The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 22 Jan 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Mangina

Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian army officer who supported the Nazis. As they invaded his country in 1940, he sought to become part of the new Nazi government and earned the lasting enmity of all his fellow citizens who thought that the country being forcibly taken over by genocidal goose-steppers with no sense of humour was probably a bad thing. His surname is now synonymous with treachery of the basest kind.

Why the history lesson? Because the word ‘Quisling’ invokes a traitor to a cause, and because it explains why ‘mangina’ is the insult of choice amongst what I’ll tactfully describe as a Certain Type of man. Why describe someone you’re arguing with as a ‘mangina’? Simple. They’re trying to silence people based on their sexuality, shaming them into silence. Here’s why it doesn’t work. At all.

For mangina to work as an insult, you need to see men and women as being on two sides of a conflict. The man you direct it to has changed sides and is now shooting at you. If that’s how I saw the world, maybe I’d use the same term. Unfortunately, I don’t. I was raised in a family where strong-minded women were the norm. They had kept the family going through tough times and provided a core of love and compassion that ran through it.

This for me was the norm. They were no more on the opposing side than I was in the SAS. And it meant that when I started going out into the world, it never occurred to me to think that women were in any sense subordinate or had lesser mental faculties than me. Had I done so, I’d have been insulting the people who brought me up, cared for me and helped teach me about the outside world. And in the case of my Nana, loved me fiercely.

You could, I suppose, have fetishised this and stuck it on a podium, denouncing any woman who wasn’t maternal, but that made no sense, either. I grew up in a working class family where everyone always worked because the family couldn’t afford to carry passengers. As soon as people had left school, they went to work. That work might not have been valued as highly, but that was scarcely their fault. My Nana should have gone to art college, but women of her class didn’t. The roads were closed to them.

When I got to university, I was with people like my Nana, albeit fifty years hence, people who had the chance to find out more about themselves and who took it with both hands. Again, there was no conflict with my life experience, but confirmation of it. Had my Nana been in their position, she’d have been dying her hair purple, staying up until all hours, doing insane things and having lots of sex.

The availability of Twitter has rather challenged this paradigm. Suddenly, I realise that there a re rather a lot of men who don’t feel the same way. If you speak up in support of feminism, which looks to me like basic good sense and wanting to make sure that everyone can contribute from a position of mutual self-respect, you’re a mangina. If you respect women and believe that they’re on the same footing as you, you’re a mangina. If you think we live in a culture that only punishes rape when it’s really blatant, which stats tend to suggest that it does, you’re also a mangina. And so the list goes on of mangina-worthy offences against men.

These men do, of course, love their old mums in a way that seems to come close to Oedipal. Mum loved them, gave birth to them and wiped their arses, but for some reason, the respect doesn’t seem to translate any wider than that. Women who aren’t mum are probably evil, but mum lives on a lonely high plinth built largely from quiet suffering, wiped arses and the fact she forced a congenital idiot out of her fanny some years ago.

Boys, I’m afraid respect does have to be more universal than just your mother and, for that reason, I’m so happy to wear the label ‘mangina’ that it’s now in my Twitter bio. To me, in an annoyingly glib way, it means that I’m a man who came out of a vagina. More seriously, it means I’ll happily stand up and lend my voice to the calls for the rights of women, because in the end, that helps me live in a fair and more just society. Rant away, chaps, because I’m laughing at you.

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