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Debunking The Mammoths of MRA Mythology

Posted in Editorials on September 29th, 2011

I’ve been reading a lot of r/mensrights lately, in part because they have occasionally linked to posts I’ve written, and also because I’m a glutton for punishment. I think that David Futurelle at Man Boobz does an excellent job of distilling what is going on with regards to MRA’s on the internet and taking the piss out of it. But there are a few premises I see repeated over and over that I would like to address.

One is what David calls, “We Hunted The Mammoth To Feed You” and it goes something like this – feminists have no right to complain about anything men do, ever because back in the caveman days, men did EVERYTHING and women sat on rocks eating bonbons. The problem is that this varied wildly from culture to culture. From wikipedia:

The notion that preagricultural hunter-gatherers would have typically consumed a diet relatively low in carbohydrate and high in protein has been questioned. Critics argue that there is insufficient data to identify the relative proportions of plant and animal foods consumed on average by Paleolithic humans in general,and they stress the rich variety of ancient and modern hunter-gatherer diets. Furthermore, preagricultural hunter-gatherers may have generally consumed large quantities of carbohydrates in the form of carbohydrate-rich tubers (plant underground storage organs).According to Staffan Lindeberg, an advocate of the Paleolithic diet, a plant-based diet rich in carbohydrates is consistent with the human evolutionary past.

However, great disparities do exist, even between different modern hunter-gatherer societies. The animal-derived calorie percentage ranges from 25% in the Gwi people of southern Africa, to 99% in Alaskan Nunamiut. The animal-derived percentage value is skewed upwards by polar hunter-gatherer societies, who have no choice but to eat animal food because of the inaccessibility of plant foods. Since those environments were only populated relatively recently (for example, paleo-Indian ancestors of Nunamiut are thought to have arrived to Alaska no earlier than 30,000 years ago), such diets represent recent adaptations rather than conditions that shaped human evolution during much of the Paleolithic. More generally, hunting and fishing tend to provide a higher percentage of energy in forager societies living at higher latitudes. Excluding cold-climate and equestrian foragers results in a diet structure of 52% plant calories, 26% hunting calories, and 22% fishing calories. Furthermore, those numbers may still not be representative of a typical Stone Age diet, since fishing did not become common in many parts of the world until the Upper Paleolithic period 35-40 thousand years ago, and early humans’ hunting abilities were relatively limited, compared to modern hunter-gatherers, as well (the oldest incontrovertible evidence for the existence of bows only dates to about 8000 BCE,and nets and traps were invented 22,000 to 29,000 years ago.)

An extreme version of this line of thought posits that, up until the Upper Paleolithic, humans were frugivores (fruit eaters), who supplemented their meals with carrion, eggs, and small prey such as baby birds and mussels, and, only on rare occasions, managed to kill and consume big game such as antelopes.

So when Paul Elam tries to make the case that women do not contribute anything of value to society because men kill whales, we can see how deluded he is. But if we are going to play “The Flintstones,” yes, men were out killing whales (or baby birds) but then women were the ones supplying the fruits, nuts and shoots which eventually led to agriculture.

It doesn’t end there of course, the argument continues that superior in their hunting skills, men invented EVERYTHING ELSE EVER. And while I cannot prove that women invented agriculture (It does logically follow that whoever was doing the gathering would gain an understanding of botany because they would need it to survive, just like the hunters would create more advanced spears, bows, etc.) we can prove that women have made significant contributions to our culture since history began to be recorded. And it’s not just Marie Curie.

There are scores of women scientists, artists and activists who shaped our world in countless ways, just like men do. Only the difference is that before the 1970’s they faced greater social and legal obstacles to do so – and so their contributions are even more extraordinary. Just to name one example, Rosalind Franklin lost out on her share of a Nobel Prize because of her gender.

I see a lot of posts complaining about women behaving crudely, or criminally, or cruelly. That’s because the fact that women are human, and can act just as despicably as men can, is in some way remarkable to MRAs.

The icing on the “We hunted the mammoth to feed you and then invented everything else” cake/screed, is something even uglier than the raw ignorance or their other arguments. A common MRA argument goes like this, since men are physically stronger than women, everything women have men could take away at any moment. To which I say, “No shit, Sherlock.” Does anyone ever think that women are every unaware at their relative physical weakness in relation to men, even for a second? Gavin DeBecker famously wrote,

At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.

That MRA’s drive this point home with repeated threats, the glamorization of MRA terrorists, and graphic fantasies of an apocalyptic future where women are all the slaves of men – reveals their argument – at its most basic level to be an appeal to force.

A large number of MRA arguments are based on making an appeal to force. And because of the quotation above, it is the best argument that they have. This is key to understanding their rhetoric, and to seeing past the anger and misogyny and nonsense. They are saying that because of their testosterone and muscle, they are right, and that they can enforce this rightness upon women at any given moment.

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12 Responses to “Debunking The Mammoths of MRA Mythology”

  1. EasilyEnthused Says:

    It is constantly upsetting to me how much misogyny comes out of the mouths of some MRAs – so much that I generally avoid r/MensRights and Manboobz.

    I hope you might find it uplifting to spend some time at r/Masculism – which takes a more nuanced and misogyny-free look at the way men are harmed by the kyriarchy. It’s a hard position to be in when you’re being attacked by MRAs as a “Feminist co-opted Men’s Movement” at the same time as you get called “Misogyny Lite” by feminists.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that there are those out there who have no anger towards women as a whole or feminists (you know, as a monolith 😉 ) but want to work towards changing traditional gender roles for men and bridging the gap between all oppressed peoples.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. MissCherryPi Says:

    @Easily Enthused

    I am aware of masculism in general, but didn’t know that there were still people who identified with the term until recently. There are many people who hold egalitarian views but do not identify as feminists (Womanists, as another example.)

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Eva Says:

    The mods of r/Masculism are all MRAs.

  4. Arkady Says:

    Hate to be nitpicky on an otherwise awesome post, but Franklin missed out on the Nobel because those prizes are not awarded posthumously (she died of ovarian cancer in 1958, and the prize was awarded in ’62). Can easily argue that Wilkins probably wouldn’t have shown a male colleague’s unpublished data without permission though, and Watson’s misogynistic description of Franklin in The Double Helix was certainly pretty horrible.

  5. Cluisanna Says:

    I learned in school that the gender separation we take for granted in hunter/gatherer-societies is not how it really was – as far as I know, women too hunted and men too gathered. It wasn’t about which gender you were, but if you were able to walk long distances and run/sprint/throw stones/spears, which young women could do just as well as young men.
    When recorded history began, yes, there was in most civilizations an upper class where the women stayed at home* while men worked outside of the house, but for most of the people (who were farmers), women had to work alongside men, exactly like their children did.
    And even the women who stayed at home didn’t sit by the fire and read books (like one mra put it) – not only because they couldn’t read because education wasn’t for girls, but also because they had to care for the whole house and raise children. And this is another huge problem with the argument you described – that somehow household work and raising children isn’t seen as real work, but rather as something women do for free and quite easily.
    So when MRAs ask what the wifes of famous scientists and politicians did, we might tell them: they took care of all the things that would have hindered them in being successfull – for instance, children.
    (I’m not saying that women are meant for that role, which some people claim. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t forget these deeds that are often taken for granted, especially by men.)

  6. wissler Says:

    Its rather telling that to oppose MRAs you need to string together a bunch of strawmen so you can knock them down.

    How about addressing some of the real MRA issues, like fathers being forced out of their childrens lives, the suicide rate among young and divorcing men, or that college campuses have actually reversed the burden of proof ie. young men accused of rape are now guilty until proven innocent…

  7. MissCherryPi Says:

    These are not strawman arguments. I have cited multiple instances of them being used. Here’s one more:

    Because it was the man who went outside in the morning to do the manual labor only to return at dark. The man held the responsibility of bringing home the bread in a cut throat deadly wilderness. While she stayed indoor with the kids, churned butter and baked biscuits, my forefathers were out there getting attacked by robbers, getting attacked by wild animals, natural disasters, plagues, mental and physical exhaustion you name it. Who was inside sitting next to the fire reading a book?

    In terms of the issues you raise, I think that feminism actually would do a better job of addressing them. MRA’s have not attempted to address the issue of how toxic the idea of masculinity in our culture has become, and that is one of the biggest causes of the problems you cite. Feminists do not enforce the strict gender roles that lead to these problems, and yet MRAs blame them for doing so, while simultaneously mocking the idea of “gender feminism.” Which is it, are feminists hypocrites because they don’t want to give men the freedom to explore their capacity to nurture children or feel emotions? Or are they ridiculous for suggesting that ideas about gender are socially constructed? It cannot be both.

    Responding to my suggestion that this question be asked,someone at r/mensrights called me a moron and said that “masculinity runs the world.” So not only was he name calling and refusing to address the issue of how gender roles hurt men, he was using one of the overly simplistic “men do everything” arguments I was critiquing in this post.

  8. MissCherryPi Says:

    Here’s another one:

    White Hetero men. All they did was develop and build the enlightened western civilizations that provided free speech and a means by which women could express their desire for more freedom and power.

  9. Insidious_Sid Says:

    Why do we have to back to cave-man days to try and justify who has more “worth” in society? Cave-man living, even tribal living is now extinct with respect to Western society. The reason why feminists can push an agenda of victimization for 40 straight years and men’s version of it was only tolerated for about 40 minutes just proves that there are sexist stigmas which do not allow men to complain. We are supposed to “fall in line” and “man up” or just “be chivalrous” when asked, and we dare not rebut or even question any tenet of feminist dogma, no matter how insane, else be labelled a misogynist, without the person doing the labeling really knowing anything about they person they are attacking and painting with a big single brush stroke.

    I think the big problems with self-described MRA groups is they attract scores of angry and disgruntled men, who really are less concerned with actual men’s rights and discrimination against men and are more concerned with expressing their eternal butthurtedness that they simply can’t do well with the ladies or have gotten their @$$es handed back to them in relationships. Let’s be honest here – there are both men AND women who behave terribly in relationships and for every scorned woman there is probably a scorned man.

    I think for a MRA group to survive they need very strict membership guidelines and weed out blatant misogynists. They need diplomatic front men who know how to debate without resorting to ad-hominem and echochamber tactics. Some of the best debaters against aspects of feminism I have seen are actually women – they seem to know how to debate with women without setting them off like a large unpleasant demolition charges designed to bring down large office towers.

    In any case, the biggest thing MRA’s target is the corrupt, sexist and anti-male / anti-father court and family law system(s). Perhaps groups mostly concerned about that issue should have a group for ONLY that issue, and refuse membership to those with a broader agenda. If the group identifies as being “only concerned with legislation and courtroom precedents to do with paternal rights and family law”, then perhaps that sort of group would have a chance. They would not be able to identify as a type or subset of MRA though, because MRA kind-of stands for “Misogynists who are Really Angry” right now even if not all members are misogynists. As much as I am against specific aspects of feminism and liberalism, I can’t in good conscience identify as a MRA because despite being called a misogynist online regularly (for the crime of rebutting or even merely questioning aspects of feminism) I know in “real life” I am not one. Being as horrible as I am made out to be would mean that in my continuing engagements with women at work and socially I would be drawing attention and scrutinized for my behavior. I am very strict about treating all people fairly, which has to transcend gender for it to be truly fair.

    As for the backlash against a true MGTOW, I am at a loss. MGTOW is simply men who declare their own autonomy and refuse to be classed as a resource and wish to be completely financially and socially independent. Anyone calling themselves a feminist should see that a MGTOW is asking for nothing more than pretty much any feminist faction is asking for women.

    I am seriously considering a MGTOW kind of existence for myself, but my own version of it. The irony of MGTOW is that if I join a “MGTOW movement”, I am no longer a true MGTOW because I then must navigate the agenda of the greater MTGOW group of which I am a member. The only real MGTOW is a movement of ONE, the individual.

    Anyways, I think we could argue about mammoths and hunter-gathering and spears all day and all night but we’re talking about gender roles in tribal communities that have been obsolete since… oh, about 1950 or so! We need to talk about men and women and how they can navigate through life in this modern mixed-up world of ours. Most of feminism (and ALL of original feminism) has been great for women and it was necessary. SOme of this third-wave stuff is lost on me, and I do not understand why Western women are protesting pink packaging on a doll box “aimed at girls” while women in the third world are still subject to acid attack, beatings, spousal abuse and murder, genital mutilation, stoning, immediate blame for rape, being raped and gang raped and countless other atrocities against women.

    Sometimes it seems like a lot of modern feminism is about a certain kind of woman from a certain kind of place and socio-economic status. I mean, look at 3rd-wave feminist in-fighting. Left versus right, race, class, gender… it seems the power women have achieved is being fought over by, well, different groups of women! When that happens all you can do (as a man) is pull up an armchair and watch…

  10. Elizabeth Says:

    As “Insidious” is right there in your screenname, I doubt there’s much left to say, except that it’s bad form to leave an 850 word comment on a 900 word post.

  11. Scott Says:

    Going your own way? That’s called BEING AN ADULT! You’re kind of expected to do that, woman or man, at the age of, you know, legal adulthood? That you need to announce it to the world as if you’re acxtually achieving something special, versus just doing what everyone else has ever done from Forever, (which is get on with it), is a reflection of a misunderstanding that causes you to believe grown adults need to walk around announcing their adulthood to the world. Get over yourselves MGTOW’s, you’re not special snowflakes just for hitting adulthood. It happens because Aging.

  12. Ari Says:

    Hey Elizabeth, wasn’t that quote “men are afraid women will laugh at them” from Margaret Atwood? I think Becker just rephrased it more succinctly.

    Check it out here: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Margaret_Atwood#.22Men_are_afraid_that_women_will_laugh_at_them._Women_are_afraid_that_men_will_kill_them..22

    Just thought it best to attribute it to the woman who first penned it rather than give credit to some other dude.

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