I recently had a video interview with Robert O’Hara of A Voice For Men. Some have wondered what my thoughts concerning A Voice For Men are. Following are those thoughts in reference to the posting of my video interview at Women in Secularism 2.
As per terms of the fundraiser which had funded my Women in Secularism 2 experience — and various statements I made throughout and prior to the conference — I agreed to speak with whomever* approached me at Women in Secularism 2. Prior to the conference, Robert O’ Hara contacted me to arrange a video interview and, because of my promise, I obliged. In addition to Rob, a magazine reporter had sought me out at the conference and similarly requested a recorded interview (more details are hopefully to come). Conference speakers, staff, and even some attendees also had engaged — although not with recorded interviews — in discussion.
As a proponent of critical thinking and skepticism, I endeavor to converse with individuals* holding divergent perspectives. Rather than putting myself into an echochamber and refusing to speak with people, I have an ‘open-door policy*’ by which individuals can reach me through various mediums. This is an extremely important because engaging with others helps keep me honest, exposes me to new ideas, and allows for others to critique my ideas following discussions.
Despite this open door policy and a history of speaking with and even interviewing people who hold divergent perspectives [consider just two ‘extreme’ examples – local protestors of LGBT events and members of the Westboro Baptist Church], critics have objected to my speaking with contributors to A Voice For Men. One such objection is that I am involving myself with a ‘hate site’ designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)….although the SPLC never considered A Voice For Men to be a hate site. A representative from the SPLC says,
First, A Voice For Men has not been labeled a ‘hate site.’ This has been admitted by a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center who said, “It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement; nor did our article claim that the grievances they air on their websites – false rape accusations, ruinous divorce settlements and the like – are all without merit.”
As a skeptic, I do not consider representatives of the SPLC — or any organization for that matter — to be the authority-on-high of what is and what is not a ‘hate site.’ Rather, examples of alleged objectionable content ought to be provided and evaluated…and even if there are some objectionable articles and comments on the website — as may be the case with any website and especially is the case really popular websites like You Tube, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, etc. — it ought not be the case that we discount entire websites because of some objectionable content.
Various perspectives are represented on websites who have many contributors and commenters. Within A Voice For Men, I find perspectives/sentiments I enjoy including the importance of finding value on one’s own terms rather than adhering to traditional gender role expectations, the importance of including men and boys in discussions of sexual violence victims, the repulsive nature of male circumcision [designated genital mutilation] forced upon children, and the importance of including concerns of men and boys in conversations of sexism [men, young boys, women, and young girls].
On the other hand, I disagree with some perspectives and sentiments included within A Voice For Men including the treatment of feminism as a monolith [I believe various approaches to feminism exist and is is not accurate to ‘paint with a broad brush’], passionate rhetoric attacking individuals and name-calling, and their motto ‘Fuck Their Shit Up’ which may appear extremely adversarial and close doors to discussion. Additionally, it would be nice to see more concerning issues directly facing men and boys and less attention to opposition to feminism and feminists which may indirectly harm men and boys.
A Voice For Men is much unlike other websites discussing issues of gender and is often not ‘diplomatic’ by any means; they are often out to ‘take names’ and slam ideological opponents. This is not an approach I often employ, but I also understand that, in any movement, whether it be movements to advocate for men and boys or for separation of church and state — there will be ‘firebrands,’ ‘diplomats,’ and many people in-between who do not quite fit a label. Nonetheless, I am happy to speak with MHRAs and feminists alike regardless of agreements and disagreements.
I do not, though, identify as a feminist or an MHRA because the labels are confining and say little about what I actually believe. Instead, I would like to talk about particular issues, one at a time. Considering feminism and Men’s Rights Activism includes divergent perspectives — only some of which I agree with — I refuse to label. I agree and disagree with perspectives within various approaches to feminism and the A Voice For Men website.
To summarize: I am happy to speak with people whether they label as feminists or Men’s Human Rights Activists. I want to encounter new ideas, share my thoughts, and be challenged by various perspectives; this is what being a skeptic and a student of philosophy should be about. I refuse to limit myself and be maligned because I associate, however loosely, with individuals who and websites which may include perspectives people may disagree with whether they be feminist or MHRA websites. I don’t want to label myself as ‘feminist’ or ‘MHRA’ because — although I agree with some ideas from both camps — I find the labels limiting and would rather not be thought of as a caricature or assumed to be in agreement with any given idea on a feminist or MHRA website. Rather than attempting to undermine my beliefs because of whom I may associate with, respond to my ideas on their own merits.
*My open-door policy may mold over time, but at this moment, I am wary of speaking with individuals who pose a legitimate threat to my life and want to harm me rather than discuss ideas. I have — if I recall correctly — banned only one individual from commenting here because of vile accusations against other commenters including unsubstantiated charges of racism, homophobia, and the like. [David Mabus and associated likenesses may be banned because he/they post links and do not contribute anything to discussions.] I really don’t want to ban anyone, but a line ought to be drawn somewhere (and Skeptic Ink Network has a comment policy)!
What are some of my perspectives on issues pertaining to gender and divergent perspectives within feminism? Consider various pieces within the category of ‘gender‘ on this website. Better yet, ask questions below because — as always — comments are open so that readers can interact. Feel free, too, by taking the discussion off this website and using the contact form above.