For almost as long as women’s liberation has existed, the men’s rights countermovement has been one step behind, arguing that rape allegations, bottle service, and family courts, among other things, are actually sexist against men. There is some truth to a few these claims, according men’s rights scholar and feminist sociologist Michael Kimmel, but it is largely undermined by the movement’s tenor of “aggrieved entitlement.” In recent years, for example, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified some of its fringe sites as hate groups for their violent harassment of feminist bloggers, and “MRA” has become the derogatory shorthand for an oblivious, dateless, and bitter type who hangs out on Reddit.
But could that be changing? Chalk it up to the end of men, the war on women, or the exquisite trolling of James Taranto: Men’s rights appear to be having a small moment. Last month, an article in The New Republic argued that the magazine’s feminist and progressive audience ought to take the issue of false rape accusations more seriously, in order to avoid losing the debate to MRAs (whose contributions to the discourse include these charming posters). Emily Matchar wrote:
“The Men’s Right’s Movement’s tirades and hijinks certainly don’t meaningfully add to the debate surrounding the way we handle sexual assault. But to totally ignore the issues that they raise does not further a productive conversation. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to talk about these issues in progressive or feminist circles, where discussions of sexual assault prevention can quickly degenerate into angry hyperbole and name-calling.”
In even stranger MRA-legitimizing news, Saturday Night Live devoted a whole sketch to the movement on Saturday’s episode, which was hosted by Lena Dunham. Dunham played a Lean In–type hosting a jewelry party, to which a female colleague (Cecily Strong putting on a Sofia Vergara accent) brings her vest-wearing, closet-MRA boyfriend.
At first it seemed like a happy development — men’s rights are becoming mainstream as a joke — except the butt of the joke wasn’t quite the MRA guy. It was the stereotypical fiery Latina who misunderstood his politics due to a language barrier.
Regardless, the men’s rights activists of Reddit seemed not to appreciate their moment of pop-culture prominence.