Somewhere in Switzerland on Saturday around 150 men’s rights activists will be gathering at a secret location for the “first international antifeminism meeting”.
“Even I don’t know where it is being held,” said Ulf Andersson, a member of the Swiss-based antifeminist interest group IGAF (Interessengemeinschaft Antifeminismus) organising the event.
IGAF says the meeting is "an exceptional opportunity to make our concerns known to the public” and a chance to network.
Addressing the day-long conference will be IGAF founder René Kuhn, and speakers from a German gender policy initiative, the Swiss men’s political party, an interest group for divorced men and European and Swiss men’s and father’s rights groups.
Andersson described it as a “very special” and “historic moment”.
“The major goal is not to come to conclusions about anything but mostly to meet like-minded people. As you have seen, there are forces trying to stop us from having this meeting,” Andersson told swissinfo.ch.
News of the meeting was reported in the media and led to a demonstration by 50 feminist activists in Zurich. Graffiti was sprayed on a community hall in Uitikon, canton Zurich, where the meeting was planned. Leaflets have also been handed out for a rally to coincide with the event.
“A lot of people have the wrong impression about what an antifeminist really is,” said Andersson.
“They believe that an antifeminist is a woman-hater. Not at all. An antifeminist is a kind of peacekeeper who wants to return things to normal. As an antifeminist I believe in true equality between a man and a woman.”
Anderson founded the Swedish father’s rights group PappaRättsGruppen after being prevented from seeing his daughter for six years after getting divorced from his wife. With support from a father’s rights group his situation has since changed and he is now able to see his 11-year-old occasionally.
But he blames “feminist” social workers for his plight. In his eyes, “feminists have hijacked the word equality” and today, “feminist stands for pure evil”. He cites radical feminist organisations who call for men to be grounded at home after 9pm or bear placards calling for “male slaughter, female supremacy”, as an example.
Risk of discrimination
While the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality is not worried about the event happening within the country’s borders, director Patricia Schulz told swissinfo.ch that she was concerned by “this movement’s denunciation of all women who do not correspond to its limited vision of what constitutes a ‘real woman’. There is a very high risk of discrimination in the ideas of this movement.”
She added that the organisers did not appear to be looking to stimulate debate that could lead to solutions to the real problems faced by many men, rather they “seem particularly to want to place the responsibility for its problems on women who can be described as ‘emancipated’, without realising that there are certainly other causes”.
“Feminist positions today, although diverse, stand for more justice in our societies, including politics and the economy. This does not mean – and has never meant - a reversal of discriminating structures,” said Bieri.
She said one of the most popular examples drawn upon by antifeminists and more mainstream men’s interest groups is the discrimination of fathers in divorce decrees.
“All I can read from the antifeminist position is frustration, possibly rooted in personal experiences. I think it is a very marginal position with no potential for generating initiatives which would be acceptable for average citizens,” she added.