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.

Photo: Getty Images
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What's to be done about racial inequality?

David Cameron's words on equal opportunities are to be welcomed - now for some action, says Sunder Katwala.

David Cameron made the strongest, clearest and most high profile statement about ethnic inequalities and the need to tackle discrimination ever yet offered by a British Prime Minister in his leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
“Picture this. You’ve graduated with a good degree. You send out your CV far and wide. But you get rejection after rejection. What’s wrong? It’s not the qualifications or the previous experience. It’s just two words at the top: first name, surname. Do you know that in our country today: even if they have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names? … That, in 21st century Britain, is disgraceful. We can talk all we want about opportunity, but it’s meaningless unless people are really judged equally”, said Cameron.
While the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, this was a powerfully argued Prime Ministerial intervention – and a particularly well-timed one, for three reasons.

Firstly, the Prime Minister was able to root his case in an all-but-universally accepted appeal for equal opportunities. It will always prove more difficult in practice to put political energy and resources behind efforts to remedy discrimination against a minority of the population unless a convincing fairness case is made that values cherished across our whole society are at stake. Cameron’s argument, that any party which tells itself that it is the party of the ‘fair chance’ and ‘the equal shot’ must have a response when there is such clear evidence of discrimination, should prove persuasive to a Conservative Party that has not seen race inequalities as its natural territory. Cameron argued that the same principles should animate responses to discrimination when it comes to race, gender and social class. Put like that, wanting job interviews to be fair – by eradicating conscious and unconscious patterns of bias wherever possible – would strike most Britons as offering as clear a case of the values of fair play as wanting the best baker to win the Great British Bake-Off on television.
Secondly, Cameron’s intervention comes at a potential "tipping point" moment for fair opportunities across ethnic groups. Traditionally, ethnic discrimination has been discussed primarily through the lens of its impact on the most marginalised. Certainly, persistent gaps in the criminal justice system, mental health provision and unemployment rates remain stark for some minority groups. What has been less noticed is the emergence of a much more complex pattern of opportunity and disadvantage – not least as a consequence of significant ethnic minority progress.

Most strikingly of all, in educational outcomes, historic attainment gaps between ethnic minorities and their white British peers have disappeared over the last decade. In the aggregate, ethnic minorities get better GCSE results on average. Ethnic minority Britons are more likely, not less likely, to be university graduates than their fellow citizens. 

As a result of that progress, Cameron’s intervention comes at a moment of significant potential – but significant risk too. Britain’s ethnic minorities are the youngest and fastest-growing sections of British society. If that educational progress translates into economic success, it will make a significant contribution to the "Great British Take-Off" that the Prime Minister envisions. But if that does not happen, with educational convergence combined with current ‘ethnic penalties’ in employment and income persisting, then that potential could well curdle into frustration that the British promise of equal opportunities is not being kept.  Cameron also mirrored his own language in committing himself to both a ‘fight against extremism’ and a ‘fight against discrimination’: while those are distinct challenges and causes, actively pursuing both tracks simultaneously has the potential, at least, depolarise some debates about responses to extremism  - and so to help deepen the broad social coalitions we need for a more cohesive society too.

Thirdly, Cameron’s challenge could mark an important deepening in the political competition between the major parties on race issues. Many have been struck by the increase in political attention on the centre-right to race issues over the last five to ten years. The focus has been on the politics of representation. By increasing the number of non-white Conservative MPs from two to seventeen since 2005, Cameron has sent a powerful signal that Labour’s traditional claim to be ‘the party of ethnic minorities’ would now be contested. Cameron was again able to celebrate in Manchester several ways in which his Cabinet and Parliamentary benches demonstrate many successful journeys of migrant and minority integration in British society. That might perhaps help to ease the fears, about integration being impossible in an era of higher immigration, which the Home Secretary had articulated the previous day.

So symbolism can matter. But facial diversity is not enough. The politics of ethnic minority opportunity needs to be about more than visits to gurdwaras, diversity nights at the party conference fringes and unveiling statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour leader did include one brief celebratory reference to Britain’s ethnic diversity – “as I travelled the country during the leadership campaign it was wonderful to see the diversity of all the people in our country” – and to Labour bringing in more black, Asian and ethnic minority members - but it did not include any substantial content on discrimination. Tim Farron acknowledged during his leadership campaign that the Liberal Democrats have struggled to get to the starting-line on race and diversity at all. The opposition parties too will no doubt now be challenged to match not just the Prime Minister’s rhetorical commitment to challenging inequalities but also to propose how it could be done in practice.

Non-white Britons expect substance, not just symbolism from all of the parties on race inequalites.  Survation’s large survey of ethnic minority voters for British Future showed the Conservatives winning more ethnic minority support than ever before – but just 29 per cent of non-white respondents were confident that the Conservatives are committed to treating people of every ethnic background equally, while 54 per cent said this of Labour. Respondents were twice as likely to say that the Conservatives needto do more to reach out – and the Prime Minister would seem to be committed to showing that he has got that message.  Moreover, there is evidence that ethnic inclusion could be important in broadening a party’s appeal to other younger, urban and more liberal white voters too – which is why it made sense for this issue to form part of a broader attempt by David Cameron to colonise the broad centre of British politics in his Manchester speech.

But the case for caution is that there has been limited policy attention to ethnic inequalities under the last two governments. Restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab decided to give up his role chairing an ethnic minority taskforce for successive governments, unconvinced there was a political commitment to do much more than convene a talking shop. Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone did push the CV discrimination issue – but many Conservatives were sceptical. Cameron’s new commitment may face similar challenges from those whose instinct is to worry that more attention to discrimination or bias in the jobs market will mean more red tape for business.

Labour had a separate race inequalities manifesto in 2015, outside of its main election manifesto, while the Conservative manifesto did not contain significant commitments to racial inequality. The mid-campaign launch in Croydon of a series of race equality pledges showed an increasing awareness of the growing importance of ethnic minority votes - though the fact that they all involved aiming for increases of 20 per cent by 2020 gave them a slightly back-of-the-envelope feel. 

Prime Ministerial commitments have an important agenda-setting function. A generation ago the Stephen Lawrence case opened the eyes of middle England to racist violence and police failures, particularly through the Daily Mail’s persistent challenging of those injustices. A Conservative Prime Minister’s words could similarly make a big difference in the mainstreaming of the issue of inequalities of opportunity. What action should follow words? Between now and next year’s party conference season, that must will now be the test for this Conservative government – and for their political opponents too. 

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.