[Content note for discussion of rape culture]
“Do you think there’s a legitimate place for gender activism focusing on men?Forgetting everything you know about the MRA culture as it stands, do you think that the place for discussing male gender-based problems is within feminist groups or within groups focused on men? Feminist groups are very often (and perhaps justifiably) extremely dismissive of comments bringing up the different experiences of male rape victims and so on. Is the answer to expand feminism or is a different space legitimate? | Tangerina.”
I saw this question on a blog (the quote links back to it). I think intersectionality is a helpful tool for analysis here. Yes as the OP says most men benefit from patriarchy to a degree whether they want to or not, all men do not experience this in the same way. So when we think about men – they are not a monolith, just like women or people of colour are not a monolith. The category of men includes men of colour, queer men, trans men, disabled men etc… So accepting that men are not universally privileged in the same way.
Sexual violence that happens to men is also important to talk about, and it is an experience that is often erased due to narratives around male sexuality (particularly heterosexual male sexuality) – men can never be raped because they always want sex no matter what, this is basically seen as a function of being a man, insatiable sexual desire. Similarly men who suffer from spousal abuse are often silenced because of the perceived impossibility of men to be victimized like this by a woman (never mind the erasure of non heterosexual relationships).
I believe these things definitely deserve a space within feminist spaces. Feminist spaces in general are not about exclusively discussing the concerns of women. I think there is however a fear that these sorts of conversations in feminist spaces will obscure the significant and structural oppression women face.
Feminism should never ever dismiss the lived experience of victims, nor should it qualify it with a, “remember women have it worse”, because this is certainly not always the case. I think we can all agree that patriarchy hurts everyone, not just people who identify as women. I believe that we can speak about these issues in a way that is neither dismissive of the individual violations of men, or the culture which frequently treats women as objects to be raped at will, it is a matter of balancing the two and this can be done with careful moderation.
These voices are vastly different from the “mens rights activist” crowd who essentially believe that patriarchy is under threat (or already dismantled) and we need to get it back. Those voices are fundamentally misogynist ( all you have to do is read the vitriol they spout about women to be convinced of this) and I do not think it is at all fair to conflate the two. Furthermore, personal truths are very far from the mansplainer’s cry that “men have it just as bad as women.”
At the end of the day I strongly believe that the stories of men are important to the movement. I also believe that we face differing cultural and patriarchal pressures, but a feminism that is as inclusive possible is a feminism that will be stronger and more robust.