Two major online publications–Salon.com and Slate.com–recently did articles about the men’s and fathers movement. The articles discuss various aspects and actors in the movement, and also quote and misquote me. This series of posts will comment on the articles and also straighten out certain misrepresentations.
Kathryn Joyce of Slate.com is a feminist writer who has written much about what she calls the “Christian patriarchy” movement. She told me she was doing a story about George Sodini, who she (accurately) describes as “the Pittsburgh man who opened fire on a gym full of exercising women this August, killing three and leaving behind an online diatribe journaling his sense of rejection by millions of desirable women.”
I knew from the beginning that Joyce would try to somehow wrap Sodini around the men’s and fathers’ movement, and I was very hesitant to be interviewed. I consented, for two reasons:
1) I still nurture the dream that someday feminists and fatherhood activists can understand each other and work together.
2) I hoped that maybe I could get her to understand the absurdity of her premise, and to understand that our movement is based on legitimate grievances.
No good deed goes unpunished. Joyce writes:
Sodini”s diary was republished widely, including on the website of a popular men”s rights blogger, “Angry Harry,’ who added his assessment of the case. “MRAs should also take note of the fact that there are probably many millions of men across the western world who feel similar in many ways, and one can expect to see much more destruction emanating from them in the future,’ he wrote. “One of the main reasons that I decided to post this diary on this website was because the western world must wake up to the fact that it cannot continue to treat men so appallingly and get away with it.’ In a phone interview, Angry Harry said, “Of course there will be more Sodinis–there will be many more,’ likening him to Marc Lépine, a Canadian man who killed or wounded 28, claiming feminists had ruined his life…Perhaps, Angry Harry mused, that as the ranks of online MRAs grow, “the threat’ of their violence “may be enough’ to bring about the changes they desire.
Glenn Sacks dismissed Angry Harry as an “idiot’ without real power in the movement and yet he cautiously defends him. “I want to be careful in wording this,’ he says, “but the cataclysmic things I”m seeing done to men, it”s always my fear that one of these guys is going to do something terrible. I don”t want to say that like I condone it or that it”s OK, but it”s just the reality.’
I specifically, repeatedly, and emphatically told Joyce that any linkage between the men’s & fathers’ movements’ grievances and Sodini is not my view, but I guess she was determined to jam it in there anyway.
What I did say was that when I do hear of a drastic action–a man on a bridge threatening to jump, the guy here in LA who tried to commit suicide by parking his car on a train track, etc.–my first thought is that it might be a guy dealing with a painful family law issue or injustice.
As for Angry Harry, I dismissed Harry’s comments about Sodini–as those comments were related to me by Joyce–as idiotic.
Judy Berman of Salon.com, writing about Joyce’s article, writes:
It’s certainly chilling to hear Sacks empathize (albeit ambivalently) with men like George Sodini, the deeply misogynist Pittsburgh gym shooter…
Again, this is ludicrous–I never said anything remotely sympathetic to Sodini and I made that abundantly clear to Joyce.
The movement seems eager to supply more martyrs. After Sacks wrote about a San Diego father who shot himself on the city”s courthouse steps over late child-support payments, numerous men wrote Sacks, telling him, “They”re taking everything from me, and I want to go out in a big way, and if I do, will you write about me?’
This isn’t the movement–it’s desperate individual fathers who’ve been driven to the brink by a cruel, inhumane family law system. That’s why since 2002 I’ve had a policy of not writing about fathers who commit suicide–I don’t want to encourage copycats.
The case she refers to was the Derrick Miller case, about which I wrote a column for the San Diego Union-Tribune. The case wasn’t exactly “over late child-support payments”–the father, a longtime Navy veteran, was being assessed 70 or 80% of his income in child support.
Joyce quotes RADAR”s Mark Rosenthal:
“In any movement, there is going to be a reasonable voice and people who are so hurt, who are so injured by the injustices, that they can”t afford to step back and try to take their emotions under control. But no movement is going to get anywhere without extremists.’
The part about the need for extremists is a silly thing to say, but Rosenthal is usually reasonable and I frankly doubt he’s being quoted correctly. If Mark would like to clarify this on my site, he’s welcome to do so.
[Late note: Rosenthal has contacted me and says that he was indeed misquoted in the reference to “extremists.” He explains his side here.–GS]
The two articles are Kathryn Joyce’s “Men’s Rights” Groups Have Become Frighteningly Effective (Slate.com, 11/5/09) and Judy Berman’s “Men’s rights” groups go mainstream–Once seen as a lunatic fringe, reactionary anti-women groups are courting respectability (Salon.com, 11/5/09). I’ll be posting about them in a few parts, and clearing up more misrepresentations, as well as commenting on Joyce’s and Berman’s views.