Volatile times these days, not the least in terms of the relationship between men and women. There’s still a lot in flux, but there’s a sense that it must inevitably result in something – something being a resolution perhaps, an understanding, or perhaps something to the contrary. I think that’s true across large parts of the world with the #metoo movement, and certainly true in Australia also.
It’s a disruptive time. The combination of recent news and awful events have cracked the old and settled ways. Women, who have been subject to harassment and mistreatment for so long, are speaking up and speaking out. Many men are confused by this. Some are hostile. Others, like me, become enlightened. As always when the first tremors of what may be a seismic shift are felt there’s a sense of turmoil. For me, and others like me, it’s a positive, though there’s a long way to go. For others they take it as a threat to their very identity.
#metoo set things off, but in Oz in the last few weeks there have been two events which have illustrated the scale of the issue.
The death of Eurydice Dixon caught the imagination of the public, as occasionally such events will. It paralleled the reaction to the murder of Jill Meagher some years ago, but, I think, with one significant difference. There was a huge outcry when Jill Meagher was stalked and murdered. The public was rightly outraged. There was talk about how it was a part of a pattern of male abuse, but as usually these things do it died away. It became a horrific crime. It certainly wasn’t an isolated event, but there wasn’t the momentum at that time to make it a rallying point.
The murder of Eurydice Dixon was horrific. It caused an outcry and created outrage. It was another instance of a male perpetrating violence upon a woman, but now the time was ripe for it to catalyse into a movement. In the years between these two terrible murders so many of us have become woke. The outrages of #metoo opened the eyes of so many to the perils women face on a daily basis. I count myself enlightened and thoughtful, yet I had no idea of the scale or depth of the issue. One reason for that is that so many victims, disillusioned with an indifferent society, accepted it as their unsavoury lot. Now they too have been activated: no more.
The murder of Eurydice Dixon then became a cause celebre, typical of what women have had to suffer but the tipping point at which the reasonable said this cannot go on: change must come. It forced us to consider what it said of us as a society, then forced some of us to consider what it said of us as men. That was confronting for everyone – as it should be – and I’m hopeful will lead onto changed behaviours. For some though, it was a bridge too far.
This leads us to the second event. In parliament last week an independent senator known for his extreme views basically called a female senator a slut, and accused her of misandry.
I reckon a few months ago no-one had much idea what misandry was – basically the other side of misogyny. Nowadays it’s become a popular rallying call for men disaffected by recent developments. I think it’s pathetic.
There’s good reason that misandry was such an obscure term: it’s a rare phenomenon. It exists I know, and to be fair there has been some pretty rugged commentary in recent months, but like every movement there are extremes. The ratbag fringe aren’t worth worrying about, and the undeniable truth is that misogyny is a thousand times more common than misandry, and much more dangerous.
The problem is that the status quo that so many men have benefitted from since forever is being threatened by women wanting to assert their rights. It’s a fault of our culture and education that for so many men their sense of identity is so tenuous that it must be asserted in masculine terms. Those terms are archaic and often toxic. For generations it meant that men could feel cosy in their false manhood and women knew their place. With the tide turning – women raising their voice and liberal society joining them – these very same men are feeling disempowered because that tenuous sense of identity is under threat. (That’s the problem when you root your identity in concepts rather than self). They hit out in response, they abuse, they elect to act out their corrupted notion of manhood, and look to put women back in their place – calling them sluts and accusing them of abuse. As I said, pathetic.
Of course it’s deeply unintelligent, as has much of the male reaction to recent events.
When women attacked men after the murder of Eurydice Dixon it was not individual men who were being abused but the state of manhood. I was not offended. I thought it a fair cop. If I am a member of a state that is notorious for being violent and abusive then why should I be surprised if I’m treated with suspicion? It’s a sorry situation, but hardly shocking. Sure, I’ve never done any of that and don’t think I could, but it’s not about me. Ultimately it’s about the women who have had to exist with that state, wary and often afraid and uncertain and sometimes harassed, victimised, and worse. I’m glad it’s come to the point that women are speaking up, and as a man it’s now up to us to change.
For me a lot of it comes down to education and how we raise our sons. There is some arrant nonsense about masculinity and manhood. To hang your sense of self upon such a warped concept can only lead to trouble. We need to raise our sons, as well as daughters, to be good people. Many of those attributes we know: kindness, generosity, compassion, courage, honesty, gentleness, and so on. The rest must come from within, and for me that means our sense of self must come from within ourselves, and not be derived by external concepts.
I don’t know if that will be easy to achieve, but I sense a change and I don’t think we can go back now. Too many people are woke now, too many people activated, too many conscious that change must come. The actions of old dinosaurs claiming misandry will only hasten that along because it causes outrage and is seen for what it is – nonsense. All we need is for some of our institutions to catch up.
All this I am across and fervently hope for. At the same time it asks questions of notions I have believed in without consideration. It’s a curious thing, but I’ll take that up in another post.