Dean Esmay and Sage Gerard at A Voice for Men, Steven Sveboda at the National Coalition for Men, and I were recently interviewed by James Swift at Uncommon Journalism, which has recently published an article about the perceptions and goals of the Men’s Human Rights Movement. According to their website:
As an alternative media platform, this site seeks to address hard-hitting topics in a comprehensive manner, utilizing not only administrative and executive voices, but also those of “average” Americans, whom are routinely overlooked in other journalism formats.
The goal of this site is to provide readers quality, professional journalism that not only tackles issues impartially, but also allows “common” individuals an opportunity to air their concerns about the social, political and economic issues that shape their lives.
The title Uncommon Journalism reminds me of the name of my old blog The Common Man, from which I derived my old pseudonym TCM – a reference to the focus of the Men’s Movement on men at the bottom of society.
Feel free to read Swift’s article in its entirety. Instead of simply reposting his article (or chunks of it), I will simply provide you the entirety of our email-based interview below.
Full Interview Between Jonathan Taylor and James Swift:
James Swift: Tell us a little about yourself. When did your interest in the men’s rights movement begin, and what prompted you to start your own advocacy organization?
Jonathan Taylor: In 2008 I was a teacher of freshman composition and argumentation and a tutor of remedial/at risk students in the A&M system. I was also taking graduate courses in the pursuit of eventually obtaining a doctorate in English.
During this time I observed several professors who pushed academic literature on students that was more ideological than scholarly, and who often strayed far from the course description to do so. I also noticed that some professors began to express double standards toward men and boys, and the students themselves began to adopt their attitudes with little questioning or resistance.
This piqued my curiosity and provoked me to research more about this phenomenon. I soon found that this was not a localized problem, but one that had become pervasive throughout academia. This led me to the small men’s rights community on YouTube (websites like A Voice for Men barely existed back then). I wanted to start a campus discussion group on men’s issues in 2009, but there were no easily accessible resources available for male students.
These factors, as well as a concern for my younger relatives, prompted me to create A Voice for Male Students.
James Swift: Tell us about your organization. When did it begin, and what sort of services and content does it provide? Is it an international or domestic organization, and does it cater to any particular demographics, in terms of things like age or region?
Jonathan Taylor: I officially launched A Voice for Male Students on August 20 of 2013. Its primary purpose is to raise awareness of the issues men and boys face at all levels of education. There are a variety of other services it performs, however.
For example, AVFMS hosts the largest online database in the world of male-only scholarships. It also contains a regularly-updated list of conferences, symposia, webinars, workshops, and seminars on men’s issues. These lists – as well as the warehouse AVFMS hosts of raw data (including a gallery of graphs developed in-house) on educational issues – are highly useful resources for students, educators, and advocates.
There are also a variety of activism tools and guides for men’s issues groups on campus, links to resources for students who are at risk of suicide, and so forth. My website also hosts a small but growing network of campus men’s issues groups.
AVFMS is primarily a domestic organization centered on the U.S.. I have recently made efforts to expand coverage of regular news and commentary to include events from other countries, however.
AVFMS focuses on male students regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, and so forth, although it will sometimes reach out to male teachers.
I am considering expanding the website in the future to include a state-by-state network of education consultants, father-involvement groups, and other groups that work to improve educational outcomes for boys in their local communities. I am also considering building a network of attorneys who are passionate about defending individual rights on campus in higher education.
James Swift: Simply put, what does the men’s rights movement mean to you, and how do you feel about individuals who claim the movement is prejudicial, or even misogynistic?
Jonathan Taylor: It means an opportunity to expand the conversation on gender and take it the next step forward. Feminism has historically urged society to focus on the overrepresentation of men and the underrepresentation of women at the top of society: the top jobs, political and judicial positions, and so forth.
The Men’s Movement, by contrast, asks us to look at the men who are overrepresented at the bottom of society: the homeless, those who commit suicide, those in prison, those who work dirty, undesirable jobs and make up the majority of workforce deaths, those drafted to die in war, and so forth.
While I don’t think the movement is generally misogynistic, there are extremists in every philosophy. The Men’s Movement is no exception. In my experience and observation the majority of those who accuse the Men’s Movement of being (in general) a misogynistic movement are people who have either not adequately researched it, or who desire to shut it down for disingenuous purposes and make false or embellished accusations against it.
I would rather urge people to put more faith in values than political labels, however. Political labels tend to distract from the values that are being discussed. You don’t have to be a Feminist or a Men’s Rights Activist to believe in equality, and I don’t push the label of MRA on anyone.
James Swift: What sort of barriers and social obstacles exist today for men that do not necessarily exist for women? In short, in what ways are men discriminated against in the legal system, education and workforce?
Jonathan Taylor: I would like to speak about the education system in particular, since that is what I have specialized knowledge in. I will name a few issues here.
In particular, the educational underachievement of boys is often rationalized as less important than any educational barriers women and girls face – no matter how far men and boys fall behind – due to the fact that men are overrepresented at the top of society. The fact that men are underrepresented at the bottom of society – among the homeless, the incarcerated, those who work deadly jobs, suicides, and so forth – is not considered a “call to action” to pay more attention to boys’ education.
In essence, we have begun to care so much about bringing men who are the majority at the top of society down that we have neglected to bring men who are the majority at the bottom of society up. This is very important in the conversation on education, since education is often described as “the great equalizer.”
Unlike girls who are statutorily raped by male teachers, the statutory rape of boys by female teachers is often dismissed on the grounds that “boys wanted it” and re-framed as a “relationship.” Meanwhile, many male teachers are afraid to even consider a teaching job in lower education on the grounds that they may be unfairly maligned as child predators, regardless as to whatever they have done or not done.
Boys’ learning styles are often undervalued in our education system. While boys are not unique among those who are kinesthetic and abstract learners, or those who work best via competition, they are disproportionately among those who respond well to such learning styles. Our education system, by contrast, prizes collaboration over competition and sitting still over movement. It also tends to prize an emphasis on social learning over raw facts.
Boys also tend to socialize through competitiveness, and tend to have a greater necessity to blow off steam through physical activity. The phasing out of “unstructured play” through the abandonment of recess harms boys in particular, who suffer both socially and academically. Boys are essentially deprived of a psychosocial development system that distinctively meets their needs.
There is also significant research which confirms that boys tend to suffer particularly badly from the loss of social bonds and attachments, particularly parent-child bonds. In short, girls tend to talk out their emotions whereas boys tend to “act out” their emotions. The constant phasing out of fathers from the family via a family court system that often awards parental time exclusively to women is a strong culprit in this.
These are a few of many issues.
James Swift: To those who claim that men have a natural privilege over women, how do you respond?
Jonathan Taylor: I certainly think that men are privileged over women in some areas, just as I also certainly think women are privileged over men in others. It doesn’t bother me at all to acknowledge this. I don’t see the notion of gender privilege as something that is totally or overwhelmingly one-sided, which is how it has been traditionally presented.
For example, I do think that society tends to respect men more than women. At the same time I also think they have less compassion toward men’s vulnerabilities and general well-being, both emotional and physical. This is why we may see women in leadership positions taken less seriously, even as we see that men are the ones who primarily die on construction sites, live on the streets, commit suicide, and so forth.
James Swift: In your opinion, what is modern day misandry, and how does it reinforce itself in culture? Who are the leading misandrist organizations or individuals, and how exactly are they negatively impacting the lives of men?
Jonathan Taylor: Although misandry is most commonly defined as hatred or contempt for men and boys as a group, I think it runs parallel to a fundamental lack of compassion for them. Misandry – just like any form of hatred – is particularly harmful in that it dehumanizes a particular group. That dehumanization then forms the rationalization for the erosion of their civil rights, and also for the dismissal of their right to speech should they wish to object to the erosion of those civil rights.
I see misandry as largely the product of two cultural factors: traditional gender roles and Feminism. Traditional gender roles sees men as disposable by singling them out to die in the workplace (i.e. deadly jobs), in war, and so forth. Feminism, by contrast, ignores how pervasively male disposability is a function of traditional gender roles, paints them erroneously as a “patriarchy” that overwhelmingly favors men, and subsequently uses that as a rationalization to see men’s concerns as secondary or trivial – rather than equal – to those of women.
I wrote an article introducing the concept of misandry in education. Feel free to read it here.
James Swift: Why do you believe that there is a political and social need for men’s rights advocacy organizations, and what are some of the major policy changes you are advocating for?
Jonathan Taylor: Numerous people have asked why we need either a Men’s Movement or Feminism. “Why not an egalitarian movement?” they ask. I tend to agree, although there is a practical issue that must be resolved first.
Given the near-complete dominance Feminism has over the conversation on gender issues, any group that bases itself on true egalitarian values is inevitably infiltrated and subverted by Feminism before or as it reaches critical mass. This is one strong reason why a Men’s Movement is needed: to provide a counterbalance, until both voices have been adequately heard and we can then start to work on a progressive movement that incorporates the experiences of both men and women who work toward equality.
James Swift: And lastly, what misconceptions do you believe some may hold about the men’s rights movement, and what would you like to say to perhaps clear them up?
Jonathan Taylor: That we are hypermasculine right-wingers. Although I generally shy away from left/right dichotomies, I am actually rather liberal in political orientation since I am supportive of liberal ideas like gay rights, abortion, equality, separation of church and state, and so forth.
And although in my teenage years I used to do stereotypically “manly” things like work in construction and practice martial arts, in my late twenties I also enjoy playing the flute, watching musicals, writing and reading poetry, and so forth – things that our culture typically labels “feminine.” I’m not alone in this, either.