James Innes-Smith

There’s more to the men’s movement than Incels

  • From Spectator Life
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The horror of August’s mass shooting by 22-year-old Jake Davison caused many commentators to point towards a dangerous underbelly of male disaffection. But what many overlooked was the fact that the shadowy underground group of disenfranchised males that inspired Davison to take up arms is part of a much larger network of male activism dating back to the late 1970s when the men’s liberation movement split into two camps consisting of the pro-feminist men’s movement and the anti-feminist men’s rights lobby.

Focusing on what they saw as male disadvantage, oppression and discrimination, the men’s rights movement hardened into Men’s Rights Activism (MRA), an informal network of online communities known as the ‘Manosphere’. Reviled by feminists for their anti-female stance and ideological links to neo-conservatism, MRA groups have remained highly controversial, with both sides of the political spectrum dismissing them as a fringe network of angry women-haters. 

Paul Elam, who founded A Voice for Men in 2009, argues that the movement has only ever been about equal rights, which includes the calling out of false rape allegations and the fight for a fair judicial system that no longer discriminates against men during divorce and custody battles. Although Elam himself has struggled with fatherhood, he became something of a father figure to MRA followers who felt disenfranchised by what they saw as an increasingly feminised anti-male world. Men who had endured painful custody battles, protracted divorce settlements and damaging relationships with women often looked to the Manosphere for help, advice and a sympathetic ear. In return, they were offered reassurance that their failures and discontents weren’t necessarily down to personal shortcomings or a lack of responsibility but were more often a result of societal misandry, ‘institutionalised feminism’, radical leftist activism and a punitive family court system rigged against the interests of fathers. 

Some of the men I met while researching my book about modern masculinity The Seven Ages of Man – How to Live a Meaningful Life complained about ‘the prison sentencing gender gap’, quoting a recent Ministry of Justice statistic showing that for indictable offences 15 per cent of women received immediate custody compared with 28 per cent of men.

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