Can 2015 be the year in which men become the Other?

Who is your Person of 2014? Nigel Farage? Russell Brand? Or could it be … A woman???

Only kidding, obviously. Having a woman as Person of the Year would be political correctness gone mad. Woman of the Year, yes.  Person? Don’t be silly. People are male.

I could live with The Times naming Farage “Briton of the Year” (NB all humans defined by nationality are male, apart from Swedes, who are sexy blondes). I could live, almost, with the vast majority of positive alternatives to Farage being male. But when George Monbiot named Russell Brand his “hero of 2014” due to his apparently obvious distinctness from the “grand old men of the left”, something in me snapped.

I’m sick of this.

Adult men are not the only people. They’re not even the majority of people. They make up the vast majority of wealth holders, perpetrators of violence and resource consumers, sure, but just because they bear the greatest responsibility for fucking up the world, should they really be gaining all the accolades for half-heartedly attempting to sort it out again?

I know some men will find that offensive because #notallmen. To them I say if you want to be offended, you should be offended every time you open a newspaper or watch the news or read obituaries or, yes, look up the latest “person of the year” list and see man after man after man. Doesn’t it make you uncomfortable? Doesn’t it make you even a tiny bit ashamed?

Do you actually think, deep down, that men deserve all this? What do you think the status of men would be without the exploitation of women’s bodies and labour through violence and coercion? And yes, you’re probably thinking “but I don’t do that and I’m not on any of these lists”. You’re still a beneficiary of structural privilege. You’re still seen as more of a person than I am.

You still don’t know what it’s like to look at a world in which your body is not considered the default body, in which your physical self is considered an oddity, an inconvenience, an object to be acquired and discarded. You belong to a class who consider themselves the story while women provide the backdrop. Your voice is considered more authoritative, your experience more real, your idea of what men and women are more meaningful than anything a mere breeder could imagine. You’re not a class of heroes and villains; you’re a class of self-aggrandising storytellers. We’re as real as you but you see us as mere illustrations.

The only hope a woman has of acquiring some recognition from men is through an explicit exploitation of her woman-ness. Be the first woman to enter a hallowed male-only space. Lead a protest against the many, many ways in which patriarchy harms women and some men might even thank you. Whatever you do, your status will remain contingent on what men do and don’t do. Woman is whatever man thinks she is. You don’t get a story of your own. You lack the basic substance.

I want 2015 to be the year in which women start to be seen as people in their own right, not one of humanity’s added extras. The representation of women in public life – in our lists and our stories, and in our construction of what a person is – is not some self-indulgent extra, to be achieved once women have “got” (been awareded? granted? fallen on their knees and begged for?) equality elsewhere. For as long as male people are seen as the norm – as long as the “normal” body does not spend an inordinate amount of time engaged in unpaid caring work, does not get pregnant, does not speak with the unforgivingly superficial tones of a female voice – whatever women win will be seen as a concession, to be taken away whenever the real people see fit.

Since demanding that women be treated fairly is not working, here’s another proposal: for 2015, let’s do our best to other men. Let’s never mention a man without also mentioning his age, marital status, parental responsibilities, hair colour and weight. Let’s add the adjective “male” before any mention of his profession. Let’s ideally avoid using his name at all – X’s husband, son of X, father of two, desperate bachelor etc. as appropriate. Let’s make his whole existence seem really fucking trivial, revolving around clothes, his biological clock and the frequently withheld approval of women. Let’s totally ignore calls for revolution which don’t even care to mention the most basic of inequalities. Let’s remember: male interests, even those of left-wing men, are limited, focussed only on one minority group (men) and their special concerns. They think they represent the world. They think they are “the people”. We need to stop thinking it, too.

If there’s only space for half the human race to be seen as people, let’s just say it’s our turn. Next time you hear the word “person” force yourself to think “woman” for a change.

Advertisements