Friday, 28 June 2013

How feminism is invested in demonising masculinity

The major paradox of masculine ideals, as they come down to us through social and cultural inheritance, is that though the goal posts are always moving and shifting, the main aim of them is normative. That is, though there seems to be an unfathomable dynamism to the shifting ideals of masculinity – a man must be both sensitive and strong, decisive but also a good listener – the ultimate aim of all these ideals is to ring-fence his masculine energy into a quantifiable space.

This is part of a grand old tradition in the politics of the masculine, and one which feminism has now joined. When it comes to men, feminism is no better than patriarchy. Patriarchy is a set of normative constraints on sexual expression. As the feminist critique goes, social ideals and expectations, cultural gender roles, restrict the fluid expression of natural sexuality. A set of expectations, then, acts as form of self-fulfilling control mechanisms.

All this is very familiar to us in the context of feminist dialogue. Normally, this dialogue is presented to us as a kind of Marxist explanation – conflict theory, dialectic, class division. Women as child bearers are the proletariat, and men, all men, are their oppressors, because the child, usually a masculine child, is brought into the world in service of the patriarchal society. A society which values peace through war, prosperity through inequality.

Much of this critique is correct, but it often fails to see one very important thing. That is, that much of this supposed elite, masculine class, are themselves oppressed. When you point this out to a feminist, they tend to get on their hind legs about it, like you are reading into the facts, assuming a tacit narrative that is not there. This is very typical of the contemporary academic, snide, pseudo-intellectual. In order to avoid actually confronting the power of your arguments, they will seek to dismiss them. This is a form of ad hominem debate, but it dresses itself up as insightfulness and penetrative discourse. It of course is nothing of the kind.

You find it in academic circles, because what western academics value above all is not truth, but simplicity. They like to simplify, and reduce things to their simplest and most accessible forms. It's really a form of intellectual immaturity, an unwillingness to confront that which might be inherently complex. It comes out of a gross bastardisation of the Enlightenment project. Empiricism, which places experience and self-reflection above all else, has now merely become a way of eliminating irritatingly unquantifiable variables. What was once a revolutionary form of intellectual endeavor, has become its opposite, a way of stifling any experimentation in ideas, in the name of containing truth, and packaging it in a way that makes a convenient sense, and which possesses a logical integrity. 

This logical integrity is valued above truth itself, though it often gets talked about as if it were truth. Truth, as the narrow-minded analytical intellectual understands it, is often just this logical integrity. And it usually comes with a whole host of implicit self-congratulations about rigour and methodology. But in the end, it is really nothing more than a childish need to simplify the facts, and represent them as if ideas themselves were Newtonian atoms floating in a clockwork universe. And there is a great deal invested in keeping this illusion alive, because the alternative is not so easily harnessed and co-opted by hacks.

And this is the resistance that the masculine theorist is up against. An immaturity of intellect, masquerading as advanced and exacting rigour. But it's really nothing more than a petulant form of eliminating unwanted variables. This process is far more important to the academic than any notion of truth.

However, this can be dealt with quite easily in the context of a dialogue about how men are oppressed. To say that men are the losers as much as women in Patriarchy is so obvious, so self-explanatory, that it shouldn't need to be discussed. But because so much academic hackery and so many careers depend on not discussing this rather inconvenient fact, it will be ridiculed before the sentence containing its assertion, has been fully uttered. And things are getting worse, because the feminist orthodoxy is now a great money spinner for cosmetics companies, the record industry and the mainstream media. Don't agree? Well try and actually do a little bit of empirical research on the matter before you resort to your typical analytical dismissiveness. Count up the number of adverts in women's magazines and Sunday newspapers that feed into the narratives I am talking about. Those narratives being that a woman has to struggle against a masculine world, a world of male privilege to get what she wants.

I can already hear your harping and carping. I can already hear your counterexamples, but examine yourselves. You are regurgitating orthodoxy rather than appealing to the facts on the ground. You are also, inevitably, caricaturing what I am saying, interpreting it through the simplistic prism of that very orthodoxy, because, this is a very functional and reassuring way to interpret unwanted statements.
However, all I am actually saying is that yes, Patriarchy (if we really must call it that) exists, but that it oppresses men as much as women. Now, why is this so hard for you to accept? Nay, why do you think it is so intolerable? Well, I think it is simply because so much has been invested in that cultural narrative. It makes a lot of money, it simplifies the facts into digestible chunks, and provides for a workable narrative. All such narratives do.

The way that patriarchal societies oppress men is through a system of simplistic cultural narratives, designed to constrain male sexuality. The motivation for this is something I have talked about elsewhere. Male sexuality is the potency of society. It is the force of survival, and it exists in women as much as men. It is therefore the one thing that must be restricted if you are to control a mass of people. Thus, we have the concept of Original Sin. Now, much gets made of the fact that Eve is made the villain in the creation myth. Her weakness in the face of the devil, it is argued, is a clear, unequivocal sign of men demonising women, and blaming them for all the problems of the human condition. This is how the narrative goes. Just look at it, it's a clear example of misogyny, male narratives enslaving women through cultural wisdom.
However, this gross simplification misses something out. And this something is staring everybody in the face, and no one wants to talk about it. Again, academic analysis is very good at eliminating inconvenient narratives. And the problem can be summed up in one question.

What is the gender of the serpent?

The answer, rather inconveniently, is that he is male. Now, for the record, I very much agree with the feminist thinking, that the creation myth represents to a large degree, the birth of misogyny. Women as weak, women as child-like, women as unable to use the full power of their rationality in the face of temptation. That is all true, and it has had immeasurably damaging results for our society, and women in particular.

But the other side of this is often ignored, because it doesn't fall into the simplistic dialectic of the dominant orthodoxy. The devil, the serpent, the source of Eve's temptation, is the man. Looked at from another angle then, the creation myth at the heart of Christian culture is as destructive and toxic to masculinity, as it is to femininity. If you still find this unacceptable, then I don't think we can do much more intellectual business. You might as well go and read a feminist blog that just reinforces your assumptions.

The creation myth is just one of many myths and archetypes that are designed to create a functional schizophrenia in men and masculinity. And what is it that is so functional?

Well, until the growth of the knowledge-based economy, that is until about thirty years ago, men provided one of the most important natural resources of the western world. Physical strength. And much of this physical power (and let's just call it what it is, physical superiority) was intimately tied into sexuality. Society, for thousands of years, needed to harness masculine brawn in order to survive. Just as women were enslaved to their roles as child-bearers and home-makers, men were enslaved to the gender specific roles as hunters warriors and workers.

It is men, in truth, who have always been society's slaves. Because the cultural narratives have always reinforced the ideal, that what a man must aspire to is the use of physical power for the good of his wife and child. A man's worth, whether you want to admit it or not, has always been contingent. It depends on the extent to which he can made useful for women and the family unit, and the wider community. Patriarchal society, a term which I believe is misleading, is really just a slave society. And misogyny, is really nothing more than those slaves seeking rewards and consolations for their enslavement.

Problems start to occur in our society, which until very recently has depended to such a great degree on male brawn, when that self-same energy becomes unruly. If men must be bred to fight wars, and engage in high risk activity for the good of the wider community, then those men will inevitably seek rewards, and they will also start to use that very same physical prowess to serve those ends. Misogyny then, is a cultural inevitability.

When a society requires its men to grow up with a preparedness and readiness to serve the collective through physical prowess and violence, why do we act so surprised when that violence starts to seep into all areas of life, such as the economy, sexuality, politics, family life?

This, then, is the origins of male demonisation. It is a way of ensuring moral control, over something which is inevitably destructive, and whose destructiveness serves society, but at the same time, must be contained.
For all its radical possibilities, feminism is a monumental failure. It fails to recognise the functional nature of socialised male violence. Instead, whereas it is breaks down the ideals and archetypes which have enslaved women, it actively reinforces the archetypes that restrict men. 

The average feminist is a diabolical puritan when it comes to male sexuality. Rather than turn their revolutionary hand to the struggles of their male brothers, feminists seek power over men, by reinforcing the destructive and inhibiting ideals of so-called patriarchy. Women are no longer hapless Eve's unable to contain their sexual temptations. Men on the other hand, are still the demons, still the rapists, still the bogeymen of modern culture. And when you so much as raise this issue, you are met with a chorus of petulant contempt, that masquerades as a kind of academic incisiveness. Any man which seeks to challenge the overriding narrative, doesn't have a chance, because he will shouted down, and attacked on a personal level, to such a degree that he probably doesn't see much point in continuing the debate. Whatever, he says, he's misogynist, a reactionary.

Well, not this writer, my precious reader. Expect no cow-towing to these intellectual low blows, and expect no deference to the so-called 'academic method'. I have seen the enemy, and she doesn't scare me. Not a damn bit. Expect war, and nothing else. 

1 comment:

  1. I think feminism is a very young movement, which is why it hasnt yet properly addressed the oppression of men. I hope that in time this will become a modus operandi of choice, as much a piece of the puzzle as the oppression of women, because they're invariably interrelated.

    Very powerful piece, I must say.