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The Daily Beast takes on the Men’s Rights movement — and takes down A Voice for Men’s John Hembling

John Hembling, possibly lying about something
John Hembling, possibly lying about something

The bad publicity bonanza for Men’s Rights activists continues — and it couldn’t happen to a worse group of  people.

Yesterday, the Daily Beast published a long-awaited piece on the Men’s Rights movement, and it’s a doozy. If you’re a regular reader of this site, trust me, you’ll want to read the whole thing, like now. The piece, by R. Tod Kelly, is long — some 6000 words — but worth it.

It’s mostly on the money, but with a few notable flaws.

Here’s what it gets right:

1) It captures the pervasive misogyny of the Men’s Rights movement in general, and of A Voice for Men in particular.

2) In an extended section, it profiles AVFM’s John Hembling, and tears apart some of his most blatant lies — including the now legendary box-cutter incident, in which Hembling claims to have stared down a mob of 20-30 feminists brandishing boxcutters.

As Kelly notes:

Vancouver police records show that there was indeed an altercation in September of 2012 between Hembling and others seeking to tear down men’s rights posters. However, according to the police, Hembling was arguing with two or three people, not being accosted by a “mob” of any size. When questioned by the authorities, neither Hembling nor witnesses mentioned seeing any weapons. …

Curiously enough, Hembling actually videotaped the events and had his AV4M Radio partner Karen Straughan post it online. The discussion with the police has been conveniently edited out, but the rest of the video clearly matches police records and not Hembling’s story. There are only a few young men taking down Hembling’s posters, and the video shows them choosing to ignore him except when he engages them in conversation. One of the men is seen using a box cutter to take down the flyers, but at no time does he use it as a weapon, raise his voice, or threaten Hembling in any way.

Kelly found some troubling, er, discrepancies in another story told by Hembling. Kelly writes:

According to Hembling, sometime around 1995 he was on his way home at 2:00 am after working a night shift when he came upon [a sexual] assault in progress. He says he used his steel-toed boots as weapons to chase off the perpetrator. When the victim was too distraught to speak with him, Hembling says he contacted the police, waited until they arrived, and then quietly left without speaking to them. He says they later tracked him down at his home, where he gave a statement.

It’s hard to know whether this event actually occurred or not. There is no record—at least, not in the Vancouver police files—of Hembling being a material witness to a rape, and police blotters from that time period do not show a crime that matches Hembling’s description. However, this does not necessarily mean the event did not occur. Vancouver police did not fully computerize their data until 2002, and it is possible the police never reported the incident. Hembling claims the incident took place at a specific hospital, where he says he worked as a contractor for 18 months. The address he gives, however, is for a different hospital in a completely different part of the city. This raises the curious question of whether Hembling forget the name of the hospital he contracted with for 18 months, or whether he forget what part of the city he worked in for that same period of time. The real truth of the matter is anyone’s guess, because Hembling wouldn’t comment to The Beast on that or any other matter.

In other words: Cool story, bro.

3) Another thing the story gets right: it makes clear just how little the Men’s Rights movement does to actually help men — and how in many ways it can actually be terribly damaging to men who need real help. As Kelly writes,

the movement’s radicals might … do … immediate damage to those who most desperately need the MRM to succeed.

“When we talk about recovery from trauma and abuse, there were two things that helped me,” says Chris Anderson, executive director of the male-victim advocacy group Male Survivor and a sexual abuse survivor himself. “The first was realizing that I’m not alone; the second was hearing that recovery was possible.” Anderson is quick to dissociate himself from the men’s rights movement: “In [the MRM] people get that first message, that they’re not alone. I don’t know that they ever get the second message. And when they don’t get that second message, it turns into an endless feedback loop and eventually they say, ‘Oh my God, all of society is f**ked.’”

Indeed, Kelly writes:

It is telling to note that of the professional male-victim advocacy organizations I spoke with, every single one specifically asked that I not allow readers to think they were in any way related to the MRM.

But there are also some things that I think the article gets wrong.

1) I think it gives Men’s Rights activists way too much credit for their supposed good intentions. While there are some MRAs who do seem to be motivated at least in part by a sincere desire to help men, most of the MRAs I’ve encountered in the 3 years of doing this blog have clearly been motivated primarily by anger and hatred of feminists — and women in general. They don’t really seem to give a shit about doing anything to actually improve the lives of men — and the paucity of their accomplishments reflects this. In its relatively brief lifespan, AVFM has raised many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Has it set up any shelters or hotlines or helplines for men? Not a one.

2) It wildly exaggerates the importance of Hembling to the MRM — especially ironic given that Hembling has been more or less AWOL in recent months, producing only a few short videos and one article for AVFM.

3) It paints a picture of The Spearhead’s WF Price as a Men’s Rights “moderate.” Really? While it’s true that Price is not an AVFM-style hothead given to rants about “fucking your shit up,” his views are anything but moderate. This is a guy who thinks higher education is wasted on women, who blames the epidemic of rape in the armed forces on women, who celebrated one Mothers Day with a vicious transphobic rant, who once used the tragic death of a woman who’d just graduated from college to argue that “after 25, women are just wasting time.” He published posts on why women’s suffrage is a bad idea. Plus, have you met his commenters?

I was, however, kind of amazed to learn that Price is married … and to a feminist. No, really.

4) The article, while solidly researched, contains some small errors and simplifications that will no doubt give MRAs and others the excuse they need to dismiss the whole thing. Kelly refers to Reddit subreddits as Reddit “threads!” He refers to Matt Forney as an MRA! Oh no!

Still, whatever its flaws, this is an important piece, and one that tells a lot of truth about the Men’s Rights movement. Again — go read it!

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eseldbosustow
8 years ago

I read it this morning and I agree with you. While I can appreciate his moderate tone and obvious attempt at being “fair”, so to speak, to the MRM, he’s painting a picture that is way too kind. He’s essentially presenting them as men who need help who are misguided in their efforts as opposed to the raging misogynists that the majority of outspoken MRAs are. Any article that fails to highlight that fact in no uncertain terms is a journalistic failure in my opinion.

eseldbosustow
8 years ago

Oh, and it would have been nice for him to point out the myriad faux-grievances MRAs have instead of just focusing on those issues taken up by the MRM that might have some legitimacy. Sure, it’s great that MRAs supposedly care about father’s rights, but what about those who think that “friendzoning” is evil and actually make it a part of their “advocacy” platform? I get tired of this game of saying, “MRAs have a point about X, Y, and Z.” Yeah, when they’re not saying that women are asking to be raped and other nonsense.

All in all, a mediocre article for my standards.

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

I read it. I thought he was a bit too sympathetic to them, but that’ll probably change once he sees the comments on his article.

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

I also find it hard to believe that Price honestly gives two fucks about low income men in jail for not paying child support. Besides, you have to really work to ignore summons before being tossed into jail for non-payment. He’s not mentioning that part.

mildlymagnificent
8 years ago

The comments on the article? I checked before reading it.

Oh dear. Wall o’ words spewing every few comments from one star with the highly original ‘nym – MensRights. Can’t tell you much about what’s written but I did see a couple of “disposable men” and “Alpha Male” mentions, so I doubt I’ll bother with a close reading.

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

Now, now, David, John the Otter can’t help lying like a fiend, it’s on his Y chromosome. I mean, not the Y chromosome generally, just his specifically. A cosmic ray knocked out his Personal Accountability And Other Libertarian/Conservative Buzzwords gene.

Feminist Bees
8 years ago

It paints a picture of The Spearhead’s WF Price as a Men’s Rights “moderate.”

Yeah. I read the parts about Spearhead and couldn’t quite believe the author was serious.

I’m wondering if this is one of those instances where a journalist, in an effort to seem “balanced,” tries to show the “good.” There may be the rare piece of gold in the MRM, but Kelly seems to be reaching to get at “the things that the MRM gets right.” :/

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

JtO’s nonsense about the X chromosome made me laugh. I guess men don’t have an X chromosome?

The day an MRA can science accurately will be a good day.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

Unless MRM groups hire attorneys, talk to law makers, and organize boycotts besides boycotting American women (which I don’t even notice them doing), they’re useless.

No, MRM groups do not help men. That is why I make fun of them just like I make fun of the mentally ill ilk on this site.

I got more things done in order to protect men by having them watch ACLU videos on how to deal with police interrogations, reading the United States Constitution, having an understanding of the criminal justice system, and making connections with ranking law enforcement officials. All of this was done before I even heard of MRM groups. MRM groups are jokes.

MordsithJ
8 years ago

I’m inclined to think the reason the media tends to focus on the rare, legit issues is because if they showed the whole picture, people would think they were just making it up.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

@ hellkell. You are right. The MRM doesn’t care. What else is new?

Carlito
Carlito
8 years ago

Kelly gives far too much credit to what is almost entirely just bloggers and trolls posting irrational rants. Making outrageous statements will get you page hits, but page hits do not equal a movement.

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

Wow, Dan, do tell us more about how you enjoy making fun of the mentally ill. Real swell chap you are. I can tell you’ll be welcomed with open arms by the folks here and that you stepping your bare foot in a box of legos won’t make anyone here happy.

Back on topic: Is anyone else wondering if WF Price’s wife can possibly have read his articles? Like, at all? How does anyone who takes feminism even remotely seriously read “Why you might want to think twice about sending your daughter to college” and also be in the same room with the dude without feeling an urgent need to leave and take a shower? I certainly get a sense of some kind of passion behind that article, but it is not “really great father” passion.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

That article alone is grounds for divorce.

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

I got more things done in order to protect men by having them watch ACLU videos on how to deal with police interrogations, reading the United States Constitution, having an understanding of the criminal justice system, and making connections with ranking law enforcement officials.

And clearly you failed at all that, since you think harassing a detective is a viable strategy (if that even happened, which I doubt). Fuck off, Dan.

Alice Sanguinaria
8 years ago

I feel so bad for Price’s wife. I wonder if she knew what nonsense her husband spews online.

KatZombie
KatZombie
8 years ago

Oh, Dan. No, just no.

scarlettpipstrelle
8 years ago

That Price would seem moderate is probably evidence for the Theory of Relativity. I mean, compared to the others. BTW whatever happened with the “Men Are Better Than Women” schtick? I had that pegged as performance art, that attracted some scary followers.

Christo
Christo
8 years ago

Bill Price mentioned in some post a while back that he had met someone that he was spending time with, but it’s a real surprise for me too to find out he got married. hahaha.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Hi everybody! I’m in Iowa now! 😀 And aw, Dan is such a charmer. I can’t imagine why such a swell fella would end up on moderation.

As for the article… enh, if it gets shit wrong, it generally doesn’t pass my shit test. And I guess Price DOES look moderate, compared to the other guys on his team.

Athywren
Athywren
8 years ago

I haven’t read that article yet, but I wonder if it goes into any detail about how their true motives are shown by their grasping onto any argument that opposes women, even if they contradict with each other?

I will argue in defence of some MRAs though. Watch r/mr long enough, and you’ll see a steady, if slow, trickle of misters taking notice of the fact that they care more about demolishing women’s rights than reinforcing men’s rights and telling the group to fuck itself.

And their activism? Oh, their activism! My MRA facebook acquaintance (he’s dropped far too low in my esteem to be called a friend anymore…) invited me to an event called “Boycott International Women’s Day” or something like that. It was funny… half of the comments were in languages I didn’t understand, but the ones I did were from women complaining that only married women were considered real women in their society. Poor boy, he tried to invite me to an anti-woman event, and only succeeded in showing me more reasons to support feminism. Such fail.

I was, however, kind of amazed to learn that Price is married … and to a feminist. No, really.

Really?
For how long?
For how much longer?
Or is she just a “proper” feminist who thinks that women should be allowed to vote, but expecting to be treated like humans is going too far with it?

Pear_tree
Pear_tree
8 years ago

Reading MRM stuff makes me feel so grateful to live in an era when I can vote, go to college and get a job. I do wonder if future generations of women will be so lucky. It is scary that wanting to deny women these things is moderate. It kind of makes me feel less than human.

Viscaria
Viscaria
8 years ago

I was really taken aback when I saw Price described as a moderate, even in comparison with other vocal MRAs. His tone is more measured, but if anything I think his views are more anti-woman than most. He’s also more obviously White-supremacist than most.

I wish this article had said something about the racism that pervades the MRM, by the way.

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