In which an MRA discusses gay men

10Sep10

If I remember right, I initially encountered the subject of this post, Paul Elam’s article The Problem with Gay Rights, in the context of someone in a Feminist Critics thread making the point that men’s rights activists are beginning to police the homophobia within their ranks. That’s necessary context for what I’m about to say. If there are self-identified MRAs out there who fail less hard at this task than Elam does, I’m all ears.

Fundamentally, this article isn’t actually an attempt to police homophobia. It’s closer to an attempt to excuse it — and the conclusions it draws align the author so much more with homophobes than with gay people, there’s hardly any point. Elam purports:

On a political level, some of the resentment is understandable. Gay activists have aligned themselves with feminists, and, while marching in misandric lockstep, have draped themselves in victim couture and made their grab for special government considerations. The resultant draconian intrusions and bullying on behalf of gays and other special interest groups is a core issue in the men’s movement, and for good reason.

I have to confess that I have no clue what Elam is talking about when he mentions “special government considerations” for gay people. It’s not as if there’s governmental affirmative action for homosexuals. ENDA hasn’t even passed, and all that would do is prevent the government from discriminating against gay (trans if we’re lucky) workers because they’re gay. Or against straight/cis workers for being straight/cis, if that ever were to happen. Special considerations for gay people aren’t even widespread outside of government — the first private college in the US to institute affirmative action for gay people, Middlebury College, began doing so the year after I entered college — and I’m only 21. I’m even more baffled by the meaning of “draconian intrusions and bullying on behalf of gays” — where does Elam think this is occurring?

Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone who has a “For Feminists and Manginas” ghetto on his blog, Elam tips his hand early:

Gay men have invented new technology, built cities, researched cures for disease, made profound contributions to the arts, literature and philosophy, excelled at athletics and participated wholly in every aspect of the development of civilization as we know it.

But of course, they did not do these things because they were gay. They did these things because they were men. Solving problems and making advances is what men do, and there is no evidence to suggest that gay men are any less proficient at it than straight men.

In case you missed the casual sexism: Elam is saying that “solving problems and making advances” is not what women do. Presumably women sit around all day crocheting pictures of Judith Butler. But it’s strange that Elam complains that “holding men to standards and expectations based on sex, while relieving women of their corresponding expectations, has led directly to their systematic, conscripted misuse as human beings” — and yet he clearly has a set of standards and expectations for men.

Suppose you are, in fact, a sexist gay man who buys into Elam’s male superiority script. Does this preclude the demand for fundamental rights and equality with het men? After all, Elam admits that gay men are Men, and of course Men are going to demand their Rights. Actively, even. But apparently there’s a problem:

The two current hot spot examples of this are gay marriage and military service. Roughly speaking, the activism that seeks to include gay men in these realms is, in reality, placing them directly in the crosshairs of corrupt family courts, and on the battlefield, where they can join straight men in being used as the cannon fodder of choice for hegemonic corporatism.

This is certainly an argument for something. For me, it’s an argument that ENDA ought to be prioritized over DADT/DOMA repeal. (Odd that Elam doesn’t talk about ENDA at all!) Discrimination in military service and in marriage rights is wrong, but affects only a subset of gay people who are interested in those rights. Discrimination in employment potentially affects nearly every gay person. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate any effort to stop discriminating against gay people. Indeed, Elam goes on to clearly express that denying gay people “the legal advantages we place on marriage” denies them “rights taken for granted by the rest of the population.” But wait:

pushing for legal recognition of gay marriage is a de facto endorsement of statist culture; a capitulation to recognizing the state, not the individual, as the ultimate authority over human relationships.

Granting for the sake of argument that government sanction of human relationships is a bad thing, this is actually an argument against all government-sanctioned marriage. I think many gay men and women would be okay with that reality, but it’s never going to happen — it would involve taking perceived rights away from het people. And they’re not going to vote for that. The expansion of rights to gay people at least has a shot. Gay activists aren’t being Stalinist, they’re being pragmatic.

What Elam wants gay readers to miss in the shuffle is that he’s still arguing against the expansion of rights for gay people. He’s doing so by suggesting that these rights have pitfalls for straight people, too, which is a defensible position. But straight men’s rights activists have the choice, in today’s United States, to opt out of marriage and the military. Gay people don’t have the choice to opt in. Even if they could win it, het MRAs are never going to mount a serious fight to actually destroy firmly entrenched institutions like marriage and the military. Not while they still have the choices they do.

Granted, het female feminists may not find themselves at the forefront of that fight either, for exactly the same reasons. But many do, because, unlike Elam, they seem broad-minded enough to try to take the interests of others into account. And feminism as I understand it at least has the basic decency not to tell oppressed people which clear-cut instances of discrimination against them are worth fighting against. Feminism even has a rather useful word for that sort of behavior: entitlement.

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11 Responses to “In which an MRA discusses gay men”

  1. 1 The Unrepentant Iconoclast

    Paul Elam is a sexist knave who liked to commit Guilt or Honor by Association Fallacy. He thought that some men did great things in the past means that all of their male descendants, including him, must be great.

  2. I might add that Elam seems to talk about the “gay rights movement” as if it is entirely a movement of men. For example:

    “The two current hot spot examples of this are gay marriage and military service. Roughly speaking, the activism that seeks to include gay men in these realms is, in reality, placing them directly in the crosshairs of corrupt family courts, and on the battlefield, where they can join straight men in being used as the cannon fodder of choice for hegemonic corporatism.”

    He describes this as “the activism that seeks to include gay men in these realms.” The thing is, the activism in question has never sought to include gay men in these realms, if we are interpreting in Elam’s vein, that is, that gay men are the exclusive group seeking redress by the repeal of DADT.

    He is ignoring, of course, a whole host of people also affected by DADT: lesbians. That he seems to act as though the activism against DADT has been entirely about including gay men exclusively, to the exclusion of others groups currently excluded, seems rather telling about the default gender his mind summons when he thinks about universal humanity.

    • Hmm, I’m not sure it’s fair to slag Elam for focusing on gay men. After all, he is an MRA, and his post comes in the context of major internal strife in the so-called “men’s movement” over how gay men fit into the sort of traditional masculinity most MRAs embrace. He isn’t writing about lesbians, but that’s largely because the question of whether lesbians are compatible with the MRA movement hasn’t, to my knowledge, been brought up by lesbians themselves.

      Granted, it’s quite possible that Elam sees men as the default gender, or even as the superior gender. A few comments in his post (e.g. the “solving problems and making advances” passage I noted above) seem to indicate such. But I don’t think there was any necessity for him to discuss non-men in this particular post.

  3. 4 The Unrepentant Iconoclast

    The sexist shitbag (I can think of no better terms to call him. “Scoundrel” or “knave” are too good for him) Elam complained that men die in combat.

    He should also read the article “For soldiers, single motherhood becomes another battlefield” written by Mary Eberstadt, a conservative research fellow at the Hoover Institue, which purported to (1) complained that military service are too dangerous for women and (2) send the message: women should NOT serve in the military but to stay home and take care of children.

  4. 5 The Unrepentant Iconoclast

    In one passage the shitbag Elam wrote:

    “To be sure, gays have been targeted for exclusion from legally sanctioned matrimony. And with that has come exclusions from some of the legal advantages we place on marriage. There are will and property considerations, hospital visitation, tax breaks and a number of other things largely bestowed on legally married couples. By refusing gays the right to get married, we are also refusing them many other rights taken for granted by the rest of the population.”

    In another passage he wrote of the unpleasant stuffs that are the results of breaks-up:

    “When newspaper stories cover gay weddings, they always run them with accompanying pictures of the happy couple(s), and some not so thinly disguised commentary about people finally realizing dreams, of being included in “normal” society. What those newspapers won’t do is run follow up stories, complete with pictures of dueling attorneys, confiscated property, false allegations, ex parte restraining orders, garnished wages and jail cells for those that don’t comply.”

    He further added:

    “These are the results of the state sanctioned marriages in which gays are fighting so hard to be included.

    I don’t fault anyone for demanding their fair share of misery, but as long as we are talking rights, we should also include those that are lost to this “sacred” institution.”

    In fine, he concluded:

    “Men are learning to say no to marriage and to being designated bullet catchers for a small group of avaricious bastards. We are learning to tell the world around us that no one will be allowed to shame us as men, nor will they be allowed to instruct us on what a man is.”

    Quinne wrote: “He isn’t writing about lesbians.”

    “He is ignoring, of course, a whole host of people also affected by DADT: lesbians. ”

    Both of you are right. He doesn’t give a shit about lesbians, who are also demanding “their fare share of misery” because they too are the victims of male supremacy and “heteronormativity.” However, I think that he will likely argue FOR lesbian marriage and women in the army, given his misogyny.

    “Gay men are and always have been resented because they provide no utility to women. They are literally born free of the constraining and egregiously burdensome expectations that heterosexual men are still raised to fulfill.”

    He seems to have a victim complex, thinking that all men (excluding me please, I am still depending on my mother) are being used by greedy, manipulative women.

    They are, in fact, the natural recipients of what many men in the men’s movement clamor for every day- freedom from the control of women and from the control of the state on women’s behalf.”

    What if Paul Elam decide to become a gay man? I think he will get into a lot of trouble with social conservatives who are feverishly for DADT and DOMA.

    P.S: Many (I will NOT say all) men become gays because they despise women. Greek paederasty springs to mind. It would be no surprise if Friedrich Engels, the author of “the Origins of Family,” is also a homophobe. Nevertheless, I do not condone Engels’ attitude towards gay men in general because some of them are misogynists.

    • The Unrepentant Iconoclast, I appreciate your comments, but you’re skating close to the line. I unapproved one of your comments, a one-liner suggesting some sort of moral equivalence between women who hate men and the leaders of American slave revolts, which seemed needlessly inflammatory and was devoid of supporting argument.

      On the other hand, I have nothing against you calling Elam a shitbag, because he is a shitbag — not really because he wrote this article, which is if anything one of his finer moments, but because of the hate he spews in his comment threads and here.

      However, I don’t like that you’re suggesting it’s possible and common for men to “choose” to be gay. The preponderance of the scientific evidence suggests this is not true. [1] [2] Your argument not only ignores the typical experiences of actual gay people, but it plays into the hands of those who want to roll back gay rights — it’s much easier to make that argument if being gay is a “lifestyle choice.”

      However, I think that he will likely argue FOR lesbian marriage and women in the army, given his misogyny.

      I wouldn’t be too shocked to see a “lesbian marriage, but only if they’re hot lolol” post. Actually attempting to argue for it seriously would piss off the religious MRAs though. As for women in combat roles/selective service, yeah, you’d think there’s be a lot of noise about that given the frequently made (and valid!) point that men are treated as disposable in wartime. And I have seen some, but it’s usually not a main topic of focus. (Perhaps because they’d find themselves in agreement with feminists. Whenever the topic is mentioned, MRAs tend to give the bizarro-world argument that it’s feminists’ fault women don’t go to war, usually bolstered only with pre-WWII or nonfeminist anecdotes.)

      • 7 The Unrepentant Iconoclast

        My many thanks for having replied, Quinne.

        “MRAs tend to give the bizarro-world argument that it’s feminists’ fault women don’t go to war, usually bolstered only with pre-WWII or nonfeminist anecdotes.”

        Then by his logic, Mary Eberstadt, however conservative he is, must be a feminist.

        The shitbag reminded me of Belfort Bax, who eerily complained that women actually had power over men (you can read his “Fraud of Feminism,” “The Legal Subjugation of Men” (in reply to J.S.Mill) and “Feminism in Extremis,” which can be considered precursors of MRA literature, regrettably in the Marxist circle). Bax confused benevolent sexism with those mythical “female privileges.” To this Victor Yarros had published an excellent rebuttal:

        “Not denying that such ‘tyranny’ exists, I assert that Mr. Bax entirely misunderstands its real nature. Man’s condescension he mistakes for submission; marks of woman’s degradation and slavery his obliquity of vision transforms into properties of sovereignty. Tchernychewsky takes the correct view upon this matter when he makes Vera Pavlovna say; “Men should not kiss women’s hands, since that ought to be offensive to women, for it means that men do not consider them as human beings like themselves, but believe that they can in no way lower their dignity before a woman, so inferior to them is she, and that no marks of affected respect for her can lessen their superiority.” What to Mr. Bax appears to be servility on the part of men is really but insult added to injury.” [Cited by Roderick T. Long and Rad Geek in “Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage be Saved?”]

        “However, I don’t like that you’re suggesting it’s possible and common for men to ‘choose’ to be gay. The preponderance of the scientific evidence suggests this is not true.”

        No, I do NOT mean true homosexuals, least genuine homosexuality, but Greek pederasty. You can read David Thorstad’s article “Pederasty and Homosexuality” and you’ll see he cited Edwin Bab criticizing pederasty stemming from misogynistic grounds. In Bab’s own words, a “cult of the love of friends to drag along with it a contempt for women similar to the position of the woman in ancient Greece.”

        Thordstad, nevertheless, further added: “Both the boy-love movement and the women’s movement, he [Bab] argued, ‘unquestionably must work hand in hand.’ If both movements could join forces, he hoped, ‘in the not too distant future, a truly human culture would bloom.'”

        A feminist and LGBT rights activist wanna-be like me could not agree less.

        Engels regrettably conflated this with genuine homosexuality (who practice which are definitely NOT misogynists) with this and accordingly produced homophobic rantings in his “Origins.”

        I should have written: “What if Paul Elam decide to become an erastes of a young lad or an eromenos of an old-timer?”

        “it plays into the hands of those who want to roll back gay rights.”

        I will be very sad when it is misused.

        “Actually attempting to argue for [‘lesbian marriage, but only if they’re hot lolol’] seriously would piss off the religious MRAs though.”

        He would have actually pissed them (e.g. from Fathers for Life) off when he wrote: “They are, in fact, the natural recipients of what many men in the men’s movement clamor for every day- freedom from the control of women and from the control of the state on women’s behalf.”

        “it’s much easier to make that argument if being gay is a ‘lifestyle choice.'”

        But it is also easy to counter that then heterosexuality must also be a “lifestyle choice,” thus is “curable.”

        PS: I read that “here” before. MRAs [sic] (should I call them by their true name, male supremacist-chauvinist swines and sows?” I’m afraid I’d insulted pigs.) always resorted to ad hominem profanities. Barry Deutsch had been a victim.

  5. 8 The Unrepentant Iconoclast

    “which seemed needlessly inflammatory and was devoid of supporting argument.”

    Inflammatory indeed, but not devoid of substance. Many White Supremacists hate Nat Turner, to the point of calling him a “mass murderer.” Nevertheless, they hate him NOT because he included innocent White children in his 55 victims, but because he dared challenge White Supremacy. He is one of my favorite heroes, even though I do not condone his killing innocent White children. Do not misunderstand me, I never buy into the “collateral damage” rhetoric.

    Elsewhere I have commented:

    “[Dworkin quote] ‘And, finally, on equality and bullshit excuses:

    I want to talk to you about equality, what equality is and what it means. It isn’t just an idea. It’s not some insipid word that ends up being bullshit. It doesn’t have anything at all to do with all those statements like: Oh, that happens to men too. I name an abuse and I hear: Oh, it happens to men too. That is not the equality we are struggling for. We could change our strategy and say: well, okay, we want equality; we’ll stick something up the ass of a man every three minutes.

    You’ve never heard that from the feminist movement, because for us equality has real dignity and importance—it’s not some dumb word that can be twisted and made to look stupid as if it had no real meaning.’ [Dworkin unquote]

    Black Civil Rights Activists condemned the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the KKK which killed four Black Girls; White Supremacists angrily responded: ‘Nat Turner and his gang murdered 55 White men, women, and children.’

    GLBT Rights Activists condemned the murder of Matthew Shepard at the hand of the heterosexual duo Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney; homophobes angrily responded: ‘Jason Shephard was murdered by his homosexual superior Smithson because he resisted the latter’s sexual advances.’

    Feminists condemned the misogyny-motivated Ecole Polytechnique massacre by Marc Lepine, MRAs angrily angrily [sic] responded: ‘Aileen Wuornos shot 6 men dead.’

    Labour Activists condemned the murder of 13 strikers by Federal Troops during the Pullman Strike, Capitalists angrily responded: ‘Police Officer Mathias J. Degan was killed by some unknown bomb-throwing anarchist during the Haymarket Affair!’

    You people do us wrongs too, so sit down and shut up!

    So much for excuses from dominant groups.”

    Well, I’m one of the dominant group. Straight, “Model minority,” (Vietnamese), Male.

    You can erase it should you find it again inappropriate.

  6. 9 The Unrepentant Iconoclast

    “moral equivalence.”

    Last words, I am a moral nihilist. I think such statements as “Everybody has the rights to …” are just “petitio principii.”

  7. 10 The Unrepentant Iconoclast

    Wait, I should not have been so tactless when writing. Again I must revise my statement the shitbag called Elam. “What if Paul Elam, OUT OF MISOGYNY, decide to become an erastes of a young lad or an eromenos of an old-timer or an androkoites?”

    You know, it is hard to draw a line between child-abuse and consensual sex between adults and minors. And I do know that many LGBT activists disliked NAMBLA.


  1. 1 Open Thread: Dancing Sitting Down Edition | Alas, a blog

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