There was a dive bar on Kerpling's Street that the college kids liked to hang out at on the evenings. It was where Cameron started going his junior year, still wearing the skinny jeans he did at the tail end of high school, a skinny hipster with a few tattoos. Cameron was drinking less than when he was a freshman, but only a little less, with an empty shooter and a craft beer next to it tonight. The walls were ugly: fake, paneled wood doused with the color of old neon signs that seemed to light the place better than the dim, hidden bulbs in the ceiling. There was one pool table, but nobody playing on this particular night, and it was too early to know how busy the place would be.
Cameron sat at the bar alone, consuming social media through the screen of his expensive phone. Someone he knew from high school was getting married, an old fling just hooked up with some new guy, and his younger brother was always posting hilarious and retarded pictures-- among endless other quick glances into the lives of people he was actually growing increasingly disconnected from. He barely noticed a young man around his age with headphones in, mimicking the gesture. Maybe this guy was a loser, or maybe he was waiting on friends too, or maybe both. Cameron couldn't help but look over at the man's screen, just a quick, harmless glance-- at worst, he could blame his intrusiveness on the alcohol.
"Sorry, I've just drank too much." Cameron could say, mulling it over in his head, but obviously not when the bartender was around.
What Cameron saw on the stranger's phone disgusted him and disagreed with him. It wasn't anything so abrasive to be criminal. Nor was it some picture or video depicting violence or death. But he recognized it in the same way someone recognizes a person that they hate: it was a website for Men's Rights Activists.
"Are you an MRA?" Cameron asked with a grin on his face.
"Yes." The other man said. He had short brown hair, blue jeans, and a plain black leather jacket. He seemed to be pretty average: not skinny, nor obese, a little stubble, but not overtly uncommon in any way.
"Why do you look at that stuff? Don't you know they hate women?" Cameron sipped his drink.
"I also keep tabs on Pick Up Artists and Men Going Their Own Way."
"So your a misognyist then?"
"No I don't hate women and most of these people don't hate women." The stranger replied.
"A lot of those guys say some pretty nasty stuff. I have female friends who call them rape apologists. I don't see how you can call yourself an MRA and not hate women."
"Do you call yourself a Feminist?" The MRA asked.
"I'd say I'm a male Feminist, yeah." Cameron said.
"And Feminists stand for equality right?"
"Well duh. I mean everyone knows that." Cameron did a partial roll of his eyes, he was enjoying this conversation, and waiting for this guy to say something outlandish that could easily be refuted.
The stranger took a drink and set his glass back down softly, "What have feminists done for men?"
"Men make up the patriarchy. We're the ones in power. We don't respect women enough. We treat them like sex objects."
The stranger motioned to the bartender, "Could I get a shot of Fireball and another beer?"
"How can you make an argument against that?" Cameron said, holding onto his glass, the moisture soaking into the napkin underneath it.
"I can't disagree with all of your points, only make some major changes to your argument." The stranger said calmly.
"Like what changes man. By the way, what's your name? Do you go to school around here?"
"I used to. A name.. I'll tell you that if you hear me out, okay?"
Cameron was intrigued. "Alright."
"Imagine, for a second, a boy being raised by a single mother in an apartment that's falling apart."
"Sounds like my childhood." Cameron laughed, he felt an alcohol buzz, and was still waiting for this guy's sexist attitude to show through like every other MRA he had encountered.
"Years go by and the mother is starting to lose control of the boy. She's frustrated, doesn't know what to do, turns to her female friends for help. He's starting to fail in school. So she gets more angry, figures he has a learning disorder.. that's what some of the teachers are saying. Poor boy doesn't want to be put on medicine, he says that a school is a 'Drug Free Zone', but if the doctor says he has a disorder, than it must be true."
"What is the point of this story? Because right now you sound like a sexist and a conspiracy theorist."
The stranger looked off into space, sipping his drink, talking to the wall of neon-lit bottles. "Well most of his teachers are female, maybe some of them have never even had sons. But it would be sexist and misogynist to suggest anything out of that information. And the boy gets put on ADD stimulants, and he hates it, he feels like a drone. So he just acts out more, gets more detention, hates the world around him and everyone who makes fun of him.
"The mother takes to the bottle, she can barely keep her job, and she looks deeper into the internet for answers. Maybe more medicine, maybe new treatments, there is something wrong with her son. There is something wrong with men. Whatever is wrong with her, its related to boys and men. She has to stop her son from becoming his father, or men who are worse."
"So what's the point? This is one story compared to the widespread abuse of women all over the world. Why does this brat who is getting what's coming even matter?"
At this point the stranger took the last swig of his beer, "He's not the same child, whatever he is or what's left of him. His grades are better, but his mind is being destroyed, and secretly he talks of suicide, and asks me if I have a gun. I start to wonder what drugs she's putting him on, but I pull my mind from it, tell him 'no' and exit the conversation."
Cameron scoffed his new acquaintance, "Is this story even real? If you are trying to get an emotional reaction out of me.. Try harder. Obviously this kid has problems, but its none of my fucking business. And you are obviously a sexist looking for an emotional reaction out of me."
"This is your brother, Cameron Bryant Moore.. this is what is happening to your younger brother."