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Wednesday, January 13

Male identity

You've got to love the anti-feminists. By love, I mean smother. Of course.

The anti-feminists have an impossible argument. Feminism in its simplest form is the idea that the opportunity for a woman should be equal to that of a man. How that equality is achieved, and how things are presently unequal is something which may be a matter of opinion, but fundamentally, it's not a difficult concept to grasp.

By the way, I'm mansplaining here, but this article is not for reading. Sorry, didn't I mention that. This is an exercise in thinking. Feel free to ignore.

For the anti-feminist to "win", they have to demonstrate either that:

  • Women are innately inferior - that's only provable using specific pairings, and it's completely unscientific - like comparing whether taking two aspirin is more effective than two marbles
  • The current tradition is in some way sacred - bring in the holy men, who want their god to protect their boy's club
  • All feminists are out to get them
Bizarrely, it's this last argument which becomes self-fulfilling, as these often aggressively insecure little men send so much hatred in the direction of their feminist foe - or foeminists - that they end up receiving plenty of it back, thus completing the cycle. I don't know the cure, though perhaps it's similar to what I once heard about someone who was cured of his belief in scientology because he ended up having a lot of sex with a Croatian woman. Perhaps that's what feminism needs - just sacrifice Croatia and you can have the world.

Perhaps not.

As a man who considers himself pro feminist, I can't always say that I agree with all individual feminist people's views. There's a very carefully constructed sentence! I don't think I'm supposed to agree with every person's view though. That would be as bad as automatically disagreeing with all their views because of who they are. 

In some cases, I don't see the cause/effect the way its portrayed - for example, I don't have the same reaction to sexual imagery as some people I've encountered, and I think the power of that varies dependent on culture.

In some cases, I think there's an instinctive defensive reaction to being told that I'm in a position of power as a man, and that what me and my kind need is to back down in some way or another. The reason I can't comprehend that is that I don't feel especially empowered. I don't feel like Simba, the Lion King, set to inherit a great Kingdom, master of all I survey. Everywhere I look, I see people who may be doing worse, the same, or better than I am. So where's that so called advantage I'm supposed to have?

The answer is that, pound for pound, I may be better off that other people whom I can't see, and I have to rely on the statistics to tell the true story. Moreover, I can't use something relative to determine an absolute.

And this is the problem. Overall empowerment of a gender does not happen at the cost of disempowering another... well, it depends on what the power is. If the power is "mastery over all the bitches" then yes, empowering women will reduce that power. If the power is "I'm quite good at baking" then my baking skills are the same regardless of the existence of other bakers. You don't have to pull the ladder up, once you've reached a height - there's room for everyone up there.

Sure, the sense of accusation against my entire gender rankles a little, but we all need to challenge our own behaviour and expectations a little and perhaps there is a complacency you get from things always being so good. I'm awash with first world problems which would make people from poorer countries or even the past consider me to be a total prick. I get cross when my phone doesn't pick up 4G - to people of the past, I've got a magic light pebble, why am I being so goddamned ungrateful?

Where I can kind of relate to the anti-fems a bit is on the subject of male identity. Perhaps in the past one's culture as a man was expected to follow a certain template. I'm not sure I've ever followed that template myself, but I think there was one. I knew I didn't follow that template when people would say "Which team?" "I'm not on any team." "No, which football team do you support?" "I don't support a football team." "Ah, of course. Rugby. I should have known considering the size of you." "No, I'm not into sport. I like computers.". Crass though it may have been, male identity kind of used to work that way.You had a football team, you had a particular alcohol you drank, you never talked about your feelings and you'd try to suppress your baser instincts until you died.

Nowadays the big things that men used to pride themselves on, like ogling women, wearing sturdy but unattractive clothing, and using the term "whoooarh" a lot (it's an expression of either shared lust - look at her, whooarh - or of triumph - the lads won - whoooarh - or of a wistful desire to be a pirate) - those big things are not de-rigeur any more. Men have had to wake up to the possibility that there's more to life than being a man.

The last thing a man wants to do is work out how to have depth. There's no time, in between the ogling, the functional dressing and the whooaring.

The fact that for the first time ever, the James Bond film had a song where the man wasn't the alpha is a clue to this cultural shift. Normally Bond themes are a veiled or direct reference to the sheer might of a man. Either it's a women singing about her desire for a man, or a metaphor for a man (like a diamond, which is basically a penis, but a penis with a hardness measured on the Moh scale), or being ditched by a man, or it's a man, usually Tom Jones, singing about how great a man is. The most recent Bond Film had the plaintive crying of a man boy admitting that he's powerless without a woman.

That's a big change.

The supermen are questioning their powerbase.

... except they're not really because these sorts of things will require a lot more soul searching to hit the real world, but the influences are coming.

And young men these days have a dilemma of their own. How do they express their manhood? What's the badge you wear to show you're male and yet not a rapist?

Facial hair has been taking one for the team. It used to be that a man was either clean shaven or occasionally bearded, except in the seventies where everyone was very heavily bearded, which they used to absorb the smoke from their constant smoking. This fashion died out after the Yorkshire Ripper, a bearded man, was apprehended in the 1980's as it was felt that facial hair could, in some extreme circumstances, lead to prostitute murder.

But now bearded is back. You can be a non-rapist beardy if you use product. You can create a whole facial topiary all your own. Or you can use the new seven blade razor and have a shave so close that you'll panic every time you do it. At the rate that razors are gaining blades, by 2020, the average man will be applying 32768 blades to his face every morning, and a sneeze during shaving will be fatal.

There's even a template to follow. You grow a moustache for movember, because that reduces cancer up someone arse or something - I'm not sure if you're supposed to collect money too - then in December you add stubble to it, in a secret race with your friends to see who can claim to have a full Santa beard by the 25th. Then in January, you make it your new year's resolution not to play with it all the same and to occasionally mop the soup out of it.

Before you know it you're Brian Blessed.

That's the problem. The male role models are a bit one note. A big powerful loud man with a broad chest and a ginormous beard. That's supposed to be what we're aiming at... 

Non-feminism sucks!

There's more in my head, but that's enough for now.

Just to be clear, this is not really a political or serious column - it's a writing exercise for me to gain maybe 1 minute's worth of thoughts on a subject that in here somewhere. What I need is jokes, not original thought!


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