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22 May 2014

The real problem men face today is not the rise of women

Men worry about feminism, as if a culture of women's rights is about to stamp out male identity. But really, it's men who are their own worst enemies.

By Edward Smith

Apparently, I’m not a real man. The profile of masculinity that exists today, on television and the internet, doesn’t fit me whatsoever. I don’t drink. I don’t watch football. Most egregiously of all, I believe women are my equals. Like millions of men, I’m alienated by the male gender stereotypes that continue to exist. Popular culture tells me that, as a man, I can either be a farting, tattooed sex pest or a defeated, helpless kidult, who needs his wife to cook and clean for him lest he burn down the house. Take a look at TrueLad.com, or the commercials for cleaning products. These are the types of men that pervade today’s media. Our brains are ostensibly only interested in three things: sport, drinking and fucking. If we try to do anything else, we’ll need a woman to help us.

Men worry about feminism, as if a culture of women’s rights is about to stamp out male identity. But really, it’s men who are their own worst enemies. In response to feminism, there’s been a surge in ultra-male television and writing. TrueLad is one example, so is Man v. Food, those Fosters ads on YouTube and the hugely venomous Return of Kings. This kind of media is – ostensibly – designed to reclaim a lost kind of maleness. It tells young men that it’s acceptable to adhere to their basest instincts, to eat, drink and laze around, and expect subservience from women. But rather than empower or reinvigorate the male gender, this lad culture is retarding it. An entire generation of men is learning, by osmosis, that tolerance, restraint and self-improvement are all virtues that are unmanly, and that ascribing to higher behaviour than “laddishness” is to rebel against their genetics. It’s leaving men looking outmoded, childish, irrelevant. If masculine emotional attitudes had matured at all since the Stone Age, then much of that progress has now gone up in smoke thanks to the male media’s puerile response to new feminism. It’s as if men are throwing out their cars and going back to the bicycle. The version of maleness that lad culture seeks to reclaim is resoundingly at odds with today’s world.

Reclaiming men’s social position by reintroducing pre-war male attitudes is a mission that fails as soon as it starts. Firstly, of course, men have nothing to reclaim. The structure of societies in both the East and West are already tipped grossly in men’s favour. And if ultra-male culture is a response to feminism then, unsurprisingly, it’s missed what feminism is about: an end to inequality; the formation of new ideologies that don’t favour or threaten one gender over another.

But secondly, it’s absurd to believe that men, by returning to primitive and misogynistic behaviours, would deserve a higher position in society, or a position in society at all. If men truly are worried that their voices are becoming distant, then it’s only with advanced learning, greater understanding and informed opinions that they can expect to be listened to more closely. A perspective on social issues won’t be affirmed by acting childishly, or by complaining that men aren’t allowed to whistle at women in the street any more. It’ll be done, basically, by thinking and talking more like feminists.

I’m distressed that young men, people I know and have grown up with, today take pride in infantile behaviour. I’m distressed that it’s considered unmale to engage with politics, or to express an emotion that can’t be compartmentalised as either a “man-hug” or a “bromance”. The real problem males face today is not, of course, a rise of women – it’s a shrinking of men. It’s the presence of lad culture, driving us mad, like the lead in the Romans’ water.

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Brave and vital forces for social change are finally starting to occur. By stomping our feet, pretending these things aren’t happening and retreating to poxy Boyz Only clubs, not only are we slowing long-needed progress, we’re writing ourselves out of history.