I’ll always remember the day my first son was born. “It’s a boy,” said the midwife. “Urgh, take it away,” said I. “I’m a feminist. I don’t do boys.” The fact is, like all card-carrying feminists, I’m contractually obliged not to give a shit about the welfare of non-women. As far as they’re concerned, I’m all out for revenge.
Of course, that’s the theory, but in practice things are more difficult. When it’s your own children who’ve failed (as yet) to identify as female you end up making compromises. Truth is, I’ve found that I love my sons very much. It’s just everyone else’s sons who can sod off. It’s not as though a social structure which discriminates against them will have any impact on my kids, or on the genuinely important ones (aka girls). So let’s crack on with creating a world in which everything is weighted in favour of the latter.
This, more or less, is what all feminist mothers of boys must be thinking, at least according to a spate of panic-mongering Crisis Of Masculinity™ pieces in the Telegraph. For instance, five days ago, Fraser Nelson was arguing that “sexual inequality has reversed in Britain”, hot on the heels of Glen Poole claiming that the government is giving “unequal priority to our daughters, to the exclusion of our sons”. And then there’s James Delingpole informing us “our culture has lost the ability to channel the boisterousness of young men”. To hear all this you’d think we’d won already. Sure, we may be being led by a bunch of white, upper-class males, and there’s the pay gap, and domestic violence, and sexual objectification, and slut-shaming, and the shocking under-representation of women in all areas of public life, and women being judged on their looks even when they’re winning sodding Wimbledon, but remember – the Apprentice final is an all-female affair and we’ve got Loose Women. Job done!
But before we get too excited, it’s important to remember one thing — like it or not, boys are people too. It’s annoying, I know – and if it wasn’t for the likes of Fraser Nelson, I’d have forgotten it completely and left my boys at the local animal rescue – but facts are facts. And <serious voice> ladies, we’ve been so busy feminising everything, we’ve made some of these people, these male people, sad.
Now I don’t mean to take the piss. I’m well aware that there are specific challenges my sons will face because they are male. I worry about the high male suicide rate. I worry about the pressure to “be a man”, whatever that means. I worry about the mockery and bullying faced by those who don’t conform to Delingpolesque standards of masculinity. I worry about the confusion and disappointment my sons might experience when, having grown up seeing men or boys as the hero in every cartoon, the politician in every interview, the millionaire sportsperson in every newspaper, they discover the real world only gives you a free pass if you’re the kind of male Fraser Nelson is. I worry that, having seen women only as sidekick, carer, teacher or sexualised image, they will begrudge sharing the same space as them. I worry that, the next time richer, more privileged men want to screw the likes of my sons over, they’ll use women, all women, to deflect the justified rage, and I worry that if I’m not careful, my sons will buy it. After all, as Delingpole writes, these are “feminised, sanitised times”, and it takes an editor of the Spectator such as Nelson to tell us that “the market value of testosterone has never been lower” (thanks, chaps! Got any actual ideas for helping men less well-off than you? Thought not).
I don’t want the world to be like this for my sons or anyone else’s. Moreover, what I find truly disturbing is the way in which women – both those who identify as feminist and those who don’t – now stand accused for all these inequalities heaped on the shoulders of men, on the entirely spurious basis that if one man is losing, one woman, somewhere, must be winning. Yet this just isn’t true. It’s not how inequality works. If there are winners, today’s are the top 1% of earners, growing ever richer, people for whom the Telegraph has nothing but excuses. Instead they wish to cause dissent amongst the rest of us, presenting women as interlopers, stealing ground that shouldn’t be theirs. Of course the facts for this don’t exactly add up. We’re not all on the Apprentice or Loose Women, are we, sisters? And yet this doesn’t matter. Even when a woman performs a more traditional role – even if she’s Mrs 1950s – in Telegraph-land she’s still crushing the menfolk around her.
And this is the thing that really makes me cross. Proportionally, women devote a greater amount of time and effort than men to the care and education of all children, including boys. Indeed, all this time spent caring is routinely offered up as some bizarre justification for our lower social, economic and political status — and yet we don’t get any thanks for it. On the contrary, just by being there — just by making up the majority of the world’s arse-wipers, tantrum referees, toy fixers, play leaders, bedtime routine managers — we’re apparently screwing over the whole male sex by not letting them have “role models”. It’s not that those who complain are seriously suggesting that they’ll take our places (since that wouldn’t be very manly, would it, James?). They just want to point the finger. It’s like having someone sit on their arse while you clean the house from top to bottom, only to have them say “that’s not how I’d have done it. And you missed a bit. I wish we had a cleaner who was more like me. But not me, obviously”.
These accusations have to stop. They’re not fair and they’re not true. Right now, those who are fighting hardest for boys are the people who are there for them, those who are willing to challenge the pressures boys are under and to suffer low status and constant criticism because of what they do (female primary teachers and single mothers, I salute you). Those who fight hardest for boys are not those writing snippy articles about how a feminised culture won’t let them climb trees or be “boisterous” or go out shooting on the country estate. Those who fight hardest for boys want them to have genuine, not illusory, control over their own lives. If you believe in a fair world – and not simply in pitching one oppressed group against another while you sit smugly above it all – you should want this, too.
POSTSCRIPT: Having had a look at the comments on this post (to which I realise several people have been directed via an MRA site) I’ve now indulged in a little blocking. Apologies to those who’ve already had to deal with some very unpleasant ad hominem attacks. Also, I’m sorry for making some very carefully worded comments now seem out of context (but they remain no less valuable).