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Saturday 19 January 2019

Men are amazing - how on Earth would we ever li ve without them?

Whether we call it feminism or equality, there's no doubt that growing hostility towards males destroys the notion of balance and opportunity

Shailene Woodley, the star of blockbuster film The Fault in our Stars, recently announced that she's definitely not a feminist. Her reason?

"I think the idea of raise women to power, take the men away from the power is never going to work out because you need balance," she said.

I suspect that there's many a self-proclaimed feminist that would agree with her. I know I would. Because in my world the term "feminist" means "a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, cultural and social rights for women".

There's absolutely nothing about "taking men away from the power", except insofar as to create balance where there has been none.

But currently, one of the hottest topics is whether a woman is a feminist or not. Regardless of the self-proclaimed Mrs Carter (Beyonce) writhing around on a stage underneath the word "Feminist", many women have decided to not just turn away but to actively campaign against the "F" word.

A new social media site called Women against Feminism features many articulate women explaining why feminism not only victimises women but is actually anti-men.

This isn't some conservative backlash against "girl-power", this is a heartfelt movement by successful, educated women who believe that feminism is anti-equality and serves no other purpose today than to vilify and emasculate men.

hatred

Is this true? Is the well-documented rise in misogyny a natural response to a feminist misandry? Misandry - literally "hatred of men" - is an accusation that has been thrown at 'feminists' since before suffragettes began to campaign for the vote, but have these 'anti-feminists' got a point?

Is today's feminism hostile to men and demeaning of women? Have we forgotten the original aim of feminism which was to bring greater benefits to both sexes through gender balance within and outside the home?

Well, there's certainly been an upsurge in the amount of anti-male sentiment coming from self-described feminists.

Journalist Jess Zimmerman last month wrote an article called Men, Get on Board with Misandry, saying that the new man-hating movement actually really likes blokes.

Yes, when these New Misandrists say things like "ban men", "kill all men" and "I can't wait until all men are illegal", apparently they're just being ironic.

And if men don't get the joke? Well, according to Zimmerman, they're "universally brittle, insecure, humourless weenies with victim complexes". And this is where feminists like me start to empathise with the boys. Which perhaps is the point? As Zimmerman says: "We've been listening to rape jokes and wife-beating jokes and smiling and gritting our teeth like forever."

But trying to outdo the men at being obnoxious and sexist really isn't doing anyone any favours.

It's making the blokes even more convinced that feminists are man-haters and it's causing real feminists to abandon the cause of equality quicker than you can say "all sex is rape".

Feminists like Zimmerman say they aren't against men per se, they just want to "kill the concept of masculinity".

Is this why blokes are growing all those long beards? Because they feel their masculinity is being threatened?

Perhaps it is. And seriously, who can blame them?

The whole point of feminism is that the sexes should be treated equally insofar as is possible and appropriate to the situation. So, for instance, if a woman violently assaults a man (not in self-defence) she should be excoriated in the same manner as a man who punches a woman.

Violence, we teach our kids, is always wrong. But the rules seem to be different for some people.

For example, Kelly Brook blithely revealed recently that she had punched not one but two ex-boyfriends, Jason Statham and Danny Cipriani. "In my defence, I don't think he felt it," she said when asked about the incident with Statham. "This is Jason we're talking about. He's a martial arts expert."

Brook has blamed her violence on her "fiery temper", as if it's some form of cute character flaw.

But would a man in that situation get away with admitting to hitting a woman? It happens an awful lot, I know. And I also know that women are violently abused by men far more than the other way around.

But we know - and admit publicly - that hitting a woman is wrong. And yet people just shrug their shoulders and giggle when it's the other way around.

This isn't good enough. Recently, two videos showing violent attacks that took place in elevators were put into the public domain, and the very different reactions of the public to each show our dual standards on this subject.

Some months ago, a surveillance video showed Solange, Beyonce's sister, attacking Jay Z (Beyonce's husband) violently in an elevator after a gala event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

From all appearances she "ferociously assaulted him", kicking and hitting him while a bodyguard tried to restrain her. To his credit, Jay Z never attempted to strike her in retaliation. The reaction? Amusement and hilarity and queries as to what exactly Jay Z had said or done to inflame Solange and cause her to strike him.

Now, just imagine what the reaction would have been if it had been the other way around and Jay Z had been the one attacking his sister-in-law so brutally?

obscene

Well, last week a horrific video was also released, showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then fiance unconscious in a casino elevator.

Rightfully, the Baltimore Ravens have now fired Rice (though only after being forced to view the video) and the National Football League has suspended him indefinitely for his obscene, criminal behaviour. The public reaction to his behaviour has been revulsion.

Domestic abuse and violence against women is a huge problem worldwide, but by having different standards applied to women who violently abuse men we are doing victims of male abuse (both men and women) no favours.

Because immediately we try to highlight this appalling problem we are then hit with the WATM (What About The Men?) excuse by real misogynists, the type who call female feminists feminazis.

Why, they ask, should they take male violence seriously when society doesn't even acknowledge that violence against men by women is an offence?

They have a point. This is not the type of inequality that feminism should support. Every time we agitate for a right - the right not to be subjected to violent abuse, for example - we must also ensure that right is afforded to men.

That's what equality really is - wanting the same rights, the same opportunities and the same intrinsic values for both genders.

As I said, I identify as a feminist because I believe in equality. And also as a feminist I love men. Seriously, why wouldn't I? I was a total Daddy's girl. I now have a loving husband, my brother is one of my best mates and I utterly adore my son.

Men are amazing - how on Earth would we live without them? Who would want to live without them?

So, I am a feminist because I want my son to grow up to be a better, fairer, happy and moral man. I don't want him to live in a world where he is judged solely on his physical prowess, his career or his income.

I want my son to live in a world where he feels comfortable taking time out to care for his family, where he respects men and women alike and where he has the moral courage to speak out against rape culture, discrimination and sexism.

I don't want him to grow up in a world where he feels second-rate or surplus to a woman's needs. I want him as a would-be father to feel that his opinion on birth and abortion are valued. I want him to have all the support he needs in a world where the male role is changing and where we are starting to understand that the old patriarchal system of man equals provider and woman equals carer are changing.

Which is why, when I go to meetings or conferences where these issues are being discussed, I am always surprised at the dearth of men attending them.

Are they not invited? Do they not feel welcome? Or don't they care?

concession

Similarly, whenever I take part in media discussions about these issues, the panels tend to be all-female (for a change!) or occasionally may have the token man as a feminist concession.

This isn't good enough. Feminism, real feminism, means that the opportunities we demand for women - the right to stay at home, the right to work, the right to equal pay, the right to freedom from violence and sexism, the right to be a good parent - must also be given to men. We are all in this together.

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