By David Futrelle
One of my favorite would-be “gotcha” arguments I’ve heard again and again from Men’s Rights Activists over the years is this attempt to outwit history itself with powerful MAN LOGICK:
Women could NEVER have been oppressed the way feminists say that they were because men would NEVER oppress their OWN WIVES and DAUGHTERS like that!
I’m not sure which particular MRA brain genius first came up with this argument, but I ran across a particularly pure version of it in the Men’s Rights subreddit recently and thought I’d share it with you all:
The “argument” here is of course fallacious; it’s a textbook example of the “argument from incredulity” — that is, “I can’t imagine how it could be true, therefore it isn’t.” That’s just not how the world works. Plenty of things have happened over the course of human history that have been what historians call “really fucking weird,” but they can’t simply be dismissed, because the evidence is clear that they really happened. (Under this administration, almost literally unbeleivable things happen practically every day.)
And in the case of patriarchy, of course, there’s a huge fucking mountain of evidence that men have not only oppressed women as a class throughout history but still do so today. I mean, it’s not just a weird coincidence that every single US President and vice president has been a dude, or that men got the vote before women did, or that women couldn’t even get credit cards in their own name until the 1970s. There are big fat books about all of this shit, MRA dudes; maybe read one or two of them before spouting off like idiots?
But even if the argument from incredulity was a real and valid argument, and one’s feelings about the likelihood of something happening could trump the facts of history, it’s not actually hard to imagine men oppressing not only women in general but their own wives and daughters.
I mean, men throughout history have beaten and raped their wives; hell, marital rape wasn’t even illegal in all 50 US states until the early 1990s. Men have abused their daughters in countless ways. In the antebellum south, male slave owners raped their slaves and then enslaved the children who were born as a result of these rapes — their own flesh and blood. (Thomas Jefferson, I’m looking at you!)
But of course patriarchy wasn’t and isn’t all about cruelty. It’s also about the very “protection” that firstherr cites in his post. Since practically the beginnings of human history, men have restricted the activities of women in order to “protect” them from the real and alleged dangers of the wider world — a supposed benefit to women that, however they felt about this particular bargain, they could not opt out of.
Patriarchal oppression can be as unsubtle as a punch to the face, or as subtle and seemingly benevolent as Joe Biden telling the brothers of a 13-year-old girl he’s just met that they need to make sure to keep the boys away from her. That’s how it’s been able to last so long.
Again, none of this is news to anyone who has studied even the barest smattering of feminism. What’s still kind of amazing to me, though, is that virtually no Men’s Rights Activists — including the supposed intellectuals in the movement — seem to have bothered to learn even the most basic basics about the feminism that they rail against all day long. instead getting their information from YouTube videos and antifeminist ideologues and other MRAs as ignorant as they are.
That’s why laughable arguments like firstterr’s here get dozens of upvotes when posted to the Men’s Rights subreddit. That’s why these guys don’t seem to have learned a thing since I started following them nearly nine years ago. They’re ignorant, incurious, and happy to embrace logical fallacies so long as they can use them to score points against some imaginary feminist foes.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a political movement less impressive than the Men’s Rights movement. Given how completely wrongheaded the basic premise of their movement is — that men, not women, are the true wretched of the earth — fallacious arguments based on utter ignorance seem to be the best that they can come up with.
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