Many people believe ‘men are still on top’.
In most countries, men make up 50% of the population; this is the situation in Australia. But men make up 93% of the gaol population here in Australia. Men are more likely to be violent criminals (and the victims of violent crime). Every week, stories of every depravity possible, mostly committed by men: murder, abuse, rape, torture.
Let alone the self-harm! Men in Australia are 4 times more likely to kill themselves than women. For men in rural areas, the rate is seven times…Depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, gambling, domestic violence, the list continues!
Men commit these things. But is it inevitable? Does the Y-chromosome condemn a proportion of us to be criminals, monsters? I don’t believe it. It was important for women that feminism uprooted and demolished the roles that women were imprisoned in. But some extreme feminists blamed men for everything. Genetically inferior, masculinity was something to be quashed, mocked, ashamed of. Men had no gifts to bring. Fathers, when not being depicted as suspicious, dark, destructive, were painted as idiotic, incompetent, fools, large children in men’s bodies, kept out of trouble by a wise and all-knowing mother.
The simplification of the extreme feminist message was that it ignored the suffering of men; that just as women had suffered under roles that crushed them, so had men. Starting with the economic pattern established in 18th Century England and Scotland, men were forced by necessity out of their villages and farms and into the cities and factories; families and communities broken up. Men started working 12 hour shift work in factories, mills, mines, shipyards. Men’s role in the family was distorted into that of primarily the walking wallet, the main contribution money. What else could you expect when the father came home, exhausted after 12 hours of exhausting and repetitive work? Boys were encouraged to be violent, competitive. “Prove you’re a man!”. At least in the Australian experience, artistic or intellectual tendencies were suspect. God forbid anyone think you might be gay!
The feminist message also implicitly stated that the men who were the oppressors, the criminals, were ‘on top’, were the ‘winners’ out of the system. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that men who commit such crimes or live such lives are hardly to be envied. They are pathetic, distorted people, they are not really men.
And that is it actually. How do we get ourselves out of this hole? Nothing less than redrawing what we think a man is. Redefining what we think masculinity might encompass. What fatherhood could be.
What an incredible opportunity we have! We can break the pattern that has hamstrung us, our fathers and grandfathers. We can dream of what manhood can be. We can bequeath that new vision to our sons, help them grow to be freer, healthier men than we are. For a start, we could dump the ridiculous idea that you need to ‘prove’ that you are a man!
This blog is partly about what that new vision could be…