'Untitled (Secrets of the female mind)', 2013, single channel Auslan translation video of interview
with Suzanne Hindmarsh from 'The Reasoning Show' podcast – 04'00'' looped.
Performing artist: Jodee Mundy

‘At once sophisticated and banal. Deceptively “progressive” and proudly backward. It deploys both the “new” findings of “scientific research” and the dime-store moralism of yesteryear; it turns into media sound bites both the glib pronouncements of pop-psych trend-watchers and the frenzied rhetoric of New Right preachers.’ — Susan Faludi, 1991

In 2013, I had become interested in a perceived crisis in post-internet masculinity reflected by the men’s rights movement, which then, existed almost exclusively in ‘the manoshpere’: an informal network of blogs and forums focusing on issues relating to men.

Prior to germinating in the manosphere, the seeds of the men’s rights movement were sown in masculinist factions of the men’s liberation movement of the 1970s: factions which reacted against the ‘effeminacy’ of feminist consciousness raising efforts in Britain and North America. In the 2010s, having dropped all pro-feminist pretensions, men’s rights (h)activists are ultimately concerned with maintaining power and privilege over women, arguing that the ‘pendulum has swung too far’ with regards to the fight for gender equality.

This ‘pendulum swing’ story-theory is a feature of many far-right ideologies which identify affirmative action (and marginalised people) as the source of an imaginary subjugation and emasculation that is steadily stripping (white) men of power. However, unlike the overt extremism of many legal-status hate groups, the rhetoric employed by men’s rights activists is—as Susan Faludi characterised in the quote above—banal, glib, and deceptively progressive. Thus at a time when people are largely developing their sexism and racism online (rather than inheriting it from their parents), this “tweetable” rhetoric is more insidious, and potentially more dangerous than overt extremism.

Through appealing to those (men) who feel genuinely at odds with the rigid expressions of masculinity—leaders, soldiers, breadwinners—reinforced by structural powers in society, and proffering political views which demonise women and favour a return to the status quo ante, men’s rights activism invariably contributes to greater cognitive dissonance, anger, polarisation, and radicalisation.

It is these issues that I sought to examine in MF, presented at West Space in 2013. The presentation consisted of four works adapted from online material—T-shirts, posters, podcasts—found on various men’s rights forums. In each work, I used formal and conceptual strategies to both highlight and undermine the agency of the source material, and submit the corresponding arguments to a (limited) public arbitration.

'MF', 2013.

'Have you thanked a man today?'; and, 'Work, it’s what men get to do', 2013, framed T-shirt
– 600 mm x 900 mm (each).

'Untitled (Take back the night)', 2013, art-mounted poster – 1189 mm × 841 mm