A sunny beautiful Detroit Saturday morning in Grand Circus Park became a staging area as we once again discovered brilliant commonality through peaceful protest. Hundreds of supporters converged in demonstration while collectively voicing discontent and recognizing that hate isn’t welcome.
A Voice for Men (VfM) intended to host their first Men’s Rights Conference in Detroit and was passionately denounced as a hate group. One doesn’t have to search far for evidence of VfM’s violent language and misogynic undertone while operating under the guise of equitable intentions. (CN: violence, misogyny)
(Controversial men’s rights conference canceled at DoubleTree in downtown Detroit)
*update: conference has since been moved to a VFW hall in a Detroit suburb
I spoke as a representative of HAVEN along with a number of local organizations and the terrifying reality is that I could’ve easily become an MRA in my early social justice exploration. A VfM brings up legitamate concerns that men face in our country while strategically reinforcing a very harmful ideology and I could have easily been drawn in.
During my early pro/feminist exploration I was able to recognize cultural narratives that dictate an extremely toxic American masculinity. I realized that the journey into manhood would prove to marginalize women but would also construct a deeply profound emptiness. This loss of connection and stoic darkness is where I feel many men and masculine people eventually find no escape. Hyper-masculine expression is sometimes survival (especially for men of color) and power. It is often dark and lonely and men are starving for the type of connection that also panics us. When something threatens our sense of survival and says that our learned methods must be examined and that power must be shared – we instinctively revolt.
But we don’t have to revolt. We need other men to step up and show us that things can be done differently.
This dark emptiness sometimes leads down the path of men’s rights activism and I was once faced with a fork in the road. A life altering decision to either breathe in equity and the breadth of life through feminist social action or choose to steep in hate filled rhetoric and misinformation through the path of men’s rights.
We have to ask ourselves if men’s deeply sensed pain is caused by feminism or by a cultural narrative that calls on men to behave ways that stifle human growth. It’s easy to go down the path of MRA’s because that path does not ask us to work. We don’t have to examine male privilege and we don’t have to turn over the myth of male superiority. We never have to own up to sexist language we’ve used or look at the ways we’ve unknowingly supported sexism.
Are there instances where men face unfair treatment? Abosolutely. Are there folks who hate men? Probably. Is the disposability of men a problem in our culture? I don’t know. Yet, turning these problems into a political movement and naming it misandry while claiming systemic oppression is embarrassing and I think that most men are smarter.
MRAs would have us believe that there aren’t services within feminist movement for men or for male-survivors of assault. This is a lie. MRA’s don’t want our services because they refuse to engage in anything that is going to challenge them or make them work to transform their world view. They would have us believe that feminism is the downfall of men and that we have lost our way and are confused about how to navigate the world. This is insulting. They strategically play on the humanistic quality of men that is yearning for something more deeply profound in the expression of his complexity and then flipping the script into a hateful play for power and continued domination.
There is legitimacy to the emergence of men’s issues and we certainly need to talk about them; however, our deeply felt pain has nothing to do with feminism and has everything to do with the socially sanctioned narratives our culture tells us about what it means to be a man.
At HAVEN, and in other areas of feminist movement, we service victims and survivors of IPV and sexual assault of all genders. We work with men to identify and develop strategies for personal development and social change. We do this to create a more fulfilling life for men and boys, and more importantly, we do this to involve men in ending men’s violence against women.
It’s not simply questioning manhood that will address men’s concerns; however, once we bring women and men together collaboratively and concede our shared humanity, we then begin to heal the crisis in connection that we mutually endure.
Resources for Men Ending Violence
redefine., a project of the prevention education team at HAVEN, Oakland County Michigan’s center for the treatment and prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault as part of our on-going efforts to engage men in ending gender-based
The Brown Boi Project, a community of people working across race and gender to eradicate sexism, homophobia and transphobia and create healthy frameworks of masculinity and change.
Men Can Stop Rape, to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.
MenEngage, advocating around a number of key issues where gender directly affects the lives of women and men.
American Men’s Studies Association, Advancing the critical study of men and masculinities.
The Men’s Stories Project, Resources for creating public dialogue about masculinity through storytelling
*For a comprehensive list of Men’s Resources link here. You can also link to this list on Voice Male, for information related to masculinity, fathers, men’s health, men of color, LGBTQ+, and more…
Kristopher (Kole) Wyckhuys is one hopeful and optimistic voice within an intersectional social justice movement. As a Prevention Education Specialist at HAVEN, his focus is redefining healthy masculinity and works to engage men in ending gender-based violence. After graduating college he served in the military where he trained as a Combat Medic and Mental Health Specialist. Kole is an Iraq war veteran, NPTI certified personal trainer, and a trained massage therapist in addition to his work as a prevention educator. He envisions a collective consciousness that embraces individual and social responsibility, accountability, and equanimity. He shares his home with a 3 year old pup named Peanut the Pitbull.