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.