Men and gender politics – that clicks!

Discussion evening of „Väter ohne Rechte“ (fathers without rights) in Vienna

Men and gender politics – that clicks!

The Munich-based gender researcher John Meiners puts research results up for discussion.

The relations betwen the sexes have changed a lot in Western societies, over the past decades. Unchanged, however, is the lack of empathy for and respect of men.

Is  an independent men’s rights movement therefore needed?
If so, how can it be designed?

This is discussed at length by over thirty dedicated participants on April 27th, 2016. The location of the stimulating, as well as passionately developing debate is the traditional Cafè Griensteidl on Michaelerplatz in Vienna. It is organized by „Väter ohne Rechte“ (fathers without rights) in cooperation with the „Männerpartei Österreich“ (Men’s Party Austria).

The basis for the multi-faceted event was a sociological study on gender justice. The Club of Vienna, the city’s think tank, published it in 2015 under the title: “The participation of women and men in the gender discourse and in the reshaping of gender roles. Emergence and influence of Feminism and Masculism “.

Starting from 2012, the development of the study was managed by Christine Bauer-Jelinek, who works as a business coach and psychotherapist and is a non-fiction writer known throughout the German-speaking area. An instrumental contributor was “MANNdat”- member John Meiners, now presenting in the Griensteidl.

In his one-hour speech, he underlines the changing meaning of central concepts around gender issues: Equal rights and opportunities have turned into arithmetical equality within a very short time, and the absoluteness of equality of results has become the only legitimate goal.

The arguments from feminist circles – not only in this context – are arbitrary. Feminism has become a central reason of state, says Meiners. From this position, its representatives have ensured that true – meaning controversial – debates on gender relations have become permanently impossible. Instead, opinions dissenting from feminist ideology were systematically kept away both from the public debate as well as from state subsidies.

Feminism critics are de facto dissidents given this one-sidedness and the pressure resulting from the power differential. As is common in totalitarian regimes, they would often be defamed as “deviants” and threatened with character assassination. Against the personal disadvantages to be feared, there are little chances to protect oneself or to fight without giving up one’s own stance. Moreover, a usurpation of the gender-political vision “gender mainstreaming”, was conducted by interested parties from the radical feminist milieu. This evolved – remarkably – after considerable skepticism and great fear of a government-sponsored study of men, following the new concept.

Paradoxically, feminists cooperated with employers and companies, the capital and its interests. At this point, Meiners refers once more to Bauer-Jelinek’s perspective: The wife of the director will be more connected to her husband than to her cleaning woman. This applies to the entire reality of life, the philosophy, values and behaviors.

The focus of the evening however is the – also conceptually – new Masculism: its themes, objectives and representatives and more. Here, the speaker John Meiners also elaborates the history of various men movements for almost a whole century, as well as diverging currents along ideological differences. This is done extremely well-founded and evidence-saturated. In addition, by way of numerous illustrative examples from daily politics, and making note of many researchers, bloggers and other activists within the German men’s rights movement.

Feminism criticism turns against the rampant hate of men in many areas of public space, often minting people’s consciousness. In addition, the commitment goes against the above-outlined and problematized, powerful-for-decades equality policies. This is a challenge concerning all of society.

Many men’s rights activists, says Meiners, have enormous respect for the achievements of the 1st and 2nd wave of the feminist movement. In its course, activists demanded for instance the  right to vote (which had only recently been introduced for most men, as well) and advocated changes in divorce and abortion rights. This took place in collaboration with numerous men, supportive or even initiating developments. Historically very rare, the changes were achieved without bloody, long struggles – quite contrary to the popular thesis of misogynist patriarchy earlier times.

Men’s rights activists are standing up for men, not against women, says Meiners who maintains numerous contacts in the movement. Emancipatory values are at the heart of the creative orientation of many respectable, unblemished personalities that he already got to know personally:
Freedom, equality, fraternity and participation.

Men should be freed of role expectations, society ought to grant them more leeway for their lifestyles. Other topics are numerous issues concerning family, separations, education, the labor market in a very general sense, health, closely related to the life expectancy, pension issues and criminal law.

An awareness must be created everywhere, that it is illegitimate and a grave injustice, to systematically disadvantage boys and men because of their gender. Again, Meiners explained the problems using many catchy examples: Children have a right to their father, regardless of the relationship of their parents to each other. Boys should be supported at school in areas where they have weaknesses just as girls are supported with theirs – mind, the differences are average values which significantly vary individually. Among many other disadvantages, for example, the “pension gap” needs to be tackled. Women live five years longer, men retire five years later. Real gender studies are needed at long last. The method can be both natural scientific and humanistic and they must be carried out open-ended, rather than in an ideological-normative way, as is the case now.

Politics, media and society must finally deal (also) with men and their life situations respectfully, empathetically and with a willingness to support: What role could the (German-speaking) men’s rights movement – in future discourse of public space – take?

Translation: Serena Nebo