1. Men have the right to live
What do I mean by “men have the right to live?” Well, it is very simple, actually. In many places around the world, men have the right to live when they are born, due to the fact that their sex is male. If a female is born, due entirely to the fact that she is a girl, she might not be able to keep her life.
This happens frequently in cultures, especially in India and China, where there is a strong preference for boys at birth due to social, cultural, economic, and political reasons. The systemic murder of females can happen in a number of ways, such as forced abortion upon finding out the foetus is female, infanticide, or abandonment of a female infant. Especially in China, where there is a one child policy due to overpopulation, it is more likely that a woman will be forced to have an abortion if the child is female. In India, it is now illegal to find out the sex of a child due to these issues, however families often bribe doctors, and women are forced by their husbands or in-laws to have an abortion if it is discovered that the foetus is female. It is estimated that in China alone, over 160 million girls have been killed due to sex selective abortions.
Women awaiting forced abortions in China
And it is no way unique to China and India. Reports of femicide (the intentional and systemic killing of females) range all over South East Asia, the Middle East, and Central and South America. Not only is this problematic for ethical reasons, but the aftermath of it has become a cultural problem for a variety of reasons as well. As early as 2005, China estimated that there are 100 women for every 120 men. This has caused widespread kidnapping of girls across China so that families will have a girl for their son to marry. It has also caused widespread kidnapping of girls to be sold into sexual slavery.
2. Men don’t have to fight for their right to bodily integrity
Bodily integrity: you have personal autonomy over what happens to your own body. Any violation of that is an infringement of your bodily integrity. Women face more cases of fighting for their bodily integrity due to sexual assault and unwanted pregnancy. In many countries around the world, abortion is prohibited, and women continually have to fight for their right to have an abortion if they have been raped, or if their own lives are in danger due to being pregnant. As of 2013, that’s right, 2013, Ireland finally changed the law under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, that abortion should be legal if the life of the mother is in danger for medical reasons, including suicide. This happened only after the high profile case in 2012 of Savita Halappanavar, who was denied under the law to have an abortion, and died due to an infection after she became pregnant.
Even with the protective laws in place, abortions are still incredibly difficult to obtain in Ireland. The woman in question practically has to jump through hoops to determine if her medical state is bad enough that she should be allowed to have an abortion. If the woman in question claims to be suicidal, usually from the pregnancy being a result of rape, she must be interviewed by a slew of doctors that will determine if she really is suicidal, and only then, can she be granted permission.
Additionally, many women seek abortions elsewhere. In America for example, many women must travel extremely far, sometimes out of state, to get an abortion. Abortion clinics often jump through hoops regularly themselves, sometimes getting shut down completely. In Mississippi, for example there is only one abortion clinic left standing. But if you do not have the money to travel out of state, as some law makers have suggested, or take the time off work, it is impossible for many women to do this.
3. Men have the right to not be subjected to sexism in high profile jobs
We’ve all seen it: a high profile woman is criticised not on her politics but on her appearance. It happened to Hilary Clinton, it happened to Julia Gillard, and it happens to women all over the world that are in the public eye. Men do not face the same type of criticism from the public and the media if they are in politics. When the media asks what type of leader a man will be, in the same role, they will ask if a woman can lead. When Hillary Clinton was on the campaign trail, she was criticised by the media more often for what she was wearing and her lack of makeup than for her politics.
4. Men have the right to drink without judgement being passed on them
First of all, yes these posters are real, and yes they are still being circulated around the internet. The problem in our society in regards to sexual assault is that people attempt to mitigate awful things that happen to people, yes, people, when they are at their most vulnerable. If someone is raped when they are too drunk to say yes or no, the blame is often shifted on the victim. They should not have been drinking in the first place. They would have not been assaulted if they were dressed a certain way. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They should have been carrying protection. They. They. They.
So it is no surprise when, largely women, get drunk and get raped, and the aftermath is a whole mess of people saying that she was raped because she could have been somewhere else, or done something differently. Or even, to my horror, she probably was not that drunk and she just regretted it the next day. Something that is impossible to prove or disprove. That is why rape in particular is so difficult to investigate. All a rape kit provides is that something happened. Unless the victim is completely battered, there is no indication if it was forceful or not. But we live in a society in which it is not he said she said, but rather, he said she’s lying. While we’re on the subject…
5. Men have the right to report sexual assault without it’s validity being called into question
Men get raped. Women get raped. However, due to the stigmatisation attached to being “the victim” of sexual assault, men are less likely to report rape because they feel it will not be taken seriously if the accused is female, or that their masculinity will be called into question if the accused is male or female. That being said, there is one thing that male victims of rape and sexual assault rarely have to deal with: the validity of the sexual assault being called into question.
When the Jian Ghomeshi sex scandal broke in late 2014, Ghomeshi made a calculated move; he announced on a public forum that he had been wrongfully fired from the CBC for his personal life, which included BDSM practices. Before newspapers even got a hold of the whole story (or rather, as much as a story as they had at the time), thousands of Canadians and fans of the CBC radio show Q hopped on the Jian Ghomeshi bandwagon. He had come out before the papers, stating roughly that he was being accused of something, but whatever it was, it was consensual. Within minutes of this statement, people began blaming the accusers. She had to have something to gain by accusing someone of sexual assault. She must be a jilted ex-girlfriend. And this case is not unique to that type of victim blaming. The accuser must, must, must have something to gain. This person could not have possibly committed sexual assault. Therefore, without all of the facts, we shall pass judgement on the alleged victim. It happens all too often.
6. Men have the right to choose any career they want
If you can ignore the fact that the percentage sign is in the wrong place and look at the message, you should be quite upset. Because this meme is absolute bologna. And unfortunately, it is thrown around a lot as if it is factual. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of push coming from the feminist community and otherwise, to get women into these types of positions. If someone has the education and experience, they should be able to apply equally for any job they want, right? Well, it is increasingly difficult for women to find positions in jobs that have been labeled male jobs, such as the ones listed above. Women are considered too weak, or not masculine enough, to hold these jobs.
The problem here is that there is in fact a huge push for it to be acceptable for women to work these jobs without the negative stigma that usually comes with wanting to work in these fields as a woman (sexuality being called into question, for example). Even if there are not women in these fields of work, that does not necessarily make it unequal. It would be unequal if someone wanted to be doing this type of work, had the experience and education to be doing that work, and was denied employment based on race or gender or sexual preference. It would also be unequal if that same person got the job and was not paid the same as someone with the same education and experience, regardless of gender.
7. Men have the right to not get pregnant
Sounds stupid and obvious, but it’s true. Men do not run the risk of getting pregnant when having sex, they run the risk of getting someone else pregnant. The only reason I add this, despite its overwhelming obviousness, is because it has been thrown around a lot by men’s rights activists that claim that men do not have the right to choose when it comes to parenthood (despite having chosen to have sex which could result in pregnancy! Who knew?) They are too often thrown under the bus by a woman that “forgot to take her birth control.” (Never mind that that argument in and of itself is extremely problematic because birth control is not 100% going to stop a baby from being created but hey, whatever fits your narrative.) The fact of the matter is that paternal rights are extremely sticky, and there are no right or wrong answers to the issue. If a woman gets pregnant and does not want the baby, but the father does, what happens? And vice versa, if a woman gets pregnant and does want the baby but the father doesn’t, what happens? There is no clean way to discuss these issues, because someone will always be getting the short end of the stick. But one thing here is clear: men do not have to risk getting pregnant every time they have sex. That is a right that they have.
Why did I frame my article this way? Because I am demonstrating just how easy it is to label things as us versus them, how easy it is to make inflammatory claims, not to mention how lazy it is. Because too often in past months I have seen this mentality: women versus men, feminists versus mens rights activists, etc. Here is the thing: Men’s issues and women’s issues are not mutually exclusive. You can care about issues facing men and boys and care about issues facing women. Conversely, you can care about issues facing women and care about issues facing men and boys. These issues I have discussed are true; women have been and continue to be marginalised around the world. I call myself a feminist because I believe to ignore that fact would be doing a disservice historically to those women who have suffered, and to those that continue to suffer, around the globe. So no, asking for men to support women’s rights and issues is not “begging for help” from men. And asking women to care about men’s issues is not ignoring women’s issues. It is up to people to work together so that we can help resolve these issues, instead of having a fake tug of war about who is right, and who is wrong.