As conservative commentator Bettina Arndt continues to make headlines with her controversial claims about domestic violence, it seems that women who campaign for men are becoming a hot topic for debate.
Crikey takes a look at some of Australia’s more prominent figures and asks: what motivates them?
Modern feminism in the crosshairs
Online conservative commentator Sydney Watson is one such men’s rights activist.
Watson, who lists her personal interests on Facebook as “cups of tea, good books, freedom and guns”, told Crikey that men’s rights aren’t given enough attention. “I lend my voice to men’s issues because there are so few people who do,” she said.
The young American-Australian made a name for herself as a campaigner for men’s rights by organising the first “March for Men” event in Melbourne following the murder of Eurydice Dixon in 2018. She was against the message stemming from reactions to the murder that men needed to change their behaviour.
Watson takes issue with third-wave feminism, which she believes revolves around “man-shaming, blaming and hating”.
“[Modern feminists] promote the subjugation of men or the superiority of women over men,” she said.
Her shift toward supporting men’s causes was gradual, beginning in university when she struggled to digest feminist-based classes.
“I started to resent the narrative surrounding the sexes,” she said.
It’s a similar story for Daisy Cousens, a freelance writer and conservative YouTuber who regularly appears on Sky News’ Bolt Report.
Cousens says she subscribed to feminist ideology as a student at the University of Sydney but turned into a staunch critic while working as a research assistant at the Liberal Party-associated Menzies Research Centre.
“I realised the feminist view did not reflect my life experiences. I grew suspicious,” Cousens said in an interview with Arndt. “I couldn’t believe that somehow in Western society women were paid less than men or had fewer rights than men. And given my experience of men, I refused to believe there was an undercurrent of misogyny among all the wonderful men in my life.”
Cousens has covered topics ranging from Meghan Markle’s “cruel” and “catty” behaviour, to “why pretty women should NEVER be feminists”.
“Feminism has morphed into an idea for women who are not conventionally attractive,” she said in one video, which has over 109,000 views.
Cousens declined an interview when contacted by Crikey.
‘False allegations’ take the stage
Along with a disdain for feminism, many activists are motivated by what they see as rampant false allegations of rape and abuse by women — a claim which has repeatedly been debunked by a variety of studies.
It’s this misconception which drives One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson’s rhetoric. Hanson has controversially been appointed co-chair in Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System, which she sees as an opportunity to further men’s rights.
“I am hearing too many cases where parents are using domestic violence to stop the other parent from seeing their children,” she has said, following up on previous claims that women are “claiming domestic violence because they’re told ‘I don’t like the colour of your dress'”.
Watson has similarly argued that the Me Too movement perpetuates false allegations. “It’s emboldened people to use abuse allegations as leverage in a range of situations, including, but not limited to politics, family court, divorce,” she told Crikey.
Crikey can find no evidence to support this claim.
NSW Senate candidate Jewell Drury holds similar ideals, and is fighting for a place at the table. Jewell, who represents the Australian Better Families Party, has called current domestic violence policy “state-sanctioned discrimination against male victims”.
“I stand for the fathers who will take their lives today because they have lost their relationship with their children due to false allegations,” she said in an interview.
Jewell’s Facebook page shares stories of women who murder their children or partners, as well as examples of false allegations. Drury was unavailable for an interview when contacted by Crikey.
Fishing with click bait
It’s no secret that controversy gets clicks, with many commentators cashing in on outrage.
News Corp’s Miranda Devine is one such writer: The Daily Telegraph columnist recently moved back to the US to write for the New York Post, another Murdoch-owned publication.
Arguably her most controversial piece, published in 2015, claimed domestic violence is concentrated in “impoverished rural towns … where welfare has emasculated men”.
“If you want to break the cycle of violence, end the welfare incentive for unsuitable women to keep having children to a string of feckless men,” she wrote.
Devine, along with fellow commentator Andrew Bolt, believe convicted child sex offender George Pell is innocent, calling the criminal justice system “broken”.
Motivations, whether monetary, moral or based on misconceptions, seem to be the same among the women who campaign for men. Watson told Crikey that “it’s important to give men a voice on issues that have historically been dominated by women”.
It must be coincidental, then, that issues “dominated” by women seem to often involve their ability to live safely.