I think the most fundamental disagreement between feminists and MRAs tends to be on a definition of the word “power”. Reframe “power” as “control over one’s life” rather than “control over institutions, politics, the direction of society”, and the framework changes.
Now that second kind of power is important and meaningful, but it’s not the kind of power most men want, nor is it the kind of power most men have. I don’t even think it’s the kind of power most women want, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Historically, that second kind of power was held by a small group of people at the top, and they were all men. Currently, they’re mostly men. Still, there’s a difference between “men have the power” and “the people who have the power are men”. It’s an important distinction to make, because power held by men is not necessarily power used for men.
If you use the first definition of power, “control over one’s life”, the framework changes. Historically, neither men nor women had much control over their lives. They were both confined by gender roles, they both performed and were subject to gender policing.
Currently, in Western societies, women are much more free from their gender roles than men are. They have this movement called feminism, that has substantial institutional power, that fights the gender policing of women. However, when it does this, it often performs gender policing against men.
So we have men who become aware that they’ve been subject to a traditional gender role, and that that’s not fair - they become “gender literate”, so to speak. They reject that traditional system, and those traditional messages, that are still so prevalent in mainstream society. They seek out alternatives.
Generally, the first thing they find is feminism - it’s big, it’s in academic institutions, there’s posters on the street, commercials on TV. Men who reject gender, and feel powerful, but don’t feel oppressed, tend not to have a problem with feminism.
For others, it’s not a safe landing. Men who reject gender, but feel powerless, and oppressed - men who have had struggles in their lives because of their gender role - find feminism. They then become very aware of women’s experience of powerlessness, but aren’t allowed to articulate their own powerlessness. When they do, they tend to be shamed - you’re derailing, you’re mansplaining, you’re privileged, this is a space for women to be heard, so speaking makes you the oppressor.
They’re told if you want a space to talk, to examine your gender role without being shamed or dictated to, go back to mainstream society. You see, men have all the power there, you’ve got plenty of places to speak there.
Men do have places to speak in mainstream society - so long as they continue to perform masculinity. So these men who get this treatment from feminism, and are told the patriarchy will let them speak, find themselves thinking “But I just came from there! It’s terrible! Sure, I can speak, but not about my suffering, feelings, or struggles.”
So they go and try to make their own space. That’s what feminists told them to do.
But, as we’re seeing at the University of Toronto, when the Canadian Association for Equality tries to have that conversation, feminist protestors come in and render the space unsafe. I was at their event in April - it was like being under siege , then ~15 minutes in, the fire alarm goes off. Warren Farrell, in November, got similar treatment , and he’s the most empathetic, feminist-friendly person you’ll find who’s talking about men’s issues.
You might say these are radicals who have no power, but they’ve been endorsed by the local chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (funded by the union dues of public employees), the University of Toronto Students Union (funded by the tuition fees of UofT students), the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (funded by the tuition fees of UofT students), and the Canadian Federation of Students (funded by the tuition fees of Canadian postsecondary students).
You might say these people don’t represent mainstream feminism, but mainstream feminist sites like Jezebel and Manboobz are attacking the speakers, attacking the attendees, and - sometimes blatantly, sometimes tacitly - endorsing the protestors.
You might say these protestors don’t want to silence these men, but a victory for them is CAFE being disallowed from holding these events.
So our man from before rejects the patriarchy, then he leaves feminism because he was told to, then he tries to build his own space, and powerful feminists attack it and try to shut it down, and we all sit here and wonder why he might become anti-feminist.
Link to original conversation over on r/changemyview of Reddit