Coming soon to an angry dude near you - the "pro-men" party

Mike Buchanan thinks "state-sponsored feminism" is ruining society and women are defying their "natural instincts" by going to work. Terrifyingly, some people are taking him seriously.

Feminism: you can define it in many different ways, but the most accurate would probably be ‘destroyer of worlds’. All that harping on and on about equality between the sexes, fair pay, recognition of labour, universal suffrage, and an assortment of other ridiculous so-called ‘rights’ that no real female needs or cares about is quite clearly a veiled assault on men, and therefore the world at large.

Feminism has gone too far, indeed, so far has it gone that it has insidiously infiltrated every institutional orifice like a omnitentacled being from Japanese octopus porn. It is a parasitic beast which silently permeates the organs of its hosts, burying beneath their flesh, nesting in society’s innards before it bursts forth like the larvae of the botfly, screeching and demanding stuff. And astride this fearsome creature sits Harriet Harperson, chieftain of the feminist militia and bête noire of any human with a penis.

Does this viewpoint sound like you? Are you lacking direction in your life, possibly because you sit at home wondering how you can possibly convert all of the hatred and fear of ‘the other’ that you have inside you into serious political action? Don’t resign yourself to a life of merely raving drunkenly at passers-by just yet, for we come bearing good news. Mike Buchanan has started a "pro-men" party that aims to get rid of feminism once and for all - and it’s coming soon to a dank, stinking room above a sub-standard regional pub near you any day now.

"Who is Mike Buchanan?", you may justifiably ask. A man of many talents, Buchanan is a self-styled business consultant, and, much like George with his apocryphal dragon, he considers it his divine calling to vanquish the feminist death kraken once and for all and be hailed as your spiritual king for ever more. He was described last week by the Daily Mail as "not some lunatic of the Monster Raving Loony Party ilk", despite the fact that he once claimed that "the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition currently in power continues to pursue feminist agendas with some enthusiasm", something anyone with half a brain knows is complete and utter unadulterated bollocks. The fact that Buchanan has been dubbed sane by the Mail also raises certain questions.

Aside from professional lunacy, he also practices authorship, having written a book called Feminism: The Ugly Truth which is currently available on Amazon, complete with a front cover illustration of a red-eyed vampire woman to really drive home the ferocity and apocalyptic horror of the politically minded female.

"Feminism attracts little serious opposition in the developed world," the book begins, "which is extraordinary given that it’s systematically and progressively assaulting men, women, marriage, the family, government, the legal system, the media, academia, capitalism and much else." Thank God Mike’s spotted that one, guys, because we almost wasted a shitload of resources on kidding ourselves into thinking that problems with the government, the media, and the legal system run deeper than the pursuit of gender equality.

Now that we’ve realised the true extent of our destruction, we’re both personally willing to retire to the kitchen without further ado (because feminism is - direct quotation - "forcing [women] to go against their natural instincts and rely on the world of work for their economic survival".) At Mikey’s behest, we shall give up our livelihoods post-haste in order to restore a natural and utilitarian order. And ‘lo, as we turn our backs on the women’s movement in favour of a lifetime of gooey-eyed, beatific servitude, the sun will rise and our red eyes will once again turn baby-blue as the twin evils of independent thought and liberal ideology are expelled from our systems. Our jagged fangs will shrink back into our silken gums and the snakes’ nest atop our heads will wither, then transmogrify into golden ringlets. Our banshee screams will fade and dwindle, and in their place will emerge the meek, soft mew of the feeble female.

But before we do, permit us to stand on our evil feminist soapbox a few words longer. It goes without saying that crackpots like Mike Buchanan exist in every section of society: fundamentalists routinely make members of all social, cultural, and political groups look bad (including some of the more radical fringes of the feminist movement). But the time that the most successful "news" website in Britain (in terms of sheer numbers) has dedicated to this man and his regressive ideology is shocking; the published comments from the readers even more so. One which states that "the shocking events in India make me glad we have feminists in this country" has been voted negatively 99 times at the time of writing, while "anything that upsets feminists HAS to be a good thing!" has been voted positively 104 times. While it’s easy to laugh at Buchanan and the bogeywomen lurking in his mental closet, this sort of comment juxtaposition is downright depressing. It’s clear that his pro-male political party will not be short of potential recruits. Fear can do that for a movement.

As with many extremist political ideologies, the increased visibility and popularity of Men’s Rights Activists (or MRAs) such as Buchanan can be attributed largely to fear. Fear, paranoia, and hatred. Fear that white working class men are set to become a "minority" (David Willetts this week confirmed this by comparing them to other "disadvantaged groups"); paranoia that such disadvantages are caused by the increasing emancipation of women, out there, spreading their tentacles, passing exams, and taking the world by storm, like the demented harpies that we are; and hatred of those women, with their vaginas and their soft smooth skin and their Child Support Agency. The bitches.

While we’re not denying that there are many male-specific problems which are not being adequately tackled – not least the alarming suicide rate among young men, which Buchanan seems to imply is also feminism's fault – laying the blame at the door of women is an astonishing jump in so-called logic. All the major political parties seem to be doing a rather nice job of championing male interests already, and although the coalition clearly couldn’t give a toss about the working class, the fact that they only have five women in the cabinet doesn’t exactly signify the ‘state-sponsored feminism’ that Buchanan sees lurking in the dark corners of his proverbial bedchamber. So where’s the beef?

Fear, as we know, is not a rational emotion. So often is it rooted in ignorance, in misunderstanding, and in the hounding of the scapegoat. In light of this fear, society’s failure to create a more equal class system with increased social mobility becomes unimportant, as does the fact that men created that class system in the first place.

Embarking on a witch hunt is far easier than questioning why none of the political parties seem to reflect the interests of the worker. Blaming the pair of yellow female eyes peering from the dark is much simpler than asking why these men have become the casualties of such a system. These questions go to the very core of capitalism, and they make your head hurt.

There is no room for subtlety in the all-out assault of gender conflict. After all, Buchanan is busily engaged with the slaying of the mythical monsters beneath the bed with the use of his phallic lightsaber of masculinity, which makes us wonder whether the jump between his politics and the Raving Loony lot is actually that large. Perhaps he’d be better off abandoning his own efforts in favour of the party devoted almost entirely to monsters. At least he’d have a laugh.

Harriet Harperson, feminist dragon. Montage by Malky Currie.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

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Love a good box set? Then you should watch the Snooker World Championships

The game relies on a steady arm, which relies on a steady nerve. The result is a slow creeping tension needs time and space to be properly enjoyed and endured. 

People are lazy and people are impatient. This has always been so – just ask Moses or his rock – but as illustrated by kindly old Yahweh, in those days they could not simply answer those impulses and stroll on.

Nowadays, that is no longer so. Twitter, YouTube and listicles reflect a desire for complex and involved issues, expansive and nuanced sports – what we might term quality – to be condensed into easily digestible morsels for effort-free enjoyment.

There is, though, one notable exception to this trend: the box set. Pursuing a novelistic, literary sensibility, it credits its audience with the power of sentience and tells riveting stories slowly, unfolding things in whichever manner that it is best for them to unfold.

In the first episode of the first series of The Sopranos, we hear Tony demean his wife Carmela's irritation with him via the phrase “always with the drama”; in the seventh episode of the first series we see his mother do likewise to his father; and in the 21st and final episode of the sixth and final series, his son uses it on Carmela. It is precisely this richness and this care that makes The Sopranos not only the finest TV show ever made, but the finest artefact that contemporary society has to offer. It forces us to think, try and feel.

We have two principal methods of consuming art of this ilk - weekly episode, or week-long binge. The former allows for anticipation and contemplation, worthy pursuits both, but of an entirely different order to the immersion and obsession offered by the latter. Who, when watching the Wire, didn’t find themselves agreeing that trudat, it's time to reup the dishwasher salt, but we’ve run out, ain’t no thing. Losing yourself in another world is rare, likewise excitement at where your mind is going next.

In a sporting context, this can only be achieved via World Championship snooker. Because snooker is a simple, repetitive game, it is absorbing very quickly, its run of play faithfully reflected by the score.

But the Worlds are special. The first round is played over ten frames – as many as the final in the next most prestigious competition – and rather than the usual week, it lasts for 17 magical days, from morning until night. This bestows upon us the opportunity to, figuratively at least, put away our lives and concentrate. Of course, work and family still exist, but only in the context of the snooker and without anything like the same intensity. There is no joy on earth like watching the BBC’s shot of the championship compilation to discover that not only did you see most of them live, but that you have successfully predicted the shortlist.

It is true that people competing at anything provides compelling drama, emotion, pathos and bathos - the Olympics proves this every four years. But there is something uniquely nourishing about longform snooker, which is why it has sustained for decades without significant alteration.

The game relies on a steady arm, which relies on a steady nerve. The result is a slow creeping tension needs time and space to be properly enjoyed and endured. Most frequently, snooker is grouped with darts as a non-athletic sport, instead testing fine motor skills and the ability to calculate angles, velocity and forthcoming shots. However, its tempo and depth is more similar to Test cricket – except snooker trusts so much in its magnificence that it refuses to compromise the values which underpin it.

Alfred Hitchcock once explained that if two people are talking and a bomb explodes without warning, it constitutes surprise; but if two people are talking and all the while a ticking bomb is visible under the table, it constitutes suspense. “In these conditions,” he said, “The same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: ‘You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!’”

Such is snooker. In more or less every break, there will at some point be at least one difficult shot, loss of position or bad contact – and there will always be pressure. Add to that the broken flow of things – time spent waiting for the balls to stop, time spent prowling around the table, time spent sizing up the table, time spent cleaning the white, time spent waiting for a turn – and the ability for things to go wrong is constantly in contemplation.

All the more so in Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. This venue, in its 40th year of hosting the competition, is elemental to its success. Place is crucial to storytelling, and even the word “Crucible” – whether “a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures,” “a situation of severe trial”, or Arthur Miller’s searing play – conjures images of destruction, injustice and nakedness. And the actual Crucible is perhaps the most atmospheric arena in sport - intimate, quiet, and home to a legendarily knowledgeable audience, able to calculate when a player has secured a frame simply by listening to commentary through an earpiece and applauding as soon as the information is communicated to them.

To temper the stress, snooker is also something incredibly comforting. This is partly rooted in its scheduling. Working day and late-night sport is illicit and conspiratorial, while its presence in revision season has entire cohorts committing to “just one more quick frame”, and “just one more quick spliff”. But most powerfully of all, world championship snooker triggers memory and nostalgia, a rare example of something that hasn’t changed, as captivating now as it was in childhood.

This wistfulness is complemented by sensory pleasure of the lushest order. The colours of both baize and balls are the brightest, most engaging iterations imaginable, while the click of cue on ball, the clunk of ball on ball and the clack of ball on pocket is deep and musical; omnipresent and predictable, they combine for a soundtrack that one might play to a baby in the womb, instead of whale music or Megadeth.

Repeating rhythms are also set by the commentators, former players of many years standing. As is natural with extended coverage of repetitive-action games, there are numerous phrases that recur:

“We all love these tactical frames, but the players are so good nowadays that one mistake and your opponent’s in, so here he is, looking to win the frame at one visit ... and it’s there, right in the heart of the pocket for frame and match! But where’s the cue ball going! it really is amazing what can happen in the game of snooker, especially when we’re down to this one-table situation.”

But as omniscient narrators, the same men also provide actual insight, alerting us to options and eventualities of which we would otherwise be ignorant. Snooker is a simple game but geometry and physics are complicated, so an expert eye is required to explain them intelligibly; it is done with a winning combination of levity and sincerity.

The only essential way in which snooker is different is the standard of play. The first round of this year’s draw featured eight past winners, only two of whom have made it to the last four, and there were three second-round games that were plausible finals.

And just as literary fiction is as much about character as plot, so too is snooker. Nothing makes you feel you know someone like studying them over years at moments of elation and desolation, pressure and release, punctuated by TV confessions of guilty pleasures, such as foot massages, and bucket list contents, such as naked bungee jumping.

It is probably true that there are not as many “characters” in the game as once there were, but there are just as many characters, all of whom are part of that tradition. And because players play throughout their adult life, able to establish their personalities, in unforgiving close-up, over a number of years, they need not be bombastic to tell compelling stories, growing and undergoing change in the same way as Dorothea Brooke or Paulie Gualtieri.

Of no one is this more evident that Ding Junhui, runner-up last year and current semi-finalist this; though he is only 30, we have been watching him almost half his life. In 2007, he reached the final of the Masters tournament, in which he faced Ronnie O’Sullivan, the most naturally talented player ever to pick up a cue – TMNTPETPUAC for short. The crowd were, to be charitable, being boisterous, and to be honest, being pricks, and at the same time, O’Sullivan was playing monumentally well. So at the mid-session interval, Ding left the arena in tears and O’Sullivan took his arm in consolation; then when Ding beat O’Sullivan in this year’s quarter-final, he rested his head on O’Sullivan’s shoulder and exchanged words of encouragement for words of respect. It was beautiful, it was particular, and it was snooker.

Currently, Ding trails Mark Selby, the “Jester from Leicester” – a lucky escape, considering other rhyming nouns - in their best of 33 encounter. Given a champion poised to move from defending to dominant, the likelihood is that Ding will remain the best player never to win the game’s biggest prize for another year.

Meanwhile, the other semi-final pits Barry Hawkins, a finalist in 2013, against John Higgins, an undisputed great and three-time champion. Higgins looks likely to progress, and though whoever wins through will be an outsider, both are eminently capable of taking the title. Which is to say that, this weekend, Planet Earth has no entertainment more thrilling, challenging and enriching than events at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.

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