What was meant to be a column about how much I love men -- from my late father and uncles to my brother and brothers-in-law to ''my guys'' at the Star (who know who they are) to my neighbours who shovel my snow and change my BBQ propane tank to my lovers past and present and, yes, even to my ex-husbands -- took a turn just as I sat down to write it yesterday.
That's because, over the past couple of weeks, and in particular, ever since this post, Broadsides has been getting a lot of incoming from men's rights groups. I have to say that, ever since my first column on this beat, back in June 2007, which touched on femicide, I have been the target for a lot of hate mail from obviously disturbed men who are upset over losing custody, charges or abuse and other beefs with their former partners.
Now understand that I have also heard from many other men who appear to have legitimate cases against exes who have alienated their children against them, who have taken off with the kids, who have cut off access and/or who, well, you know how it sometimes goes. In fact, I have one girlfriend who is guilty of this kind of thing. She has gone out of her way to paint her ex-husband as a monster to their sons who now refuse to see him. He's heartbroken about it, and doesn't deserve it.
Today I received an email from one distraught grandmother. Read it and weep:
I feel for men like this. I know they're out there, and that there are many of them. Too many. I hear about false abuse charges and other horrors all the time. What's more, there are virtually no resources for men who are on the wrong end of a rolling pin, to use an old cliche. And, while it's true that far more women are battered and killed by their husbands than the other way around, we can't ignore the reality that the reverse does happen.
But these are not the men I was writing about when I launched into today's treeware piece on groups which plaster their websites with swastikas or are downright anti-Semitic while attacking all the advances women fought for over the past 40-50 years. Instead of directing their considerable energy to changing a system -- created and run by men -- they lash out at their perceived enemy, feminists.
Here's the column, in full, with some links added.
Did you know that the "feminist-dominated media" have created a "global gynarchia" in which "vaginocrats" rule the world?
Not until I started writing this column and hitting on topics such as domestic violence and reproductive choices.
Until then, I always believed that, almost without exception, men run religions, command the armies, make the laws, preside over the courts, run the corporations and control the media.
But to hear so-called men's rights groups wah-wah-wah about how "feminazis" and "feminihilists" are responsible for everything from the breakdown of the family to violent crime to child abuse to Islamofascism makes me wonder whether I've been remiss in my observation that men are still in the driver's seat.
Lately, I have become the target of some of these "masculinists" who accuse me of promoting unequal rights for women, misandry and much worse. Because my blog Broadsides has software that allows me to track incoming hits, I can see that I have an increasing number of visitors from such forums as AmericanWomenSuck.com and StandYourGround.com.
Sites such as these – and believe me, they are legion – are dedicated to "feminist horror stories" around the "divorce industry" which deprives fathers of their children and paycheques. Their other issues include the lack of resources for men who are battered by their wives, false accusations of partner abuse and rape, and last, but far from least, how men have no choice regarding what a woman they've impregnated does. They can't stop her from ending the pregnancy nor can they walk away from 18 years of support payments if she chooses to go to term.
Now understand that all of these are legitimate concerns, with which I fully sympathize.
While it's true, for example, that, according to the most recent Statistics Canada reports, a minority of divorce decisions give sole custody to the mother, thanks to a huge leap in joint custody awards, that doesn't mean that fathers get "shared custody," which means the kids live equally with both parents. In most cases, mothers still control access.
But many men's rights groups take that concern to frightening lengths, blaming no-fault divorce laws for allowing women dump their husbands while thrusting their hands firmly in the men's pockets, if you get my double meaning.
All of which ignores that most single mother-headed families live in poverty. As StatsCan reported in 2007, "Financial difficulties often follow marital dissolution, particularly for women. In fact, 43 per cent of women who went through a break-up had a substantial drop in their household income, compared with 15 per cent of men."
These groups also beef that a majority of divorces are initiated by women, and demand that marriage become an "enforceable contract" – whatever that means.
Interesting, considering how a 2002 study out of the University of Western Ontario and Queen's University demonstrated that "abuse is the primary factor in the decision to divorce" What's more, according to the 1993 Canadian Violence Against Women Survey, 50 per cent of divorced women have been victims of abuse.
Indeed, in 1996, the American Psychological Association reported that men who beat their wives are twice as likely to go for sole custody and to harass and intimidate their exes by using the legal system.
So it's easy to conclude that, in many cases, the most vehement of these men's rights types are angry over losing control over their women.
Which might explain why, as much research shows, post-divorce men suffer disproportionately from mental health issues such as depression.
That they need counselling and similar services is evident. That's what they should be lobbying for.
But, judging from my email, instead, they turn to anger and abuse.
Even in a man's world.
In 2003, a very controversial report on these groups was funded by Status of Women Canada. Titled ''School Success by Gender: A Catalyst for Masculinist Discourse,'' it was meant to analyze media discourse on how girls were advancing through school and, in many cases, doing better than boys. In the end, it concluded that a lot of these ''masculinist'' groups were tantamount to hate sites and that the government should monitor them. (Unfortunately, the report is no longer online and I have not read it.) Needless to say, conservative types lashed out. One men's rights advocate even sued, unsuccessfully.
While the idea of monitoring Internet sites for content strikes me as both a dangerous and counter-democratic idea, I have to agree that some of the content you'll find on them is sickening.
But reading through it all, I am reassured of one thing. The feminist fight is far from over -- and that I still have a job to do.
I can hardly wait for your comments.
UPPITY DATE: Somebody has pointed me to a pdf version of that controversial 2003 study. It's here.