Feminism’s man problem (spoiler: no, absolutely not)

Vivia Hickman, our previous CEO, once shared a story of a man found wandering the building. Asking her about the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre building, she told him how it houses many women’s organisations and hosts women’s events in its mission to help all women in the state – through research, referral and reasoned debate.

This angered the man, outraged that prime city real estate would be squandered on women. “What about the men?”, he demanded. “Where is their special space?”

Vivia pointed outside – “it’s all out there”, she said as she ushered him to the world outside.

This fabulous story popped into my head when I read a recent article over at Bloomberg. “A Big Concern in Norway, a Country Now Ruled by Women: Male Anger”.

With more women in positions of political power, the article frames Norway as a utopia for women, but dystopia for men. Until you read on and discover men still control the other favoured avenue of power: money, with a gender pay gap and more men running banks and financial organisations.

But still, the article persists, there’s a problem with angry white men with the suggestion this is a problem women will have to fix.

Over in New York City, the local Human Rights Commission is investigating the Wing, a women’s social and co-working space, for potential sex discrimination. The discrimination? Men aren’t included.

Also in America: people are suggesting students should have been nicer to Nikolas Cruz, so he wouldn’t become a mass murderer, killing 17 students and wounding 17 more.

Appearing in the space of a week, these articles all point to a broader issue: won’t someone think of the angry white men? Those men unable to accept responsibility for their actions because its everyone else’s fault, mainly women.

It’s a curious notion that some (oh, not all) men feel they must be a priority in all life, amply evidenced by anyone who had to pause their enjoyment of International Women’s Day to answer “but when is International Men’s Day?”. It’s as if they are worried people will forget men exist, which shows an almost-charming ignorance of statistics and the Patriarchy.

How possible is it to forget about men when there are centred in almost every industry and form of cultural expression? When they earn more, get hired more, are depicted more across the arts, have greater privilege to travel without harassment and can generally assume more attention in the medical and legal systems?

Meanwhile, people are still writing articles about how boys won’t read books if the main character is a girl. I mean, what’s the point if it’s not about them? In totally unrelated news: boys are now statistically reading less.

The assumption that men must be tended to like some fragile hothouse flower and given the best position so they can thrive also relies on another expectation: that women not men must do the work of centering or tending to men.

In a recent searing editorial for the New York Times, fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Isabelle Robinson outlined how women dropping everything (including their standards and safety) to help angry white men won’t work. She details how he had previously winded her and that attempts to tutor Cruz resulted in sexual harassment. Women’s labour wasn’t going to prevent male violence, because male violence is a choice.

Naturally, feminists have been saying angry white men have been a problem for years and, to own the truth, women of colour have been saying it for a hell of a lot longer.

Just as naturally, this has been ignored until men felt a slight shift in power. But they don’t frame their concern about angry white men as “I agree with feminists” – suddenly it’s the feminists’ fault, that somehow, men were never violent, underemployed or angry until feminism took hold, tainting all that we (and by that I mean men) hold dear.

There are men who do this work – who write for men, try to help men, mend the crises and and give support. But so often this is done by men who seek in reinforce male priority and primacy over women, as can be seen with Jordan Peterson, who tells men to make their beds and decries feminism. Sexism is not the magic ingredient in treating male malaise, or male-aise.

Women aren’t dominating the world and causing men to suffer, nor are they truly being excluded from anything that women haven’t been blocked from for millennia.

As Ruth Bader Ginsberg says “I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

 

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Amy Gray is a Melbourne-based freelance writer currently working on Mother’s Ruin, a book exploring the feminist politics of motherhood. .

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