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Prominent Men’s Rights Activist: Don’t you DARE call me an activist; I just like to pester feminists

Paul Elam: Aspires to be a thorn in the side of feminists

By David Futrelle

Men’s Rights “Activists” are the least activist activists I’ve ever met. Oh, they’re noisy enough, but for all the noise they make about the supposed injustices faced by men, they won’t lift a finger, or open their wallets, to do a single thing that might actually help real men in real pain.

In the nine years I’ve been writing about them, MRAs haven’t organized a single rally that’s attracted more rallygoers than a matinee showing of CATS; they haven’t built even a single domestic violence shelter for men. The list of things they haven’t done could fill a book.

And so it’s not surprising that when asked about their really stunning absence of activism, most MRAs will make excuses. Activism is too hard, they often say; and when we try to do anything we face opposition. Somehow these things didn’t stop the civil rights movement, which persisted despite waterhoses and police dogs and murders. But for the Men’s Rightsers even the mildest ridicule is enough for them to call it a day.

Self-declared “Men’s Human Rights Activist” Paul Elam is trying a new tactic, excusing his own lack of activism by declaring that he never called himself an activist in the first place. In a pissy post published on his A Voice for Men hate site earlier this week, he responded to the “occasional detractor[s]” who charge “that the men’s rights movement has been a complete failure at getting anything to change.”

Elam responds with a sort of inverted version of Pee Wee Herman’s famous claim: “I meant (not) to do that.”

AVFM is probably the most prominent and well-known MRA organization, and we have never even attempted to change laws any laws at all. That was never our mission.

This is simply not true. As TakedownMRAs has noted on Twitter, AVFM’s literal mission statement used to declare that the site wanted to change rape shield laws. As for activism more generally, AVFMers have described themselves as “Men’s Human Rights Activists” for years and indeed, the site once boasted an “activism director” on its masthead. So to say that changing laws was “never our mission” or that they’ve never considered themselves activists — well, both those claims are blatant lies.

All our efforts have been to reach men with a different, better vision of themselves – and to be a thorn in the side of hateful feminist ideologues.

Now we’re getting closer to the truth — at least if we take that first claim with a grain elevator of salt. Here’s a video I’ve posted before of Elam trying to inspire his fellow AVFM men to become better versions of themselves at an AVFM weekend retreat. (Elam is the man behind the camera drunkenly slurring his words and making false accusations against several prominent feminist women.)

As for the bit about being a thorn in the side of feminists, well, AVFM has definitely done that, inspiring and often leading assorted harassment campaigns against women over the years that have caused at least one feminist victim to fear for her life.

So congrats, I guess.

Of course, Elam isn’t the only AVFMer who has suggested that trolling feminists is preferable to doing anything to help men in the real world. Indeed, one (now former) editor at AVFM, who writes under the name Fidelbogen, made that clear in a blog post, writing that he’d “rather have a thousand people loudly slagging off feminism in my town, than to have one men’s DV shelter open … .”

Anybody who claims to care about men, but doesn't savage feminism pretty harshly on a regular basis, is either a damned liar or a lazy, muddled fool with his head up his ass. There is simply no way you can care about men if you are not attacking feminism in one way or another. And if I had to make the choice, I would even say that agitation is MORE important than activism. Yes, I would rather have a thousand people loudly slagging off feminism in my town, than to have one men's DV shelter open while nobody makes a squeak about feminism! And you can quote me on that.

Elam and Fidelbogen — and Men’s Rights “Activists” more generally — have managed to make the world a worse place for women while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to help men. What a legacy they will leave behind.

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Naglfar
Naglfar
9 months ago

Paul needn’t worry, I’d never confuse him with any sort of actual activist. A question, though: why does he call himself an “MRA,” which stands for “Men’s Rights Activist,” in this very post if he really doesn’t want to be called an activist?

I might note, he also started a short-lived subreddit called “mensrightsactivists” after getting into a fight with people on the main MR subreddit. So it’s clear that at one point he thought he was an activist.

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
9 months ago

Activism requires getting off the couch…. Ain’t gonna happen….

epronovost
epronovost
9 months ago

Paul Elam and his ilk are simply angry, entitled, hateful losers who are losers mostly because they are hateful and entitled. They don’t care about causes. They siply decided to hit on feminism and women to make themselves feel better and stronger. In other words, they are overgrown schoolyard bullies.

Snowberry
Snowberry
9 months ago

Simple – most of them have a lot to lose, and very little to gain by sticking their necks out. Those men they claim to care about are mostly other men. The rest have lives which are comfortable aside from the fact that women are allowed to exist in public and not be slaves. So, why take any real risks for causes which wouldn’t help them personally, when there is a cause that would *actually* benefit them, which is forcing women back in the kitchen?

ginger
ginger
9 months ago

What a truly revolting group of people.

Why does everyone always capitalize the words “Men’s Rights Activists?” This bothers me for some reason.

TacticalProgressive
TacticalProgressive
9 months ago

@ginger

Why does everyone always capitalize the words “Men’s Rights Activists?” This bothers me for some reason.

This may admittedly be anecdotal on my part but I think it might tie in with the the terms correlation to it’s acronym and the role the words of the term play towards said acronym to address, describe and identify the ‘thing’ (in this case: the Neo-Reactionary hate movement) in question.

Kind of like in the same way “Situation Normal All Fucked Up” is correlated with it’s popular acronym: “SNAFU”. It’s capitalized in order to provide corollary to it’s acronym for sake of brevity.

Or at least that’s my take on it and what I think makes sense… now wither it actually does and if their is any evidence to corroborate this is whole other question entirely.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
9 months ago

As the old saying goes, it’s not about men’s rights, it’s about women’s wrongs. It’s a little hard to convince the rest of the world that bullying, hatred, and revenge are human rights.

Civil rights movements are generally more successful when the oppressed are sympathetic victims, and not, y’know, the oppressors, who are hopping mad because they don’t get to oppress others as much as they think they deserve to.

If MRAs were more honest they’d call themselves the Abusers’ Lobby.

Naglfar
Naglfar
9 months ago

@Buttercup

If MRAs were more honest they’d call themselves the Abusers’ Lobby.

I’ve also heard various conservative Christian lobby groups (like Focus on the Family, etc) get called that. I think it’s pretty accurate for them and for MRAs.

Paireon
Paireon
9 months ago

Ah yes, ye goode olde excuse of “We’re not actually out to help anyone, even our “own”, we’re just out to hurt the people we hate. But we’re still the Good Guys and those people we hate are still the Bad Guy (or Gals), really, honest!”

Protip, MRAs (not that you’ll listen to it): if what you’re doing is only acting as a disruptive, harrassing force purely out of vindictive spite, well, you’re probably not the good guys in any way, shape or form.

Naglfar
Naglfar
9 months ago

@Paireon

Protip, MRAs (not that you’ll listen to it): if what you’re doing is only acting as a disruptive, harrassing force purely out of vindictive spite, well, you’re probably not the good guys in any way, shape or form.

They’d need to have some sort of self-awareness to ask the question:
comment image

Victorious Parasol
9 months ago

I don’t think “activist” is a neutral term for the manosphere. From what David’s collected over the years, I get the feeling that “activist” to them means “smelly dirty slackers too lazy to get a job.” Kinda like how they think “feminist” means “fat, hairy-legged, and manless.”

David Rose
David Rose
9 months ago

Agitation more effective than activism? Yeah, that only works if the people you’re trying to agitate give a flying fuck what you think. Hint: unless you shape up and show a side of yourself that isn’t petty, vindictive and scathingly immature, no one will ever care what you think. They’ll feel more disgusted by (and embarrassed for) you than sorry for themselves.

Naglfar
Naglfar
9 months ago

@David Rose

Yeah, that only works if the people you’re trying to agitate give a flying fuck what you think.

That is the grand paradox of the manosphere. All of their plans seem to revolve around feminists, women, or just people in general caring what they think. Most notably in the case of MGTOWs, who seem to think people will care that they’re “going their own way” (which of course they’re not actually doing).

Viscaria
Viscaria
9 months ago

@ginger

Why does everyone always capitalize the words “Men’s Rights Activists?” This bothers me for some reason.

… Huh. I have never thought about that before.

My first thought would be that we tend to cap it because it’s usually in its acronym form, which is all in caps (obviously), so it’s like we’re expanding the acronym when we say MRA = Men’s Rights Activist. But almost everything is put all in caps when it’s an acronym even if the words are usually lower case when they’re written out, so there’s no reason I can see why it has to be capped.

I’m with you! From here on out, it’ll be “men’s rights activists,” no caps, in the Viscaria Hate Group Style Guide.

Naglfar
Naglfar
9 months ago

@Viscaria
I admit I hadn’t thought much about it, but now that I think of it, MRAs aren’t the only hate group often represented by an acronym that gets capitalized; the Ku Klux Klan is typically capitalized as well. I assume under the VHGSG it should no longer be, though.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
9 months ago

Yabbut “Ku Klux Klan” is a proper name, whereas “men’s rights activists” is just an English-language descriptive phrase. If they incorporated an organization with that as its formal name it would deserve caps.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
9 months ago

ginger wrote:

Why does everyone always capitalize the words “Men’s Rights Activists?” This bothers me for some reason.

Finally, something that’s directly in my wheelhouse, as a former professional editor and current adjunct instructor of composition at a community college!

The answer is that they’re using the term as a proper noun describing a movement or group of people and are choosing to capitalize it, which is not necessary (see “feminism”) but is still grammatically correct.

…although I think the real answer is that most people do it because that’s how they’ve always seen it spelled; originally, it was probably a dumbfuck or two with pretentions of mandeur who wrote it that way on a crapton of blogs and chat rooms.

I guess the A in MRA stood for Asshole the whole time…shocker!

Lainy
Lainy
9 months ago

@naglfar

It’s just an example of narcissism i think. They think the world revolves around them and if they aren’t there then the world would fall apart. When in reality strangers go on with their lives, find their own happiness and don’t really care what the bitter strange man is screaming about

Ooglyboggles
Ooglyboggles
9 months ago

Galaxy brained move for them to out and state that they care more about hating women than pretending to men.

tim gueguen
9 months ago

Meanwhile Jordan Peterson has apparently gone through a year of “absolute hell,” according to Mikhaila Peterson. (The following article is from the National Post, in case that’s a problem for anyone.)

https://nationalpost.com/news/jordan-petersons-year-of-absolute-hell-professor-forced-to-retreat-from-public-life-because-of-tranquilizer-addiction

Paireon
Paireon
9 months ago

@Naglfar – No worries, I was quite aware of the conundrum, hence the (not that you’ll listen to it) I put there.

I’d also like to add that as noxiously unappealing as the MRAs make themselves, it doesn’t much matter if a bucketload of other right-wing types with overlap in goals but slightly less repellent public perception and much broader and well-financed membership also work towards the same ends as they do (lookin’ at you, pro-lifers and fundie “pro-family” lobbies, among others).

ginger
ginger
9 months ago

@Viscaria

I agree. No more capitalizing “men’s rights activists”!

While we’re on the subject, to me the word “activist” has a positive connotation. Activists seek to make positive changes in the world. MRAs, OTOH, are not positive at all. Like anti-choicers (misogynists), anti-LGBTQ, racists, etc, they are not doing anything good in the world. They openly admit they exist to hate other people, and there’s nothing good about that.

We need to find another word to replace “activist” to describe these people.

ginger
ginger
9 months ago

@Paireon

MRAs remind me of another group of misogynists, the anti-choicers.

These groups didn’t exist until 1973, when Roe was decided. For decades they did absolutely nothing to help women with unplanned pregnancies or the “babies” they claimed to love. Only after constant condemnation from feminists that the antis existed to shame, humiliate, and scare women did the antis decide to actually *do* something to help women.

Now they have a few “safe houses” in which pregnant women can stay until they give birth, and they now offer limited financial assistance until birth, but not after birth. The antis still oppose affordable contraception, medically-accurate sex ed, WIC, Medicaid expansion, food stamps, special ed, universal pre-K, universal prenatal care, etc, anything that would actually *help* these “babies” after they’re born.

The vast majority of antis exist merely to denigrate, humiliate, frighten, and violently attack any woman seeking reproductive health care. That’s all they do. That has nothing to do with “protecting life.”

ginger
ginger
9 months ago

@Gaebolga

Thank you, Professor, for your explanation. That’s what I suspected, but I wondered if maybe there might be another reason for the caps.

Caps do make MRAs look as though they are actually important. Mandeur, indeed!

Naglfar
Naglfar
9 months ago

@ginger

We need to find another word to replace “activist” to describe these people.

“Assholes” or “asshats” works and then we don’t even have to change the acronym.

Another similarity between MRAs and anti-choicers is that to disguise their true awfulness, both pick names that sound better, like “pro-life” when they obviously don’t care about life.

Catalpa
Catalpa
9 months ago

Hot take: They’re called Men’s Rights Activists because of incorrectly applied internet SaRcAsTiC FoNt.

Their proper name should be MeN’s RiGhTs AcTiViStS, but that’s too much of a pain to type out every time.

Allandrel
Allandrel
9 months ago

@Buttercup

If MRAs were more honest they’d call themselves the Abusers’ Lobby.

Remind me of how, when I try to describe why Beast: The Primordial is the most immoral roleplaying game that I have ever seen, I like to start off by explaining that the title should be Abuser: The Rationalization.

Fabe
Fabe
9 months ago

@Allandrel

Is it worst then the Fatal RPG? because from what I know of Fatal topping that game would be quite the feat.

Fenton
Fenton
9 months ago

“Never let the Mask Slip”

That’ rule #1 of modern reactionary politics my dude.

Points for honesty, though.

TacticalProgressive
TacticalProgressive
9 months ago

@ginger

And it’s for those reasons, among other’s including their notions that fetus’s, embryos and zygotes should have more rights than the women that carry them: that I on principle refuse to call them “pro-lifers” since they are patently against life. That being said I find “anti-choicer” is to me insufficient as it’s clear that, authoritarians that they are: they are against freedom of choice.

So I simply call them “Forced Birth Fetus Fetishists”; because it’s more bluntly accurate. Though calling them “anti-women” would frankly be just as accurate (even despite their empty denials otherwise).

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
9 months ago

@ginger:
Thing is, even after 1973 being anti-abortion was mostly a Catholic position and not widespread amongst Protestant groups. The U.S. evangelical right being anti-abortion didn’t happen for almost a decade after that.

Amongst other things, see Fred Clark’s essay The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal.

The prevailing theory is that the real push for anti-abortion politics came as a result of U.S. vs. Bob Jones University… and politcally-minded people realizing that it would be easier to get conservative judges in place if they pretended it was about abortion rather than racism.

Allandrel
Allandrel
9 months ago

@Fabe

Is it worst then the Fatal RPG? because from what I know of Fatal topping that game would be quite the feat.

Yes, worse than FATAL, worse than Racial Holy War.

Two big reasons for this:

One, Beast: The Primordial was put out by Onyx Path Publishing, a legit publisher that has produced award-winning RPGs in the New World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness line, such as Hunter: The Vigil. Moreover, BTP is part of the same gameline as these games. This gives it an image of respectability that those self-published games lack. You can order BTP from major distributors.

Second, games like FATAL are out in the open with their awfulness. Beast, however, tries to cloak its immorality in pseudo-philosophical garbage.

If FATAL and RHW are Paul Elam, then Beast is Jordan Peterson.

Going into just what is so immoral about BTP requires a LOT of time and text. Let me basically say this: When it came out that BTP’s lead designer and writer Matt McFarland is a sexual predator, all of the game’s subtext rapidly became text. The title should be Abuser: The Rationalization.

Naglfar
Naglfar
9 months ago

@Allandrel
I don’t really play many RPGs, but the worst one I’ve ever seen is MyFaRoG. It was created by Varg Vikernes, a Norwegian black metal musician best known for burning down centuries-old churches, murdering his bandmate, and being a neo-Nazi. After he got out of prison he moved to France and started a family. In order to teach his children his racist views, he created an RPG called MyFaRoG. As you might expect, it’s extremely racist and antisemitic. A good breakdown of it by an antifascist metal journalist can be found here.

Orion
Orion
9 months ago

Because Men’s Rights Activists don’t actually engage in activism related to men’s rights, I treat it as a name and not an English-language descriptive phrase. They are not men’s rights activists, they’re just called “Men’s Rights Activists.”

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
9 months ago

[W]hen asked about their really stunning absence of activism, most MRAs will make excuses. Activism is too hard, they often say; and when we try to do anything we face opposition.

On the other hand, guys, you’ve spread your message of hate throughout the world. Congrats?

ginger
ginger
9 months ago

@TacticalProgressive

Absolutely. They are forced-birthers and misogynists, pure and simple.

ginger
ginger
9 months ago

@Jenora Feuer

Thank you for the link. Protestant churches generally favored abortion rights in the 60s-70s. Prior to Roe, the Clergy Referral Service connected women needing abortions with safe providers. Fred “Mister” Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, participated in the service.

The Catholic church also has changed its position on abortion. In the 1200s, Aquinas proposed that a fetus became “ensoulled” after 40 days’ gestation. Abortion was permissible, though still condemned as a venial sin, prior to ensoullment. In the subsequent centuries various popes vacillated on the issue of ensoullment, until the early 1900s when the church declared that abortion during any stage of pregnancy the mortal sin of murder and not permissible under any circumstances under penalty of excommunication.

In 1968, Paul 6 proclaimed that all artificial contraception was sinful and thus condemned because of the “sanctity of life.” Only married procreative sex was permissible for Catholics.

JP2 even declared that anyone who assists in the procurement of an abortion is automatically excommunicated. This means not only the woman and provider, but anyone employed at a clinic (administrators, medical assistants, nurses, volunteers, etc.), even the person driving the woman to the clinic.

That’s a lot of damned people. Catholic hell must be very crowded.

vaiyt
vaiyt
9 months ago

@Naglfar

Unfortunately, the title of most terrible racist RPG already belongs to RaHoWa, which in addition to being literally just a bunch of racist jokes plastered on top of a generic system, is literally unplayable because the bozos who designed it forgot to write down one of the essential rules.