General principles we believe are a forming, coalescing consensus
A working group formed in December of 2012 through a variety of men’s rights publications, forums, and Youtube channels. Over four dozen people from around the globe participated in making suggestions and giving general input. Despite the large number of people from diverse backgrounds, and the fact that almost none of the participants knew most of the others, its development was shockingly uncontentious, even on some of the more contentious points.
This is not a document anyone is expected to sign or pledge to. It is an effort to identify a general consensus.
This document is not released with the intention being the definitive statement of goals for all men’s advocates, but rather, a set of goals and ideas that we believe represent common sentiments within the movement. People will be free to agree with all of these, most of these, some of these, or only one of these; if they’ll work with us on any of them, then we’ll work with them on that. Furthermore, other groups are welcome to take these goals and adapt and change them for their own purposes.
The gender war is a destructive social construct. Viewing the other sex as an enemy to be fought, or an oppressor to be overthrown, does not benefit men or women. Only a select few will profit from the hostility and distrust this creates. The interests of both men and women are best served by ending the gender war, and to working together to alleviate the iniquities visited upon all human beings, regardless of sex.
Feminism is not necessarily what feminists say it is.
Many prominent individuals who self-identify as feminists espouse ideals of equality and equity, but often act against an ethic of equality under the law. For this reason, many men’s advocates have come to the conclusion that feminist activism is dependent on identifying women as victims and men as perpetrators of oppression. While those not solidly entrenched in the day to day gender struggle tend to think “feminism is about equality,” professionals at universities, in government, and in political action groups often act against legal equality and genuine equity through their decisions and actions–and do so in the name of feminism.
Furthermore, anyone genuinely working under the “feminism is about equality” mentality should be natural allies in the collective fight for men’s rights. But those feminists with actual power frequently endorse and exploit sexist ideas in order to promote their divisive ideology, and to raise money, and dismiss, marginalize, or outright mock men’s issues, occasionally even with violence.
For these reasons, self described feminists should not necessarily be considered de-facto experts on what constitutes gender equity. Men’s voices must be heard, even if women aren’t always comfortable with what they hear.
Traditionalism is a choice, not an obligation
No one can speak for all men’s advocates, but most try to be accurate, objective, and honest about masculinity and femininity. They recognize that men and women are different, but they don’t want to promote discrimination, stereotypes, or prejudices that would limit anyone’s ability to exercise their own ability and talent.
Chivalry, a concept in which men have a social obligation to put their interests below women’s, is common in many countries. Failure to adhere to this code can result in significant social backlash against men. We reject a code that ascribes greater value to one sex or the other. When men’s advocates attempt to describe differences between the sexes, they are not trying to prescribe them. Men’s human rights advocates look to the future, they don’t cling to the past, and they agree that your genitals should not determine your lifestyle or your rights. If you want to be a traditionalist, be one. If you don’t, that’s fine too.
Misandry is real, and pernicious
Most respected dictionaries now recognize that misandry – the hatred or contempt of male humans – is a real word. Some gender ideologues continue to insist that misandry does not and cannot exist, but MRAs, by and large, understand that misandry is real, and is being used to strip men and boys of basic human rights and dignity. Misandric messages invalidate boys and men by telling them that they are guilty by association to all the harmful acts committed by other men, for no other reason than that they are male, but ignoring the corresponding association to positive acts by other men, of discovery, invention, daring, bravery, sacrifice, loyalty, love, and kindness. Misandric messages also tend to ignore negative and harmful actions by women. In general, misandry tells men and boys that part of what defines who they are, their very identity as male, is something dangerous and shameful. These messages are culturally toxic and psychologically harmful to men and boys.
Men deserve the right to dignity, just as much as women. Men deserve the same right as women to not be associated with despicable actions simply because they were committed by members of their sex. Men’s rights advocates agree that misandry is real, and that it should not be tolerated any more than misogyny would be, and have taken on the responsibility for acknowledging, exposing, and opposing misandry. Because if they don’t do it, then who else will?
Strong, independent women are helpful, not helpless.
Most men’s human rights advocates love seeing strong, capable, and independent women as part of society. But they are disappointed to see the rise of idealized, infantilized, sheltered, and fearful women. Men’s human rights advocates understand that power and authority should come with responsibility and accountability.
Rewards come with risks: if you take credit then you should also accept blame. If you criticize, then you should also be able to accept criticism. Making excuses for bad behavior by women, or blaming it on men, is condescending. Women who want equality should speak out against such attitudes and behaviors. The only way people experience personal growth is through life experience and our present society stunts women’s growth by coddling them.
Men’s rights advocates object to feminism’s narrow focus on women’s problems and fears, and to feminism’s track record of treating human issues as divisive gender issues. Men’s advocates object to gynocentrism (focusing only on the female perspective) and female supremacism. We respect skill and maturity, regardless of whether the person is male or female.
General Men’s Rights Movement Goals
When it comes to men’s activism, some have already decided that their role will mostly be passive: become Men Going Their Own Way, by refusing to participate in marriage or even cohabitation with the opposite sex, or otherwise defining their own lives outside the dominant gender discourse, and nothing more. This is fine, as we are all free to make our own choices as to what role(s) we would like to play.
Others feel that “defeating feminism” is the only goal. Our view is that even without feminism, many of the problems we face would remain.
As in any movement there will be people with significant influence and authority even if this authority is informal. Who these people are will change constantly. As a result “We” can just mean “I.” There is nothing preventing you from deciding to care about one of these items, or three of them, or half of them, or all of them. The point is, they are goals not dogma.
Some of the goals for the men’s movement are (in no particular order):
*) We stand for all boys and men. Questions of race, creed, color, nationality or sexual orientation are completely irrelevant to us. This is non-negotiable: we are a movement for the needs, well-being and interests of all men and boys everywhere, seeking no more and no less than legal equality and/or genuine equity under the law.
*) We are a human rights movement, and as such concepts of universal human rights are a part of that movement. Addressing the needs of men and boys is not a zero-sum game. Our focus is on men and boys because we believe men and boys are in particular need of help at this time.
*) We have no interest in legally denying anyone the right to control their reproduction, however we seek equitable reproductive rights for all persons regardless of sex. As a movement we believe no one should be forced into parenthood by the state or another individual, and that sexual intercourse is not a consent to parenthood. As such, mothers seeking arbitration from the courts in order to collect child support from a man she names the father should be required to submit a written instrument of consent signed by him, in which he explicitly accepts responsibility for, as well as defines his rights to, his child/ren. This will allow him to positively establish paternity through a DNA test before signing and allow both mother and father to define the rights and responsibilities of both parties rather than allowing the state to do so. Furthermore, if a mother conceals a pregnancy and subsequent birth from a father and he learns of this afterward without being given the opportunity to negotiate parenthood with the mother then he should have redress to obtain paternal rights and responsibilities.
*) Development and availability of a male fertility control device, drug or method that is safe, affordable, effective and reversible should be a top priority.
*) Paternity testing should be a standard practice when a father is added to a birth certificate or otherwise formally (legally) recognized as the child’s father. Where there is a willfully false claim of paternity, prosecution should occur.
*) If a woman opts to give up a child for adoption, all reasonable efforts must be made to allow the father the option of being that child’s sole parent before the child can be given over to any adoption agency.
*) Women are frequently pedestalized, and men demonized, when it comes to criminal arrest, conviction, and sentencing. This is an injustice against men and infantilizes women. Laws and legal practices and customs which establish lighter or heavier sentences based on sex should be abolished.
*) Foster the emergence of a new cultural narrative where all men and women are encouraged to live their lives as they see fit, without preferential treatment, while also being expected to bear the responsibility for their personal choices.
*) Default physical and legal co-parenting must be the norm where both parents are competent, willing, and do not endanger the child’s physical or mental well being. We wish to promote a narrative of recognizing fair custody arrangements towards fathers as an important issue, both in terms of fair treatment of fathers, and as being in the best interest of all children’s healthy development and quality of life. In divorce or separation of non-married parents, daily contact with both parents, and living arrangements which strive to be as close as practical to 50/50 time with both parents, should be the norm.
*) If there is strong evidence that children shouldn’t be with one or both parents, regular review of the conditions for access and visitation should occur to recognize that circumstances can and do change; the child’s right to both parents must be protected unless one or both has given up the child for adoption (i.e. legal surrender).
*) False and malicious accusations of rape or other violence, when they can be distinguished from mistaken accusations, must be subject to strict penalty under law. Laws against lying under oath or wasting time (of the police or courts) must be enacted where there are no such laws in place, and/or enforced without gender bias where they do exist.
*) The presumption of innocence must be seen as a fundamental right for anyone accused of any crime and restored to anyone accused of domestic violence or any form of assault, sexual or otherwise. So-called “rape shield” laws must either be extended to cover the accused as well as the accuser, or abolished entirely.
*) Debtor’s prison has been abolished in most civilized nations except in one crucial area: men who are unable to pay support payments due to disability or other impoverishment. This practice must be abolished, and debts owed due to support must be treated like any other debt to be paid, and subject to reasonable negotiation and renegotiation when circumstances do not make payment of support practical. Throwing men in jail for being unable to pay not only violates their fundamental human rights, it often robs children of their fathers and leaves those fathers unable to work to pay the debts they owe. This is an abomination and must be ended.
*) We seek to promote social recognition that men can be victims and women can be sex offenders, and that statements which belittle or marginalize the experiences of male victims of sexual assault, including male victims of female sex predators, are likely based on a worldview that pedastalizes women and demonizes men. Such attitudes are hateful and toxic, and must be opposed.
*) Standards for what constitutes illegal violence – domestic, sexual, or otherwise – should not discriminate on account of sex or such things as size or weight. Violence is violence. Assault is assault. Sexual assault is sexual assault. The law must be neutral regarding sexual characteristics or physical traits. Zero tolerance policies which fail to differentiate between a heated argument and a crime must be abolished. Mandatory arrest policies must either be abolished or must treat both parties as potential co-criminals and both parties should be arrested. So-called “primary aggressor” policies which presuppose the existence of one “victim” and one “abuser” have been repeatedly shown to be wrong in most cases, and should be abolished as standing policy.
*) Mandatory restraining orders which isolate and intimidate couples who wish to communicate and cooperate with each other must be recognized as damaging, and the law must be made to recognize that such orders may damage career and reputations and as such should be expungeable if found to be fraudulently or frivolously obtained, or no longer needed.
*) Abuse of restraining orders by anyone seeking to use them as a weapon to deny access to children or gain an upper hand in divorce or custody disputes should not only be recognized, but subject to penalty under law.
*) Policies which allow alleged victims to be punished for refusing to cooperate with prosecution must be abolished.
*) Financial incentives for prosecution of any crime by the state must be abolished.
*) In divorce or separation of non-married parents, efforts should to be made to promote mediation and solutions that do not involve the court or other state agencies wherever possible.
*) Recognizing that marriage cannot be abolished by the state, because cohabiting persons will still have disputes over children and finances if they separate, “marriage” should be viewed as an enforceable contract. Couples wishing to marry should be allowed to negotiate what their marriage contracts involve to include issues such as child custody, any theoretical support, education, support payments in case of severance, and so on. Marriages are agreements between people, and contracts should spell out specifically what is and is not agreed to. In the absence of a formal contract, presumption of shared parenting must be enforced as noted above.
*) Any government funding towards health research and services, should such funding exist, should be allocated in a way that gives equal and fair consideration to the health needs of men, women, and children, recognising that while maternal health influences the health of both boys and girls in the future generations, so too the health needs of boys and men should be recognized as equally important to all of society. We may argue later whether or how much government should spend on public health measures; in the meantime, men and boys must be given equal consideration under the law when there is such funding.
*) Government-funded educational programs (such as scholarships), if they exist, should either do away with preferential treatment by sex, or, be expanded to include programs to encourage males to enter fields where they are under-represented and or continue their education as they see fit. One way or the other, the double standards in education must end.
*) Abolish medically unnecessary genital mutilation or surgery on infants and minors. If a person wishes to have their genitals altered, they may make this decision when they come of age.
*) There are documented and growing gender disparities in education with boys in particular lagging behind girls in multiple areas across much of the developed world. This must be addressed directly by looking at areas where boys as a group may have different educational needs from girls, and where teachers may be discriminating against boys consciously or unconsciously.
*) Conscription or registration for conscription (“selective service”) must either be abolished or be an equal requirement for both sexes. One or the other.
We are under no illusion that all of these items will be automatically accepted overnight by everyone in the world, nor even that every men’s advocate will necessarily agree with every word here. Nevertheless we believe it represents a roadmap to a better future, and hope others will join, in whole or in part, in helping make these things happen.
This document last revised 3/11/2013. It is now considered “final,” although others remain free to copy and use it to their own purposes. However, modified copies must be clearly marked as modified from this original. Further discussion and debate is not only allowed, it is encouraged!
The initiator and primary editor of this document was Dean Esmay, who is solely responsible for any errors, omissions, or oversights. Others who wish to be identified as having given suggestions, input, or other collaboration should contact the author and let him know if they want to be publicly acknowledged.
3/13/2013: minor typo fixed, “deciding care” changed to “deciding to care.”
A Google Doc version of this file is available to the general public here. Further input and discussion is encouraged.