Do Men Prefer Feminism, Football or Fight Club?

Ally Fogg, masculinity, hyper-masculinity, homophobia, masculinity crisis, David Beckham, diane abbott, glen poole, international men's movement, labour party, Men's Health, male suicide, fight club, mysogyny, gender war, pornography, feminism, Tony Parsons, GQ, Julie Burchill, soccer, Amol Rajan, Ally Fogg, Osama Bin Laden, Matt Hill, the Guardian, The Independent, cancer, body image,

If we want men to talk about men’s issues then we have to stop dressing them up in feminist clothing says Glen Poole, our international men’s movement editor. 

Masculinity has been making headlines in the UK this week. The word on the street is that masculinity is in crisis and men won’t talk about it.

Actually, that’s not true, the word on the street is that the international sporting superstar David Beckham is retiring from football (or soccer if you prefer). This news has been trumpeted from news stands on street corners in every corner of the globe.

Meanwhile, journalists in the UK have been talking about masculinity because a self-declared “card-carrying feminist and single mother” happened to mention that it appears to be in crisis.

This isn’t any feminist, single mother by the way. This is Diane Abbot, Britain’s first black woman Member of Parliament who, as things stand, would be in charge of the nation’s Public Health if the Labour Party wins the next election.

So when Diane Abbot MP makes a speech about “masculinity in crisis” the nation’s political commentators listen – even if people on the street are more interested in an international football star retiring.

♦◊♦

According to Abbott “it’s all become a bit like the film Fight Club—the first rule of being a man in modern Britain is that you’re not allowed to talk about it”.

“Too many British men and boys who need the space and support to talk about manhood….from an early age….will remain silent,” she said.

While women have a life-affirming grassroots political movement, “our men have little movement politics to speak of (and) many British men have no authentic voice”.

It’s time, she said, to “move away from adversarial gender politics”.

“It’s a bit like the film Fight Club, the first rule of being a man is you’re not allowed to talk about it”

Now I’m not generally a fan of Abbot’s left-wing, feminist perspectives on men’s issues but when a woman of her standing comes waving a white flag and calls truce in the Gender Wars, I’m happy to listen.

I turned off the sports report—as there is a limit to the number of interesting angles you can view David Beckham’s retirement from in one day—and took a sneak preview of Abbot’s speech to find out why she thinks we have a “crisis of masculinity”.

It turned out that Abbot is concerned about the crudely individualistic, homophobic, hyper-masculine, porn-obsessed, celebration of heartlessness fuelled by Viagra and Jack Daniels that passes for modern manhood in Britain these days.

Damn it! She lured me away from the football and into gender peace talks with a mention of Fight Club and then comes out with this? And to think I could have been listening to an in depth analysis of how Beckham’s different hairstyles affected his sporting performance instead.

♦◊♦

I’ll be honest with you , I was a bit annoyed and so was Tony Parsons, author of Man and Boy, who wrote in GQ:

“When Diane Abbott asserts that Britain is facing a crisis of masculinity, she is barking up the wrong trouser leg.

“The truth is exactly the opposite—men have never been more in touch with their emotions, and more honest about expressing them. Just because they are not crying in their lap of the Shadow Public Health Minister doesn’t mean they are not doing it.

“Men, I would suggest, have never been better than they are today. More involved in bringing up their children. More genuinely supportive of their partners. More willing to discuss their fears with those closest to them. Diane Abbott appears to know nothing about British men.”

Parsons, an ex-husband of the prominent feminist commentator Julie Burchill, concluded his GQ article by proposing that boxing  should be made compulsory in all schools—which I translated to mean that he prefers Fight Club to feminism.

♦◊♦

For my part, I wrote a comment piece for the left-wing Guardian newspaper saying—in the spirit of Abbott’s proposed gender armistice—that while she is right to say that there aren’t enough men engaged in conversations about manhood, it is little wonder when modern British men are described in such negative terms as being hyper-masculine, homophobic, misogynistic and obsessed with pornography.

More men charged into the gender peace talks to wage war.

Ally Fogg wrote an open letter to Abbott warning against politicians  who “unfairly and inaccurately portray modern young men and boys as violent, abusive, feral and destructive” and Amol Rajan, who used to be a Sports News Correspondent so probably prefers football to feminism, wrote in The Independent:

“Taking lectures from Abbott on masculinity is a bit like taking lectures from bin Laden on tall buildings”

“Taking lectures from Abbott on masculinity is a bit like taking lectures from bin Laden on tall buildings. Can you imagine if a bloke gave a speech on a “crisis of femininity”? He’d be slaughtered. Whole queues of haters would form. Online, the abuse would be horrendous. And who do you think would lead the charge? That’s right—Diane Abbott.”

Then in the same newspaper, proving how independent The Independent tries to be, Matt Hill wrote:

“So what’s the answer to the malaise of the modern man? One word: feminism. This may sound odd; after all, we’re often told it’s the rise of women that has left us insecure and bewildered. But female empowerment isn’t a zero-sum game. The fact is, men have much more to gain from feminism than they have to lose – and it’s time we started talking about it.”

And with that I turned back to the sports reports and wondered whether I should watch Fight Club again this weekend—it’s been a while.

♦◊♦

If men like me who are obsessed by men’s issues get turned off by this conversation is it any wonder most men don’t talk about it?

The problem here isn’t that men won’t talk about gender. The problem is that people like Abbott say they want men to talk about gender issues when what they actually mean is that they want men to talk about gender issues from a feminist perspective.

But this is short-sighted approach because there are only two types of people who are really passionate about talking about feminism and that’s feminists and anti-feminists.

And this is why I’m passionate about people having non-feminist conversations about men’s issues because whilst feminism will rarely be as interesting to men as Fight Club or football, men’s issues can be.

♦◊♦

When you dismantle the left-wing, feminist context of Abbott’s speech you start to see we have some great content to work with. Check out these extracts:

“The problems we face as a country are huge. Many men are paying heavy costs, in shallow relationships, poor health and early death. In 2012, the Office for National Statistics gave average male life expectancy as 78.2 years and average female life expectancy as 82.3 years.

“Suicide, substance misuse, anti-social behaviour, “disappearing” from home, homelessness and a variety of behavioural problems are all markedly more common in men and boys. Men are also more likely to exhibit personality disorders.

“An analysis of the cancers that men and women ‘share’ by Cancer Research shows that men are 56% more likely to develop one of these cancers and 67% more likely to die.

“Men have measurably lower access to the social support of friends, relatives and community. Suicide is the single most common cause of death in men under 35. Credible evidence [suggests] that the suicide rate in England is linked to the current recession.

“The centrality of money in the lives of many men means that the loss of cultural certainty associated with unemployment can be more damaging for men than women.

“Can we make men’s issues as interesting as feminism and fight club?”

“And our young boys are often behind in school, and increasingly have low self-esteem about their body image. Young men are failing to reach mature adulthood in massive numbers, mostly for lack of role-models and reasonable paths toward success.

“We have lots of boys who at an early age start to think of education as being not macho enough. Nearly one in five boys is being taught in a primary school without a single male teacher on the staff.”

“The radio silence around these issues cannot continue any longer.”

There are many issues highlighted in Abbott’s speech that even the staunchest anti-feminist would agree are problems for men and boys. There’s enough raw material there to make men’s issues as interesting as football and Fight Club, but you can’t do it by insisting that the conversation has to held within a feminist framework.

♦◊♦

Abbot says that “we must allow men and boys” to talk and then lays down the law by saying that those conversations must be about men and boys exploring “sensitivity, emotions, sexuality, boundaries, communication, and family life”.

What if those aren’t the conversations that men and boys want to have? If Men’s Rights Activists began laying down the law on what conversations women and girls should be allowed to have, you can imagine the response.

The irony in all of this is that getting men interested in men’s issues from a political perspective is exactly the same as getting people interested in black issues or women’s issues—as pioneers like Abbott have been doing for decades.

Getting people interested in men’s issues starts with a few positive advocates for men and boys—just like we began with a handful of positive advocates for women’s issues and black issues.

Once we have enough positive advocates in place all we need to do is inform men of all the inequality and disadvantage and discrimination they face as men and boys—just like we have done for women and black people.

“If we allow men and boys the space to talk about the issues men face then we will create a political movement”

I know from experience that once men and boys get interested in the undeniable inequalities that men and boys face, they start to get really interested in finding political solutions to these personal problems.

As Diane Abbott said: “All the while, where the barren soil of inequality has sprung crucial and life-affirming grassroots politics for women, our men have little movement politics to speak of. Many British men have no authentic voice.”

Abbott may want to be careful what she wishes for. If we want to hear men’s authentic voices then show them the barren soil of inequalities that men and boys face and allow a crucial, life-affirming grassroots politics for men to spring up.

If we allow men and boys the space to talk about the issues men face then we will create a political movement—but it won’t be a movement that’s only filled with left-wing, feminist men. It will be as hairy and scary; as innovative and inspiring; as world-changing and life-affirming; as assertive and nurturing as men and boys in all our diversity authentically are.

This type of movement will be more interesting to men than feminism and it might even be more interesting than Fight Club and football.

♦◊♦

Image: Flickr/stroopsmma

Further Reading:

 

 

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Glen Poole

Glen Poole is an international expert on men and boys and author of the book Equality For Men. He is Director of the consultancy Helping Men, UK co-ordinator for International Men Day and host of the National Conference for Men and Boys in Brighton and Hove. You can follow him on twitter @equality4menUK and at www.equality4men.com.

Comments

  1. Roar of applause! Thank you Glen for saying it. Being told constantly we must bow to the sensibilities of women in general or feminists in particular to speak in our own voices about these issues is exhausting. Enough is enough!

    Here’ s part of what gender equality means: men get to talk about their issues on their terms, not yours, and they get to say what they really think regardless of how it makes you feel. Otherwise, the only people being “silenced” are the men.

  2. If you were to place a finger on the problems Feminism is entangled with at this place in time, it would have to be the almost Jekyll/Hyde shadowboxing that the moment engages in to maintain their outward, coherent narrative as both a politically radical movement and a populist wave of support.

    I don’t have the time, ability or energy to engage in an un-funded study, but over time the question has reared itself back into my brain: what is preventing Feminism from being a “no-brainer” political question? We have 80% of the population of the United States supporting equality, but only a small minority who identify as Feminists. If you listened to the narratives created by many Feminists, you’d believe that the majority of the world sees women as second-class citizens who are constantly stripped of power and agency through the direct and indirect work of the remainder of society.

    Is it that the ideal of “Feminist Equality” is radically different from the majority’s definition of “Equality”? I’d have to posit “yes”.

    But a high-profile, highly-scrutinized appeal such as this seems to provide a great deal of questions when it comes to what Feminists believe “equality” to be. It is, for starters, always antagonistic.

    Every story must have a villain. That seems the current narrative. Men want to help? self-flagellation is required. Instead of silence enforced on women as a product of cultural sociology (as in, has many different causes, effects and permutations — i.e. “Patriarchy”), they’ll enforce silence as a voluntary pursuit. Let me remind you that the “1950′s age” (in all it’s cartoon-y glory) was voluntary on the part of women. It was women fitting a mould that caused no more strain than the idea that men ought to provide.

    But we’re past that, right?

    Men are hurt by Patriarchy. But while we’re hurt, we also benefit in a way that makes our lives easier and simpler and more happy, right? Under “Patriarchy Theory” we diminish men to masochists: we’re going to be hurt by the thing we think will bring us happiness. And somehow, somewhere, that hurt and pain is magically transformed into yet another privilege. Another reason why men are evil and “wrong” and women are good and “right”.

    And, in the end, if we poor, oppressed men listened to Feminists they’d cure us of our ailments. Akin to shock therapy, if we just surround ourselves with voices that constantly disparage and desecrate our humanity, we’ll be fine. That’s the message we get.

    Because it works for women. It does, really. Who wouldn’t rather see themselves as a victim of unchangeable circumstance than as a human being with flaws and confused emotional responses and a host of other, immutable factors which we all have little control over? Passed over for that promotion? obviously the boss is misogynistic and hates women. That’s why you were passed over. That guy at the bar who seems awkward and shy? obviously he’s a “Nice Guy” who is going to show his true colors when he calls you nasty names because you won’t go on a date with him. You already know this, and your fears will simply be brought to life. That guy on the train who keeps stealing furtive glances? if you open up and show human vulnerability for only a moment he’ll have you crying in a pile on his bedroom floor because he couldn’t take a “NO” for a “NO”.

    If Feminists want men to be silent and supportive, they have to stop attacking them at every turn.

    But more than anything, I think Feminism has been thrust into a place where it doesn’t have the proper context to create a fully-actualized concept of itself. Feminism has always been an aspect of leftist politics. It has always existed (in current form) as a correlated position to OTHER leftist movements and never as the vanguard itself.

    With the slow fizzle of the USSR and global socialism; with the complete and utter humiliation of leftist politics during OWS (and I do believe that this is a huge part of the issue), Feminism has filled what was originally a leftist void and is now at wit’s end trying to ensure that women have a voice while also making that voice the vanguard for leftist politics.

    We see a lot of talk of “intersection” but we never seem to understand the lessons of such a realization: That “Feminism” is a commentary and not a movement; that without leftist concepts of “universal human rights” they lack the broad perspective necessary to carry that torch.

    But that’s not the hubris-laden reality. Feminism suddenly came to light as the “great hope of the Left” and huddled as many middle-class, white women as possible under the banner. Class issues are constantly secondary to “Patriarchy”. Race issues are secondary to “Patriarchy”. This is Marx all over again with a new skin and a new theory. Except this time we’re no longer concerned about the people who can’t eat, we’re concerned about the people who can’t become CEOs.

    Feminism as a cause has positioned itself deftly as a non-binary political movement. Not that the right are clamoring to get into the trend (and, they are to an extent), but that “women” as a political demographic won the last election. Not on a position of leftist equality, but on a position of politically correct rage and scapegoating.

  3. Excellent article by Glen Poole. As long as we insist of ideological screening of men, prior to entrance into the discussion, there will be no real discussion.

  4. wellokaythen says:

    I’m curious about the political angle to all this. Whatever else she is, woman, feminist, mother, etc., she is also a professional politician. Surely Abbott’s comments have to be understood as the comments of someone who seeks votes, or as someone who wants to advance her political career in the future. If she were in the U.S., I would assume that her advisors put together a focus group of her constituents and discovered that this rhetoric “played well” with them. Probably some Clinton-esque triangulation going on here, some of that “I feel your pain” stuff.

    In political terms, it may not matter so much whether what she says is true. What matters more is if enough voters think that it’s true. In fact, it may benefit her in the long-term to be inaccurate about this. She can say that men aren’t talking about masculinity, then after she’s been in government for a while she can say that men are now talking about masculinity. Voila, she can then take credit for starting the conversation about masculinity, even though it was already happening.

    I don’t assume that a woman politician is a woman first and a politician second.

    • Good points

      Bit of context Diane Abbott is something of an institution – she is practically politically immovable, as the UK’s first black, woman MP and the incumbent of a very safe constituency where you could put a Labour Party rosette on a pumpkin and people would vote for it – and in the 2010 when the majority of UK voters were swinging away from the Labour Party – she doubled her majority

      She is known to be a maverick and often goes against the party line and she has never had a top job in politics

      She stood for election as leader of her party in 2010 and received 7% of the votes

      Pretty much everything she’s saying is narrative with very little policy

      Both her and the party’s policy co-ordinator trailed some loose ideas on policy last week and both mentioned the desire to do more than fathers

      For anyone who is interested in this type of thing – if you compare and contrast Abbott’s speech and the speech the same week by the person in the party reponsible for co-ordinating policy- you see a very different tone.

      This is Abbott’s speech:

      http://www.demos.co.uk/files/DianeAbbottspeech16May2013.pdf

      This is a more circumspect party line:

      http://www.politicshome.com/uk/article/78204/a_new_deal_for_parents_and_children_speech_by_jon_cruddas.html

      Basically, Diane Abbott can generally say what she likes – she has been reprimanded by the party leadership before (notably for ‘racist’ comments about White People) so there are limits – but politically she can generally say what she likes and it won’t impact her position – so I would hazard a guess that she isn’t too concerned about focus groups

      I’m sure when it comes to election time she’s smart enough and experienced enough to toe the party line

      She has a teenage son so I sense that she has a genuine personal interest in young men’s issues – and she is a staunch feminist which obviously frames her views on gender

      Looking beyond Abbott, the Labour Party has been trying to find a narrative about men – and particularly fathers – for a couple of years but it has made women’s issues a massive part of its campaigning strategy – and that’s what is fascinating to me – how can the Labour Party develop a narrative on men’s issues that is complimentary to its narrative on women’s issues

      I’m suggesting that the only way this will be successful is if it develops a non-feminist narrative on men’s issues

      Best

      Glen

      • Glen, it doesn’t matter how accepted or not these positions are. Feminism, as a whole (in line with development over the last 30 years) has been an antagonistic process. Show me a politician than can put aside the rhetoric and we can talk.

        The current narrative means that criticizing the narrative (as a Labour rep) means losing that support if they can put a woman up who will run against you. If they can’t? you get an excuse.

        But the big piece is that individuals like Abbott is that she’s riding a wave and she’ll say and do whatever it takes to stay on top of that wave. That’s the acute issue.

        • Sure – any narrative on men’s issues is squeezed carefully into the existing narrative on gender/women’s issues – that’s the context – but the content varies hugely – if you look at the two speeches from last week by Abbott and Jon Cruddas – the content of these two sub-narratives on men’s issues is very, very different

          David Lammy – another black Labour MP – has a very different narrative again

          What you are pointing to is the difference between context and content – the content varies hugely from one MP to the next but the context generally stays the same

          The challenge is changing the context of the discourse about gender – the context I’m fighting to create is a context where men’s issue and women’s issues are addressed by all political parties not in opposition but in addition to each other – and I don’t see this happening within a a feminist context

          The way forward, for me, is creating a bigger context – the debate has begun – the more we can open up this debate to as broad a range of people as possible the more we loosen the grip that feminism has on the gender discourse and that can only be a healthy thing as two (or more) mindsets are better than one

      • wellokaythen says:

        Thanks for the info. That puts it into perspective. My cynicism is foiled once again…. : – )

  5. CitymanMichael says:

    We do not need a feminist fix.
    We do not need a feminist telling us what to do & how to think
    We do not need a feminist worrying about how modern men are affecting women – because that is exactly how it is coming accross – a feminist concerned about women.

    However, this oxygen she has given has been great.
    I hope it helps more men to understand just how badly they are being treated in today’s western world.
    I hope it helps them to talk to each other about these problems and how to solve these problems.
    And we do need women as partners and as listeners.

    • Isn’t there a larger point that neither men nor women are much better or worse off than they were five years ago? That all the screaming is just screaming, and they just want the war to be won with more bloodshed than the bloodless coup?

      • I don’t know if that is true – it’s mixed – there are general improving trends – but also gaps widen – and in some cases things go backward

        An example of improvement is the worldwide upward trend in life expectancy
        An example of gaps widening is the way that gaps between men and women at university get wider and wider
        An example of things going backwards would be rises in male suicide in the face of economic downturn

        What ‘s most interesting to me from an international perspective is developing our ability to understand and respond to the different trends that seem to emerge as nations transition from one phase to the next

        Irrespective of whether men and boys are better off or worse what matters is how much better we can get at improving the lives of men and boys – that is the whole point of having a men’s movement I guess

    • “this oxygen she has given has been great” – spot on – whatever your perspective – pro-fem or anti-fem / left or right / everything in between — if you are genuinely concerened with improving the lives of men and boys then the fact that more people that usual are thinking about and talking about men and men’s issues is to be welcomed – when the debate is out there then we have the opportunity to shape the debate and get others interested and involved

    • CitymanMichael, Absolutely! “…we do need women as partners and as listeners.”

      1. I changed my posture on this site and pose more questions, instead of telling men what I think. Although I will speak up when/if I see misunderstanding. (Most of the guys know I’m an odd-ball here.)

      2. I’ve also challenged myself, not to condemn, criticize, and judge other’s ideas and opinions, but I expect the same respect in return. Even if my values clash with the good opinion of others.

      My hope is that more women put down their ‘battle axe’ and choose a posture of curiosity, respect, and understanding vs. critique.

      We’ll fix our issues a lot faster and respectfully, if we work together.

  6. John Anderson says:

    I’m not surprised after what happened at SFU, but it does get tiring. Feminists have no problem inviting male voices into the conversation as long as they can control what they say.

  7. Mr Supertypo says:

    interesting…

  8. Random_Stranger says:

    So some feminists, including the GMP’s resident feminists, would argue that feminism is simply about removing gender as a constraint on self-determination, liberty and quality of life (broadly speaking). Assuming the most broad definition of feminism holds true, how could men have a conversation about gender equality independent of feminism? I can imagine such a movement’s tone and leadership would differ from a women’s feminist movement, but ultimately it would need to align in some form or fashion, no? Or do we simply believe feminism is something entirely different from what it claims to be?

    • “how could men have a conversation about gender equality independent of feminism?”

      Erm, Hindus have managed for centuries to have conversations about God without any reference to Christianity whatsoever

      What’s not to understand – feminism does not have a monopoly on the human mind – men can talk about gender through whatever framework we want to talk about it

      • Random_Stranger says:

        ahhh…yes…religion is an apt comparison. I think you could find more than one religious sect that believes, truly, only they are capable of examining god and any true examination of god must be of them.

        So goes feminism.

  9. QuantumInc says:

    Absolutely, men need to be able to have critical conversations about masculinity without worrying that a woman might blow up at them. The feminist movement is clearly focused on helping women, so perhaps it is better to just let that be, and let the men’s movement be a separate thing. However such a movement should still be friendly towards feminism. I don’t need to explain what it would mean when men’s rights activists and women’s rights activists become enemies.

    Feminists have done a lot of work on gender and masculinity already. Much of their literature is critical of masculinity and common male behaviors, but it isn’t wrong because of that. In such discussions, whether they happen under a feminist domain or not, you have to remember the difference between actual men, and the various masculine role models/narratives/myths/stereotypes/norms/rules/etc. The second category would include the “typical” man and the “normal” man. No individual person matches exactly what we might imagine as a normal guy. However our ideas of what is normal for a man do have influence on how individual men behave, and often very negative influences.

    • “Absolutely, men need to be able to have critical conversations about masculinity”

      No we don’t

      ” you have to remember the difference between actual men, and the various masculine role models/narratives/myths/stereotypes/norms/rules/etc”

      No we don’t

      We can talk about men’s issues in anyway we want to thank you very much – why are you dictating to me how I have to speak about being a man – STOP IT – who gave you permission to tell me how I have to think about my own human experience?

      If you want to talk about men in that way that’s fine – go ahead – but stop dictating to others how they have to frame their thinking – STOP IT!

      GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

  10. A wide variety of male groups and male voices both feminist and non-feminist would be good. Maybe those groups could talk to each other and see where the averages lie?

    • Thanks Archy

      My belief that people who think differently about men and boys need space to learn how to speak with each other:
      http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/weve-got-to-learn-to-talk-about-men-international-mens-movement/

      I also think there’s also a very strong need for non-feminists to speak with each other first and develop their own thinking

      My experience is that the best place to start finding agreeing is measurable objective inequalities – so stuff like the suicide rate or education performance or life expectancy – where we can agree a measured inequality – and I’d like to see non-feminists invest more time thinking about how to tackle those types of issues so that they can enter the debate with others armed with both a list of men’s issues and a list of solutions to some of those problems

      Best

      Glen

      • I’m very interested in this “measured inequality.” Surely there must be someone out there who has laid out these objective inequalities (suicide rate, education performance, life expectancy, etc). Because I haven’t really seen much yet in terms of framing concrete “men’s issues.”

        (I chuckle here, because even my limited engagement with feminism recalls that the feminine is concrete, while the masculine is abstract. So are men’s issues abstract?)

        • The World Economic Forum produces a global gender equality league table – it’s actually a table of women’s inequality – however it takes four key measures, – health, wealth, power, education

          Men on average come on top on wealth and power, men do worse on health and in about 90 of the world’s leading economies, women are ahead on education

          There are league tables out there on suicide rates and life expectancy that show the inequality men experience – there’s also good data from World Health Organisation on the high percentage of men and boys who die of violent deaths around the world every year

          One of the difficult areas to measure is the equality that fathers experience – it’s difficult to identify the definitive objective measure that show fathers experience inequality – and they do

  11. Bay Area Guy says:

    The problem here isn’t that men won’t talk about gender. The problem is that people like Abbott say they want men to talk about gender issues when what they actually mean is that they want men to talk about gender issues from a feminist perspective.

    That sums it up in a nutshell.

    When feminists insist that they want to work with men or that we should really be on the same team, what they’re essentially saying is that they’ll let us be on their team, so long as we play by their rules, and are content to be junior partners.

  12. Melenas says:

    I had been losing respect for GMP as a men’s publication, but this was an excellent article. Bravo, Glen!

    In my experience feminists may say they want to hear from men and discuss men’s issues, but feminism just isn’t the place for men to have an honest discussion.
    On one end of the spectrum you have feminists who honestly do care about men, but their activism is still primarily centered around women and most of the benefits it provides to men are secondary (Patriarchy hurts men too!). Trying to re-center them around male issues is sort of derailing anyway…

    On the other end you have the Feministe/Jezebel internet feminist crowd. When they say they want to hear from men, more often than not they mean they want to hear feminist theory parroted in a male voice. They reject the idea that men have any real issues that need discussing because Patriarchy! And Male Privilege! Disagree and you automatically become “MRA scum.”

    So yes, men need their own movement. For men, by men, and about men. One that neither feels the need to blindly submit to feminist ideology and view every issue through the lens of patriarchy theory, nor bases itself around opposition to feminism. And it may be a lot to ask, but feminists need to get over their trust issues regarding men’s groups (Ryerson University and the University of Toronto for example). When we men gather and talk amongst ourselves we aren’t *always* plotting evil patriarchal conspiracies after all. Sometimes we watch football.
    If this is possible, maybe we can put an end to all this gender war foolishness.

    • Agreed. I like this comment very much:

      “So yes, men need their own movement. For men, by men, and about men. One that neither feels the need to blindly submit to feminist ideology and view every issue through the lens of patriarchy theory, nor bases itself around opposition to feminism.”

      Thank You

    • “For men, by men, and about men…..”

      Be cautious that this type of mindset is why many women reject the feminist label. The exaggerated social justice meme of giving “voice” to specific groups by shutting out ideas that don’t follow suit is a recipe for stagnation and irrelevance.

      • Melenas says:

        Eh, I guess I just meant a group where men can gather and speak honestly about their problems and help each other, based on their own experiences and needs, not what others tell them they should be. There are already groups and forums for telling men how to be better feminist allies or talking about male issues (but almost all the issues are how to treat women with more respect or how to help solve women’s issues).
        Of course any group that gets insular and ends up with an “us versus the world” mindset is going to be problematic. Even more so if that group has institutional and political power.

    • Damn straight.

      Its going to be a hard road when you simutaneously demand that men start doing their own work and holding them in bad faith if they don’t do it in a certain way (which usually involves reaching out to women oddly enough).

  13. karen woodall says:

    Thank the lord of masculinity for that, I thought Glen Poole had gone all Fathers Direct for a bit…

    Men and boys do need their own space and their own dialogue and the ground to allow the way in which masculinity has been shaped by feminism over forty years to emerge into sharp relief. That way, when masculinity is considered and thought about, by men, for men, an emerging sense of what it is to be a man and what it has been to grow as a man confined in the spaces defined by women, will take shape.

    On my own journey, liberated from the shackles of feminist doctrine, I see all around me the damage that we have done to men and boys, who are, just as oppressed, just as speechless and just as constrained by the ruling feminist ‘elite’ as women were back in the fifties. The pendulum swung so far in favour of women that we live in a world where men and boys lives are governed by the expectations of feminist legislation, feminist academia and feminist prejudice. The next step has to be a dialogue between men and women and a way of working together that shapes the world in the shadow of our different needs. But first, before we can have that dialogue, men do need to share, do need to think and do need to grieve actually for what has been done to them. I spend a lot of time working with men who are severely wounded at the deepest level by being made to feel ashamed of being born male. Those wounds will be healed when men are able to take their own lives back into their own hands. These are such exciting times and I am very excited by the possibilities of what may emerge as we move forward in working for a more equal world where men and women are valued for the different things they are. A world that our sons and grandsons will be safer in and a world in which they will be valued for the wonderful people that they are.

    Good on you Glen Poole, I will be harsh critic when you stray but a staunch supporter as you take this movement forward and, when the healing is underway, (for all of us), the dialogue will be all the more invigorating and all the more creative as we all stand together, different in so many ways, but equal in all.

    • Thanks Karen I always have time to hear your perspectives (even if we don’t always agree) as you are one of the leading voices in the world on men’s issues – thanks for the time you take to comment on my articles here and elsewhere – best – Glen

  14. OirishM says:

    It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it ,but evidently the kind of things Abbott is only interested in talking about is how much of a problem being a man is.

    And just to make it clear, people give Abbott side-eye because for someone who’s capitalised on her minority status as an MP many times, she’s also been quite critical of other groups – let’s not forget her “white people play divide and conquer” tweet.

  15. OirishM says:

    That said, thanks for this article, Glenn.

    If feminists want men to speak up, they may have to brace themselves for the shocking fact that we may not actually be interesting in playing the game they want, and discussing masculinity in terms of concepts they use. Some might – some might not. Either is fine.

  16. The problem here isn’t that men won’t talk about gender. The problem is that people like Abbott say they want men to talk about gender issues when what they actually mean is that they want men to talk about gender issues from a feminist perspective.
    Pretty much. Goes to show you what happens when you convince yourself that your brand and only your brand has all the solutions to all the problems and/or that all the solutions must be implemented under your brand or it is inherently anti-equality.

    But this is short-sighted approach because there are only two types of people who are really passionate about talking about feminism and that’s feminists and anti-feminists.
    If for no other reason this line of thinking is exactly what turns people against the different sides of the debate. Rushing to declare someone a feminist or anti-feminist is a sure fire way to tell them that you have no interest in what they have to say (or that you you think you already know what they have to say, meaning the precense of their voice has no meaning unless they agree with you).

    And this is why I’m passionate about people having non-feminist conversations about men’s issues because whilst feminism will rarely be as interesting to men as Fight Club or football, men’s issues can be.
    Ha ha. True.

    What if those aren’t the conversations that men and boys want to have? If Men’s Rights Activists began laying down the law on what conversations women and girls should be allowed to have, you can imagine the response.
    Funny you mention that because that is exactly why some feminists just won’t talk to MRAs. Because they make demands about what the conversation should be about. Isn’t it odd that they then turn around and make their own demands about what the conversation should be?

  17. This is akin to Ryerson’s Student Union claiming that in “conversations on gender, we must centre the voices of women”. How does this make sense when we are discussing the other gender?

    When I spoke with protesters at CAFE’s Janice Fiamengo, “What is Wrong with Modern Feminism?” event, I was told that I sound like a feminist. Some of us who advocate for awareness of men’s issues, and who openly discuss them may sound like they aren’t that far off from feminists, but it is not for you to label us as such. Allow us our voice, don’t tell us which accent or language you wish for us to use it with.

  18. Nice article Glen.

    I think the sort of thing you’re talking about is why so much of the conversation has moved online since that is a space that is free from the constraint that all dialogue must be from a feminist perspective. Controlling the discussion is impossible online, which explains the dramatic growth in the interest in men’s issues over the past few years.

    • Thanks Iain

      That’s a really good point – I touch on this here:

      “Pro-feminists will tend to control the context of the conversation, demanding that any discussion about men and gender must either focus on the problems men cause or explore how men can change to address the problems women face.

      “Anti-feminists tend to demand a platform to talk ‘at’ people about the problems men have and how these problems are caused by feminism (with some additional focus on the problems women cause for good measure).

      “It’s both an over-simplification of what happens and a handy distinction that you can see being played out in the way some feminists resist initiatives like men’s issues groups on campus and explains why social media has become a useful platform for some anti-feminists to spread information by talking at people online.”

      I think the next part of the evolution is for anti-feminists/non-feminists/(even critical pro-feminists maybe?) to learn to talk with each other rather than at each other – and also to talk more about men’s issue and less about feminism/feminists

      That’ why initiatives like CAFE are so, so important – keep up the great work Iain

      Best

      Glen

  19. I left a comment on that other article. I think it’s more useful here, actually. Apologies!

    Foucault, Adorno, Debourd, Said and even the earlier, post-colonial/postmodern Feminists all employed language-concepts from the history of Western Philosophy. It just speaks to the unseen and unexamined arrogance that Feminists have come to a place where they’ve hijacked what was once a class-based, activist community which saw rising the standard of living as the larger goal and made it into a rather insular, dogmatic community that too often appears to fight for the benefit of middle-class, white women at the absolute expense of the issues that truly cause inequality and oppression in our culture: cycles of poverty, insufficient educational and support structures, immensely decreased class mobility, loss of livelihood and income, foreclosures that hurt families and lower-income persons disproportionately.

    The whole thing is just messy, and it turns it’s back on hundreds of years of struggle for basic necessities and economic freedoms. OWS fizzled, and I think it’s no surprise that in a recession, we saw a lot of the “movers and shakers” within the world of loud, Feminist voices come from young people who, instead of venting their frustrations against reduced job prospects and the unraveling of the “American Dream”, have joined with the banner of Feminism as the be-all-end-all of social justice. It isn’t anywhere close to the end of the line, and everyone would be better off to take a deep breath and remember that there are also bigger, more systemic and more disturbing issues at play. It’s easy to take up a Feminist position, in the last few years, and milk it dry (not to suggest it’s not in good faith, but that the mileage one gets from Feminist Anger is head and shoulders above the crickets that come when you talk about issues like class).

  20. AnthonyZarat says:

    I normally come here only to throw rotten fruit, but this article is different. Beautiful, touching, profound.

    Abbott is right, it is time for men to have a conversation about gender. But it also time for Abbot and others like her to stop screaming at men and boys with her feminist megaphone, so that we can have this conversation on our own terms.

    Bravo!

  21. FlyingKal says:

    If I have to choose between the 3, I take Football 7 days a week and twice on Wednesdays.

    • FlyingKal,
      Quiz Question & Food for Thought: What if a women in your life said “No. I want you to give up your manly pursuits and spend that time with me.”?

      Speak or forever hold your piece. ;)

  22. I think part of the problem is that the issues have become confused and along with them what the culture expects from men, and even the definition of what it means to be masculine. Certainly there is more to being a man than merely being a physical body of some strength, and there is a long list of manly virtues which have not one word to say about dominating women. Quite the contrary in fact. And those virtues are still valid but men have been told by the feminist culture that to express them is inherently sexist. In other words men are expected to act as feminists dictate and have otherwise become dispensable in the age of feminist dominance.

    Feminism began with a list of grievances, many of which were legitimate, and devolved into an ongoing rant about what is bad about men. Well, helllooooooooo? Not all men are gentlemen, and not all women are ladies (although I was raised to treat them as such even when they haven’t earned it).

    I am NOT an anti-feminist but I AM an observer of the culture. One of the forces acting upon the culture, with a vengeance (figuratively and literally), has been feminism. With a mother who was a feminist from the late 1960′s on I got a first hand view of the rational side of feminism, and there is an irrational side. However, the irrational misandric side of feminism has dominated the formal movement and a lot of women have bought into the propaganda. It has now become implicit in our culture that men, in the educated classes, at least give lip service to feminist dogma. While I grant that there were legitimate grievances in feminism not all gentlemanly behavior is “condescending” and “partriarchal”. However, to feminists, of the more hardcore “all men are created evil” type, the two are inseparable. In the 1970′s, when I came to manhood, feminist doctrine was busy disparaging all of the courtesies theretofore offered to women by men as sexism rather than simply good manners. As a consequence otherwise well mannered men were browbeat by feminism into sort of a surly submission where good manners were bad manners.

    As a result the baby was thrown out with the bathwater. Men who insisted upon being men rather feminized men were disparaged as “Neanderthals”, “Male Chauvinist Pigs”, etc., … So, what began as a legitimate assertion of equal footing in society became a diatribe about what some feminists, frequently lesbians, (and if you reject that last do your homework – a good many of the prominent Feminist Authors and speakers of the late 60′s on have an expressed preference for congress with other women and frequently women only, and it is from that viewpoint that their pronouncements emanate) disliked about men.

    As a result the behaviors and mores of our culture changed. Misandry became institutionalized and masculine behavior found itself under assault. By masculine I do not mean the “me Tarzan, you Jane” caricature (although if you actually read Edgar Rice Burroughs you’ll find that “Tarzan” was a gentleman) of masculinity. However, the caricature of the thuggish male became a verity in feminist “thought”. By some authors, and I could rattle off names e.g., McKinnon, Dworkin, Greer, Solano, etc., the view that ALL men were, at heart, rapists was given frequent and prominent expression.

    As a student of logic whenever I see an unsupported assertion labeling ALL members of a certain subset of humanity as having a uniform characteristic my Bullshit Detector peaks and alarm bells start going off.

    Nevertheless, as a consequence of the dominance of the “I hate men because “insert stereotype of your choice” wing of the feminist movement until the last few years (beginning in the late 90′s) manliness, and masculine behaviour, was under assault as inherently sexist. So, the new modernized feminized man was born. Of course men also rationalized that they needed to play the game in order to have girlfriends and get laid.

    However, while feminism achieved some good for women it has also done a lot of damage. Hate, even covert hate as found in feminist “literature”, does damage. Further, some of that hate has found its way into the legal codes. In Divorce proceedings the man is almost always assumed to be the guilty party to be punished by the court. You almost never see findings where “she” has to provide support to him. Although I can speak anecdotally from my own knowledge of circumstances where it was the irresponsibility, or impropriety, of the woman that caused the divorce. Yet even in cases where the woman runs off with another man, or woman, I have never in my personal experience seen the woman have to pay child support to the single father raising the kids.

    So, part of the problem is the set of assumptions which feminism, and yes it is usually conflated with left wing ideologies, has forced upon the culture and consequently men. This is true to the point that the willingness of young men to marry has now declined to less than 50%. And that, I do not believe, is because milk is any cheaper. It is more a matter of an imbalance that on one hand expects men to take on their traditional roles, but contrarily women have assumed a superior role in many instances, but without any assumption of greater personal responsibility. Further, even in the case of men doing the right thing, they are penalized as though they did not and would not without the threat of imminent bankruptcy or incarceration.

    It is a sticky wicket for men. They are told, by feminism, that they are all beasts, and yet it is the same feminism that degrades the manly virtues of gentlemanly behavior, deference to women and the weak (women and children first), responsibility, and duty to family as condescending behaviour to be punished.

    So, yes, masculinity is in crisis because men are penalized in the culture for being men, and yet are still expected to be men. It is a set contrary dictums where both cannot be true at the same time.

  23. A bit late into the discussion…
    But I would like to defend Abbott – it seems that she is getting much flak for daring to speak about masculinity, that she cares for boys and men and is prepared to think, discuss and speak about it. Shouldn’t we applaud her for daring to raise the issue of masculinity and for starting this discourse… Perhaps we should be wondering why a male politician has not started this discourse?

    Most of the comments on this thread appear to want to hear men’s voices on masculinity… but men in powerful positions are strangely silent… I wonder why?

    • The flak comes from the way she is speaking about them. To make a somewhat similar comparison imagine someone that wants to have a conversation about rape….but talks about it in the sense of telling girls/women that they should be mindful of what they wear and how they travel at night. Yes its good that said person wants to talk about rape and wants to do something about it but there is a problem in how they talk about it.

      Same thing here. Yes its great that she wants to have the conversation but wanting to have that conversation doesn’t do much good if she wants to have it in improper and limiting terms (which I think is a flaw that feminism has just recently been working on addressing but still has problems with) then how much good is that really?

      Perhaps we should be wondering why a male politician has not started this discourse?

      Most of the comments on this thread appear to want to hear men’s voices on masculinity… but men in powerful positions are strangely silent… I wonder why?
      I think most guys around already know the answer to that. Unlike the regular declarations that those powerful men represent men and act in the interests of men (at least enough representation to say that “men have power and women don’t”)….they actually don’t.

  24. Not sure if using conversations about rape is helpful in this discussion – merely because many men do talk about women and rape in the way that you have suggested.

    Still – why attack her on flaws in her argument, wouldn’t it be more productive to extend on what she is saying, educate and use her speech as productive with possibilities. Why be so defensive? If the men in powerful positions are unwilling to speak about masculinity – why slam the women who dares to use her position to start a debate…

    • Not sure if using conversations about rape is helpful in this discussion – merely because many men do talk about women and rape in the way that you have suggested.
      And it’s also pointed out as wrong too isn’t it? But to tie it back to this. When it is pointed out as wrong to talk about rape in terms of what girls/women should be doing in terms of dress and travel does that mean that those people should be talking about rape at all? Of course not its a matter of how they are talking about it.

      Still – why attack her on flaws in her argument, wouldn’t it be more productive to extend on what she is saying, educate and use her speech as productive with possibilities.
      Well to be clear its not an attack, its a correction and disagreement. Most of the commentary seems to be how she is framing the issue not that she shouldn’t be talking about it.

      Why be so defensive?
      Who’s being defensive?

      If the men in powerful positions are unwilling to speak about masculinity – why slam the women who dares to use her position to start a debate…
      For the same reason that a man that would dare to use his position to start the debate. Improper framing.

      But let me ask. Why should her gender give her a free pass on mischaracterizing the isses? Should men be so thankful that someone in a position of power is talking about us that she should be allowed to tell it wrong?

      Going back to the rape converstaion I mentioned. Would you also say that since there are men that dare to talk about rape they should be allowed to talk about it in a misguided/improper/incorrect way?

      • Danny, Absolutely agree!! “When it is pointed out as wrong to talk about rape in terms of what girls/women should be doing in terms of dress and travel does that mean that those people should be talking about rape at all? Of course not its a matter of how they are talking about it.”

        Yes, it’s HOW the media and people are talking about it, much like a common household term. It dilutes its meaning and severity. Lest we forget, it’s a form of violence. In my opinion, the topic should be handled responsibly and the word used sparingly. We should be talking about the other R-word…Respect.

        Furthermore, these women do not have a right to tell parents how to raise their children. This victim-blaming mentality is not what our family learned. We learned about personal responsiblity and accountably for our actions. We learned not go out at all hours of the night or hang out in dark alleys, because there are dangers in this world. I can hear mother say it, “Don’t put yourself in bad situations and don’t take candy from strangers…because you can’t predict what other people are going to do.”

        It’s not about blaming victims after-the-fact, it’s about teaching your kids to make good decisions in the first place and holding them accountable.

Speak Your Mind