Men’s rights activists miss the point

by Madison Hopkins

At my freshmen orientation, one memory stands out particularly clearly among the blur of a campus tour, class registration and endlessly awkward get-to-know-each-other activities. What I clearly remember is sitting down in a lecture hall to hear a presentation about the dangers of sexual assault on campus. The presenter shared the horrifying statistic that approximately one in four college women experience rape or an attempted rape. The guy sitting next to me took this moment to lean over and whisper his first words to me:

“Wow, I guess it sucks to be you!”

I sat there, relatively shocked that he made contact with me at all, but unsurprised by the statement itself. Yes, I thought, it does suck to be me.

This is at least true from a sexual assault standpoint, as it is for all women. While some men do experience rape and sexual assault, and that fact should in no way be invalidated, women are far more likely to be victims of sex crimes. Therefore, presentations such as these are crucial for incoming college students so they can be educated on the dangers of sexual assault.

However, according to some men, they may also have their downsides. Miles Groth, a self-described educator and men’s rights activist, recently stated his concerns regarding the declining rate of male enrollment in college. He particularly attributed this phenomenon to the “overkill” of date rape seminars at new student orientations.

“Some of the content of these seminars, which are now very common in colleges and universities, set these boys coming in, set them up as being potentially dangerous, and potentially harmful, particularly to women on campus.” Groth told Metro News Canada. He went on to blame reduced enrollment numbers on college courses that better reflect women’s lives and said men “don’t feel that welcome on campus.”

That’s quite a bit of absurdity to process in one paragraph. I’ll admit that prior to reading about this, I was unaware that a men’s rights movement existed. As a women’s studies minor, I find such a movement to be odd. I’ve never heard of a men’s studies class, but I figured that was just because most schools just call it “history.” I understand that men suffer from gender-specific grievances just as women do, but the need for an organized movement with the sole purpose of advancing the state of men continues to baffle me. This is especially true when this movement appears to be centered on blaming the work of women’s rights activists for declining confidence among college-aged men everywhere.

I get that it’s probably hard to see the truth when it doesn’t look good. “I’m not a rapist, so stop telling me that everyone with my gender is,” right? I imagine this is how the internal dialogue of men who are upset about a rape prevention course might sound.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the way things work. Someone is raping all of these women, and most of the rapists are men. Yes, it may be difficult to hear, but it’s much harder to experience it in real life. Education on the prevalence and dangers of sexual assault is meant to prevent students—male or female—from perpetrating this violence or being victimized by it. Yes, men may be presented as “potentially dangerous,” but that’s because they are statistically more likely to actually be dangerous. We all have the potential to be dangerous without proper education.

According to a 2012 study by Boston College, 41 percent of students believe that if a woman is raped while intoxicated, she is to blame. The study polled both male and female college students. Clearly, the need to increase students’ knowledge on what type of sexual behavior is consensual and acceptable is still in high demand. Spreading awareness of sexual violence is a huge aspect of the women’s right’s movement. The more someone knows, the more likely he or she is to step in and stop something from happening in a situation. To deny the necessity for such a program is to claim irrelevance of the topic.

I sincerely hope Groth is just an anomalous idiot. I want to believe the men’s rights movement has purer motives than just ignoring conversations that make men “feel unwelcome.”

I don’t deny the necessity to discuss gender issues related to men. For every example of gender biases constraining women, there is an equal and opposite one for men. Some result in negative discrimination, others don’t. But they all deserve to be talked about in the discourse of gender equality. Competing movements create the misconception that feminism only stands for the advancement of women, ignoring its true goal of the equality of genders. Both movements ostensibly want the same thing and acting any differently has a detrimental effect toward any kind of progress.