Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage


This article was written on 21 Jan 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Why I’m a feminist ally – and why it matters

Hello, men. We’re killing ourselves.

Literally. The suicide rate for men in my age group is endemic and the last time I read up on the subject, men tend to select violent and inevitably fatal means of suicide which don’t depend on dosages to work. We throw ourselves off things and under things with a savage regularity, to the extent that a suicide which doesn’t make commuters late isn’t news.

Nobody knows entirely why this is. I saw one TV programme which suggested that we’re in a ‘buffer’ generation, caught between the stiff upper lip generation that preceded us and the generation which comes after and which doesn’t have the same reservations about expressing its feelings. We’re in the middle, baffled as to why stoicism doesn’t work and unable to understand why we’re doing it.

I’d like to posit another explanation, which compliments this, and it’s that we’re trapped in a prison partly of our own making and partly of a design laid down years before we were born. Consider the evidence. If you’re about my age (I’m 42) you may have heard the phrase ‘boys don’t cry’ or some variant of it. You may also have heard expressing your feelings as ‘girly’ and been taught to recoil from anything that looked or sounded feminine.

So well, so wrong. The problem is that we’ve internalised these narratives at such a deep level of our consciousness that they’ve become the way that we see the world and become our means of relating to it. I still instinctively avoid pink stuff, for pity’s sakes, because way back in the mists of time, I was told it was for girls. And yet my favourite toys as a very, very small boy were an iron, a sweeping brush and a tea set. Change his programming, the call must have gone up, he’s got odd tendencies.

Carrying these things forward into adult life, past puberty, left an appalling legacy. Girls were, in general, soft, warm and smelled nice. You wanted them because, at some vastly broken part of your being, you wanted to be with something that was warm and smelled nice and which may have had frilly pants on because it would feel nice. The idea of said frilly pants was enough to make some boys, me included, priapically stiff with lust precisely because they were the things that we had been denied.

The problem for us is that we’ve aged with a map that is in no way congruent with reality. When we hit a bump in the road, we tell ourselves, as we were told as children, that we mustn’t emote. The pain, the anger and the desire to scream profanities at the moon all gets squished down somewhere inside us. We need soft, warm nurturing, cry out for it, even, but deny ourselves because we aren’t supposed to need it. Small wonder that we break.

And when we do break, there are some insurmountable paradoxes inside us. The need for security clatters into what we’re told should be our role as providers while the need to be some kind of hero finds its expression in bluff loneliness that thwarts any attempt to reach out. By masculinity’s toxic standards, we’ve failed even for wanting things we can’t have and shouldn’t want, we can’t find it in ourselves to be the provider-hero and so… we take ourselves off to remote places and kill ourselves, because we can’t bear the tearing and rendering of who we thought we should be.

I came close nearly five years ago. I came close to throwing myself off of a multi-storey car park in Kingston because I couldn’t be with someone who I wasn’t supposed to be with who was repeating the toxic lies about being male. With the benefit of hindsight, and with appropriate thanks to the many guardian angels who must have been on my side, I can see that I was following the wrong map. It was one that valued masculinity above my own continued existence and desire to draw breath.

What feminism can do is give us a way to see ourselves through new eyes that are at once more realistic and yet also more loving. We don’t need to be told to ‘man up’ because it’s a terrible thing to say. There are times, many times, when no exhortation to do something will bring it about, let alone find your fealty to a misbegotten system of beliefs. We do need to cry, because it’s the most natural thing to do in the world when sorrow exceeds our ability to cope and we do need nurturing, because we’re human beings. Everyone needs love. That’s the most basic truth.

And I think that this is also the answer to misogyny. We hate and attack women because, I think, they represent those qualities which are in us, but which we have been told we deny. We grudge feminists taking their fair and rightful place in the world because any woman who doesn’t instantly show a caring and nurturing side terrifies us and we worry that she will take the privilege which we’ve been wrongly given in return for our emotions. And we really, really need to stop the woman-hating.

Women are as complicated and multi-factoral as we want to be. They can be, by turns, nurturing and in control just as we would be if allowed to express our true nature. It’s beyond obvious that parity of the sexes has to be every feminist’s goal, because any system that holds back one sex so that the other one gets to enjoy privileges it earned through saying and insisting that it deserves them is insane. If a woman can do a job better than me, great. She clearly should be doing it. Whinging about that, endlessly, is not really much is of an answer. Developing complimentary skills is.

I’m prepared to bet that kicking masculinity to the kerb will free men to be who we have the potential to be and to allow women to be who they want to be without us snarking at them from the sidelines. Every misogynist is attacking something inherent in themselves. Every suicide is a tragedy. The two feel related, in need, in some deep way. It’s time they were brought into the light and time that we stood alongside our sisters and helped them just as we need to be helped too.

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