturally, a tense crossroads of masculinity, the middle ground between what was and what could be. One end clinging to bygone notions of rigid gender roles and male domination, the other end pulling us forward, aspiring to equality.
Both sides have their work cut out for them. Luckily, in Windsor, one side’s flash-in-the-pan non-rally is dwarfed by the hard work and dedication of those fighting for progress.
Like Eva Kratochvil, who’s worked at Hiatus House for the past 17 years, sits on the local Domestic Violence Coordinating committee, and also chairs the provincial Survivors’ Advisory Committee, a group dedicated to giving a voice to survivors of domestic violence.
In terms of successes, she points to the growth of the local white ribbon campaign, spearheaded by men and boys, and the push by sports leagues, such as the CFL, to take a stand against domestic violence.
“There’s momentum in engaging men and boys, it’s something that’s been there all along but now there’s more of a push,” she explained. “We need positive male models that show [violence] is not acceptable, beyond just sports.”
That effort will come forth in Windsor on May 19 at the downtown campus of St. Clair College with an event hosted by the Domestic Violence Coordinating committee. The group will screen “The Mask You Live In,” a documentary film which looks at the struggles of young men navigating “America’s narrow definition of masculinity.”
The free event, which runs from 6 to 9pm, will include a panel and Q&A session with community leaders and positive male role models.
It’s hoped that the film will be a kickoff to broader education efforts driven by volunteers, a perfect chance for locals to support a cause that offers a positive alternative to what makes a man.