digging up the roots of gender-based violence

#NoMRA: An Open Letter to VFW Post 1146

(This letter was physically transported on June 17th 2014 by FedEx delivery and posted here on June 19th 2014 in response to A Voice for Men moving their first Men’s Rights conference to the VFW hall in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan. We fully support our veterans and veteran affairs and do not condone or endorse harassment, abuse, threats or violence of any kind. We do encourage everyone to immediately write letters to the address below (a letter is better than emailing), email the VFW scheduling at this email and tweet your discontent with their decision.)

Cpl. Walter F. Bruce VFW Post 1146
28404 Jefferson Ave
Saint Clair Shores, MI 48081

To Commander Litz, Post Officers, and Executive Board:

I’m writing as a concerned citizen and representative of HAVEN, Oakland County’s Center for the treatment and prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault. I’m drafting this letter to you with the support of local organizations such as Equality Michigan, Unite Here, The National Lawyers Guild, The Meta Peace Team and the Graduate Employees Organizing Committee of Wayne State.

It is disconcerting to learn that VFW Bruce Post of Saint Clair Shores will host rental space for the 1st conference on Men’s Rights hosted by a Voice for Men (AVfM), which was named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (2012) (Misogyny: The Sites). I’m disheartened to discover the VFW would house a hate group.

It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement; nor did our article claim that the grievances they air on their websites – false rape accusations, ruinous divorce settlements and the like – are all without merit. But we did call out specific examples of misogyny and the threat, overt or implicit, of violence. -Arthur Goldwag

As a prior service ARMY sergeant and veteran, having served in Iraq as a Mental Health Specialist (91X), it is extremely unsettling to learn that Post 1146 is willing to support an organization known to operate under the guise of equitable intentions while promoting hate filled rhetoric and misinformation. At HAVEN, and in other areas of anti-violence movement, we understand the legitimacy of many of the issues that AVfM discusses. AVfM strategically twists these concerns into a political movement while claiming the systemic oppression of men which is an embarrassment to all of us and an affront to military standards and ethics.

The Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military (2012) offers the sobering reality that is the high prevalence of sexual assault in our armed services. Research also suggests that male veterans who spent time on combat tours are more than four times as likely to engage in domestic violence. The National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence concluded that combat veterans were more than four times as likely to have abused a partner and more than six times as likely to experience PTSD, and two to three times as likely to suffer from depression, substance abuse, unemployment and separation. I offer this statistical reality to illustrate the seriousness of the VFW partnering with an organization that is known to advocate violence.

These quotes are directly from the founder of A Voice for Men, Paul Elam, which can easily be found in context on his own website:

* In the name of equality and fairness, I am proclaiming October to be Bash a Violent Bitch Month

* And all the outraged PC demands to get huffy and point out how nothing justifies or excuses rape won’t change the fact that there are a lot of women who get pummeled and pumped because they are stupid (and often arrogant) enough to walk though [sic] life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH – PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.

* And the answer is, of course, no, I am not going to stop. You see, I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage. I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection.

* Progress for men will not be gained by debate, reason or typical channels of grievance available to segments of the population that the world actually gives a damn about. The progress we need will only be realized by inflicting enough pain on the agents of hate, in public view, that it literally shocks society out of its current coma.

Original quotes can be found in context on their website.

The VFW is an organization holding a distinct honor and prestigious history that was founded on principled intentions and character. I’m concerned for the future of the VFW’s reputation that will surely suffer from supporting an organization that actively promotes violence. Your decision will not only negatively affect the perception of the VFW and Veteran Affairs, but will also be detrimental to the perception of the Armed Services, bringing great discredit to VFW initiatives, leadership and outstanding performance of exemplifying the highest traditions of military service. Frankly, supporting this organization is outrageous and unethical. Rumors have already begun spreading online that Post 1146 supports the same type of hateful speech that A Voice for Men disseminates.

It is for these reasons that I urge you to reconsider your support of this conference. HAVEN and Equality Michigan are anti-violence organizations in our state that consider gender-based violence to be of tremendous significance. As anti-violence organizations we understand the importance of analytical debate and conflicting viewpoints; however, we can never support the promotion of violence and misogynistic language. It is imperative that Post 1146 make a public statement denouncing the antics used by this organization and withdraw support.

In Trust and Service,


Kristopher Kole Wyckhuys, Prevention Education Specialist, HAVEN

Beth Morrison, CEO, HAVEN
Bryan Victor, Victim Advocate, Equality Michigan
Emily Dievendorf, Executive Director, Equality Michigan

12 responses to “#NoMRA: An Open Letter to VFW Post 1146

  1. Tirade June 19, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Its short notice, people don’t typically get busy writing letters and few will arrive in time. So how about just going over there as a group and meet with the commander?

  2. Morten Jespersen (RubberPunch) June 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) did not name A Voice For Men a hate group. See http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2012/05/15/intelligence-report-article-provokes-outrage-among-mens-rights-activists/

    It was great to see that HAVEN is open to all victims of Domestic Violence. It is all the more disappointing then, that HAVEN would partake in efforts, to disrupt a conference dealing with exactly that.

    • Kole June 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      Thank you for your comment and your correction is noted and it’s worth recognition; however, this is the official quote from SPLC: and can be found here under “Misogyny: The Sites”

      We completely support a conference that addresses the issues of men and have been to a number of places that offer these kinds of resources without the misogynistic and hateful rhetoric that completely undermines the mission.

      • MGHOWRob June 19, 2014 at 7:47 pm

        Really? That’s a sad reply. When men and women gather to talk about male problems is when feminists show up and twist everything said to be the opposite of what is said. Like that stupid girl that stood up to Karen and said “So you’re saying it should be ok to hit women?” when Karen was pretty blatantly saying it should NOT be ok to hit men. [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_hcIgYsAyk ] [ I’m not talking about self defense here, I’m talking about first-attack. Self defense is also EQUALITY though, if a woman hits a man first, he has a right to defend himself. If a man hits a women first, she has a right to defend herself. That. Is. Equality. But we should not be hitting to begin with! ]

        We’re anti-feminist because we’re sick of this word twisting and misandry that everyone, including you, are covering for. The feminists don’t like that we’re coming to the table with valid problems and complaints that they don’t get to filter or “validate” in their twisted “patriarchal misogynistic” view on the world. If they want to come to the conference and talk, discuss, debate, politely and NON-VIOLENTLY, that is completely encouraged.

        I’ll take true equality any day, but not the socialist power hungry type of “equality” feminists are trying to force serve us. They don’t like something they don’t just picket it, they threaten it, shame it, misquote it, slander/libel it… and they don’t even agree on the “it’s”, hell, they can’t agree on the definition of feminism between all their little groups anymore.

        AVFM is not a “mouth piece” for Paul either. Please take a look at who writes the articles, the last five in the News section aren’t even from Paul. Paul has 2 in the last 6 Bulletins section, along with 3 other people and a general announcement name. Please take your slander elsewhere, because your misandry is showing. We’re not going anywhere, we’re not shutting up, and we’re not putting up with it anymore.

        -MGHOW 12 years and counting.

      • Kole June 20, 2014 at 1:32 pm

        First, we do not advocate violence inflicted by either women or men here. The circumstances (first attack) that led to the violent encounter are not known by me or anyone outside of the altercation and are irrelevant in negotiating the response. For me, self-defense is defined by using the necessary force in order to get oneself out of a situation. This is what is advocated on a Voice for Men’s website:

        I’d like to make it the objective for the remainder of this month, and all the Octobers that follow, for men who are being attacked and physically abused by women – to beat the living shit out of them. I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles. And then make them clean up the mess. …

        Second, you reference that there are many facets of feminism. Yes, this is true of most movements really. I don’t understand your point. You reference many facets; yet, you reference “feminists” in singular form throughout your entire comment.

        Third, I actually considered coming to the conference to discuss, learn, critically analyze and even potentially reveal misinformation. Yet, as someone that does identify as pro/feminist – how am I supposed to even walk in the door (or anyone who identifies as feminist) when this is what is said about feminists:

        And the answer is, of course, no, I am not going to stop. You see, I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage. I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection.

        Last, please read our commenting policy before posting further. I approved this one because I do value the conversation; however, I won’t approve comments on this site that make accusations of “covering things up” or “your misandry is showing” because I don’t support violent language and misogyny and actively call on folks to recognize that. My compassion and love for humanity is exactly what brought me to this work. My compassion for people is what drives my desire to end violence that is perpetuated against them. I don’t want you to shut up, I simply would like for all of us to look at things differently and with clarity.

        We can do better and with a more principled and intentional approach. I wish you well.

      • Morten Jespersen (RubberPunch) June 20, 2014 at 2:01 am

        Thanks for allowing my comment on your site, and for your answer.

        I notice that you are no stranger yourself to hyperbole when dealing with marginalization and oppression (http://havenuproot.com/2013/07/11/im-not-pouring-your-coffee-or-wiping-your-tears-take-your-feelings-elsewhere-fellas/). On one hand , this is a bit surprising to me. Reading the HAVEN website it appears to be a gender neutral service, which is wonderful. On the other hand, exaggerating certain points can be useful sometimes. Particularly for new voices trying to be heard in an already existing field, where established voices can often silence the new ones with ease.

        To have a conversation it is sometimes necessary to have the parties recognize each others presence. Hyperbole and less than polite language can be useful to that end, and you too seem to understand that.

        As a HAVEN for all victims of Domestic Violence, I had hoped that HAVEN would not have made itself a part of attempts to silence new voices looking to join the conversation. Maybe we can learn from each other, if we allow each other to talk? Talking and listening has a wonderful tendency to turn people more polite and stop confrontational rhetoric. Don’t you already employ such knowledge in your field of work?

      • Kole June 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm

        I completely agree with you that conversations are necessary to foster growth and understanding to the issues that we face individually and collectively. I support having those conversations and sometimes pointed and direct language is imperative in getting an objective understood.

        I can’t speak for the author of the Dustin Hoffman piece as I did not write it and we contribute to the writing and moderation of this site in different ways, with diverse purposes and distinct individual styles. Yet, I’m not sure what you are trying to say by referencing it. The piece absolutely does not advocate for violence in any way, shape or form. It certainly exhibits frustration and exasperation with the expectations that men sometimes bring to the room in asking for women to care for their feelings around sexism and gender inequity. It does not call for violence and actively seeks to engage men in doing something. As a man randomly coming across that post I would not be offended or hurt by it. The most it does is come across as confrontational. Whereas, many women coming across VfM articles are deeply affected by language that refers to women as “stupid, conniving bitch” or “vile piece of human garbage”. The post you referenced and the work of VfM are two very different things. This is simply my opinion though and you’re certainly entitled to yours and I very much appreciate the critique as I will have to reflect on it more deeply.

        Lastly, I’m not trying to silence anyone. VfM can assemble and write and do whatever they want – but this will not come without active, repectful and non-violent pushback against hateful speech. I authentically invite joining conversations or even conflicting viewpoints. I am saying that this type of rhetoric is not productive, useful, welcomed or ethical and it supports the very foundation of gender-based violence. I do think that we can learn from each other. I learn from people nearly every day and hope that I offer that to others as well. Yet, it is hard to walk into the room and have a conversation when someone says that the thought of “fucking your shit up gives me an erection”. That is deeply disturbing and demonstrates a clear and present danger. Not to mention that most of the women I know, who actively write and speak out about men’s violence, are met with continued threats and this same type of violent language.

        Bottom line – as men who actively want to be involved in gender equity and ending violence – I feel we can do better and not support the advocacy of violence. We can engage in resources that support enhancing the lives of women and men.

  3. Dash Riprock June 19, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    A bit telling that you didn’t include links for the Elam quotes. People should read them in context. Here’s the first for starters (tenth paragraph).


    • Kole June 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      What does it tell you exactly? I didn’t feel a link was necessary as I did say that the quotes “can be easily found in context on the website” and anyone can easily search it and find it. But your comment is noted and a link to VfM has been added. Links to all of these quotes can be found here and a critique of conference speakers can be found here. The contextual reference doesn’t change anything for me. I completely encourage everyone to read them in context if they would like deeper clarity.

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