Men Going Their Own Way v Men Fighting for Equality
by Alex Thomas
I recently made myself listen to a Radio 4 programme about the so-called “Men Going Their Own Way” (MGTOW) group. Just in case you’re not familiar with them, MGTOW is comprised of a bunch of men who believe that society is structured for the benefit of women and that it is actually men who are seen as disposable and worthless. They believe that feminism has proliferated this trend to the extent that we live in a gynocracy (a form of rule that is imposed on men by women).
To justify their position they spout facts such as, it is largely men who are expected to fight in wars (ignoring the fact that women were banned from fighting in combat units until recently), men who are typically the victims of violence (usually perpetrated by other men), men who are more likely to be imprisoned (for crimes they have committed surely?) and men who are supposedly victims of socio-political judgements based on their status and power (which they themselves established). And rather than look at these facts and come to the (I think) fairly logical conclusion that violent, oppressive men are the source of many of the world’s problems (including that of other men’s) they twist the blame onto women, turning themselves into apparent victims.
Having had quite enough of being oppressed by such double standards, this group of brave victims has decided to take action – and by action I mean launching into misogynistic online rants, meeting in secret or standing on step ladders outside the House of Commons.
As you do.
Now, you may have sensed a little in the way of mockery in my tone – given how earnest and self-important the men on this programme were, it’s hard for me to have any other. But whilst it’s easy to laugh at the men that comprise MGTOW, it’s also important to note that they share alarmingly common characteristics with political and racial extremist groups and as a result, pose a danger to any movement geared towards equality.
Of course, MGTOW reject and are deeply offended by being labelled extremists – as a recent aborted documentary which used the term found out. But let’s look at the facts (as MGTOW like to do). They talk about “universal truths”, see nothing wrong with re-writing history, bitterly deny any opposing arguments, meet in secret and rant misogynist bile online – sound like anyone else you can think of?
As with other extremist groups MGTOW consistently place the blame for their miserable experiences on perceived systems of oppression – in this case feminism and gynocentrism. And here’s the only time I agree with them: there is a system of oppression in this world – so let’s take a look at it:
- Men are paid more on average across almost every profession;
- Men overwhelmingly occupy positions of power in government and business;
- The average cost of women’s products is higher than men’s;
- Fashion, the media, and popular culture is designed (at least in the Western world) to satisfy the male gaze (The Sun or Daily Express anyone?);
- Women are disadvantaged through the societal expectations of childbirth and through a system that makes it almost incredibly difficult for women to balance childcare and work and even actively ousts new mothers;
- 85% of domestic violence victims are women.
The most infuriating thing of all is that this group of men have utterly no reason to feel like victims. Every one of those featured in the documentary is educated, white and male. They are symptomatic of what Vice.com brilliantly summed up as white boys who want to feel oppressed.
As a man I’ve had to confront the fact that I have been born into a world where because of the dangly bits between my legs, I’m more privileged than any of the women I know. As a white man that privilege is even greater. So to hear a group of educated white men not only deny that they are privileged but who actively fight against a movement that seeks to establish equality for women makes me feel sick.
So in direct opposition to MGTOW, I urge all men to recognise that, compared to women, you are privileged. Don’t go your own way. Take responsibility and actively do something to bring equality to those without it. I realise that this can seem like a difficult task, especially when we men are socially conditioned to act in a certain way and have been raised in a world where we’ve never had to think about the rights we take for granted. But there are a number of steps we men can take to start to change this world for the better:
- CHALLENGE SEXISM TOWARDS WOMEN WHEREVER YOU SEE IT, even if it’s done in supposed jest and particularly when it comes from other men.
- DON’T USED GENDERED TERMS TO DESCRIBE WOMEN, particularly derogatory terms (for example, would you call a man a bitch? A whore? A slut?).
- Similarly DON’T ASSOCIATE FEMININITY WITH WEAKNESS AND MASCULINITY WITH STRENGTH.
- DON’T OBJECTIFY WOMEN – they’re human beings like you, not a collection of body parts whose role it is to titillate you. (If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing you wouldn’t like it if your mum, sister, wife / girlfriend or daughter had to live in a world where they were consistently reduced to hyper-sexualised body parts).
- BOYCOTT BRANDS WHO ARE SEXIST, support misogynist individuals or objectify women (see this article on the awful treatment of women in the music industry).
- DON’T ALLOW OR ASSUME ANYTHING TO BE AUTOMATICALLY THE ROLE OF WOMEN. Excel in doing everything equally (housework, looking after the kids/siblings/parents, DIY etc) and support the women in your life however you can.
- SUPPORT OTHER MEN IN PLACES OF PRIVILEGE TO DO SOMETHING POSITIVE FOR GREATER GENDER EQUALITY – it’s one thing to talk, it’s another to act!
- And last of all SUPPORT CAUSES like Making Herstory , the #HeforShe campaign, Women’s Aid and other feminist organisations who just want women to have the same rights and securities as you already do.
It’s sad that we men have to be actioned to do these things – they should just be a given, but they’re not. But by being aware of our privileges, by taking up and maintaining actions like the above, you and me can work alongside the women of our worlds to bring about real gender equality and undermine the vile efforts of groups like MGTOW in the process.
Alex is a Trustee of Making Herstory and Research Manager at the Victoria & Albert Museum.