[Guest Post. This article was originally published in the Manchester University Student Union’s ‘Mancunian‘ Magazine. It is republished in its original form here with kind permission from the author.]
Men, especially young men, are bad people. We are constantly being told how crass, sexist and misogynist male behaviour is, especially in universities; the ‘lad culture’. But if this is true, what has made some men behave like this? I suggest to you that it is the anti-male cultural milieu that has been created since the 1980s, in all areas of society.
If what is routinely thrown at men were directed at any of our ‘minority’ victim groups – women, black people, ethnic minorities, gays – British society would be condemned for it prejudice and bigotry, discrimination and even persecution.
We teach children to be kind to one another, to be thoughtful and caring to other people. And then when they reach a certain age, the Feminist Fairy comes along and sprinkles boys and all things male with poo dust. This poo dust is the patriarchal perspective, the ‘good women / bad men script’ to which all areas of society now conform – our culture, schools, universities, the legal system, the media, and the political system.
For three decades there has been widespread misandry in Britain, a widespread contempt for men and masculinity. Men are belittled and ridiculed in sitcoms and advertisements; I love the Simpsons, but all the males are portrayed as dysfunctional. Feminist comediennes and celebrities have license to constantly rubbish men. It is now difficult to find normal daddies in modern children’s books.
“What is this bloke talking about?” I hear you say, “He must know that there are five times more male MPs than female MPs?” This is true, of course, but Male MPs – unlike female MPs – do not think as a gender group, so do not bond as a gender group, so do not act as a gender group; there has not been one piece of specifically male-friendly legislation in living memory. Yes, there is more biological maleness in Parliament but male MPs do not represent men and boys. And so we have a policy-making arena, and a media, in which male problems and rights are ignored. For example:
The incidence of suicide is four times greater for men than women; nine out of ten homeless people and those living rough are men; men die five years younger than women; the Men’s Health Forum tells us that eight times more money is spent on women’s health than on men’s health; there is no screening for male cancers; boys are failing in education, not just compared to girls but in real terms; the dominance of female teaching staff means there are very few role models for boys; half of children returning from school do so to a home without a biological father; far fewer men than women are now entering university; there is no anonymity for men who have been accused of rape – the innocent having their lives destroyed by unjustified publicity; male victims of domestic violence (40% of all victims) are ignored; 70,000 divorced fathers every year have difficulty seeing their own children (half lose complete contact); financial maintenance settlements are swingeing and unjust; four out of five divorces are petitioned for by wives; it is well documented that the patriarchal perspective is taught in our schools (PHSE lessons) and universities (Women’s studies) with no male equivalent.
Do a gender-switch on the above, if these discriminations were experienced by women would they be tolerated? If they are wrong for women then they are also wrong for men and boys. Anti-male prejudice, the ‘good women / bad men script’, is entrenched in our individual and collective mind-set and has created cultural and institutional bias against maleness and masculinity. This is never questioned. Why?
At the same time young men are seeing feminist issues promoted regularly in every area of the media and the political system; they are seeing their female contemporaries enjoying preferential treatment in the form of short-lists, tokenism, quotas, fast-tracking and policy-favouritism. Posturing politicians, fishing for female votes, are happy to publicise the exaggerated excesses of university student ‘lad culture’. Our culture secretary, Sajid Javid, tells us that this culture deters young women from applying to university; there is not one shred of evidence to support this spurious claim.
We are told by the NUS that two out of three students have been sexually assaulted; the NUS has its own serious political agenda and we should be suspicious of ‘research’ in which the ‘conclusion’ just happens to chime with the belief system of the researchers themselves. As in Parliament, men are not represented on campus; they have no ‘voice’. Every university has a student Women’s Officer yet the NUS will not permit any campus to have a Men’s Officer. It is not surprising that suicide among male students is two and a half times greater than that of female students. Could we legitimately claim that this loss of male student life, and the deliberate lack of care (in both senses) is a factor in turning young men away from higher education? Should our Culture Secretary set up a ‘task force’ to look at this male discrimination? Or is this an ‘equality too-far’ in our feminist-friendly society? Could this deliberate neglect of, and disrespect for, male students be a factor in ‘lad culture’?
Misandry, demonising and dehumanising men has devalued men’s worth compared to that of women’s. Both men and women fail to see misandry as a problem. This is because sexism has been defined exclusively in terms of misogyny. Nobody has been looking for sexism against men and boys; we are so conditioned that we are blind to the daily examples of it in media reporting, in the newspapers, on radio and television, in news programmes, in our schools and universities; and throughout policy-making. And if we do happen to notice it we are silenced by the fear of being labelled ‘sexist’, ‘misogynist’ and ‘rape apologists’.
Psychologists tell us that if we treat people badly, with contempt and disdain then they will react in kind. If young men are told over and over again that they are society’s ‘bad people’, that they will grow up to be ‘wife batterers’, ‘sexual harassers’ and ‘rapists’ then they are likely to say ‘so be it’.
If boys and men continue to be disrespected, discriminated against, demonised and told, and shown that they have little value and worth, disposable as husbands, as fathers and as people, then it might be understandable if they respond by treating society – including women in universities – in the same manner. They who sow the wind reap the whirlwind.
In addition, ignoring male issues will inevitably lead to further resentment. So our politicians Uriah Heaping for the female vote, and the media, should consider the danger of a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more badly behaved young men are the louder the Sisterhood bellows how awful masculinity is – an upward spiral of constant blaming and shaming … and of further crass behaviour by some male students.
Why are we surprised that some young men at university are morphing into muscle-bound weaklings who seek solace in the hyper-masculinity rituals of boorish behaviour, with an ugly undercurrent of homophobia and misogyny? Feminism’s creation of a widespread and deep-rooted misandry is rebounding against ordinary women. Ought we not to be educating young men women to question this perspective, to rise up against this mutually destructive culture, to encourage them to engage in genuine equality and respect between the sexes? As Doris Lessing said “men seem so cowed they can’t fight back, and it’s time they did.” Men are fighting back, but their misguided target is society and ordinary women – not the political and cultural movement that created this unacceptable view of men and masculinity in the first place.
British males under forty have never experienced a culture in which men are respected. Society has tended to forget that men and boys are people too. By appeasing feminism, and the grinding and constant bias in promoting its perspective, our cultural and political zeitgeist has encouraged a stroppy male slouch towards Gomorrah. Enjoy.
Swayne O’Pie: M.A; B.Sc; B.Ed.; Dip. Special Ed.; Single Parent; Author; Consultant to Bob Geldof on gender issues (his Government, literature and television work); Equal Opportunities Officer at Bath Spa University; Equality Feminist; Senior Contributor to the Index on Censorship (which works to pursue the charitable objectives of its founding charity, the Writers and Scholars Educational Trust); Member of English Pen (the international Free Speech Society); Experienced Speaker.