A common assumption when it comes to the issue of gender and rights is that women are in need of rights, and men already enjoy full legal rights. In actual fact, women, at least in America, enjoy more legal rights than men. Women, for example, are legally protected from being drafted into war, from infant genital cutting and from being forced into parenting children they do not want. Men have no legal protection from any of those things.
Every 18 year old man in the US must register for Selective Service, and failing to do so is a felony offence which carries the penalty of disenfranchisement in some states. Men cannot vote without agreeing to die, where that penalty is in effect. Women are enfranchised by the simple act of turning 18, and are thus empowered to elect the leadership that can legally compel men to war while protecting women from the same fate.
U.S. Code Title 18 § 116 protects girls from genital mutilation. Do you support extending that protection to boys as well?
Genital infant mutilation is legal in every US state if the infant is a boy and illegal if the infant is a girl. There are several forms of female genital mutilation, ranging from severe to mild, but all forms of this procedure are prohibited in the US, despite the fact that both male and female infant mutilation originate from the same impulse: to control sexuality. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the cereal maker) advised genital cutting as a remedy for masturbation for both infant boys and girls, but only infant male cutting became culturally wide-spread. Many modern proponents justify cutting male infant genitals as a protective measure against certain cancers or urinary tract infections, but do not recommend the removal of infant girl’s breast tissue to prevent breast cancer and continue to treat urinary tract infection in girls with antibiotics.
Consent to sex is not consent to parenthood for women, but it is for men. Women have three legal options when faced with a pregnancy they do not want. A woman many choose to abort her pregnancy, surrender the child for adoption or surrender the child under safe haven laws, in effect in all US states. In some states, women have up to a year to determine if they wish to parent the child they gave birth to. A woman is not required to give any reason for not wanting to parent the child she has given birth to, nor will she be held financially responsible for that child simply because she contributed her DNA. Men have no legal right to choose parenthood and are held financially responsible for children they did not intend and do not want. In many states, men are not required to contribute DNA to be held financially responsible for a child.
In addition to lacking these important legal rights, men face institutional discrimination in the justice system, where they are convicted more often and sentenced more harshly than women, for the same crimes, in the educational system, where they are administered powerful psychotropic medications to assert behavioral control and in the family court system, where they are denied shared parenting as a default assumption.
Women should care about the rights of men and boys, and the discrimination those men and boys routinely confront because rights for all human beings are important, regardless of their gender. It does not harm the interests of women and girls to understand that men and boys face stereotypes and prejudices and powerful discriminatory forces that result in real harm. Men’s rights is a conversation about gender and equality that includes women and girls and men and boys and considers all of them equally worthy of consideration.