I think this is a very good article/interview. I almost wrote ‘refreshing’, but I know that would be misunderstood, as so many aspects of feminism are.
What’s good about this interview is not that it focuses on men, but rather it takes a broader, more nuanced view of the feminism question. So much opinion these days is binary, either one end or the other, and often sensationalised, and that’s certainly true of feminism also. The truth is almost exclusively more complex and sophisticated than that. It’s not black and white; it’s more interesting than that.
Now I don’t know that I’m one of the men referred to struggling with my gender role. For me, as always, it’s not about me as a man, it’s about me as an individual. I identify very strongly as a man, and have strong masculine attributes – attributes I wouldn’t want to see watered down – but ultimately they are aspects of the person I am. I think that’s a sensible perspective.
I don’t know if I could be called a feminist, but I’m a supporter – in general – of feminist principles. That’s entirely consistent with my innate philosophy, based around common sense and equality. I know that many of my views expose me to accusations of being a bleeding heart liberal, but I don’t see myself as being that. To me it’s just rational common sense.
What reason is there that women should have less opportunity than men? There are differences in the sexes which means that treatment perhaps is different, but there is no rational reason why they should be treated as the inferior. I say that not as a feminist, but as a human being who believes in equality on grounds of pure rationality.
Likewise when it comes to matters of race and sexuality and religion. There are differences – and they’re what makes the world a fascinating place – but those differences should not lead to discrimination. Once more it’s about unprejudiced rationality. That’s the key word unfortunately – unprejudiced. There’s few people who don’t suffer from some form of it (including me), and in its extreme versions it’s a destructive force.
Which brings us to a subject alluded to in this article – male misogyny. This has probably always been a serious issue, but now it’s getting the exposure and commentary much overdue. What’s revealed is a shocking pattern of male violence against women.
The simple explanation for it is male misogyny. That’s true often probably, but I think it’s more complex than that – as this woman, Laurie Penny, speaks of.
I tend to agree that a lot of it is socio-economic, combined with male self-perception. When times are fraught fissures open. Hairline cracks widen. Financial pressures, unemployment, etc force people – men – back onto their own resources. It’s a pressure environment. Those who cope well do because they remain composed in the face of it. Some of that is nature, but a lot is upbringing and attitude, and perceptions of self. We’re brought up to be proud, to provide for our family. When we can’t do that our value as a man is diminished, or so we feel. Rather than admit to that so many lash out and shift blame. Those cracks open to become gaping wounds, at which point there is little hope for rational behaviour.
I can comment on this better than most because I have suffered the identical trials. It has been testing to overcome, and remains so. In my case I’m fortunate that I have a basically unflappable/stoic nature. I couldn’t maintain that if I didn’t also have the flexibility of mind to understand my circumstances. Self-awareness and a rational appreciation of the situation count for a lot. I bend, but so many break.
That’s what happens. Rather than kicking the dog the men we condemn lash out those more vulnerable. They succumb to their own weakness, and deep down know it, and that only makes it worse. They transfer their guilt onto others, find reasons to blame others and justify their predicament, rather than facing it head on. It’s then they beat their wife or partner or child, to punish them, and to express themselves. Expression is necessary, to get the poison out of you, but there are better ways of doing it. Therein lies the challenge.
Education is certainly useful, but more important I think are life skills. The reason that men do this to women, and not the other way around, is that men are loaded with the patriarchal burden. In their mind, conscious or otherwise, they have been conditioned to live up to a masculine standard. It’s awfully rigid though, and destructive to the self.
This is why we should be aspiring to a standard of individuality, not masculinity. We should be trying to be ourselves completely, independent of our gender, rather than being held to a shallow and unfulfilling confection of masculine self.