Illustration by Dave van Patten

Even Men’s Rights Activists Are Wary of Trump

MRAs might seem to have a lot in common with the president-elect, but many are worried he’ll damage their movement

To outsiders, Donald Trump’s election win would seem a godsend to the men’s right movement, the loosely knit, mostly online grassroots organization dedicated to ending what they perceive as institutionalized anti-male bigotry. The president-elect is a notorious anti-feminist, after all. He accused Hillary Clinton of playing “the woman card” to get elected, he’s said women should be punished for getting abortions and he once said he refused to change diapers because that’s a wife’s job.

But men’s rights activists are actually wary of a Trump administration, as many of them worry about Trump haters incorrectly associating the president-elect with the movement, and having his divisiveness hinder their goals.

“If he ever says anything in favor of it, he will become the face of it. And it is not a pretty face,” Reddit user imbecile [Editor’s note: Yes, we know] writes of Trump and the men’s rights movement. “It would probably do more harm than good. So let’s hope he stays as self-absorbed and ignorant as ever and just not care and do and say nothing.”

Lefties have been quick to lump MRAs in with Trump and the more toxic portions of his support base, mainly because MRAs have earned themselves a reputation as a bunch of hapless, regressive, misogynistic trolls, and Trump is an unrepentant chauvinist. Trump’s sexist rhetoric was so indistinguishable from the dregs of the MRM that it inspired a quiz: “Who Said It, Donald Trump or a Men’s Rights Activist?” (And this was in May, months before he dismissed Megyn Kelly’s tough debate questions as PMS, and the infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” tape came to light.) Even Trump’s pledge to “make America great again” can read as a rallying cry for MRAs who dream of a return to a less feminist time.

But speaking with MRAs reveals there’s not as much excitement for a Trump presidency as you might assume. If anything, MRAs think Trump’s election will further people’s perception of them as a bunch of resentful losers not worth any time or attention.

“It would be a tactical error to let Trump’s name get smeared onto the MRM,” writes another Reddit user on r/mensrights. “Feminists already assume MRAs are likely to be Trumpers. I imagine he did get a boost from the anti-[“social justice warrior”] and anti-feminist backlash, but there is no reason to emphasise that link or for us to identify as Trumpers.”

It’s easy to see parallels between the white male rage that fuels some parts of the men’s rights movement and the white male rage that fuels the “anti-PC,” white nationalist elements of Trumpism. While they claim to promote equality, men’s rights activists are frequently criticized for neglecting men of color, gay men, trans men, etc.

“The MRM has never even pretended to give a shit about non-upper middle class straight white cisgender men unless they think they can use us to bash feminism. It’s the sum of all hate groups,” reads one anti-MRA Reddit thread.

But some men’s rights activists are arguably woke in their anti-Trump stances, criticizing the president-elect for being classist and racist. “At the absolute best is only good for men that are like him: Rich, upper class, white, etc.,” writes Reddit user Leinadro. “He used the frustration of men as just a way to get into the White House. He won’t help the common man in the least bit.”

Meanwhile, MRA provocateur Paul Elam — founder of notorious men’s rights website A Voice for Men, and one of the most prominent and controversial names in the movement — is an ardent Trump supporter for many of the reasons you might expect. “[Trump] beat the feminists like they were retarded stepchildren in the biggest upset in American political history,” he says in a recent YouTube video. “Trumpsters are jubilant and the social justice crowd is now engaged in a mass tantrum from coast to coast.”

Elam credits Trump’s victory to a “manlash” — a collective retaliation by men tired of being persecuted by PC culture. Did angry white men put Trump into office? “Fuck yeah,” Elam says in the same video. “This election in many ways was a referendum on the identify and victim politics and it was a major ‘fuck you’ to political correctness. After all, who could imagine a guy like Donald ‘Grab ‘em by the pussy’ Trump being elected to the most powerful position in the free world? Apparently not all the butthurt, safe-space needing, batshit crazy crybullies that are now on the streets in a dozen major cities protesting that the people have spoken for. And the people have said, ‘Shut the fuck up.’”

But even Elam is skeptical of Trump. He challenges Trump to repeal the Violence Against Women Act, legislation passed in 1994 to provide more protections for female victims of physical and sexual assault, and the 2011 “dear colleague” letter in which the Department of Education laid out guidelines that MRAs claim lowered the standard of proof for sexual assault on college campuses and made it easier to falsely accuse male students of such crimes. If Trump doesn’t deliver, he’ll be “just another establishment hack who shoves a knife into the backs of the people who hired him.”