Detroit and the International Conference on Men’s Rights

9 Jun

All comments of an abusive or hateful nature will not be approved for publication on this blog.  If you wish to engage in some friendly debate, feel free.  Also, you are welcome to email me at franklyrebekah@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.

In this edition of “I Did This So You Don’t Have To,” I am currently sitting on the bus en route from D.C. back to Brooklyn with about 12 open tabs all having to do with the men’s rights movement (MRM).  I have gone down the rabbit hole.

Over the past few days, I have been watching from my home in Brooklyn, and my friend’s home in D.C., as some interesting things happened in Detroit, where my friend Emma lives.  For a little back story, a few weeks ago Paul Elam from A Voice for Men (AVfM), a men’s rights website, helped to organize the first ever International Conference on Men’s Issues which was to take place towards the end of June at the Hilton DoubleTree in Detroit.  A group of concerned feminist-citizens in Detroit, Emma included, created a petition and organized a peaceful protest and march to get the DoubleTree to cancel the conference.  They were successful in gaining recognition for their cause which is no small feat. In response, Paul Elam took to the internet to blame the “radical gender ideologues” who made it their mission to “silence (his) efforts to address issues affecting boys and men.”  He then created his own petition to call on the “city of Detroit to take note. Radical feminists have corrupted the idea of gender equity. They have transformed it into a Marxist agenda of oppressive control, including the silencing of all opposing views.”

Alright.  I agree that AVfM and its readers absolutely have the right to their own opinions and to express those opinions as they see fit, barring, or course, threats of violence and the like.  By extension, those holding opposing views, myself included, absolutely have the right to express our opinions (also barring threats of violence and the like), including, but not limited to, the right to put pressure on a business to disallow an openly misogynistic group from holding a conference in its facilities.  I think it is important to point out that throughout the organization of this protest, which was done on a public Facebook page, Emma and her co-organizers fostered conversations concerning how to offer a safe space — physically and emotionally — for any person participating in the protest who might find the rhetoric consistently used by AVfM triggering or intimidating in some way.  They discussed the possibility of a counter-protest and prepared all attendees accordingly.  What ended up happening was that a few representatives for AVfM showed up at the protest and, reportedly, followed at least one woman to her car and snapped a photograph of her license plate. A few others took photographs and video of the protest in, what it has been assumed, was an effort to identify and subsequently doxx the attendees.

Personally, I think doxxing is weak and totally fucked up and should only be used in very specific circumstances.  Also, it gives me the willies.  But doxxing is an approach that AVfM is no stranger to.  On May 31st, A Voice for Male Students, which is associated with AVfM, published a letter addressed to Emma that included a photograph of her, her personal email address, and information about her occupation in an overt attempt to put pressure on the Detroit Public School system to deem her a threat to the education of young boys and subsequently fire her.  To me, that reeks of intimidation and threat and, if the school system were to take seriously the phone calls and emails received at the urging of this letter it would, in my mind,  be considered the “silencing of all opposing views.”

But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by all this.  Paul Elam, after all, once declared that October should be “Bash a Violent Bitch Month” and said

“I’d like to make it the objective for the remainder of this month, and all the Octobers that follow, for men who are being attacked and physically abused by women – to beat the living shit out of them. I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.”

Because obviously the way to gain attention for the very real issue of domestic violence against men and boys is to urge those victims to act violently as opposed to, I don’t know, working with feminists to help destigmatize the problem and gain more public attention and funding to combat it.  Of course, Elam will say that this was all tongue in cheek.  He will say that he told people that he wasn’t serious.  But,

“Not because it’s wrong. It’s not wrong. Every one should have the right to defend themselves. Hell, women are often excused from killing someone whom they allege has abused them. They can shoot them in their sleep and walk. Happens all the time. It’ll even get you a spot on Oprah, and cuntists across the cunt-o-sphere will be lionizing you.”

It isn’t worth the time behind bars, he alleges.  But, if you do decide to take him up on his advice then

“you are heroes to the cause of equality; true feminists. And you are the honorary Kings of Bash a Violent Bitch Month. You are living proof of just how hollow ‘don’t fuck with us,’ rings from the mouths of bullies and hypocrites.”

So I don’t know, guys.  Paul Elam has the right to his opinions.  But I would argue that we, as feminists, have an obligation to all people to stand up to this sort of hate-fueled rhetoric. So I am really proud to call Emma my friend and really amazed at the effects of the protest and petitions she and her fellow feminist activists put together.  It’s a small step but it’s a step nonetheless.

And let us remember, just as a small aside, that feminism, at its best, isn’t only about the rights of all women, but of all people.  So let’s use this as one more step towards attempting to make the movement as united and inclusive as possible.

14 Responses to “Detroit and the International Conference on Men’s Rights”

  1. Craig Hennigan (@Urbscholar) June 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    I see nothing to indicate that the Doubletree has cancelled the conference. Can you verify that somehow? We in Detroit have not heard anything about that.

    • FranklyRebekah June 9, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

      I saw it on AVfM earlier today and I just back an hour ago and thr post was gone? So I changed the title. Sorry to mislead.

  2. Leonard Kennedy June 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    I agree, the quote contains some harsh language. But I also I belive that the quote is pure hyperbole. To take it seriously, you would have to ignore other parts of the article–including the the line that directly follows the quote (“Now, am i serious about this? No.”), and the disclaimer at the very end of the article: This article is a satirical response to this piece on Jezebel (“Have you Ever Beat Up a Boyfriend? Because, Uh, We Have“) and to common media “jokes” about women physically assaulting men and boys. –Eds.

    • FranklyRebekah June 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

      I do agree that the intention was hyperbolic. And I did mention the fact that Elam would consider his comments tongue-in-cheek. The way I see it, this is not an issue to be taken lightly, not by Paul Elam and not by the writers at Jezebel or other media outlets. The only thing it achieves, in my opinion, is to make the issue itself seem less important, less real. The real problem as I see it, and the reason I used those quotes, is that when taken with all the other things Elam has said about women, about rape, about DV, about “manginas” it paints a pretty serious picture. He and others in his movement have some legitimate concerns, but it is hard to take them at their word when their words are oftentimes violent and hate-filled.

  3. thebibosez June 10, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    One of the signs at the “peaceful” protest read “Smash the Patriarchy” and “Fuck Capitalism”. One is a threat of physical violence against men and the other is a rape threat against business owners. These make any problematic rhetoric from Elam pale by comparison, and included no disclaimers at all.

    • FranklyRebekah June 10, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

      Thanks for your input.

    • Tefo June 11, 2014 at 6:12 am #

      And precisely why Doubletree has added feminists to the groups they can’t stand, a list that already includes unions and socialists.

      • FranklyRebekah June 11, 2014 at 11:43 am #

        I didn’t know that such a list existed!

  4. creatingcarrie June 13, 2014 at 12:05 am #

    Paul Elam is either being completely disingenuous or is ignorant to epic levels about domestic violence and self-defense. First, no, victims and survivors do not get off all the time. Second, the self-defense laws are written in a way that privileges male violence in defense of self and not any other gender’s violence. This is patriarchy.

    And yes, I will smash it. And no, it is not a threat of violence against men (looking at you, thebibosez) because I know the actual definitions of words (rather than making them up to try to derail a conversation).

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