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20 Jul 2004 00:00
Ladies, start peeling your onions for the modern man. This poor confused creature is no longer afraid of tears, especially if they are neither his own nor shed in public.
And if you want to know why you should cry for him, just look around at what is happening as we speak.
First, women are flaunting, enhancing or lifting their cleavage all the time, clearly because they want men to notice them.
Then you have people talking about eating disorders as though they were only suffered by women and young girls. But we hear this week that anorexia and bulimia are on the rise among male athletes, driven by the desire to perform and look good. Where is the sympathy for these poor chaps, likely to end up the butt of jokes?
Then there’s men being told they must be good fathers, only to discover that the courts won’t give them sufficient access to their children if their relationships break up.
There is something in all these complaints, but the fairest response a woman could give to them is: welcome to the real world. Yes, the modern male faces new and confusing pressures. But anyone who thinks Western men are not still the most privileged group in human history doesn’t know Kylie’s arse from her elbow grease. On the whole, becoming successful for a woman remains tougher than it is for a man, and the price of achievement is to earn the label of “hard bitch’‘.
Clever women have been claiming for years that stupid white men rule the world, but the first person to be widely lauded for saying so is Michael Moore, another stupid white man. A woman can make a point incessantly, but not until a man says it is it taken seriously. Like away goals, men’s opinions count double. Any if you don’t get the football reference of that last line, tough. Watch more sport with the lads if you want to keep up.
That’s the rule. Why else do you think most corporate jollies involve major sporting events?
That is not to say men have no reason at all to complain or be confused but, on the whole, the problems men face are their own fault, the same as those everyone else has had to deal with for centuries, or pale shadows of those confronted by others. Take the “problem’’ of knowing the differ-ence between saucy banter and offensive sexism. Even feminists can agree that $12-million may be an obscene amount to pay for sexual harassment. But men who think their own confusion or the disproportionate size of the settlement is a greater problem than the harassment itself are surely deluded. It’s easy to say “lighten up’’ when you have never experienced oppression yourself.
One of the distinctive phenotypic effects of the Y chromosome is attention-seeking and self-important behaviour. We have become so used to thinking that we are the most important creatures to walk the planet that we assume our temporary difficulties must be the gravest problems facing society today. We are like householders fretting over a cracked window pane, oblivious to the fact that it is the result of a tornado that has wrecked the homes of those around us. Men should realise that the ill-winds of discrimination, double standards and unrealistic ideals that threaten us now have been disrupting the lives of others for centuries.
When it comes to increased male anxiety about their appearance, it is indeed depressing to see men succumbing to the same destructive pressures that women have had to endure for years. But it’s no use salivating over buxom lasses in men’s magazines and then complaining that society puts too much pressure on men to have six-pack stomachs. The connections and contradictions aren’t too hard to spot.
Perhaps the problem is that feminism has managed to change some male behaviour, but it has not won the battle for hearts and minds. Because men never really believed it was wrong to objectify women, society never rejected objectification, and so now men are on the receiving end of the humiliation it brings. Because men never really thought loutish, boorish behaviour was bad, equality now means that women get to be just as obnoxious as men. Because men never really accepted that sexual harassment was a problem, when they learned that certain ways of talking were unacceptable, they ended up continuing to be sexist in other ways. They are now surprised to find that they are suffering for failing to learn the lessons feminism tried to teach them.
There’s nothing new in this diagnosis, of course. But since it is now being given by a man, it can at last be taken seriously. — Â
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