I am glad Charles Clymer from the Huffington Post decided to debate Paul Elam, a Men’s Rights Advocate and owner of A Voice for Men. Charles missed some finer points but overall did a wonderful job, especially having to deal with Paul cutting him off with juvenile retorts and even a 3rd grade taunt.
Before I analyze what went wrong I want to say that I disagree with Charles about his usage of the term Radical feminism. He made the typical remark that we are somehow not really feminists because we exclude transpeople. I am a radical feminist and I don’t exclude transpeople. As I understand it, the theory of radical feminism focuses on harmful gender roles and it is those gender roles that transwomen feel they need perform, which in turn creates more ‘feminine’ stereotyping and grows the root of gender deeper. It has nothing to do with hating the ‘people’ in transpeople but addressing the inherent problem of gender. MtF transpeople can change their sex but the question radical feminism asks is ‘Why must you conform to a gender stereotype?’
Charles agreed that feminism, according to him, focuses on gender roles and how toxic they are and yet he fails to see that this emanates from radical thought. This theoretical element has been passed down to third wave feminism. So in that, Charles is wrong but the real wrong is Paul Elam.
Let’s talk about Paul Elam’s role in the debate. In the first five minutes of his opening statement he read aloud two quotes by radical feminists. Both of the quotes were taken out of context. The first quote Paul read was a half-quote by Robin Morgan.
‘I feel that man-hating is an honorable and viable political act,’
He forgot the rest:
‘that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them.’
Paul Elam is as dishonest as they come. Not only was she talking about class oppression but she also wrote that within an work on Pornography and the oppression of women BY men in the sex industry. It’s not indicative of some vast feminist theory of man-hating but facts never get in the way of Paul Elam.
The next quote he read off (which is actually a fake quote) he claimed was by Andrea Dworkin:
“I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.”
Here’s the real quote and the real context:
“I’ve always wanted to see a man beaten to a shit bloody pulp with a high-heeled shoe stuffed up his mouth, sort of the pig with the apple; it would be good to put him on a serving plate but you’d need good silver.”
This is from Dworkin’s book ‘Mercy.’ This quote is presented as fiction although Dworkin wrote extensively about the oppression of women in pornography and she was also molested by a man in her childhood. I’m willing to bet Paul hasn’t completed reading a single work by Dworkin even though you can get her work for free online. Either way, this is not evidence that feminism is bad for men. It’s just evidence of Paul Elam’s lack of feminist knowledge.
Paul’s counterpoint, which he calls ‘satire’, is really just a gigantic misogynist mess. He doesn’t know the role context plays in any of this. He volleys back ineffectively with things like this:
‘I’d like to make it the objective for the remainder of this month, and all the Octobers that follow, for men who are being attacked and physically abused by women – to beat the living shit out of them. I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.
And then make them clean up the mess.’
The difference here is that Paul really means what he says. There is no other context. It’s all self-entitled woman-bashing. The only context he attempts to give his violent rants is that they’re just a joke. I know of no feminist whose written work on issues such as the violence against women in pornography say that it’s a joke.
The rest of Paul’s debate diatribe is him scoffing at a feminist protest of Warren Farrell, as if protesting is somehow proof of feminism being bad for men, when not too long ago MRA’s protested a feminist event at UofT and were even seen with sandwich boards at Edmonton Slutwalk chanting ‘We love sluts!’ (not grasping what Slut Walk is about).
It is however true that MRA’s do not know how to protest. They only know how to react online with vitriolic rants like Paul Elam’s ‘ October is Bash a Violent Bitch Month.’ Also, let’s not forget what he feels about women ‘begging to be raped.’
Of course Paul brought up the oft quoted studies using the Conflict Tactic Scale that he claims shows that ‘intimate partner violence is symmetrical.’ What he doesn’t say is why the scale shows symmetry. He fails to recognize the inherent contextual methodological flaws of the CTS. If a woman defends herself by pushing her husband who’s beating her off her, the act is counted as if she was violent to him. This is not a good measure of domestic violence.
The actual truth about domestic violence is something we’ve known for decades. Men are the overwhelming perpetrators and women are the most severely injured and murdered. No matter how badly MRA’s want to paint women as batterers on the same frequency and scale as men, the research is against them. It’s against them regarding rape as well.    
The biggest question I like to think I have an answer to is ‘why do they think the way they do?’ I know I can’t get into each individual mind of the MRM and answer that but I do think they have certain things in common.
Number one: They’re angry men. I think David Futrelle did an excellent piece for The American Prospect because he focused on this foundation of the MRM. The anger is overwhelming and I’ve tried hard to have a serious discussion with MRA’s about issues and they are simply incapable of a realistic perspective. Even when you tell them you know men have issues in society that need attention and work they will tear you down once they know you’re a woman or a feminist or both. This incapacity to deal with reality is part of why I think they’re a hate group.
It doesn’t end there. In the debate Paul claimed, only 15 minutes in, that Charles owed him an apology for somehow slandering AVFM. Psychologically speaking I think Paul wants the entire world to give him something he feels he’s owed. It’s certainly deeper than just a perceived slander against his website. Paul was an addict at some point in his life and seems to want some sort of recognition for his pain. It’s a simple case of entitlement and he’s going to continue to behave outrageously until someone somewhere finally apologizes to him. His behaviour during the debate was atrocious. I felt like I was watching a little boy having a temper tantrum rather an adult male having an exchange of ideas.
It was Anita Sarkeesian that got Paul so angry. Clymer suggested that AVFM was involved in the threats that Anita received. Paul denies this yet there are 22 articles mentioning Anita and some are just about her. Girlwriteswhat aka Karen Straughan and the other 3 women involved with AVFM have done at least two 2-hour radio shows dedicated to bashing Anita. Paul once again denies reality in the sense that he feels his site had nothing to do with a single threat sent to Anita when he quite clearly does have something to do with it.
During the back and forth Paul claimed that feminists aren’t pushing women into dangerous jobs and that it’s somehow a conspiracy. He said men are socialized to take dangerous jobs to take care of women. In other words, men who die in the workplace are dead because of women and yet simultaneously MRA’s have a romantic obsession with traditional masculinity where the man goes to work and the woman stays home barefoot and preggers. Many times I’ve heard MRA’s complain that feminists are trying to get women into careers like firefighting and the women just can’t hack it. This is the fucked up illogical thought process of Paul Elam and his cronies.
Here is a perfect example of this from the r/mensrights:
‘Hiring people who do not have the physical ability to do things like that is going to cost the lives of police officers, firefighters, and the people who are caught in such situations. But its all good. Such sacrifices are completely worth it in order to satisfy the political agendas of the fem-nazis, and make-up for the centuries of oppression that women have suffered at the hands of the patriarchy.’
So you see it’s a lose/lose situation when you’re trying to argue with people who hold completely contradictory views simultaneously. Charles didn’t have a chance at any fair or rational debate with Paul Elam. Paul’s anger, contradictory ideas, the ignorance about feminism and, ultimately his immaturity, prevented it.