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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Is TTIP a threat or an opportunity?

TTIP offers potentially huge opportunities to both Europe and the US - we should keep an open mind on what the final agreement will mean.

Barack Obama made it abundantly clear during his visit to the UK that if Britain left the European Union then it would be quite some time before we would be able to negotiate a trade deal with the United States. All the more reason to examine carefully what the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will mean for the UK. For Labour this is especially important because a number of trade unionists and Party members have expressed concerns about what TTIP could mean.

The economic worth of such a partnership between the European Union and the US has been questioned and it has been frequently stated that TTIP could give multinational companies unprecedented influence and undermine the British NHS.

With regard to the economic benefits of TTIP there are few that would argue that there are no economic gains to be achieved through the partnership. The question is to what extent economic growth will be stimulated. On the positive side the European Commission has argued that an agreement could bring economic gains of between €68 billion to €119 billion per year to the EU (0.3% to 0.5% of GDP) and €50 billion to €95 billion (0.2% to 0.4% of GDP) to the US. For Britain, this means that an agreement could add up to £10 billion annually to the UK economy.

On the negative side, a study commissioned by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group in the European Parliament has maintained that TTIP would bring only “limited economic gains”. These gains have to be weighed, it was argued, against the “downside risks”. Those risks have been identified as coming from the alignment of standards in areas such as consumer safety, environmental protection and public health.

These are important concerns and they should not be quickly dismissed. They are made all the more important because the existence of already low tariffs between the EU and the US make the negotiations to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade all the more significant.

There are a number of areas of concern. These include food standards and the regulation of GM crops and the worry that the EU’s focus on applying the environmental precautionary principle might be weakened. The European Commission, which has a responsibility for negotiating TTIP on behalf of the EU, is however acutely aware of these concerns and is mindful of its legal responsibility to uphold, and not to in any way weaken, the agreed legal standards to which the EU adheres. A concern has been expressed that irrespective of what European law may say, TTIP could undermine those standards. This I find difficult to accept because the ‘rule of law’ is absolutely central to the negotiations and the adoption of the final agreement.

But the EU is mindful of this concern and has brought forward measures which have sought to address these fears. The latest proposals from the Commission clearly set out that it is the right of individual governments to take measures to achieve public policy objectives on the level that they deem appropriate. As the Commission’s proposal states, the Agreement shall not affect the right of the parties to regulate within their own territories in order to achieve policy objectives including “the protection of public health, safety, environmental or public morals, social or consumer protection or promotion and protection of cultural diversity”.

Of course, this is not to suggest that there should not be vigilance, but equally I believe it would be wrong to assume the theoretical problems would inevitably become reality.

The main area of concern which has been expressed in Britain about TTIP relates to the NHS and the role of the private sector. Under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions investors would be able to bring proceedings against a foreign government that is party to the treaty. This would be done in tribunals outside the domestic legal system. If a Government is found to be in breach of its treaty obligations the investor who has been harmed could receive monetary compensation or other forms of redress.

The concern is that the ISDS arrangements will undermine the ability of democratically elected governments to act on behalf of their citizens. Some have maintained that measures to open up the NHS to competition could be made irreversible if US companies had to be compensated when there is a change of policy from a future Labour Government.

In response to these concerns the European Commission has proposed an Investor Court System. This would be based on judgements being made by publicly appointed and experienced judges and that cases would only be brought forward if they were precisely defined. Specifically, it is proposed that cases would be limited to targeted discrimination on the basis of gender, race or religion, or nationality, expropriation without compensation or the denial of justice.

Why, you might ask, is there a need at all for a trans-national Investor Court System? The reason in part lies in the parlous state of the judicial systems in some of the relatively recent EU accession countries in Eastern Europe. To be frank, it is sadly the case that there are significant shortcomings in the judiciary of some countries and the rule of law is, in these cases, more apparent than real. It is therefore not unreasonable for investors to have an international framework and structure which will give them confidence to invest. It should also be noted that there is nothing proposed in TTIP which contradicts anything which is already in UK law.

We need to remember too that this is not only about US investment in Europe, it is also about European investment in the US. No US-wide law prohibits discrimination against foreign investors, and international law, such as free trade and investment agreements like TTIP, cannot be invoked in US courts. The Investor Court System would therefore benefit European companies, especially Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. 

It is of course impossible to come to a definitive conclusion about these provisions because the negotiations are ongoing. But it would surely be unwise to assume that the final agreement would inevitably be problematic.

This is especially true regarding the NHS. Last year Unite the Union commissioned Michael Bowsher QC to provide an opinion. His opinion was that “TTIP does pose a threat to a future government wishing to take back control of health services”. The opinion does not express a view on whether TTIP will “force” the privatisation of the health service (as some have claimed) and Bowsher admits that much of the debate is “conducted at a rather speculative level” and he has been unable to produce any tangible evidence to support his contention about future problems. On the other hand, it is the case that there is nothing in the proposed agreement which would alter existing arrangements for compensation. There are of course many legal opinions which underpin the view that existing legal arrangements would continue. While I accept that it is theoretically possible for the Bowsher scenario to occur, it is nevertheless extremely improbable. That is not to say that there ought not to be watertight safeguards in the agreement, but let us not elevate the extremely improbable to the highly likely.

A frequently heard criticism of TTIP is that the negotiations between the US and the EU are being conducted in ‘secret’.  Greenpeace, for example, has strongly sought to make this a central part of their campaign.  Although the Commission publishes EU position papers and negotiating proposals soon after they are tabled, it is impossible to see how complex negotiations of this kind can be practically conducted in public.  However, I believe that the draft agreement should be made public well before the final decisions are taken.

Once the negotiations have been concluded, the draft agreement will be presented to the European Council and the European Parliament, both of which have to agree the text. The European Council is, of course, made up of representatives of the governments of the EU and the European Parliament is democratically elected. Both Houses of the British Parliament will also debate the draft and there will need to be parliamentary approval of the agreement.

Transparency and democratic scrutiny are two things which there cannot be too much of. But, in practical terms, it is difficult to see how there could be more of either without making it nigh on impossible to secure such a complex agreement. Unite, of which I am a member, and others are quite right to express their concerns about TTIP, but let’s not exaggerate the potential difficulties and let’s not assume that the worst case scenario will always come about. TTIP offers potentially huge opportunities to both Europe and the US, and we should therefore at least keep an open mind on what the final agreement will mean.

Wayne David is the Labour MP for Caerphilly and is Shadow Minister for Political Reform and Justice. He is a former Shadow Europe Minister and was a junior minister in the last Labour government.