The pain and blame game of equality debate

Picture this.  Two strangers drag themselves into the emergency room of a hospital, a man and a woman.  The man has had his left hand cut off; the woman has had her right hand cut off. As they enter they see each other and both scream:

 
“I’m hurt worse!  Help me first!”
 
Hearing the other person’s cry they look at each other and scream simultaneously, ‘No you’re not!’  Unwilling to take real action until the point is settled, they proceed to spend so much time arguing about the severity of their injuries, they both bleed to death and die.
 
It is my personal opinion that the biggest roadblock to solving the root causes of equality issues (including gender equality) is something I call: The ‘pain and blame’ game. Part of this is due to the fact that in our current society—pain—is political currency.
 
Some time ago I watched a pair of American politicians debate gay marriage rights.  I had written off the anti-gay politician as a hack until a few questions into the debate the pro-gay rights politician drew comparison between the struggle of the African-American community and that of the LBGT community.  At that moment the candidate presenting the argument against the awarding of equal marriage rights for LBGTs said something like this:
 
‘I think you’re doing the African-American community a disservice.  The struggle they went through, and still do, is far worse than anything experienced by a minor LBGT section of the population.’
 
Suddenly I sat up, and blinked.  In one smooth move the anti-gay candidate had changed the entire feeling of the debate.  The audience split.  In an instant the conversation was no longer about the struggle of homosexuals to be assigned the same rights as heterosexuals.  Suddenly the conversation was about assigning degrees of suffering. I had/have it worse became the argument that had to be won.  Aside from the obvious degrees of suffering assigned to slavery, the wording threw additional points of contention:
 
A minor section of the population—does this mean marriage rights isn’t a serious issue because of how few LBGT there are compared to heterosexuals and or African Americans, does the number of people suffering define an issue’s severity? ‘A’ minor section?  Does the ‘A’ signify that gay marriage is an issue not supported by all of the LBGT community but rather by a small disenfranchised rabble rousing segment and if so, if it’s not an issue felt by every single member of the community, does that define its severity?  The list went on, the debate fell apart.
 
Gender equality issues have been stuck in that same place for almost 50 years.
 
Feminists point to horrors such as bride burnings and acid attacks and countless other atrocities that target primarily women.
 
Mens Rights Activists point out the overwhelming societal bias of making men fill roles that end in death, workplace injury, higher suicide rates and shorter life spans.
 
Neither of them is wrong, but by making the focus of the debate ‘my issues are worse’ the focus becomes the war, not the injury. I do not blame Feminists or Mens Rights Activists for their adversarial positions. There is a sad truth that when you’re drowning in pain it’s almost impossible to not lash out at everything that comes close, but when we are so invested in our pain that our cause becomes preaching its validity, rather than its solution, we hurt ourselves the most.
 
So I ask you this:  
Do you believe the measure of our equality objectives is best served by assigning a value to who is in more pain, or to how we resolve our shared (though different) pain?  

Personally I have yet to meet the patient whose ailment was healed by assigning a degree of severity, treatment however, seems to be effective and while there is truth that in a medical situation, triage assigns priority to the person most likely to die – humanity is not on its death bed, it is however suffering. I therefore argue that ‘worse’ is irrelevant in the greater scheme of acknowledging the need for treatment and the assignment of care for the human race.
 
We cannot heal by assigning blame.
We cannot heal by arguing degrees of severity.
We can only heal by seeking and accepting help.

51 Replies to “The pain and blame game of equality debate

  1. I know how this will come off, and I hope that you will believe me when I say that I do not mean to cast blame, but this is from my point of view and not meant as a finger pointing.

    I am a MRA. I used to be a Feminist. We constantly hear how MRAs aren't necessary because Feminism is fighting for "equality". Yet I have not witnessed Feminism/ts attempting to do anything that helps issues men face.

    This is why I believe the MRM is absolutely necessary at this moment. It is a counterbalance to the past 50-60 years of Feminism, which has solely been interested in the rights and welfare of women.

    That being said, my opinion from the very start of me identifying and calling myself a MRA is that one day it will no longer be necessary.

    I believe, that at some point within the near future, women who no longer identify as Feminists will team up with MRA, and will start an Egalitarian movement. A movement which takes EVERYBODY into consideration, and I very much look forward to that day.

  2. "Feminists point to horrors such as bride burnings, genital mutilation, acid attacks and countless other atrocities that target ONLY women."

    And this right here demonstrates the issue so many in the MRM face. Do you seriously believe women ONLY face acid attacks? Do you not realize that circumcision IS genital mutilation? The MR,more often than not, is simply trying to have men's pain recognized as existing. It isn't an attempt to claim greater victimhood when you're not even being acknowledged. Inyour analogy, the man isn't saying I'm hurt more, he's saying I'm hurt TOO.

  3. Mark (apologies for the late replay) – you're absolutely right and I have since publishing this had several MRAs politely contact me on the Equality Agnostic facebook page pointing this error out and provide supporting evidence for their position. My sincere apologies if this caused offense and in light of this feedback I will amend that article to say that the primary (not only) sufferers of acid attack are women, and I will remove the reference to genital mutilation entirely – as clearly – this is what circumcision is. Thank you for pointing this out, and that you did so in a measured fashion – I appreciate your feedback!

  4. Hi Billy, Thank you for thoughts! I went through much the same process as yourself, learning about feminism, then the MRM and as a result of reading both perspectives I stepped back from the ideology of both, but embraced the goals of both. MRAs are outnumbered at least a 100 to 1 and that can make it seem like a clear choice to become an MRA as clearly their issues are under represented… I personally couldn't abandon women's issues because there are women in my life that I love just as much as I love my father and my sons. So now I represent both, and yes you could argue there are far more feminists already representing women's issues – but I wouldn't feel right if I personally didn't fight just as hard to represent my partner's issues, as I did my sons. Hope this makes sense, and again, thank you for contributing to the discussion in such a calm and measured manner!

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