Men’s Rights activists — or a good portion of them, anyway — seem to suffer from what we might call “Male Responsibility Bypass Syndrome.” Whatever terrible things a man (or a group of men) has been shown to have done, MRAs have a remarkable ability to find a woman to blame for it.
Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to excusing violence. If a man is violent, MRAs tend to argue, it’s because he was provoked by a woman unaware that “equal rights mean equal lefts.” Or it’s the fault of his mother for not raising him right. Or the fault of his female ancestors for “choosing” violent men to “mate” with.
And if a stepfather abuses a child, it’s the fault of the mother for inviting him into the home. Take this generously upvoted comment from DavidByron2 in the Men’s Rights subreddit, who attempts to give a “scientific” — that is, an Evo Psych — excuse for the abuse:
In a later comment, Byron explains that he wasn’t really “blaming” the “females” in question, just saying that “the female is causal. She/it makes the decision to get a new mate or not.”
Oh, yeah, that’s much better.
But it’s that last bit, borrowed from Evo Psych, that’s even more remarkable, based as it is on the notion that male violence isn’t really violence if someone somewhere has come up with a genetic explanation for it.
Really? Animals need to survive in order to propagate their genes and “maximize genetic transfer to the next generation,” and they need to eat to survive. But I’m pretty sure that if I went to the middle-eastern restaurant on the corner, punched a customer in the head, and ran off with their Lamb Kabob entrée the cops wouldn’t be very sympathetic to my evolutionary argument. Biology doesn’t excuse bad behavior.
In the part of Byron’s comment I left out of the screencap, he links to summaries of the research of evolutionary psychologists Martin Daly and Margo Wilson, who’ve written a good deal about what’s come to be called the “Cinderella effect,” that is, the fact that child abuse seems to be many times more prevalent in homes with stepparents than in those without.
While empirically this is true — though often overstated, and more complicated than “evil stepfather” theories would have it, given that studies often include other men, including uncles and grandfathers, in the same category as stepfathers — we still don’t actually know why this is. Are human males really just wired like male lions, who kill cubs fathered by other lions when they link up with new mates? Or is it that, say, men inclined to abuse children target vulnerable single mothers in order to get access to their kids?
Or could it be that child abuse and neglect — which takes many different forms, from emotional abuse to sexual abuse to physical violence — is a complicated and messy subject that can’t be reduced to a single explanation?
I’m guessing the latter, but leave it to the MRAs to jump on an explanation that gives them an excuse to absolve men of responsibility for their actions BECAUSE GENES.
h/t to LieBaron on Reddit.