In their continuing fight against the Violence Against Women Act, conservative groups have found a new ally: Men’s Rights Advocates.
The conservative opposition was not enough to derail VAWA in the Senate – it was passed on Tuesday by a 78-22 vote (all 22 no votes were men, by the way) — but the bill must still pass through the GOP-controlled House, and opposition by conservative groups could continue hold up approval of the bill.
Conservative advocacy groups FreedomWorks and The Heritage Foundation came out Monday with broadsides against re-authorization of VAWA that were filled with the rhetoric of the soi-disant Men’s Rights Movement.
“This unconstitutional law was originally signed by President Clinton in 1994 and has shown no signs of actually reducing violence against women,” said FreedomWorks in a blog post. The post, authored by Julie Borowski, went on to say that VAWA has a “vague and broad” definition of abuse.
“A man that raises his voice at his partner, calls her an offensive name, stalks her, causes her any emotional distress, or simply just annoys her can potentially be prosecuted under the VAWA. Calling your spouse a mean name is not advised or polite, but it isn’t the same thing as violence towards her,” Borowski wrote.
The Heritage Foundation echoed FreedomWorks in declaring that they would score VAWA as a “key vote.”
“Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights to due process, presumption of innocence, equal treatment under the law, the right to a fair trial and to confront one’s accusers, the right to bear arms, and all custody/visitation rights. It is unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous,” they wrote.
Here’s the thing: these assertions are simply false. Since VAWA was enacted in 1994, violence against women has fallen by 64 percent. Nothing in VAWA would strip men of their right to due process. The definition of abuse in the bill to re-authorize VAWA has not changed from existing law.
That FreedomWorks and Heritage are lying isn’t surprising or interesting; it’s what they do. What’s more interesting is the lies they’re telling, because they come directly out of the anti-feminist, deeply misogynistic Men’s Rights Movement.
“VAWA has been pivotal in the destruction of the family by depriving fathers of their civil rights, due process rights, and their right to cross-examine those who falsely accuse them of DV — most notably during divorce proceedings,” wrote Gordon Finley of Men’s Rights site A Voice For Men back in 2012.
A January article on A Voice For Men, this one by Tara Palmatier, says, “Thanks primarily to the Violence Against Women Act, DV has become a multi-billion dollar industry. This industry employs many thousands of people throughout the nation, paying them with federal VAWA grant money. And those thousands of people have made relatively little headway in achieving their “goal” of reducing DV. Indeed they perpetuate it.”
These arguments have little factual basis, but Men’s Rights Advocates have advanced them nonetheless in their continuing quest to roll back women’s rights to the Mad Men era.
Now, the MRA arguments are going mainstream, as conservative groups parrot them. This is, in a word, despicable. Men’s Rights Groups are hate groups, pure and simple. Like “white pride” groups, they exist not to advance anyone, but to roll back the gains made by oppressed groups over the past century
It’s not surprising that a movement as committed to destroying women’s rights as today’s GOP would find fellow travelers in MRAs, but it is dispiriting. Once more, given a choice between defending people and advancing hatred, conservatives have come down on the side of hatred.