For the past decade, the Men’s Rights Movement has been gaining traction on the Internet – and growing ever more radical in its attacks on feminists. R. Tod Kelly explores whether a movement where moderates are marginalized can ever break into the mainstream.
This summer, two competing Canadian rape-awareness campaigns began popping up on posters across Edmonton and Vancouver. The first, entitled ‘Don’t Be That Guy,’ warned young men that having sex with a woman too inebriated to give consent is considered lawful rape. One of the posters featured a picture of a girl passed out on a couch, with the tagline, “Just because she isn’t saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean she’s saying ‘yes’.” Police in both cities credit the campaign with a 10 percent reduction in rapes over the previous calendar year.
The second campaign is far more provocative.
Using the same images and graphics as the ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ campaign, ‘Don’t Be That Girl’ claims that many young women who engage in consensual sex later lie about having been raped. “Just because you regret a one-night stand doesn’t mean it wasn’t consensual,” reads one poster. The campaign outraged anti-rape groups and law-enforcement officials alike; University of Alberta’s chair of gender and women’s studies Lise Gotell described ‘Don’t Be That Girl’ as a “deeply offensive… rape apologist campaign.”
‘Don’t Be That Girl’ was the brainchild of Men’s Rights Edmonton, a local advocacy group that is part of the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM), one of the quirkiest, fastest-growing, and most frustrating civil-rights movements in the Western world today. After its initial media success, other MRM groups began promoting ‘Don’t Be That Girl.’ Paul Elam’s A Voice for Men (AV4M), the MRM’s largest and most visible on-line website, adopted the slogan as their meme of the summer, creating their own images and posts that urged women ‘Don’t Be That Lying Feminist,’ ‘Don’t Be That Bigot,’ ‘Don’t Be That Princess’ and ‘Don’t Be That b****.’
Google “Men’s Right’s Movement” and you’ll come across a host of websites, Reddit threads and chat rooms dedicated to the cause. The most ambitious and influential is Elam’s AV4M. Under the tagline “Compassion For Men and Boys,” AV4M’s pages attract more than half a million page hits a month. In contrast to most other MRM websites, AV4M features female editors and a number of quality female writers. According to Elam, an independent film company is about to start work on a documentary about AV4M, and the site was featured on ABC’s 20/20 this weekend. Peers in the MRM movement quote no other site as often as AV4M; no other site is reviled as deeply by feminist bloggers. Loved or despised by seemingly everyone, Elam is the closest thing the movement has to a rock star. More importantly, Elam, who is now in his fifties, appears to have successfully named his successor: his Editor in Chief, John Hembling.
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