Michael Bolen gets it right – and wrong

Michael Bolen of the Huffington Post was apparently at the Miles Groth lecture so many of us went to. I’d say he gets a C+ for his reportage, which is better than the usual reporting we see on men’s human rights issues, where D- or F are the more usual grade.

First, let’s start with what Michael got right:

  • He decided not to call us stupid
  • He admits to finding himself agreeing with some things
  • He noticed there are men on the margins
  • He admits there is a culture of male silence
  • He talks about shared custody of children, unhealthy perceptions of masculinity, declining rates of university enrollment, spousal abuse, and suicide as if hey, men may have legitimate concerns in these areas as something other than as feckless or violent brutes.
  • He acknowledges a general lack of sympathy for men.
  • In probably his biggest breakthrough, he acknowledges that suicide is overwhelmingly a male issue.
  • He includes a HuffPo video wherein AVfM contributor Warren Farrell is allowed to speak at length without interruption or mocking, and where others speaking unapologetically about men’s issues are also not mocked.
  • He looked for misogyny and admitted he didn’t find any

So Michael, thanks for all that. Seriously. But, here’s what you got wrong:

Dan Perrins had a reason for that pink beard you were mocking: he raised over $12,000 for A Voice for Men and CAFE by offering to do various things to his beard, one of which was to dye it red (it came out pink). Oh, and he jokingly offered to let a feminist shave him for $20K, not $20. He didn’t seriously believe anyone would take him up on it, but given his treatment by feminists in that very same place he was standing, it would be a dangerous thing for him to offer, which is what made it so funny. Here’s a video of him taken very near the spot where you guys snapped that photo of him:

Maybe if you’d talked to Dan and asked him a question or two you would have learned all that, and realized what the inspiration was, instead of just mocking him for his appearance.

By the way that video features the same Dan Perrins and the same feminist who sang “Cry Me A River” when Dan tried to tell her about a fellow MRA’s husband who threw himself under a train because of family court abuse. Screaming and taunting and singing in Dan’s face. Dan’s a man who’s suffered serious abuse at the hands of an ex- and has PTSD from mistreatment by her and the Canadian legal system, but like most abused men he just sat there and took it from the psycho who was publicly abusing him without provocation. It’s all right there in that un-edited video taken from my very own personal camera, Michael.

Michael also noted the presence of women there at the Miles Groth lecture, but didn’t appear to want to talk to any of them. If he’d looked around maybe he’d have encountered an MRA named Brenda, who is close friends with that pink-bearded Danny, and had this message from a few months ago about her dead husband:

If you didn’t find Brenda, you almost certainly would have found a woman with a story about as tragic as hers. There are plenty of them out there.

Now, we shouldn’t just look to women to discuss men’s issues–why shouldn’t men have a voice, without the necessity of women being present?–but what we find is that guys like you, Michael, will tend to listen to women a little more attentively on these things. So you know, maybe what a female MRA like her (again, her name is Brenda) has to say above will penetrate for you and some of your readers.

This leads to another thing wrong, Michael: your headline. Now, I know writers don’t always get to write their own headlines, but you imply in your article that you had some choice about it, so for now I’ll put you at least partly to blame for this bizarre opener:

  • “The Men’s Rights Movement Doesn’t Have To Be Anti-Feminist”

You know what? Tell it to the feminists.

If you’d just said “The Feminist movement doesn’t have to be anti-MRA,” maybe we’d even agree with you. They don’t have to be, but they choose to be. In our experience, they almost unfailingly oppose us. And they have chosen to be anti-MRA for decades–yes, decades. If you’d asked us we could have told you that, and provided you with proof.

Those of us who’ve been in the trenches fighting for the interests of boys and men, some of us likely before you were born, have found that while feminists are not the cause of all our woes, and feminists are not the only issue or only problem, feminists have routinely shown themselves to be contemptuous, dismissive, and abusive, and to frequently be the first to oppose us when we ask for simple things like equality under the law.

If you want us to stop being anti-feminist, here’s a suggestion: get all your feminist buddies to start owning it when feminists lie, when they make unsubstantiated claims, when they marginalize victims, when they blame victims, when they mock and shame the wounded, when they abuse, and when they excuse murder–yes, murder.  (By the way, how many men do you think get away with murder with the excuse of “I was abused” like Hedda Nussbaum or Nicole Ryan? Just curious.)

We have heard the “Not All Feminists Are Like That” line so many times it’s pathetic. Our standing answer now: prove it. We don’t think you can. We think all you’ll find is feminists who either (A) are genuinely misandrist, or (B) accept toxic, misandrist ideas unthinkingly and uncritically, empowering group A knowingly or unknowingly.

And if you want to know why we think so, walk up to one of us–you know, one of us who’s actually well-studied and versed on the issues and not just a random person who may not be prepared with a lot of information off the top of their heads–and ask us. We don’t bite you know.

Now on to other things you got wrong, Michael. Let me quote you again:

…And while there were certainly some hateful people in attendance…

You don’t bother to name any of them, although after mentioning a sinister “dark undercurrent” with no specificity, you did mention the evil kitten-eater Paul Elam, who is apparently hateful because he wrote an article which you’d think anyone who believes in equality would agree with: he said that hitting someone in self-defense should be, but often isn’t, considered justified.

You also claimed that women are far more likely to be sexually assaulted than men are, and used a summary report from StatsCanada on that. Positive points for sourcing. Negative points for not thinking to ask any of the numerous men’s activists there about it. As it happens, I was there in Toronto, quite near where Dan was standing when you got that picture of him. And as it also happens, I talked about some of the reasons why you shouldn’t uncritically accept such numbers in an episode of Huffington Post Live about a year ago. No really,  check it out:


If you and your readers are interested, Michael, I could give you an entire essay on why you shouldn’t take that number at face value. Or if you aren’t interested in me, I can hook you up with people with more credentials who can tell you more. Just ask, you’ve got my Twitter, and I’m easy to find otherwise.

But even if you do accept those StatsCanada numbers at face value, what does that say about a whole host of issues that have little or nothing to do with sexual assault? Hey, here’s something by one of your fellow Canadians, about an obscure nation called “Country C,” that may help you understand why there are issues other than sex crimes to talk about:

See if you can guess where “Country C” is before the video is over.

So anyway, where was the dark undercurrent, where were the hateful people? Or was it all just evil Paul Elam who thinks self-defense should be OK, and the goofy pink-bearded guy who raised over $12,000 with that funny beard and little joke of his?

Oh, and there was the final thing you got wrong, in my eyes. You said:

Men are still the dominant sex in our society.

Let me share with you one final video. It’s by another contributor to AVfM, Glen Poole. Like you, Glen tries to avoid bashing feminism. He even bows to feminist sensibilities now and then. But watch this all the way through and then tell me you can, with a straight face, say men are the “dominant” sex. in our society, and women by inference at the bottom:

Oh, and note this: Glen tends to refuse to be mean to feminists. Their response, when they don’t do their best to ignore him completely, is to mock him. Is there some reason the rest of us should not take a lesson from that? He gave that lecture a few years ago, but why am I pretty sure this is the first time you’ve even seen it?

Still Michael: props. You did a much better job than most people, you showed some open-mindedness, and you demonstrated that you could listen and learn.

Now as it happens, I’ll be in Toronto again for the CAFE-sponsored lecture by A Voice for Men’s Contributing Editor Karen Straughan, aka Girl Writes What, in January.  Maybe, since she’s a woman, you’ll be more willing to listen to her and what she has to say on these things. But I’ll give you an open invitation: find me, and I”ll tell you more about what I think you’re missing in the Men’s Human Rights Movevement, why men are not the “dominant sex” any more than women are, and why feminism has repeatedly proven to many of us that despite its nice words it is frequently toxic when it comes to men’s issues.

I don’t drink so I won’t buy you a beer, but I will shake your hand, buy you a coffee, and answer as many questions as you’d like.

It’s an open invitation. You know where to find me, here in the “dark underbelly” among the “hateful people.”

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