At the start of July, the second International Conference on Men’s issues was held at the ExCel centre in London, two years after the inaugural conference in Detroit. Jointly hosted by A Voice for Men and the British political party Justice for Men and Boys, men from all around the world flocked to the centre to hear people discuss real issues that affected them.
The ICMI is one of the only places where issues that affect men and boys are even recognised as being legitimate – it is safe to say that the wider society has no real grasp of the seriousness of such pressing issues as male suicide, domestic violence against men, false rape accusations and many others.
Men’s Rights Activists (more commonly known as MRAs) have an undeserved reputation in mainstream society; they are commonly portrayed as misogynists, bigots, and generally strange individuals, who sit at home in their mothers’ basements fawning over anime characters in their fedoras and trenchcoats.
Yet pretty much every conference attendee looked just like every other human being on this planet – they are not the monsters that the media makes them out to be, just ordinary, normal men who are passionate about the issues discussed.
There was certainly evidence of this media bias at the conference itself. After a speech by Erin Pizzey, the pioneer of the first shelter for battered women in the world, a female reporter from a British outlet posed a “gotcha” question to Pizzey, asking if she had more compassion for men in prison than for women who had relationships with violent men. Given Pizzey’s work in helping abused women for decades, it is incredible to think that this question was even posed.
Moreover, nearing the end of the conference, the Facebook page for A Voice for Men was taken down for apparently violating “community standards”, with no clear reason given. The previous conference in Detroit was also marred with similar bias. Brendan Rex from Manitoba in Canada, who was quoted in Time Magazine’s story about the conference, was sexually assaulted as a young boy by a woman.
Yet Time did not take his story as a wake-up call to listen to what MRAs had to say, but instead used it to attack the conference organisers, arguing that the “paranoia and vitriol of its leaders can’t possibly do anything [useful].”
Speaking exclusively to Breitbart News, Rex said that it was “disappointing that the only way that the mainstream media will pay attention to these issues is if they can use an actual victim of something as a bludgeon to harm the movement.”
Speakers at the conference were not there to talk about how all women were money-grabbing whores, or that women should “get back in the kitchen”, but to talk about real problems that face men today. Phillip Davies, a Conservative MP who arranged the first Parliamentary debate on International Men’s Day, discussed the so-called “justice gap”, smashing myths such as that the vast majority of women prisoners are non-violent offenders and that they are punished so much more harshly than men in the justice system, when the exact opposite is true. Tim Hammond showed some rather disturbing images of the damage that circumcision that can do to the male genitals, whilst Martin Daubney discussed the demonization of men on campus as sex-craved lunatics, with feminists demanding that men attend consent classes to teach them how not to rape.
All of the speakers had something new to contribute to the discussion in the room, with the atmosphere changing every time someone else took the stand. Some gave serious lectures with hard-hitting stories about how men and boys are discriminated against. Janice Fiamengo, a Canadian professor, highlighted how men are being cut out of the curriculum at universities and how female students are indoctrinated to hate them.
Others took a more light-hearted approach – Karen Straughn, an internet personality and presenter on the Honey Badgers radio show, started her speech by telling the audience to “sit the f*** down”, as the room burst into laughter. That was certainly the tone of the event – a mixture of joviality and light-heartedness as those who are attacked by society could relax, unafraid to speak their minds for once, and a collective understanding and sense of solidarity for all of those men affected by these serious issues, of which many of the attendees had personally experienced.
Certainly one of the more interesting days of the conference was the second. Given that most of the invited speakers were from the U.S., U.K. or Canada, the afternoon session consisted of speakers from other parts of the world, giving the audience an insight into things that they had never considered. Anil Kumar from India surprised the room with the incredible success that the movement had made in the South-East Asian nation – in India, MRAs are often on TV debates about men’s issues, no-fault divorce has been rolled back, and a misuse clause has been put in place in their sexual harassment law, despite the pressure from Western nations to implement feminist ideology.
Another important point to note about the conference was the diversity of opinion in the speakers. Unlike a feminist gathering, it was certainly not a “talking-shop” where everybody agree with each other. Kathy Gyngell, a more conservative speaker, advocated for a return to more traditional gender roles, with each sex taking back power and responsibilities to balance out society, arguing that Men Going Their Own Way, or “MGTOW”, was “not an answer, but a death-wish.” There certainly was disagreement from the majority of the crowd, and whilst they may have been in unison in questioning her points, the fact remains that she was invited to speak and people listened to her, not shouted down and forced off the stage.
The general consensus against Kathy also highlights that the Men’s Rights Movement is not a right-wing, conservative element that wants to push society back to the middle ages, when men were men and women stayed with the kids. In reality, they are an extension of how feminism should have progressed, in that they want true equality between the sexes, with no special treatment for one and the other. Paul Elam, founder of A Voice for Men, argued in the closing speech of the conference that a gynocentric society (one that is focused on women) harms both sexes equally – men are disposable objects, and women are damsels in distress that need to be saved by white knights; in Elam’s eyes, this is dehumanising for everyone involved.
However, there were a few people who were slightly strange present; a speaker known only as “Moby” wore a white mask for the entirety of his speech, making the audience visibly uncomfortable. Other attendees argued that Sharia Law and the Islamic world was a haven for women and that men were the real victims. Thankfully, those with the slightly more oddball ideas were in the minority, and others at the conference saw this. One speaker, Josh O’Brien, told Breitbart News that the MRM needed to recognise that they had an inherent PR problem, which he also addressed in his speech. “We have to be careful with our tone”, O’Brien said. “We need common sense in the movement. I’m not asking for censorship, but we cannot give ammunition to our enemies to use against us.”
This sentiment was echoed by Paul Apreda, who noted that people must provide a “reasonable face” for their agenda, not like Fathers 4 Justice, a pro-father protest group based in the United Kingdom, who dress up in superhero costumes and use direct action protests, which of course makes them a very easy target for the media.
The reason for why this conference was so necessary was neatly summed up by the experiences of one speaker who retold his harrowing story. At 6:30 AM on the 4th February 2015, Mark Pearson stepped into a “Kafkaesque” nightmare, when the police knocked on his door and told him that he was suspected of sexual assault. He had been unlucky enough to bump into an actress on his way to work one morning, who then cried to the police that he had put his hand up her skirt and touched her.
Mark was then charged in June of that year, even though all the available evidence contradicted her story. Luckily for him, the jury came to a quick decision that he was not guilty, but he only felt numb, not relief, after the decision was made. At first, it is difficult to work out why this even came to trial, but Mark revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service pushed it forward through the courts, hell-bent on a feminist agenda and not caring about the truth. Mark was visibly shaken when addressing the audience, as it was his first time speaking publicly about the incident. He will never be the same after what he went through.
The Men’s Rights Movement is there for people like Mark, who are attacked by the system of the country that should protect them. It is time for their voice to be heard.
Jack Hadfield is a student at the University of Warwick and a regular contributor to Breitbart Tech. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.