Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 16 Jun 2015, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Haig

This article defends Matt Haig. If you want to hurl your laptop through the window, set fire to it and, when you’ve acquired a new one, block me from your Twitter feed, fair enough. But I wanted the experience of setting down what I think freed from the shackles of 140 characters and here it is.

Haig is a writer who has written vividly about his lived experience of having depression. I find his writing speaks to me as a person with similar experience and is often uncomfortably real, so I also follow him on Twitter where I find him similarly candid. He’s perhaps a tiny bit egocentric, but that’s hardly a vice I’m free of, either.

For those who missed the fracas or, as I often do, take sides based on which sides their friends have chosen, what Haig did was to Tweet about masculinity and articulate views which, it seems to me, are fairly timely. He also said some things based on a partial understanding of feminism which could be taken as hostile or uncertain, depending on what you want to see.

All hell then broke loose with the kind of sick haste it does on Twitter and social media as Haig found himself accused of mansplaining feminism to women and then, as the debate intensified, said that men have it hard, too. Then all hell broke loose again, added to the earlier hell, and swiftly ate the entire universe.

By way of declaring my hand, I need to say that I am, in fact, a man. I have found myself at the foot of a steep learning curve when it comes to feminism. Thanks to a few women whose tolerance surpasseth human understanding, I have also learned that I need to shut up, listen and only raise my voice when asked. Men want to dominate conversations and that’s something we need to own and atone for with attentive silence when it comes to feminism.

What Haig has done, though, is to try and start a conversation that should have been had years ago. He’s argued that we look at how utterly toxic the present version of masculinity is and how it traps us into an unhelpful and damaging archetype of either the brain dead, pub car park brawler or lad with the wit to know better and the fear of someone who can’t live it.

This latter school of thought is exemplified by Martin Daubney, one of its most unlovely exponents, who argues that all men are basically sexists, that any attempt to live any other kind of life is doomed to fail and that any kind of variance from his own norm is wrong. Needless to say, he tried to show that Haig was one of his own. I think he’s wrong. But time will tell.

To return to the present, if we wait for a spokesman or woman who arrives at the debate with a fully formed set of opinions that are 100% acceptable to all and the product of 100% reason, we’ll all be waiting forever. Instead, we have someone who seems to be utterly genuine, who thinks that the debate around masculinity isn’t served by the outdated archetypes and, in the process making massive category errors about feminism.

Rather than berating him, maybe it’d help if people explained where and why he was wrong and helped him see reason, rather than decamping to battle lines that were set years ago. My stake in this is that I also know that almost all of what I grew up thinking it was to be a man – the strong, silent type whose scars were all on the inside – is absolute bollocks.

I want to see, to be part of a discussion around masculinity that explodes these myths and it seems like, in Matt Haig, we have the best chance yet to do that. It’s imperfect, because people are, and flawed, because imperfect people do things that are well-intentioned but wrong. Perhaps Matt Haig will turn out to be a false prophet. Perhaps he’ll turn out to be as wrong as all the rest and a vast, testicle-shaped cul-de-sac. I hope not.

Right now, though, and for the sake of all of us who need something else, deserve something else, we need to seize this as an opportunity and have the masculinity debate. The lads and the geezers are free to fight in the car park. I want something else.

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