Emancipation, not emasculation

Writing wrongs: All that Matt Haig wants is for his son not to feel self-conscious about liking ballet and for his daughter to carry on playing Han Solo.

Writing wrongs: All that Matt Haig wants is for his son not to feel self-conscious about liking ballet and for his daughter to carry on playing Han Solo.

The author Matt Haig found himself crucified online after suggesting that his next nonfiction title could be a book tackling masculinity.

  Haig, who has won awards for his bestselling novels and who wrote a recent memoir about depression, Reasons to Stay Alive, proposed on Twitter that his next book may be about masculinity. “Maybe I am missing something. There may be too many books about and by men, but not many looking at the perils of masculinity.
Am I wrong?” he wrote in June. “Unless you want to DO AWAY WITH MEN, then we need to look at what masculinity is and why its current interpretation causes problems.”

Haig said his argument would be that “men benefit more than women from sexism, but both would be better off with feminism”.

He found himself quickly flooded with condemnation from those telling him to “stop talking about feminism now”, that he “has been mansplaining feminism”, and that “feminism doesn’t exist to help males. Period.”

In response, Haig tweeted: “People (rightly) say men need to be feminist, yet when a man wants to write re gender and pitfalls of masculinity, they’re met with sneers. The sad thing about the Twitter age is that people can be crucified for a rushed thought … Seems there is a certain kind of hardcore feminist (the kind who’d be Clarkson if they’d been born male) who think men can’t be feminist.”

Haig insisted that “it is not sexist to say that a tightly defined construct of masculinity harms men”, and added that he was “suspicious of all those silencing phrases like ‘man flu’ and ‘man up’ and ‘mansplaining’, because men need to talk more about feelings not less”.

  Haig, whose novels include The Radleys and The Last Family in England, said a book about “a crisis in masculinity” would not be anti-feminist.

“How clearly can I put this? I am not denying female oppression, I am trying to stop it by calling for a more fluid masculinity,” he wrote.

“I have never felt oppressed by women, or that feminism is a problem. I do think boys find it hard to like things seen as feminine. I want my son to not feel self-conscious if he likes ballet and my daughter to carry on playing Han Solo, that’s all.”

  He told the Guardian that, although he “knew that gender is a sensitive and potentially heated subject”, and that “Twitter can be a bubbling cauldron of animosity”, he was surprised at the reaction his comments provoked.

“The moment I said I was writing a book about masculinity, and at first that is all I said, I had people telling me that it was anti-feminist …

“I have always thought feminism had a lot to say about both genders, as it is hard to talk about one without the other. I think men and women alike would benefit from men having a more fluid idea of what being a man is.”

Haig said he had “abandoned the idea of the book”, but he now believes “the Twitter reaction shows it needs to be written”, and would go ahead with it if he finds a publisher. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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