The National Coalition for Men has its sights set on starting a chapter at the University of Montana next fall. NCFM Campus coordinator and spokesman Christopher Thompson said that he is working on meeting with fraternities in the next few weeks to get them on board with the NCFM platform.
NCFM started out in 1977 as a male response to the feminist movement. Thompson started a chapter at Montana State University last year, and the group now has 15 members. Nationwide, the group has attracted controversy and criticism. It’s been called sexist and misogynistic, but Thompson said the group is misunderstood.
“I would say in a sense, it’s about true gender equality,” Thompson said. “Right now things aren’t equal in a lot of ways. We’ve got a of lot laws that totally favor women.”
In Bozeman, the group has “not been well received,” said Phenocia Bauerle, MSU’s Diversity Awareness Program Coordinator.
“I find the message of the group to be problematic,” Bauerle said. “The deep concern is that the information they put out is misleading.”
Thompson said that he wanted to bring the NCFM to Missoula because the town has been in the grips of “rape hysteria” since 2012, when serious allegations of rape began to surface in media reports.
“In December (of 2011), Missoula was the safest campus in the nation, and then by January, February, it was the rape capital of the world,” Thompson said. “How could that have happened? Well, that’s because we lowered the standard of evidence. So now everyone’s a rapist.”
Thompson said his job as campus coordinator for NCFM has him flying across the country to spread his message to college fraternities.
“I go around to a lot of frat houses around the country, and my first line is that ‘Do you know you can’t have sex with women that have had a beer? If you do, you’re a rapist.’ That really opens their eyes a bit,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he has contacted all the fraternities at the UM and that two of them sounded excited to hear his presentation.
Aaron Adamski, the president of Kappa Sigma said that he had been in touch with Thompson about the NCFM presentation because it sounded like a chance to redefine fraternities in the community.
“My fraternity wants to fight this image of frats, that we’re all womanizing date rapists,” Adamski said. He said he didn’t know much about NCFM, but that Thompson had told him it was about promoting awareness of gender issues.
Brent Hildebrand, a member of UM’s Men of Strength (MOST) said this is a common tactic with groups like NCFM.
“They use language and say similar things to be misleading. They say these cryptic things. They’ll say that ‘We want to keep people safe,’ but what they mean by that is that they want to keep men safe from ‘false accusations’ of violence and rape.”
The NCFM website also claims that the Violence Against Women Act is anti-male. Thompson sites VAWA as a key factor in what has eroded men’s rights to fair trials and due process.
“(Sexual assaults and rapes) are one and the same now,” Thompson said. “The Violence Against Women Act codified that. Any touching, with any sexual intent, is considered rape.”
But Hildebrand said the VAWA doesn’t have a direct effect on laws, or how men are treated legally.
“The Violence Against Women Act mostly provides resources to protect people who have experienced violence. It’s not going after people.” Hildebrand said.
While both groups are men’s groups, that’s where the similarities end. Thompson said that new laws and a strong feminist movement have led to a mentality that “all men are rapists.”
“In most of the media, men are seen as rapists,” Thompson said. “An accused man, a man who’s accused of rape is guilty until proven innocent in a sense.
Hildebrand sees the exact opposite happening.
“We assume to the last minute that the man is innocent, which you’re supposed to do in a court of law, but there is nowhere else where the media refers to the victim as the accuser… We only use that language for sexual violence,” Hildebrand said.
Despite their differences, both groups claim that education is the way out. While groups like MOST want to see bystander intervention education become more integrated with our daily world, Thompson said he’d like to see people take more responsibility for their actions, especially women.
“We need to educate both the parties,” Thompson said. “Men: if a woman says no, get out of there. Run like hell. Women: don’t drink so much, and if you’re going to drink that much, take a babysitter with you. Hire a friend to babysit you for the night.”
Emilie Loran, co-director at the UM Women’s Resource Center, doesn’t agree.
“I think that idea is insulting to women to say you need a babysitter, and it’s insulting to men. I would argue that that’s a certain way that feminism can help men much more than any men’s rights group,” Loran said.
Loran said she has a problem with groups like NCFM because they often see rights for others as a threat to their own.
UM’s Dean of Students, Rhondie Vorhees said that she fully supports an open and diverse campus with many competing ideas, but that any student group needs to operate with transparency.
For Loran and Hildebrand, NCFM doesn’t hit the mark.
“I don’t think they are needed on our campus. I think there are great groups like Men of Strength that do a lot of work fighting gender norms,” Loran said.