April was a difficult month for Earl Silverman. Beset by financial difficulties, he shut the doors of the shelter for battered men that he had operated out of his home in Alberta, Canada, for three years. Then he sold the house, packed his belongings, and hung himself in his garage — a victim, wrote Harry Crouch of the U.S.-based National Coalition for Men, of “murder by disinterest by the Feminist State of Canada.”
Silverman, who in 1991 started a self-help group for abused men, was himself a victim of domestic violence. His abusive wife fled to a women’s shelter after he “hit her back,” he said, but he was unable to find equivalent refuge for himself. For years, he filed complaints with the provincial government, arguing that its failure to provide equal funding for battered men was a violation of basic human rights. Exploiting activists’ suicides to inflame their misogynistic base is nothing new for the men’s rights movement. In 2011, Thomas James Ball, a leader of the Worcester, Mass.-based Fatherhood Coalition, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire outside the Cheshire County, N.H., courthouse, where for nearly a decade he had been involved in a legal battle with his ex-wife over domestic violence, child abuse, and child support payments. In a letter that arrived posthumously at the Keene Sentinel, he claimed that the federal government had “declared war on men” and suggested they retaliate with violence.
Sympathetic bloggers celebrated Ball as a martyr and proclaimed as “evil” anyone who dared criticize his words or actions. They reacted similarly to Silverman’s suicide and singled out as a target of their rage Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, who wrote, “There are male victims” but that Silverman, who claimed men and women are abused at equal rates (in fact, men are victimized far less frequently), appeared to have succumbed to “demons” that “had long plagued him.”
“Williams stood on Earl’s carcass,” fumed Paul Elam at A Voice For Men, one of the movement’s most prominent and vicious websites. “Yes, he did have demons. … The only thing she forgot to mention is that the demons were her and those of her repugnant ilk.”
Elam’s readers could not have agreed more. “EVERY FEMINIST is a little bit to blame for Earls [sic] death, just as they are more than a little to blame for the grossly disproportionate male suicide rate in general,” opined one. Wrote another, “Factoring in the broader, systemic factors, I have no doubt whatsoever that feminism killed Earl Silverman, as surely as it is killing men every day.”