Media Should Stop Reporting Fake News from Men’s Rights Activists
Today, otherwise credible publications are piling on to a “news” item, promoted by the founder of the Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), Kumar Jahgirdar, which says Indian husbands are committing suicide at twice the rates of Indian wives because of domestic violence at home and torture by their wives. The men’s rights activists are calling for a special government body, similar to the National Commission for Women, to be set up to protect their rights, because men are “more vulnerable” than women.
Do we need a National Commission for Men? It’s impossible to answer that without snorting in derision. A recent poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation voted India to be the most dangerous country for women. Who do we think is perpetuating the violence, aggression, and intimidation against women (and LGBTQ+ people) — aliens from outer space? Hint: it’s the rest of the population.
But let’s examine exactly what is so problematic about the mainstream press coverage of this “news.”
First, the easy part: the idea that women’s empowerment is oppressing men is a false argument known as ‘reverse sexism.’ In case it bears repeating, here’s why reverse sexism is not a thing: The very framework in which we exist — from policies and laws, to ways of expression and measures of success, to dress codes and religious practices — are defined by and for men; they cannot, thus, oppress men. The one holding all the cards and power, who made all the rules, cannot claim to be oppressed by the framework — it was literally built by and for them. In fact, what these “activists” are reacting to is losing some of their elevated footing within a patriarchal framework; so yes, losing some power feels unpleasant and different from how it’s always been… and that’s precisely the point. Equality is going to sting a little at first, gents.
Second, the statistics cited by these activists come from the National Crime Records Bureau report, 2015 — but have been completely misinterpreted. Per the bald numbers, men are more at risk of suicide, that’s true. But people commit suicide because of untreated mental health problems, that may or may not stem from marital issues, and are usually due to a complex combination of issues and pressures. (For what it’s worth, the report itself states that “marriage-related issues” were the cause of only 4.8% of suicides, across both genders.) In fact, what is more likely to be causing these suicides is a combination of stigma around men’s vulnerability and mental health, and the enormous pressure and false fulfillment that comes from being the ‘provider’ and patriarch responsible for a family — ironically, issues that would be effectively resolved by a more gender equal society.
India’s men’s rights activists have been active for years, and are known for their publicity-grabbing stunts, like holding a funeral pooja for feminism. They claim to be “light years ahead” of the MRA movement in the West (where the movement is widely discredited and not indulged by mainstream media). If they are, in fact, pioneers of this misguided movement, we have to examine why something so ridiculous could be allowed to thrive in a society where it is so clear that women are the ones with the deck stacked against them. Is patriarchy so deeply ingrained that we can be swayed to believe the the opposite of what’s right in front of us? Which leads us to the paradox for the day: Men’s rights activists, it seems, are most successful at perpetuating their fiction precisely in those environments where men already have all the rights.
Before giving a platform to men’s rights groups, journalists need to think about the harm in perpetuating these ideas. It’s not just about the problems inherent in presenting reverse sexism non-critically, because that is literally fake news. But it’s also about the broader implications of conflating the pervasive, real, and dangerous abuse that women face every day in India with men’s discomfort over women’s empowerment. By elevating the claims of these faux-NGOs, newspapers are effectively denigrating the stories of survivors of physical and sexual abuse. It’s high time we drop the false-accuser narrative — there is literally no science or statistics that support it.
So Mr. Kumar Jahgirdar, we have some news for you, too. If you actually want better mental health support for men, less domestic violence, and better family values, we suggest you join the fight against the patriarchy. Step one: look up the definition of a feminist.
We have specifically decided to omit links to the news outlets that printed the underlying stories about men’s oppression. These stories should not be given credence or value, and we won’t elevate them by directing traffic or attention to them.