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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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ahostileworld
8 years ago

4. Yes. An ‘adjustment’ was *made*. A.k.a. goalpost shifting.

Btw, what would a ‘feminist’ like yourself say about someone who attacked someone for their nationality? Would you call them a hypocrite?

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

hostey you’re not even trying any more, kid.

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

“what more evil will you inflict on me”

Mangos!

Pecunium — but tea should be black…granted I either drink it very string, or herbal, so more than a drop of cream is weird (bigelow’s peach with just a drop of my hazelnut creamer is delicious)

…or with whiskey. And sugar or cream plus whiskey? *barfs*

And I hate all things iced. I can do iced snapell, but that’ say that’s my limit, and that’ snot that’s not tea.

ahostileworld
8 years ago

Genius, I used the word ‘baby’, not ‘fetus’. That avalanche of faux-indignant verbal diarrhoeia was completely unwarranted, and quite frankly, it scared me a little.

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

And truffle honey is foul.

I’m defective, remember?

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

Aw, we scared the poor wittle baby by not understanding his word salad!

Grow up, this ain’t us being scary. You haven’t seen the tip of the scary iceberg.

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

Inb4 hostile calls me defective — that’s a privilege limited to pecunium, because it refers solely to our disagreements over various foods.

Marie
8 years ago

@ahostileworld

4. Yes. An ‘adjustment’ was *made*. A.k.a. goalpost shifting.

Btw, what would a ‘feminist’ like yourself say about someone who attacked someone for their nationality? Would you call them a hypocrite?

Um, attacking someone for their nationality is shitty? But I’m not exactly sure how it’s hypocritical…I cannot even tell where you’re going with this, you’re shifting the goalposts so fast.

Genius, I used the word ‘baby’, not ‘fetus’. That avalanche of faux-indignant verbal diarrhoeia was completely unwarranted, and quite frankly, it scared me a little.

Lots of pro-lifers use ‘baby’ when they mean ‘fetus’, fool. We only take it that way because it’s been used that way before.

@argenti aertheri

“what more evil will you inflict on me”

Mangos!

I feel weird saying this, but I have never actually had a mango…

inurashii
inurashii
8 years ago

Marie, I recommend them with coconut sticky rice. Next time you’re at a thai restaurant, see if they have it.

ahostileworld
8 years ago

‘We only take it that way because it’s been used that way before.’

I know. Your obvious pseudo-‘feminism’ is… obvious.

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

Try Goya’s mango juice if you do try it. It’s not mango and banana or anything, so you’ll get the actual mango taste. And is cheap, like $1 a can, so if you hate it, no harm done.

I love it, pecunium finds mangos to be vile demon fruit. Ymmv.

ostara321
ostara321
8 years ago

Genius, I used the word ‘baby’, not ‘fetus’. That avalanche of faux-indignant verbal diarrhoeia was completely unwarranted, and quite frankly, it scared me a little.

Then do you care to explain what the hell you actually meant, “genius”? What “baby-killers” are you referring to? And seriously, what the fuck does any of that have to do with anything else that was being discussed? Not that I actually think you’re able to stay on track, it’s obvious you aren’t because you can’t defend any of your bullshit, you just keep shifting from one word salad generated topic to the next, but I’m curious, was there even a connection at all in there?

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

This whole “you aren’t real feminists” thing is just adorable. Hostile thinks it’ll offend us, like we haven’t heard it all before.

And on that note, it’s EA o’clock!

http://youtu.be/EaDrHw7qH4M

Marie
8 years ago

@inurashii

Marie, I recommend them with coconut sticky rice. Next time you’re at a thai restaurant, see if they have it.

Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll keep it in mind 🙂 (Sounds yummy).

@ahostileworld

‘We only take it that way because it’s been used that way before.’

I know. Your obvious pseudo-’feminism’ is… obvious.

I literally have no idea what to make of this. ahostileworld, please explain to me how recalling how words have been used before is ‘pseudo feminism’.

@Argenti Aertheri

Goya’s mango juice. I’ll try to remember (sorry, just writing things down helps me so…hopefully I’m not being to weird. At least I make more sense than ahostileworld, the most-est awesome-est feminist in the world.*)

*sarcasm. Duh.

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

Not weird at all!

opheliamonarch
8 years ago

Love the way it tries to pretend it’s being attacked for it’s nationality, oh precious!

P.S. Hostilewanks, even if that were true, YOU’RE NOT FUCKING GERMAN!

ostara321
ostara321
8 years ago

Seriously. Being told I’m not a “real feminist” by an anti-feminist asshole MRA apologist? Oh noes! Whatever shall I do? /sarcasm

@Marie, I’m not a fan of mangoes personally. The flavor is… I dunno, unexpected to me I guess. I have coworkers who LOOOOOVE it though.

Marie
8 years ago

@ophelia

Love the way it tries to pretend it’s being attacked for it’s nationality, oh precious!

Oh, so that’s what he was trying to do. It was very hard to tell :/

ahostileworld
8 years ago

Your points of reference are clearly adjusted to and aligned with the pro-life position. Personally, I cannot see how this will reasonably harmonise with any feminist position. Unlike you, I have always been of the opinion that a woman should have the right to choose.

(Btw, if this offshoot of the obesity acceptance movement in the west, that likes to decorate itself with the term ‘feminist’, because women in Asia and Northern Africa are doing really admirable activist work, wishes to use and abuse other people’s names, it is not they who should in any way feel offended when somebody comes along and points it out. The real offence happened much much earlier than that)

ahostileworld
8 years ago

@ ophiliamonarch, please stop it. I am not saying that I am particularly proud of my nationality, but I am what I am.

pecunium
8 years ago

Asshole McGee: 4. Yes. An ‘adjustment’ was *made*. A.k.a. goalpost shifting.

Liar.

You asked for clarification. You got it. You didn’t like it. You pretended it was moving goalposts.

Btw, what would a ‘feminist’ like yourself say about someone who attacked someone for their nationality? Would you call them a hypocrite?

What does feminism have to do with it?

But, since you ask, I didn’t attack you for your, putative, nationality. I questioned your underlying veracity. No hypocrisy involved. You implied (when you said, you ought rather have used, “sheila”) that you were Australian.* You then announced you were German.

To date you have done nothing (other than simple assertion) to make me think any of your claims (actual, or implicatory) about your place of origin, or location, are true. Your underlying lack of consistency, your incredible interest in an issue which is primarily UK in origin and impact cause me to think (as in other areas, otherwise addressed) you are being a tad mendacious. If not, well it’s your bed. You pissed in it, and you get to lie in it.

Genius, I used the word ‘baby’, not ‘fetus’. That avalanche of faux-indignant verbal diarrhoeia was completely unwarranted, and quite frankly, it scared me a little.

Are you do delicate a flower as all that?

But since the list of requested clarifications included only one about abortion, and a host about how children in general are treated, your claim to it failing to take you as read… lies.

*BTW, you never did explain why you are so well versed in the ways of Strategy and Tactics that we ought to take your word as dispositive on the effect of indiscriminate bombing of non-military targets; nor your fatuous claim that such bombing was strongly effective in the Allied Victory [placing it above the loss of Manpower, materiel in N. Africa, the diversion of divisions to France in response to the Normandy Invasion) the wasted efforts in things like the V-Weapons, the Bf 163 Komet, pushing the Panther into production too quickly [and field testing it in combat], trying to two more completely new MBTs (the Tiger/King Tiger), and so having three production lines; with concommitant drains on resources, and teething problems, rather than taking a functional design, ramping up production, and working on a single replacement to cope with the T-34. Etc.

Are we to assume you are retired from the General Staff of the Bundeswehr? Or just another armchair general with no real experience and a false sense of competence?

Marie
8 years ago

@ahostileworld

Your points of reference are clearly adjusted to and aligned with the pro-life position.

Citation needed, troll. Because realizing pro-lifers often call fetuses babies does not mean we agree, just that we are capable of understanding the context/meaning other in which people use words.

Unlike you, I have always been of the opinion that a woman should have the right to choose.

Seriously? Well, yippee for you. Now try to actually follow what everyone else is saying, bub. There are no disagreements here.

Also, can anyone understand his second paragraph. Because my troll-to-english translator isn’t working. Something about how obesity acceptance isn’t feminist, because aparently women aren’t held to a much higher standard of thin-ness than men?

ahostileworld
8 years ago

Pecunium, you are talking to the wrong guy. The ‘sheila’ kerfuffle centred around another user, not me. You are so blinded by hatred, you don’t know in which direction to kick and spit anymore.

pecunium
8 years ago

McGee: Your points of reference are clearly adjusted to and aligned with the pro-life position. Personally, I cannot see how this will reasonably harmonise with any feminist position. Unlike you, I have always been of the opinion that a woman should have the right to choose.

This raises the bar for intentionally obtuse: You were being asked if you were making a reference in support of a pro-life position.

To pretend this was a defense of a pro-life position on the part of your interlocutor; while ignoring all the other questions about how children are treated is precious.

Stupid, pointless, and counterproductive of any actual likelihood of persuasion (much as the stunts by F4J, so perhaps consistent), but precious.

Tell me, did you take classes to be this inane, or is it native talent?

pecunium
8 years ago

*BTW, you never did explain why you are so well versed in the ways of Strategy and Tactics that we ought to take your word as dispositive on the effect of indiscriminate bombing of non-military targets; nor your fatuous claim that such bombing was strongly effective in the Allied Victory [placing it above the loss of Manpower, materiel in N. Africa, the diversion of divisions to France in response to the Normandy Invasion) the wasted efforts in things like the V-Weapons, the Bf 163 Komet, pushing the Panther into production too quickly [and field testing it in combat], trying to two more completely new MBTs (the Tiger/King Tiger), and so having three production lines; with concommitant drains on resources, and teething problems, rather than taking a functional design, ramping up production, and working on a single replacement to cope with the T-34. Etc.

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