Friday, August 8, 2008

Men Under Siege?

Zoe Williams, writing in The Guardian UK, thinks all the press being given to the idea that men are "under siege" is blown way out of proportion. I've been reading Kathleen Parker's book, Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care (podcast here), and I have to say she does make a mountain range out of a few gopher mounds. And I've already dissed Warren Farrell a few times (here, here, and here).

I have to say I mostly agree with Williams. In so many ways that matter, women are at a serious disadvantage. In some other ways, men are not being treated fairly (especially in divorce).

Rather than each side hating on the other, why not work together to fix some of the imbalances?
Men under siege? A sense of proportion, people, please
Michael Vaughan's tears portend no crisis in masculinity. This fuss is just a distraction from the real concern: fairness

* Zoe Williams
* The Guardian, Wednesday August 6 2008

Men's battered honour has been documented all over the place these past few days. Kathleen Parker led the field with her book Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care. "Men have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all life's ills," avers Parkers in a text that had the Sunday papers transfixed. Yesterday in the Mail, Richard Littlejohn took Michael Vaughan, the former England cricket captain, as both a symptom of and a contributor to our weak-minded, feminised society, which attacks masculinity at every turn, reinforcing failure with cooing sympathy, drugging macho life force with Ritalin. Poor cricketer. All he did was shed a tear for his lost career, and he singlehandedly undid our last few threads of cultural resilience. But there I go again with my cooing sympathy.

While Vaughan was drying his eyes, Michael Gove, shadow secretary of state for children, was making a rather rangy speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research in which he blamed lads' mags for encouraging young men to have sex hedonistically - ergo failing to understand that women weren't a pleasure, they were a duty, ergo creating single-parent family units. It all seemed a bit Jesuitical to me. The missing link that stops an enjoyable act of sexual congress becoming a one-parent family is a contraceptive device, not a respectable magazine culture, surely?

You can pick holes in these arguments all you like, and I will just take a second out, and do so. If men work an average 41.9 hours a week and women, 37.6 hours, this is not, as the American "masculinist" and "men's rights author" Warren Farrell told the Observer, a sign that women have more power over their lives. It is simply a reflection that they do more of the childcare.

Mothers spend 12% more time than fathers looking after children, and women generally spend 78% more time on housework than men. I am personally in favour of lower standards of hygiene to solve this battle of the gender war, but that's a minority view. Still it's not, I hope, as extreme a conclusion as Farrell's: "I define power as 'control over one's life'. A balanced life is far superior to the male definition of power: earning money someone else spends while he dies sooner." If, as a mother, you are described as "spending someone else's money" just by bringing up your mutually begat children, that doesn't seem to me like a powerful position at all.

Here's the problem - when you get into a battle of the sexes, both sides have grievances. Society tends to denigrate men more openly than it does women, but then women are portrayed so routinely as hunks of flesh to be measured out by the pound that we only notice it happening to men because it's aberrant. Ultimately, you can carry on about culture, and what it does to self-esteem, how people see fathers, how they see mothers, how parents see themselves and one another; you can argue about this stuff forever.

You might say boys were discriminated against by the GCSE system. I would return, who's to say they didn't just work less hard? You might say that culture was fuelling male neurosis, to the degree that 25% of eating disorders now occur among men; I would reply that 75% are still women. I'm as guilty of this retort reflex as anyone. Derisive portrayals of women by mainstream culture enrage me. Arguments like those of Farrell make me furious. It's like a messy divorce in macrocosm: you lose any sense of justice in the proliferation of small outrages.

The only reason feminism gained any ground at all is that there was measurable injustice at the heart of it. There was a pay gap; there was an opportunities gap; there was a straightforward power void, where a woman was fine if she stayed the right side of her husband. The big mistake of this movement was not that it attacked men, nor that it turned us all into slags (I think that's at the core of Gove's point), but that it separated itself from socialism. It shouldn't have. This movement either fights for fairness on behalf of all women, or it's just a petty squabble between middle-class people, fighting for dominance in a conversation no one else is listening to.

Fairness has not yet been established. Women still earn less than men (14% less full-time, 34% less part-time), still look after the children in 93% of parental separations, won't have fiscal equality in old age from the pension system for about 45 years. Men are ill-served by the NHS and die of unnecessary cancers, while women are screened much more often. Let's attack this stuff that we can measure, attack it even if we're not the victims of it, attack it even if it's conflicting, here favouring men, there favouring women, attack it because its tangibility is an open flank. The rest is just noise.

1 comment:

Ritalin Prescription Medication said...

My name is Nathan Finch and i would like to show you my personal experience with Ritalin.

I am 32 years old. Have been on Ritalin for 2 years now. This drug has saved my life. I have seen drastic differences between times in my life when I was taking it and when I was not. I failed out of one school and graduated top of my class in the next. Floated from job to job and then became very successful. I don't like the way I feel when I am taking it (I'm boring -- no personality) so, I time my doses to help me in the office or when I have to focus on mundane task's at home like paying bills, taxes etc. and then go without it when I'm recreating.

I have experienced some of these side effects-
Initially some apatite suppression, insomnia and slight gitters. This was corrected by reducing my afternoon dose.

I hope this information will be useful to others,
Nathan Finch