The focus on men in the media over the past few years is a positive acknowledgement of the limits of male gender roles and stereotypes, at least on one level.
On another more significant level however, that acknowledgment is sadly scarred by verbal accusations of misogyny and a macho mentality, negatively inhibiting any genuine understanding of the complexities intrinsic to those roles and stereotypes and misleading social discourse about how to change them.
This past weekend, 6000 people marched through Melbourne’s CBD as part of the global Women’s March movement and I’m glad to say I wasn’t among the crowd. Certainly, I strongly support women’s rights, campaigning in my own way for these rights throughout my life.
But according to an article in The Age, the women, men and children marched against “misogyny, bigotry and hatred”, covertly expressing their own contempt for men as women haters. While I openly pity hatred for anyone by anyone, some, maybe even a majority of men, may exhibit sexist attitudes, perceiving women as nothing more than sex objects, but they’re not necessarily misogynists who hate women. Labelling men as misogynists diffuses attention from any rational and logical social debate about how to address sexist attitudes and behaviour and the discrimination that may ensue.
Suffice to say some men (what percentage?) attended the march as supporters of women’s rights, but men were singularly maligned as the main culprits of misogyny and bigotry, full of hatred towards women and responsible for their inequality. Much of the focus was against Trump and his supposed misogyny, but remarking about “grabbing a woman on the pussy” as he did is not definitively misogynist, rather no more than sexual objectification of women. I once remarked to another woman in the female toilets in a bar about whether the guy I was drinking with had “a big dick”, unashamedly objectifying him sexually, too. Even now in my 60s, the thought still crosses my mind when I espy a sexy looking man. Was I, am I, a misandrist who hates men for focusing on their dicks? It seems any man who dares comment about a female looking sexy, or even wanting to fuck her, is a misogynist. Have we hijacked the English language so inappropriately that any sexual comment, innuendo or advance is immediately assumed as misogynist?
In a global perspective as women marched across the western world, it is pertinent to realise that the leaders of the conservative, far right groups in both France and Germany who have openly supported Trump, are female; Marine Le Pen of the National Front and of the AdF respectively. Of course in Australia, the ultra-right party, One Nation, is led by a woman, too, Pauline Hanson, another Trump supporter, who even received an invitation to attend his inauguration. Gender does not subsume sanity or common sense.
Protests were supposedly organised against the Trump philosophy of grabbing a woman by the pussy, among other things, but among his most ardent supporters are women, no less leaders of important political parties that are seemingly garnering increasing support not just from men in their countries, but women, too. Indeed, more women apparently voted for Trump than Hillary Clinton. Mainstream media commentators, both male and female, seem to willfully ignore this reality, happily content to continue castigating and berating men as misogynists without even looking beneath the surface to try and understand what is actually transpiring in our midst. Are so many men, including Trump, misogynists and full of hate towards women, or are they just sexists, locked into a narrow moral prison without bars to ensure power and control in their political domain.
Moreover, one of the organisers of Melbourne’s march, Alana Dowdell, said “no one is going to solve these problems unless we step up…We have to start… putting ourselves up for positions where we can make a difference.” For many years, I have both spoken out and written about how women must assert their leadership, power and control over their own lives instead of simply lambasting men. It’s interesting that more than 40 years since I first expressed these beliefs, only now are some women recognising it may just be up to them. Yet, at the same time, the march was anti-male, evoking the same old catch cry of misogyny that contradicts women taking responsibility for their own lives. Moreover, if women haven’t put themselves up for positions in the past, as Dowdell is suggesting, what is their rational and realistic basis for their claims of misogyny? What are the facts? It seems women want it all ways, appreciating, finally, it’s their choice to aspire to positions where they can make a difference but simultaneously blaming men as women haters when they don’t achieve those positions.
It may be that male bias, both conscious and unconscious, does play a role in subverting women from these achievements, but it’s not about misogyny per se and demands careful and clear analysis to redress this. And if women haven’t put themselves up for positions previously, their claims of misogyny are empty and baseless misandry. Indeed too, female bias can be as relevant as male bias. Dowdell admitted at the march there was “an atmosphere of frustration…anger and disgust…” but these emotional responses must be understood and tempered if real change is ever to ensue. What is the source of the frustration, anger and disgust? If women haven’t even put themselves up for positions to make a difference, I can only ponder about more unconscious causes engendering these emotional responses.
Certainly, I too experienced similar feelings nearly 40 years ago when I DID put myself up for positions believing I could make a difference, only to be rejected which seemed based on sexist attitudes by men. However, I never screamed “misogyny” but sexism, trying to understand at the same time where many men were coming from and how the situation demanded a cool, reasoned approach to implement change. It was about male irrationality towards me, and by some women, too, not hatred. If women at the march were angry as Dowdell asserts, I can only ponder what they are really angry about, given that they have not put themselves up for positions in the past.
Moreover, I also fortunately recognised that women were as hostile to me and my ambitions as many men were. In 1980, I wrote: “One woman gets up and she’s a threat to the social pecking order”, implying that many women seemed to find solace in shared victimhood casting all men as perpetrators against them and unwilling to confront any personal responsibility for their selves.
Understanding how women can be as inimical to women aspiring to positions of power as many men can be, is still shrouded by silence, unspoken about and unwritten in the mainstream media. Sometimes there’s just a brief reference to women’s antipathy towards women as in another article in The Age on the weekend, a female Insta icon addict commented that “In an age where so much celebrity media coverage is designed to pull other women down…..” , revealing just how ‘cruel’ women can be to women. Other blogs I’ve written encapsulate this same behaviour as attested to by other women, but it doesn’t warrant lucid analysis or profound investigation in the media. The march was all about male misogyny, devoid of any realisation that women can be ‘unkind’ to women as much as some men might be.
Another article in The Age, penned of course by a woman who is also a mother of four, wrote “I look forward to the day when the terms that we use to describe men – “fearless”, “strong,” and “confident” applies to their heart just as much as their body and mind,” labelling men as “emotional cowards” she’s going to try her hardest to avoid. Applying the derogatory term “macho” to these men, she seems so out of touch with the real world of men that it’s almost tragic, as many men are certainly not fearless (and why would you want to be?), strong or confident as I have written previously. Moreover, why shouldn’t women aspire to be strong and confident, “macho” females, too? Fearless is a completely erroneous appellation as being frightened of some things is to be applauded as it can well save your life. I’ve known many men who have been just as frightened as me about war, violence and destruction. Indeed, it was a man who sang in the 60s about the world being on the “eve of destruction.”
Sadly, The Age is so unbalanced about a misogynist ideology out there I can only wonder who these women writers have been talking to all their lives as well as what books they have read and what radio programs and TV broadcasts they listen to. They’re not the only ones I have to say.
Yes, I’ve encountered some men who are unable to acknowledge their emotional vulnerabilities and would fail an emotional intelligence test, but fortunately, I’ve also known many women who are likewise and many men who are not. Gender is not definitive when it comes to emotions and how they are expressed and/or repressed. It seems for many female writers, populist mythology manifests as fact, images dictating a reality that with understanding reveals itself to be disingenuous and but a mask for what lives behind it. There is a very different narrative if you are interested in the truth, about men and just as importantly, about women, too. You can decide!