the anti-feminist conspiracy
A Voice for Men (AVFM) is the most web-prominent set of men’s rights activists (MRAs) around. Browsing their website, one encounters a lot of statistics, factoids and other bits of evidence, all of which are deployed to make the case that feminism is an evil ideology, one that exerts an overwhelming influence in daily life and that this influence is pernicious, especially for men.
I admit I didn’t take much notice of AVFM until I had some comments from their MRAs on an article I did for Lip last year. I responded to one of them but unfortunately I think I got in too late so I didn’t get a reply and it was only after reading a bit of the AVFM website that I had realised what was happening: AVFM is a conspiracy movement.
I’ve always enjoyed reading and studying conspiracy theories, mainly because of their highly baroque nature and the often ingenious connections they draw between widely separated ideas and events. They are a work of the imagination and are therefore, I feel, of some aesthetic value.
They’re often also quite funny in how brazen they are. The best example is the very popular New World Order/Illuminati conspiracy. In its most mature form, this conspiracy theory holds that the world is actually controlled by a race of lizard-people who live inside the Earth but who occasionally disguise themselves as humans and leave their subterranean homes for a stint as president of the United States. Anyone interested in this ridiculous but fascinating branch of conspiracy theories should look at the work of the uber-conspiracy theorist, David Icke.
A conspiracy theory has two defining characteristics. One is that the theory offers an alternative narrative to explain some event or situation, an alternative that stands in opposition to the widely held, dominant narrative. But there are other theories which do the same that may well be completely legitimate; for example, a well supported critique of the reigning orthodoxy. What really defines a conspiracy theory, then, is its second characteristic, namely its wide but biased selection of sources of information.
AVFM is a classic conspiracy theory which not only offers a counter-narrative to the dominant view of the world (that women have faced and still face systematic disadvantage) but which also employs the crucial lopsided burden of proof, such that only confirming data are ever sought and found. When looking at all the evidence they have, these MRAs understandably conclude that any reasonable person should believe their story.
How can this be? Well, it’s a curious fact that if you look at the amount of evidence presented for the inside job account of 9/11, then in one sense the evidence is in the conspiracy theorists’ favour. Once the official report is done, who would bother to continue to gather evidence for something proved beyond doubt and the subject of commonsense? Enter the independent researcher, working with the tools of the internet, able to find holes in the official account. So many holes, in fact, that once they are accumulated by thousands of people, with no one working to accumulate on the other side, it becomes clear that the official account is woefully inadequate, that only a shill could believe that al-Qaeda were responsible for 9/11.
In the same way, AVFM makes the case that only a fool could buy the account of the world put forward by feminists of a world run by men. After all, look at all the cases of wrongful accusation of rape. Look at all the ignored cases of domestic violence against men. Look at the greater life expectancy of women. Yes, all of these things are telling until you consider their corollaries: the vastly greater amount of rightful and unmade accusations of rape; the massive preponderance of domestic violence against women; and the larger amount of females that die as babies*, nature’s method of maintaining an equipoise of males and females in a population. So all of their points are important and need to be considered, but without ever putting forward counter-evidence, they begin to look like unanswered arguments in favour of the feminist conspiracy.
Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that adherents to conspiracy theories will respond to counter-evidence. Although their belief in the conspiracy theory is defended with evidence, it ultimately stems from something closer to a religious devotion. The conspiracy theory provides an explanation of an otherwise complex, chaotic, possibly bewildering world. The explanation may well be unsettling (that evil feminists run the world, that the CIA masterminded 9/11, that Barack Obama is a lizard-person, etc.) but it at least offers the comfort of certainty in a world which is uncertain.
*Correction : The infant mortality rate is not necessarily higher for girls. But there are less girls born overall and that’s what accounts for the parity once males die off because of lower life expectancy.