The Daily Beast takes on the Men’s Rights movement — and takes down A Voice for Men’s John Hembling

John Hembling, possibly lying about something

John Hembling, possibly lying about something

The bad publicity bonanza for Men’s Rights activists continues — and it couldn’t happen to a worse group of  people.

Yesterday, the Daily Beast published a long-awaited piece on the Men’s Rights movement, and it’s a doozy. If you’re a regular reader of this site, trust me, you’ll want to read the whole thing, like now. The piece, by R. Tod Kelly, is long — some 6000 words — but worth it.

It’s mostly on the money, but with a few notable flaws.

Here’s what it gets right:

1) It captures the pervasive misogyny of the Men’s Rights movement in general, and of A Voice for Men in particular.

2) In an extended section, it profiles AVFM’s John Hembling, and tears apart some of his most blatant lies — including the now legendary box-cutter incident, in which Hembling claims to have stared down a mob of 20-30 feminists brandishing boxcutters.

As Kelly notes:

Vancouver police records show that there was indeed an altercation in September of 2012 between Hembling and others seeking to tear down men’s rights posters. However, according to the police, Hembling was arguing with two or three people, not being accosted by a “mob” of any size. When questioned by the authorities, neither Hembling nor witnesses mentioned seeing any weapons. …

Curiously enough, Hembling actually videotaped the events and had his AV4M Radio partner Karen Straughan post it online. The discussion with the police has been conveniently edited out, but the rest of the video clearly matches police records and not Hembling’s story. There are only a few young men taking down Hembling’s posters, and the video shows them choosing to ignore him except when he engages them in conversation. One of the men is seen using a box cutter to take down the flyers, but at no time does he use it as a weapon, raise his voice, or threaten Hembling in any way.

Kelly found some troubling, er, discrepancies in another story told by Hembling. Kelly writes:

According to Hembling, sometime around 1995 he was on his way home at 2:00 am after working a night shift when he came upon [a sexual] assault in progress. He says he used his steel-toed boots as weapons to chase off the perpetrator. When the victim was too distraught to speak with him, Hembling says he contacted the police, waited until they arrived, and then quietly left without speaking to them. He says they later tracked him down at his home, where he gave a statement.

It’s hard to know whether this event actually occurred or not. There is no record—at least, not in the Vancouver police files—of Hembling being a material witness to a rape, and police blotters from that time period do not show a crime that matches Hembling’s description. However, this does not necessarily mean the event did not occur. Vancouver police did not fully computerize their data until 2002, and it is possible the police never reported the incident. Hembling claims the incident took place at a specific hospital, where he says he worked as a contractor for 18 months. The address he gives, however, is for a different hospital in a completely different part of the city. This raises the curious question of whether Hembling forget the name of the hospital he contracted with for 18 months, or whether he forget what part of the city he worked in for that same period of time. The real truth of the matter is anyone’s guess, because Hembling wouldn’t comment to The Beast on that or any other matter.

In other words: Cool story, bro.

3) Another thing the story gets right: it makes clear just how little the Men’s Rights movement does to actually help men — and how in many ways it can actually be terribly damaging to men who need real help. As Kelly writes,

the movement’s radicals might … do … immediate damage to those who most desperately need the MRM to succeed.

“When we talk about recovery from trauma and abuse, there were two things that helped me,” says Chris Anderson, executive director of the male-victim advocacy group Male Survivor and a sexual abuse survivor himself. “The first was realizing that I’m not alone; the second was hearing that recovery was possible.” Anderson is quick to dissociate himself from the men’s rights movement: “In [the MRM] people get that first message, that they’re not alone. I don’t know that they ever get the second message. And when they don’t get that second message, it turns into an endless feedback loop and eventually they say, ‘Oh my God, all of society is f**ked.’”

Indeed, Kelly writes:

It is telling to note that of the professional male-victim advocacy organizations I spoke with, every single one specifically asked that I not allow readers to think they were in any way related to the MRM.

But there are also some things that I think the article gets wrong.

1) I think it gives Men’s Rights activists way too much credit for their supposed good intentions. While there are some MRAs who do seem to be motivated at least in part by a sincere desire to help men, most of the MRAs I’ve encountered in the 3 years of doing this blog have clearly been motivated primarily by anger and hatred of feminists — and women in general. They don’t really seem to give a shit about doing anything to actually improve the lives of men — and the paucity of their accomplishments reflects this. In its relatively brief lifespan, AVFM has raised many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Has it set up any shelters or hotlines or helplines for men? Not a one.

2) It wildly exaggerates the importance of Hembling to the MRM — especially ironic given that Hembling has been more or less AWOL in recent months, producing only a few short videos and one article for AVFM.

3) It paints a picture of The Spearhead’s WF Price as a Men’s Rights “moderate.” Really? While it’s true that Price is not an AVFM-style hothead given to rants about “fucking your shit up,” his views are anything but moderate. This is a guy who thinks higher education is wasted on women, who blames the epidemic of rape in the armed forces on women, who celebrated one Mothers Day with a vicious transphobic rant, who once used the tragic death of a woman who’d just graduated from college to argue that “after 25, women are just wasting time.” He published posts on why women’s suffrage is a bad idea. Plus, have you met his commenters?

I was, however, kind of amazed to learn that Price is married … and to a feminist. No, really.

4) The article, while solidly researched, contains some small errors and simplifications that will no doubt give MRAs and others the excuse they need to dismiss the whole thing. Kelly refers to Reddit subreddits as Reddit “threads!” He refers to Matt Forney as an MRA! Oh no!

Still, whatever its flaws, this is an important piece, and one that tells a lot of truth about the Men’s Rights movement. Again — go read it!

About David Futrelle

I run the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, which tracks (and mocks) online misogyny. My writing has appeared in a wide variety of places, including Salon,, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and Money magazine. I like cats.

Posted on October 20, 2013, in a voice for men, are these guys 12 years old?, johntheother, lying liars, misogyny, MRA and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1,986 Comments.

  1. So women who

    Sorry, need italics. :)

  2. @katz

    It’s not the rock star bit, although I hate the contemporary media’s habit of labeling anyone with a following a “rock star” with a passion. It’s the “loved or despised” bit. That immediately casts Elam as some kind of fascinating, enigmatic character, like Julian Assange or someone; you know, “a visionary freedom fighter to some, a dastardly traitor to others.”

    I totally agree with what you said.

    I also think Kelly likes Elam and Price and thinks of them as some sort of enigmatic characters that are misunderstood. That, although sometimes they might go about things in the wrong way, ultimately they are righteous.

    The article reads as if he’s a consultant bought in to tell them where they are going wrong and how to change their image. It doesn’t criticise it critiques.
    It seems to me this is simply a covert way of legitimising the MRM.

    That is not journalism, that is support!

    I mean what the fuck was this?:

    “The MRM also suffers from a lack of good judgment regarding whom to publically target with its wrath. Some of the women they condemn, such as Maine’s disgraced Assistant District Attorney Mary Kellett, are certainly in need of greater scrutiny. Kellett recently had her law license suspended by the Maine Supreme Court for unethical behavior in the pursuit of convicting men accused of rape and assault. Other women, however, seem like less worthy targets. ”

    So women who do the wrong thing should not only have their law license suspended and be disgraced and bad mouthed in mainstream media. Oh no, they should also be targeted for stalking by men’s groups!

    So it’s not the wrath that’s the problem, their anger is fine, their tactics are fine, they just chose the wrong target.

    To me, this article is written for the new wave of MRAs, Kelly is no different from all those racists who say:

    “I wouldn’t be a member of the BNP, oh no, no, no, but you must admit they do raise some good points.”

    When Kelly advocates hate against even one woman, no matter what she has done, then his journalistic integrity is immediately called into question.

    “The most ambitious and influential is Elam’s AV4M. Under the tagline “Compassion For Men and Boys,” AV4M’s pages attract more than half a million page hits a month. In contrast to most other MRM websites, AV4M features female editors and a number of quality female writers.”

    I mean, that’s just a fucking advert! And if he’s ‘fair and balanced’ where’s the Man Boobz ad?

    When mainstream media draws attention to the MRM in this way it will only serve to legitimise a hate movement, giving excuses where condemnation is the only valid reaction.

    And when the journalist in question thinks hate and abuse is a legitimate form of disagreement, this type of men’s rights advocacy will simply end up just like the Elam brand, but with more supporters.

    It is highly seductive to blame your problems on another group and I can’t help but think many more men would agree with MRA talking points if presented in Kelly’s sanitised way.

    And that is just disturbing on so many levels.

    *All hail the blockquote monster!*

  3. I think it’s to do with the cultural worship of toxic masculinity, honestly. The writer sees Elam and JtO as Strong, Tough, Brave Manly Men who’re Fighting for What They Believe In, and the fact that he sees them as embodying some of the ideas about masculinity that he values is more important than anything that might happen to a few random women. Plus there’s a sort of childish “well you can’t tell me that I’m not important and don’t deserve to be focused on” thing going on – it doesn’t so much matter whether or not the specific causes advocated are valid or being approached in a helpful way, it’s just about the idea of the manosphere existing appealing to the writer’s ego.

  4. It does at times feel like an advert (mentioning women on staff is just plain irrelevant unless they go on to discuss the implications of that), but I think it’s not that they’re pro-MRM so much as that journalistic convention inevitably presents everything in a way that ends up sounding positive to neutral, no matter how bad it is.

  5. @Fi, and you are definitely not yesterday’s jam. :)

    @Parrot, loved the RPG.

    @Fibinachi for the win. That was fantastic.

    @SittieKittie *nods in agreement.*

  6. It seems like we need a pseudo-tabletop environment in which to explore this new RPG… I’m curious about how some of the mechanics might work. Clearly the White Knights of the Order of the Beboob’d Man would have the ability to break apart into their component ferrets when under threat, but how would that work? Would it be a changeling ability, allowing you to change form at will, trading high damage for high defence, or would it simply be a saving throw modifier representing a temporary scatter in the face of a critical strike?

  7. Athy – Saving throw modifier, to fit in with MRA viewpoints on the Mangina?

  8. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking – a brief scatter & reform.Ferrets don’t really do too well in combat unless they know some magic…

  9. Dual mode for a tactical approach. The White Knights of the Beboob’d Man bond with their trusty, fuzzy ferret familiar and have the choice of becoming unto a swarm of ferrets, or remain their trusty knightly ferret self,

    for a boost. Obviously, it’s an add will shapechange effect q:

    Such wail of fury, fur and fuzz, those white knights of Futrelle-Upon-The-Boobz, came upon the Kingly Spearhead Legion, and did scamper among them like a wave washing over the sands of the beach. Many a stout, stoic and stern Straight Spear of the Spearhead did find their exposed toes most furiously nibbled upon, and were delayed in their marching. Thus, by brave action and bold deed did the defenders of the Linkhitis mines of Blogtopia have time to fortify their hovels against the coming storm….
    Taken, obviously, from: “The War of the View Veins, or, “For A Few Comments More”

  10. Clearly the White Knights of the Order of the Beboob’d Man would have the ability to break apart into their component ferrets when under threat, but how would that work?

    You transform from a single creature to a swarm with the same HP and size. You lose all attacks and special abilities, but automatically deal damage to anyone who ends their turn in one of the squares you occupy.

  11. You transform from a single creature to a swarm with the same HP and size. You lose all attacks and special abilities, but automatically deal damage to anyone who ends their turn in one of the squares you occupy

    Plus, you gain a mild reduction in incoming damage from single target weaponry like swords, bows and other things, but take more damage from splash effects like fire in an area.

    (and anyone you cover at the end of your turn has to make a con save against your distraction, modified by your current cutesy levels, in order to avoid being staggered on their turn, we can recite swarm statblocks from D&D 3.5 without referencing the books screw spider swarms, screw ’em, they be the doom of adventurers they be)

  12. Can we have kitties as steeds?

  13. Transforming is a move action.

    Other MBZer racial features:
    -Has the skill Occupation (Pussy Pass). Allows you to earn 10xlevel GP per day by sitting in the street and crying. Female characters only.
    -Favored Enemy: Troll, as the Ranger ability.
    -Attacks by monsters of the subtype Animal (cute) bypass your damage reduction.
    -Eligible for the White Knight prestige class.

  14. Can we have kitties as steeds?

    Even better.

  15. katz – what about scented fucking candles?

  16. “Eligible for the White Knight prestige class.”

    Lead by Sir Pecunium with an elite group of Royal Assassins? *is totally biased*

  17. @Fi

    Thanks Ophelia! (more hugs) I told my doctor and she told me to increase my tricyclics — the ones that make me really really blaaaaaaaaah. I was dubious but tried it once and spent the next day zombified with a massive headache. Yeah, I won’t be doing that again. I fucking hate tricyclics.

    That sucks :/ Internet hugs from me, if you want them.

    @radical parrot

    @marie: Seconding kitteh and ophelia. You always say the right things.

    Thanks :3

    One could say it’s… (puts on sunglasses) a hostile world. (YEEEEAAAAAAH!)

    XD That’s perfect.


    Can we have kitties as steeds?

    Please say yes, someone! :3


    That hamster looks kinda scary :o

  18. @Fibinachi: I love it! Very Lovecraftean. Or should I say… Lovecrafty?
    Now that we have the High Hypergamists, we simply need to include the council of Eldersluts!

    @katz: The Giant Space Hamster! Squeeeeee! (I love Minsc from Baldur’s Gate. Just thought I’d throw that out there.)

    Okay, you guys started it! Here are some ideas I’ve been working on (all is up for debate, I suck at stats and stuff):

    I started out by making the straw feminists a class, but realized I lacked the skill and patience to crunch the numbers and balance things. I was also unsure of what system I would want to play this on (I love D&D 3.5, but fairly recently I got into Pathfinder, which I might like even better. Then again, I also love freeform with an emphasis on role-playing, mystery and riddle-solving, so a more flexible system might also be in order), so I decided to just work on the campaign world and decide on the mechanics later.

    In this version, the feminazis and the straw feminists are indeed two distinctly different factions. The former are the lawful evil ruler types. They tolerate men, but treat them as little more than chattel in the regions they rule. The latter want to eliminate all men. They believe in a world free of men, where all women conquer death through lichendom* and live forever. Or something. They both fit into the straw feminist stereotype (let’s face it, it’s not internally consistent), but take two drastically different approaches to it. Of course, guerilla groups exist as well.

    Whereas I’m treating “strawfeminism” as some kind of a curse of the mind in this world, the MRA brothers-in-arms are a humoristic look at the pompous, arrogant ideas the MRAs have of themselves. They could well be a class that emphasises super masculine ideas, but in an ironic way. Haven’t worked out all the details yet, but an MRA BiA might well make a fun character for the sheer stupidity of it all.

    The mountains to the north (haven’t thought of a good name yet, sorry) hide a mythical, indestructible, unmovable tree, the tree of FREEZEPEACH, whose permanently frozen fruits grant its eater powers far beyond those of mere mortals (we’re talking about serious resistance to damage and magic, especially spells of the mind). However, the effects are only temporary, so the FREEZEPEACH must be carefully guarded in order to secure a steady stream of peaches. Many factions fight for the possession of this mighty plant.

    Because of its powerful secret, the regions around the mountains are home to a permanent pest to Misandria: trolls. These critters come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny goblins to immensely destructive and durable greattrolls. A troll’s battle tactics include (but are not limited to) evading attacks, bluffing and outright lying, moving goalposts for some reason, but mostly on wearing out the opposition. Some trolls also know a bit of magic, and have confusion as an at-will power. However, the most powerful ability of a troll is regeneration, which allows them to come back from even the most savage beating.

    Nobody truly knows what these creatures are or where they originated. Some say they were once human, but degenerated into beings of chaos and discord by the very same forces that have taken over the minds of straw feminists and their kind. Others claim that trolls are not even truly their own creatures, but rather physical manifestations of an ancient god, a trickster deity long forgotten. Even most trolls don’t seem to know their purpose, which causes internal turmoil and may be a leading cause in their seemingly erratic behaviour. Curiously enough, many trolls smell strongly of socks.

    Whatever they are, humans have long since adapted to trolls. A lot of idioms and figures of speech in Misandria somehow involve trolls. For instance, “trollface” refers to a facial expression that signals that someone is up to no good; “stop trolling” is something mischievous children often hear, etc.

    The only things trolls truly fear are fire, acid and, of course, the mighty Banhammer, favored weapon of the Dark Lord David, the natural enemy of trolls. One strike of his divine weapon has been known to forever banish all but the mightiest troll (like the legendary Pell, who somehow keeps coming back in different forms).

    Legend has it that David was once a mortal man who ascended to divinity through a polymorph spell and an obscure loophole in the rules of ascension (can you believe the rules said nothing about ferrets in a cat suit?). It is said that a piece of the Dark Lord’s consciousness lives in the mind of everyone who follows him. He is all Manbobzers. Concentrated effort on the behalf of a group of Manboobzers may sometimes summon an avatar of David**, who naturally wields the Banhammer.

    A man known simply as John once attempted to copy David’s tactic with another kind of animal. It didn’t end well, because the loophole had been fixed in the meantime. Now he’s an otter.

    *As the previously mentioned Dwor-Kin. I originally named the lich drow-kin, as a nod to the D&D race of evil, matriarchal dark elves, but reasoned that not all would get the reference.

    **Kinda like Captain Planet, but more smashy and less mullet-y.

  19. We definitely need to figure out a way to play this…

  20. A man known simply as John once attempted to copy David’s tactic with another kind of animal. It didn’t end well, because the loophole had been fixed in the meantime. Now he’s an otter.


    I needed that. :D

  21. @Alice Sanguinaria: I’m glad it made you smile! :-)

  22. Pell, Elder troll of Chaos, is clearly a level 20 ozodrin

    completele wth aberant types, shifting forms, random teleportation (these goalposts don’t merely move…), stat draining bites, induced shaken effects, completely at odds with the natural world.

    And yeah, @Radical Parrot, thank you for that Otter Incident. Good pun. I mean one. I mean pun.

    Now for a council of Eldersluts… humdedeee…

    The Wall was an force fashioned at the dawn of time to separate the world from the stream of time, to allow linearity, progression, and differences, to make things just static enough for some specks of matter to align and grow into the world we have today.

    What lay on the other side of The Wall? Who knows. Impossible to cross, metaphysical and metaphorical more than real, the only glimpses any particularly curious thaumaturge hellbent on chronologically inspired endeavors might gleam would be an endless shifting wasteland, stretching into infinity, isolated from the rest of the world. People weren’t meant to look at the results of Time and weren’t meant to look beyond the Wall. Not deterent enough, as it turned out.

    For some souls did breach the Wall, eventually. They threw themselves adrift in Time itself, and became something else. The ELDERSLUTS, vast, unknowable entitties of sluttitude, attitude and pulchritude, guarded by the fearsome Felines of Thindalos, those cat-like things that purr and paw throughout the angles of time.

    It is said if you catch their attention, you will never be free… from this… purring.
    The finding of cat hairs in your clothes.

  23. @Radical Parrot and Fibinachi

    Those were great XD

  24. Many years ago, there was a blog site that regularly challenged the men’s rights/fathers rights crowd. That’s where I initially found about their concerted efforts to close down DV shelters as “discriminatory.” I once got into an exchange with these guys about a shelter for men. Of course they were doing lots of whining and lying. I challenged them to visit the homeless men’s shelters and gather data on how many were there for domestic violence. They didn’t want to (the number, according to the research, would have been very low, and most of them would have been young gay men.) They wanted to get federal grants. I took a gamble, and told them I was a professional grant writer who had written successful federal grant proposals in the past. I said I would provide FREE technical support, if they could gather the needs data for their town/city. Some women emailed me privately to express their horror. But I told them not to worry. And sure enough, these lazy lying @$$holes never followed up with me. So much for their concern for all those men made homeless by all those mean battering women out there. In reality, of course, there are lots of homeless men, usually for reasons related to drugs/alcohol/mental illness combined with low wage jobs/high rents. But the MR/FR crowd has no interest in dealing with additional funding for social services or addressing affordable housing/low wages.

  25. @silverside, That is an entirely unsurprising story. They would much rather just be outraged than actually do something to help men. The only time they’re motivated to actually do things is if they can hurt women. 0_o

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