The litany of abuses hurled at feminist blogs by Men’s Rights Activists are probably familiar to anyone who spends any amount of time in the blogosphere. And for the most part, the accusations are bullshit. The claims that most rape accusations are false, that women are more abusive than men, or that feminism is somehow out to curtail men’s rights out of misandrist motivations drown out actually relevant points about men’s custody rights and lack of shelters or support for male victims of abuse. Ozymandias has a really great post on those points and the overall relevance of men’s rights to the feminist movement here, and it led me to this question: where are the safe spaces for men? So many feminist blogs identify themselves as “safe spaces,” though my blog is not one of them, but where are similar spaces for male-identified people?
I’ve heard the argument that the entire world is a “safe space” for men, but I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. That argument ignores men who are survivors, men who are seriously questioning the version of masculinity laid out for them by a patriarchal system, men who are transitioning, or find themselves elsewhere on the non-binary spectrum. It ignores men who are victims of emotional and physical abuse, and men who feel that their body types don’t quite measure to the ideal standard. There is a need for the sort of space that acknowledges these concerns and provides an environment where questions can be asked, experiences shared and solutions devised.
Men do enjoy privilege due to their gender. Since I come from a Christian fundamentalist background in the Bible Belt, and attended a religious university, I can assure you that I have not been “indoctrinated” with feminism the way so many MRAs have claimed. The existence of male privilege has always been evident to me, as a woman in a religion that denied me leadership due to my sex, living in the American South with a long-held interest in politics and public affairs. These three spheres are male-dominated and that fact is well documented. I really see no need to defend that here. But men can absolutely face oppression in ways that do not necessarily relate to their sex, and the feminist movement cannot truly identify itself as progressive unless it acknowledges that fact. I’m not certain if the answer is more feminism, or an equivalent men’s movement (and not the sort that has manifested itself on the Spearhead), or a broader turn toward egalitarianism.
But I’d like to see safe spaces for men. I’d like to see more feminists call for the establishment of these spaces. And I have criticisms of the concept of “safe spaces;” they’re inherently exclusionary and so have limited use, in my opinion, but their most vital contribution is the provision of a place where it is acceptable to question the conventional roles that are expected of each of us. I’d take the men’s rights movement, as it exists, much more seriously if they showed a serious interest in creating such a space. Trolling a blog isn’t activism, and it doesn’t actually improve your situation a bit.