Real men don’t hit

There’s an ardent feminist in my twitter feed. That’s not why I follow her. She’s interesting and opinionated and we share some common views, but there is a heavy feminism perspective. If at times I’ve considered unfollowing her it’s not because I disagree, but simply because my interest is not as profound as hers. I’m glad to remain a follower.

I’m supportive of feminism in much the same way that I’m supportive of anyone seeking equality. As a man my perspective of feminism is much less personal, and doubtless less sophisticated than someone striving for that equality. My support is more general. I believe in the equality of rights and opportunity, regardless of gender, race, religion or creed. We all deserve the same start.

In common with many men I have occasionally found the hard edge of feminism to be bruising. I’d be a fool not to acknowledge the injustice frequently meted out to women by men. I accept that, but reject the notion that the mere fact of being male makes me in some way culpable. There is much written about men, about the male entity, which would entail accusations of discrimination if the word ‘man’ was substituted with ‘black’ or ‘jew’, or indeed ‘woman’. This is unfortunate, but more than that it is sloppy.

That commentary so scathing goes largely unchallenged is because it is impolitic to speak out against it. Most people today support the principle of feminism, if not the reality, and in civilised circles it’s a sacred cow. To be a male and critical makes it doubly hard, and you run the certain risk of being branded a bigot.

It’s not ideal, but then these discussions are rarely completely rational. Ultimately I’m one of the men who shrugs his shoulders and lets it go. Whilst it is easy to feel personally aggrieved, it seems small beer when you consider the violence done by men every day.

That’s the point really. We can choose to take issue with some of the commentary, but it in large part it’s irrelevant. It’s semantics. Something much bigger is at stake.

This is something I’ve become much more aware of in recent times. It’s my twitter feed, it’s the daily news, and now, I think a swell of opinion. There’s an epidemic of male violence against women and children that has probably gone on from day dot. It’s never been a secret, but likewise I don’t know if it has ever been viewed as ‘male violence’ except by those it has been perpetrated against. Till now we have never really joined the dots; now we are seemingly. I am anyway.

As a man I have to accept that the overwhelming majority of violent crimes are committed by men. A great proportion of those crimes are perpetrated against those more vulnerable – women and children. These are indisputable facts. I can argue that yes, sure, that’s right – but it isn’t me, but that is a selfish perspective that fails to understand that it isn’t about me; it’s about the victims. At the same time you gain some understanding of why women may be fearful of my gender – I wear the same uniform.

It’s an unfortunate reality. I remember long ago in my twenties I would often go for long walks after dark. Occasionally I would end up following some woman going the same way as me. I would feel it every time. I’d be aware of the ring of my shoes on the concrete of the pavement, imagining that the unknown woman before me would be in two minds about the man following her – me. I can’t tell you how much I hated that. I was not that person, and hated the possibility that I could even be thought one. Every time I would cross the road and walk on the other side just to prevent that.

Crossing the road is not enough. Truth is that there are plenty who don’t cross the road. I don’t know if it’s my heightened awareness, or if it has ever been the case, but in the last 12 months there seem a spate of violent acts against women and children, in large part seemingly by disaffected or disturbed men.

Some of the acts have been horrific. Last week a pregnant woman was stabbed in broad daylight by her ex partner. A couple of months ago it was breaking news everywhere about the poor boy beaten to death by his father with a cricket bat. In between, weekly, daily, there is violence of all sorts by men against women and children. It’s a huge societal problem and it’s time something was done about it.

Like most I struggle to understand how things like this can happen. It’s beyond the comprehension of any civilised person, but it needs to be understood. The probability is the people doing these monstrous things are not inherently monstrous. For most of their lives they were likely considered ‘civilised’. These are husbands and fathers, people who have been loved, and doubtless loved themselves. So how does this happen?

Clearly there is something about being a male. There may be something in our genetic code (and the testosterone in our system), but I’m inclined to think that gender roles and societal pressures may have something more to do with it. Under pressure something in these men crack. The coping mechanisms in others here fail, or have never properly developed. There appears a theme in many of these acts, that of retribution and punishment. Pushed to a limit beyond which they can cope these men lash out against those they see responsible for the futile rage they feel, and seek to damage what they hold most dear.

That is the most disturbing aspect of these crimes. Last week a father killed his two young daughters. We don’t know all the facts of the matter yet, but it seems likely that his intention was to take from their mother that which she loved most. Never mind that he was killing what he loved also; never mind that they were two innocent souls. This kind of crime is very frequent.

I suspect much of this comes from a helpless male frustration. Conditioned to be such a person – the strong provider, the respected male patriarch – they become infuriated when that role is subverted – worst still, when they are branded something near the opposite. A well-balanced person moves with such things. They’re not fixed in one place. The person who becomes unbalanced instead feels himself defined by a narrative that no longer applies. He feels disempowered, even emasculated, and his sense of identity undermined. He feels himself trapped, and instead of dealing with it sensibly allows it to fester and brew until it spills over into acts of cathartic violence. That is their expression.

That’s my tinpot and very shallow interpretation of these things. If it is accurate then how is it to be combated? By being well-balanced people. That’s education and upbringing. It’s experience and perspective. Okay, so all of that is pretty obvious. The particular focus though I think should be gender roles. I’m a man, proudly masculine, and probably more male than most. In theory I should be in the higher risk category, except that I’m lucky enough to be intelligent, to have lived pretty broadly, and because I have no doubts about my place.

I’m not looking to fill a role. I’m not trying to assume anything. I’m not trying to live up to some ideal, or some conception of maleness. I’m a human being who just happens to be male. I’m an individual above all.

Husband and father are labels, not functions. It may sound trite, but all you need to be is loving. And that’s all we need to know. Move with the flow of that love and affection, let it be your guide.

It’s a problem generally in society today, the loosening of inhibitions, the lack of a moral focus. I suspect that we males particularly are as not as deeply grounded in ethics as once we were. The male role was defined more by what was right and wrong, just and not, than it is now seemingly in acting it out, the supposed ‘proof’ of it. It is ‘proven’ in excess – in violence, in drinking, in disrespect and disregard. It’s about masculine power. It’s acted out in the streets and bars as if it is badge of masculinity; but when it is defied or subverted it becomes something still more cruel in men who cannot handle it. This is not a viable way of being. We might feel kings when young, carried along on the illusory wave of male power, but it’s not a working model for adults with responsibility, and so often it cracks.

There has to be a clear and resounding message throughout society that these heinous acts are not on. They’re certainly not manly. This epidemic of crime must be exposed for what it is: violent men against helpless women and children. As men the violent reflex when our masculinity is questioned has to change. As men we need to be exposed and held to account. That’s all of us.

And we have to go back to first principles. We have to educate our children better, and be the role model they deserve.

Every really real man knows they have nothing to prove. Real men don’t hit because they know that violence is not the proof of strength, but actually the pof weakness. Thugs are softcocks.

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