This is a flipped version of this article in the Financial Times.Thanks to @Walton_Emily for the article.
Besides being a funny read, I think it highlights how weird sentences like “all women should support each other” are. Flipped to “all men should support each other” it sounds ridiculous, a sentence you would find in some sci-fi utopian novel. Also a world where “men grow up being taught about what women have done through history” sounds like a fantasy novel, sadly.
Finally, can you imagine a world where men got “rape and death threats” if they tried to campaign to get a male person on a bank note?
If you were to believe the headlines in most newspapers, you would assume men do not like each other very much. Consider: “My male boss wouldn’t promote me because I’m handsome”; “A scheming man-harpy stole my woman”; “I have no men friends because I like wearing sleeveless shirts”; and “Men hate me because I’m so beautiful”. The list goes on.
I am a masculanist, so I should deny that any of this goes on, right? I should believe men are amazing and we all support each other without question. We are paragons of virtue, models of kindness. The day I became a masculanist was the day I realised that all those snide insinuations that we are our own worst enemies were just matriarchal nonsense designed to keep us down.
But there is some truth in both positions. Men can be cruel to each other. Men can deliberately sabotage each other’s success. But the way this is interpreted – as the consequence of some innate male “cattiness” – ignores the position men are placed in from the moment they are born.
Men grow up being taught about what women have done through history. Female scientists, female mathematicians, female leaders – even when the peasants get involved, it is all about women. They see female politicians on the television talking to female journalists. They see women running around kicking, hitting, dunking balls. They read books and watch films where women take action and where women talk about women taking action.
When women still hold the reins, should we be surprised that men see other men as a threat, as potential usurpers of the female attention they need to succeed? It is clear where power lies – so is it any surprise when men know on which side their bread is buttered? Should we be surprised when this manifests itself in agreeing with the umpteenth woman that her boyfriend does sound hysterical, whilst making it clear that you yourself are the picture of rationality? Should we be surprised when it manifests itself in resentment and jealousy of the few men who do manage to break through? In the playground, no one bullies the strong, they bully the weak. And the behaviour that sees men attacking each other illustrates that men still tend to lack power.
This resentment does not just arise over success – or at least, not traditional definitions of success. I recently ran a fairly high-profile masculanist campaign to make sure at least one man (other than the King or Britannia) was depicted on English banknotes. Happily, we won. But in the aftermath of that, I was subjected to a barrage of violent rape and death threats. The vast majority of men were supportive. They had been there, some of them said. And they had been ignored.
It was different for me. I was not ignored. Because of my campaigning, the media took an interest in the backlash that followed – and media pressure forced the police to investigate crimes that they had ignored when perpetrated against less high-profile men. This disparity led some of those men to take their resentment out on me. Rather than rail against a system that unfairly privileges certain men over others, they railed against a man who had unfairly benefited from it.
Masculanism has long ignored this issue – and with good reason. With men pilloried, misrepresented, and under-represented in public life, why would we give that culture more ammunition? Why would we give that culture more excuses for claiming that men are their own worst enemies – and that is why they have failed to achieve equality?
This reaction is understandable, but ultimately futile. More than this, it is damaging. If masculanism keeps ignoring this issue, then it accepts the sexist narrative about why it arises. What we need to do instead is to acknowledge the anger and understand it. Until we stop brushing this issue under our copies of The Male Eunuch, it will never be resolved.
Masculanism will continue to fail men who have been so traumatised by growing up in a society that devalues them and threatens them with violence, that they fight back in the only way that feels safe: against each other.