“I’m not going to apologise for supporting men … I won’t be shamed into backing down.” With these brave words, Melbourne University journalism graduate Sydney Watson is rallying all the bleeding hearts who cry at night over the plight of that oppressed and abandoned social group – men.
At the end of August, Watson will host a “March for Men” through the Melbourne CBD to “remind the men in our lives and men in Australia that their issues matter too and it is okay to be masculine”.
She insists that it’s not about hating women – because you know, she is a woman! – and that the march is strictly “non-partisan”.
The latter point would be easier to believe if Watson were not a Trump-supporting alt-right YouTuber who regularly rails against the left’s ills – such as feminism and multiculturalism – promotes ideas such as “white genocide” and champions far right pin-ups such as UK fascist Tommy Robinson.
She also regularly collaborates with Avi Yemeni, a fixture of the Melbourne fascist scene who, at a recent rally, described himself as the “proudest Jewish Nazi in the world”.
Anti-feminism and misogyny have long been the stock in trade of the far right, but in recent years it’s the language of the men’s rights activist (MRA) movement that has served as both a gateway drug into the far right and a cover (albeit a thin one) for their more egregious misogyny, dressing their hate as merely concern for men.
For example, the Proud Boys, a men-only men’s rights organisation in the US, recently teamed up with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups to hold a “Patriot Prayer” march through the streets of Portland, Oregon.
Watson’s “March for Men” Facebook write-up is light on details about the areas of life in which men are supposed to be systematically held back and discriminated against – besides men being denied the right to be “masculine” any more.
But the MRA movement raises things such as men being over-represented in mental health statistics. This can lead some people to say that there might be significant issues raised by people like Sydney Watson, even if there are problems with the “March for Men”.
This is wrongheaded. Men are not oppressed as men. African men are oppressed because of racism. Many young men in the Sudanese community in Melbourne experience severe victimisation at the hands of the state.
Working class men are oppressed because of class exploitation, the almost total lack of control over their labour at work and the alienation associated with that.
But none of the injuries that men suffer in capitalist society result from gender-based oppression. They’re connected to the broader injustices and oppressions built into the system.
They most definitely do not result from women’s rights “going too far”. Rights are not a zero sum game: men don’t lose rights when women gain them.
“Men’s rights” is a code for a type of misogyny that characterises the far right today – the kind of misogyny that drove someone to deface a memorial to a 22-year-old rape and murder victim a few months ago.
Along with racism towards migrants and refugees, anti-Semitism and hatred of the left, “men’s rights” is part of the grab bag of far right talking points.
Marches like this “March for Men” are vehicles for the far right to organise.
The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism and the National Union of Students have called a counter-rally to protest the “March for Men” on 25 August.