There are some in the Men’s Rights Movement(MRM) who have insisted on adding an “H” to MRM to remind people that men are human and have human rights. There are just as many who have denounced this strategy as more victim politics, catering to the wrong narrative. While the intentions of the “H” were good, this is a backwards approach to a real problem.
Human rights are the source of most MRM complaints, not the solution. Like many good ideas, the sentiment of the human rights charters may be noble but the implementation is not only impractical, it corrupts the principles of the law.
In June, 2014, Spiked-online published an article by UK barrister Jon Holbrook outlining the important differences between human rights and natural/civil rights. In his article, Human Rights: A Straitjacket on Liberty, Holbrook identifies the fundamentally overlooked conflict between these two differently focused sets of rights.
“Although the word ‘rights’ appears in ‘natural rights’ and ‘human rights’, the two concepts are profoundly different. One seeks to restrict the power of government and the other seeks to expand it. Whereas natural rights seek freedom from the state, human rights seek the state’s protection and assistance. More importantly, and this is the point rarely appreciated by today’s human-rights industry, whereas natural rights made democracy possible, the human-rights discourse is securing democracy’s emasculation.”
Here’s an example. Where a civil right like freedom of speech is designed to prevent the state from interfering with the liberty of its citizens to voice dissent, human rights demands the state curtail freedom of speech if another citizen claims to be offended by what was said. In practice, human rights now override civil rights in the courts.
In the framework of human rights, men can only be the villains against whom remedy is sought. Feminist legal activists drove the crafting of human rights codes and charters to ensure the inclusion of gender as a protected area of discrimination. “Gender” is inclusive of both sexes, but it is obvious that discrimination against men is not a protected complaint. In the application of the law, only women have a gender. Based on the claim that women experience the world differently than men, feminists have convinced the court to apply the law differently to women under the premise that unequal application of the law will achieve an equal result. They call this substantive equality.
The history page on the website for Canada’s Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) outlines how feminists have used the human rights charter to accomplish their partisan goals.
“April 17, 1985…Section 15 became part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Two days later on April 19, 1985, LEAF was founded under the leadership of women like Doris Anderson. Each of our founding mothers had played a crucial role in ensuring women’s rights were a central component of our Canadian Charter and in Canada’s history.”
It only took them two days to launch their attack on “equality before the law.” That was thirty years ago.
Unschooled in law, surrounded by the rhetoric of human rights activists, and swept up in the fever of morality wars, it is easy to see why the MRM would respond by donning the cloak of victim politics as well. But the human rights laws are the source of the problem, not the solution.
Holbrook exposes the problem further:
“Democracy can only thrive if three conditions are satisfied: (a) man is treated as rational, (b) the state is restrained and (c) politics is freed of legal constraints. Whereas the natural-rights advocate champions each condition, the human-rights advocate assumes the first condition is impossible and the next two are undesirable.”
Men have always prided themselves as the rational sex. Why stop now?
Human rights legislation is relatively new but it gained popularity in a climate of fear, while the world was still reeling from the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. With the shadow of the capacity for human evil darkening the public’s hope for humanity there was full acceptance by both socialist and conservative politicians that adoption of human rights would restore public faith in civilization. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
Holbrook begins his discussion with an observation. “Today, it’s fair to say that somebody wanting something can usually frame its receipt as the performance of a human right.” Though some denounce social justice narratives as communism or leftist socialism, Holbrook notes that “for all the gnashing of teeth by the Conservatives over decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, the Conservatives remain committed to the human-rights discourse”.
Whichever political party a Men’s Rights Activist is prone to oppose, there is a deeper reality the MRM has overlooked: It is not the politicians who have legalized the murder of men by women and eliminated the right to a fair trial. It is the courts that have betrayed us.
In a book by Canadian law professor Robert Ivan Martin, called The Most Dangerous Branch, he outlines how the Supreme Court has managed to overstep their boundaries. The courts have installed political change without the consent of the public under the premise that the courts have become the new bringers of rights – and the more rights the better.
“Thus at the same time as Canadians became entranced with rights, they were becoming less committed to democratic politics.” (p 48)
So what does this mean for Men’s Rights Activists? A quick view of their battle choices makes the problem quite clear. The human rights social narrative does not work without a villain against whom they are fighting. The entire construct crumbles without an identifiable oppressor. (That would be us. In case you were wondering.)
Martin goes on to point out, “[i]nterest group politics and identity politics are, by their very natures, anti-democratic. It should be evident that organizations based on the exclusivity essential to such politics and identity politics are unlikely to achieve significant electoral support. Consequently, the individuals involved have turned to litigation, hoping to win victories from the courts which they could not have achieved through the ballot box.” (p51)
While Men’s Rights Activists are morally correct to appeal to the existing human rights code as an oppressed group, they are politically stupid to do so.
There most certainly is a gender war going on. The gender war is real – but the legal battle is best left as a non-gendered issue. Muddying the waters with gendered discourse will only slow down the progress of those like Holbrook. Legally educated commentators understand this subject and are in a position to do something practical about it. Men can, and should, win the legal battle as the logical, rational class in society that they’ve historically been.
Apart from the legal fight under way, the gender war that’s going on is much more personal and will be more effectively dealt with by the diaspora sometimes called Men Going Their Own Way(MGTOW).
As it stands, the champions of Men’s Rights have shown themselves to be woefully unskilled in understanding the law and have shown a disdain for those trying to educate them. Men’s rights are not human rights. It’s much simpler than that, and those calling themselves MRAs or MHRAs, if they aren’t just in it for pomp and glory, need to get smarter.
For those who insist on going forward with their “capital H” ideas, try to stop being “too busy” to learn your subject.
For those who want more immediate and more effective results, remove yourself from the system until your civil rights are restored. Stop participating in a world which has sacrificed democracy for a dystopian fantasy and vote with your feet.
Go your own way.