Drinking Beers with MRAs. Again.

[Content Note: MRAs; antifeminism; misogyny; rape culture; violence.]

Earlier this month, Vox published a piece in which a male reporter has beers with MRAs, and I had a few thoughts about that, ahem.*

Today, I see that GQ is the latest publication to file a story in the "Dude Reporter Has Beers with MRAs" genre: "Are You Man Enough for the Men's Rights Movement?"

To be fair to its author, Jeff Sharlet, he clearly does not sympathize with MRAs—and, in fact, I am familiar with some of his previous work challenging MRAs and patriarchal institutions like "The Family," whose members share in common with MRAs [CN: rape] some reprehensible views on sexual violence.

But I nonetheless question, again, the value of these pieces, particularly when there is a catastrophic dearth of pieces, comparable in scope and visibility, in which the targets of these men are thoughtfully profiled.

And I wonder if a casual reader comes away understanding, even a little, the vast harm these men do from a story that ends thus:
Elam and Factory slip out onto the balcony for a smoke. I follow. We look into the darkness of St. Clair Shores and the lake beyond, three men smoking in the damp air before dawn.

When we return to the room, Elam and Factory are giddy, horsing around, teasing Blair. "Your last line," Elam tells me, "should be, 'Then we got the munchies, and Paul said, "Bitch, go get me a sandwich."' " He's joking, more satire, because right now his brotherly love extends to ladies with a sense of humor. He would never ask a bitch to make him a sandwich. But seriously, he says. Seriously.

And that's when Elam draws me my diagram. The Dick & Balls. He doesn't mean to draw the Dick & Balls, but he does. It is a sign. "Yes," says Elam, "I guess it is." He smiles. Everyone smiles. We are high in the manosphere now, the great phallic oversoul, the red pills are working, the rape jokes no longer land like bombshells, they're like the weather, ordinary as rain. We've made it: the dream world of Elam, where men are men, no matter how broken.
Just three men smoking in the damp air. Jokes about bitches making sandwiches. Dicks and balls. In the dream world of King MRA. As if that world is self-contained, and their fantasy doesn't spill all the fuck out all over women all the time.

I wonder how many readers will conclude that they're basically delusional but harmless, as long as you're nowhere near them.

I wonder how many readers will realize that they sometimes come for you.

The final paragraphs of Sharlet's piece read to me as a way to give the casual reader permission to not care about these guys. And if urging people to care about the harm they do isn't the point, then what is.

I realize I'm meant to be grateful, because Sharlet essentially mocks MRAs in much of this piece, but I can't put this any more plainly: Humanizing MRAs in a way that either intentionally suggests or may unintentionally suggest they're really just creepy but ultimately hapless dodos doesn't actually help those of us targeted by them.

To the contrary: We are obliged to take seriously the threats and harassment which emanate from "Men's Rights" quarters, and, when we ask in turn for others to take seriously the harm being done to us, it's decidedly unhelpful to be met with some variation on "just ignore them; they're dingalings; what's the big deal?"

I'll grant it's pretty helpful to misogynist terrorists to be regarded that way, though.


* For fuller context: That same week, Buzzfeed also published a detailed profile of MRA leader Paul Elam, and the Guardian published Lindy West's account of meeting a man who viciously trolled her (and then reformed his ways). Neither of these pieces was the same in tone as the other pieces, but they are among a number of pieces lately in which people who engage in misogynist trolling are being profiled and/or humanized, for various purposes.

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