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CAFE responds to rabble.ca attack: “Lies our fathers told us”

The Canadian Association for Equality received no response from rabble.ca to our submission of an editorial in response to their article directly attacking CAFE:

Lies our fathers told us: The men’s rights movement and campus-based misogyny

Here is that response:

Mr. Laxter is correct that CAFE claims men are facing discrimination. He is incorrect that we claim “women are no longer victims of systemic inequality”. We challenge him to find that statement or an equivalent one on our website or any of our other publications. We argue that misandry co-exists with misogyny. The only difference is that misogyny, unlike misandry, is now closely monitored and provokes massive public responses.

There are many well-established groups that are doing good work addressing the ways in which women are discriminated against. There are virtually no groups making similar efforts for men.

Mr. Laxter’s article ranges widely in the subjects it addresses so we will briefly touch on each aspect.

Men’s Health

One of the claims Mr. Laxter took exception to was our statement that there is not a lot of awareness of men’s health issues. He cites the existence of “Men’s Health” magazine as evidence to the contrary. It is difficult to take this seriously. We’re tempted to cite “Cosmo” in response as evidence that women’s health issues are adequately addressed.

How many medical research projects are specifically about the sexual gap in longevity? If women were dying five years sooner than men, the result would be a revolution. Given cultural conditioning since childhood, moreover, men have been very reluctant to seek medical help.

As a simple example of similar issues receiving dissimilar attention, we only have to look as far as breast and prostate cancer. They share similar levels of lethality, but breast cancer receives vastly more public and medical attention.

We also cite the dangers men face at work as an example of male health being discounted. Make no mistake, the disparity in workplace deaths has nothing to do “with class and working conditions” as Mr. Laxter claims, and everything to do with gender. According to the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, the most dangerous industries in Canada are (in order) mining, logging, fishing, agriculture, and contruction. All fields dominated by men. The report also states men are 30 times more likely to die on the job. If the genders were reversed I guarantee the Mr. Laxter would consider this a gender issue, not one of class.

Laxter says that those people should look to join a union to address the dangers of the workplace. What expectation should these men have that a union will adequately address their needs? CUPE, Canada’s largest union, defines sexism as “a set of beliefs, actions and institutions that give men social and economic power over women.” Men are supposed to feel comfortable approaching a group that explicitly says they cannot be discriminated against?

Also please note in that report, that the CSLS states “insufficient progress is being made in reducing the number and rate of workplace fatalities. Canada can do much better.” We wonder if that has something to do with the fact that the majority of the deaths are men?

Suicide

CAFE takes the position that the fact that the male suicide rate is four times that of women indicates a systemic problem that needs to be addressed. Mr. Laxter believes that because women attempt suicide at roughly the same rate that men succeed at it, there is nothing to worry about here. But this doesn’t mean that those women want to die. Usually, it means that they want support; they’re reaching out for help, not trying to kill themselves. They’ve retained hope, in other words, not succumbed to despair.

Evidence supports this. Men are more likely to choose immediately lethal methods of suicide like firearms or asphyxiation, while women are more likely to use less reliable methods like pills or other poisons.

As with the workplace death question. we ask the reader: if the genders were reversed, and there were four times as many dead women as dead men, would it be a “distortion” to say it is a problem we should talk about?

Bullying

Mr. Laxter excuses the perpetrators of bullying, since the victims are also male. Since the victimizers are the same gender as the victims, Mr. Laxter doesn’t seem to think we should do anything about it.

CAFE doesn’t care who is perpetrating the bullying. Victim blaming in the form of “the fact that boys and men are the victims of boys and men’s violence does not mean that they are victims of anything other than male aggression and patriarchal notions regarding what constitutes male sexuality” does nothing to solve or prevent the very real problems young boys are growing up with. Regardless of who is doing the bullying, it is pervasive and destructive and must be stopped.

Finally, he writes about what he calls “CAFE clones”. The only group he cites that we are actually affiliated with is the ‘Toronto Men’s Meetup’. He cites two of our claims. The first is the men and women commit domestic violence against each other at comparable rates.

There are several different studies we can use to support that claim.

It’s true, as Laxter points out, that more women than men suffer serious physical injuries due to domestic violence. That’s at least partly because of differences in size, strength and formal or informal training in combat; when men do fight back, therefore, they’re generally more effective than women in causing damage. The studies show that women initiate domestic violence as often as men do not that the results are identical. Moreover, men are much less likely than women even to report violence against them. The police have now been trained to accept the word of a woman on faith, even though the law gives mothers a vested interest in accusing their husbands with or without evidence. In fact, the police are now trained to arrest men immediately, even if these men were the ones who called for help in the first place. And there are no shelters for abused men.

Our main point in making that claim, is addressing the societal assumption that partner violence is “almost entirely a phenomenon involving male perpetrators and female victims, i.e. as a problem of ‘violence against women;’ and the corollary assumption that the primary cause of PV is the patriarchal nature of society and the family.” (to quote the second study we linked)

It’s true that men resort to violence much more often than women do, as Laxter points out. Ergo, for him, men have only themselves to blame. Once again, the implication is to blame the victims as a class. Dividing humans into classes, whether in terms of economics or ethnicity or language or religion or sex or sexual orientation or anything else, can be instructive in some ways, but doing so obscures as much as it reveals from a moral perspective. Humans are never merely tokens in class warfare and thus the means to some greater end. Humans are always individuals, too, and thus ends in themselves.

The false dichotomy Mr. Laxter presumes between men’s issues and women’s issues is counter-productive and will only work against those of us who are interested in improving the lives of all Canadians, rather than arguing over who is most oppressed.

It is profoundly wrong, from a moral point of view, to indulge in what could be called “comparative suffering.” That’s partly because people suffer in many different ways and because suffering is experienced subjectively. Ultimately, though, it’s because comparative suffering invariably trivializes one group. Does it make any moral sense to even who suffered more: European Jews under twelve years of National Socialism or black Americans under three hundred years of slavery and segregation? Asking that question makes no moral sense at all, yet Laxter’s entire argument relies on the belief that women suffer more, quantitatively, than men do. From that, he concludes that only women deserve to be taken seriously as fully human beings. Men, an evil class in his opinion, deserve only contempt. This is precisely what we mean by misandry

He doesn’t have to support us, but nor should he misrepresent us. Conflating us with “hostility towards women and feminism” as he does is more than misleading. It is an outright lie. Painting all of those interested in Men’s issues with the brush of it’s most extreme supports is a debate tactic of someone with nothing else to say.

Anyone, any woman or any man, can absorb misandry from the cultural environment and find it personally or politically expedient to propagate. (as feminists rightly say for misogyny.) We would never argue that women in general have caused misandry or even most of the other problems that now afflict men. The origins of these problems had nothing to do with women. They had everything to do with a long series of technological and cultural revolutions, which began with the rise of agriculture ten thousand years ago.