Confessions of a conscientious gender objector
Words & images © Paul Ransom
NOTE: A companion article to this piece – Why I Am No Longer A Feminist – is also available on this site. It outlines my reasons for stepping back from a decades long allegiance to ‘capital F’ Feminism and my overall disquiet with toxic gender identity squabbles.
You could be forgiven for thinking that I fit neatly into the stereotypical demographic of the modern men’s movement. After all, I hit the standard markers.
- Mid-50s, single, divorced
- Multiple disappointments with women
- Many years since last sexual/intimate contact
- Opining on the internet from the safety a keyboard
It would be easy to picture me hunkering down in a musty bachelor cave with a band of online brothers putting the world to rights, eulogising the good ol’ days and bitching about women. Indeed, there may well be men’s rights recruiters out there who, having read my previous piece on feminism, are ready to claim me for their crusade – just as there are almost certainly others keen to dismiss me as yet another miserable ‘incel’ weaponising accrued disappointment into a pseudo-rational rant-a-thon.
Of course, these kinds of assumptions are very much part of the point I am endeavouring to make here.
- Ideological tribalism
- The trench warfare of identity based drama
- Gender as a prism of entitlement and demonisation
- The absurdity of ‘sides’
Therefore, just as I am no longer a feminist, so too I will never retreat to the man cave of the jilted gender jihadi or join their paranoid holy war against modernity and diversity. If contemporary Western feminism has indeed become a dumbed down and polemic version of its once boldly humanist self, the men’s movement has mirrored this reductionist drift, muting genuine critique in favour of the click generating noise of bullying, extremist assertion. In short, the sandpit of gender tantrum is not somewhere I wish to play. Not with the girls, and most definitely not with the boys.
Setting aside the spectacle of sexist fracas – with its patriarchies, feminazis and sundry demon others – the core issue is not merely our species-wide tendency to cluster around gender norms, but the harm that enforced adherence to these norms creates; harm that is so often unchallenged, minimised or denied. As I argued in Why I Am No Longer A Feminist, we are all impacted by narrow sex typing. Most of us – men included – feel the expectations, encounter the restrictions and deal with the opprobrium of gender policing. Some of us will subsequently face the violence that can result from transgressing the norms of masculinity and femininity. Thus, the crude, headline making binaries of men’s liberation versus female empowerment are, in my view, manifestly inadequate for the task of reducing the prevalence of gender based cruelty.
- Let’s be clear, the side effects of commonplace man/womanhood stereotypes are frequently cruel. From slicing up kids’ genitals and stoning rape victims, to criminalising homosexuality and restricting the work and life choices of people based on gendered orthodoxy, humanity’s willingness to visit forced obedience, physical punishment and ritual slaughter upon one another in pursuit of the gender ideal is well documented. Unfortunately, in an era of distorting 24/7 news drama and unfettered internet bile, the vast bulk of what we hear from the gender rights brigade fails to address the core problems of sexism and, as a result, anchors us to the same old habits of essentialisation that advocates so righteously claim to oppose.
However, to be fair, men’s rights groups, like feminists, have points to make. The problem is that their relatively rational sounding arguments so often fall foul of the same basic intellectual errors committed by their sisters. They confuse cause and correlation, are prone to mono-causation models and too easily lapse into conflation and narrative over-read. In addition, most of the men’s lib noise I hear (at least in the bubble of the contemporary Anglosphere) is rooted in a poisonous mix of narrow presentism, delusional nostalgia and entitlement. Indeed, it is difficult to witness the standard ‘poor man’ routine without being struck by the lingering stench of pre-pubescent irritation. Like little boys not getting their own way anymore.
As it is with contemporary Western feminism, the First World men’s movement is most often its own worst enemy. The garish, unbecoming spectacle of its fist shaking angst serves mainly to de-legitimise its agenda and distract attention from the damage that sexist stereotyping (and associated denial) does to us all.
One of the key talk points of ‘mancipation’ is the notion of male disposability. They will sometimes cite women & children first as a kind of proof; or conflate the loss of male dominated jobs in the West with conspiratorial narratives about PC and globalist elite takeovers, or even with the emasculation of culture more broadly. They ramble on about falling sperm counts and, ridiculously, seek to sheet this home to ‘the bloody feminists’ and assorted anti-man plotters.
This is gender ideological madness writ large. Sorry brothers, but we are more disposable. In our species, as with others, the female is not only the principal sex selector but – by dint of their child-bearing role and limited window of viable fertility – are a more prized genetic asset. Yet, stranded in historical amnesia and wedded to staggering self-centrism, garden variety men’s lib chest beaters seek to blame this on a cabal of leftist intellectuals, crony capitalists, foreigners and females.
That said, human societies do have a terrible track record of seducing impressionable young men into barbarous wars, working them to the bone for the profit of a select few, and generally bastardising them via the mechanisms of strong man stereotypes, honour culture and winner-takes-all hero narratives. Indeed, it is not entirely unreasonable to suggest that most men are set up by a complex of long-standing orthodoxies to fail, to feel inadequate. (The same can be said of women.) But to suggest that this is a recent invention of conniving feminists and rampant PC is to gloss over historic inputs like class, power and commercial imperative1, in addition to ignoring the influence of evolution on behaviour norms.
Folk in the men’s movement are, however, fond of addressing another of humanity’s entrenched norms; namely, our proclivity for violence. Perhaps confronted by the long overdue cultural discourse about violence against women – and the recent uptick in preparedness to more openly discuss sexual violence – their standard response has been to declare that it is men who are the majority victims of violence. And this is plainly true. Men are by far the main perpetrators and casualties of violence. However, it is equally clear that the agenda at play here is to minimise and explain away the fact that men are much more likely to predate physically and sexually on women (usually partners and family members), than vice versa. Here again, while some men will be physically abused by women, and even predated on sexually, most male victims of violence are attacked by other men. Any rational reading of available crime stats2 and/or basic understanding of the obvious imbalance in muscle power puts the men’s lib smokescreen about violence into its fuller context.
To paraphrase the Booker Prize winning Canadian author, Margaret Atwood:
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
Whilst we could dismiss this as a cheap and handy reduction, the fact is that in our species the male has been endowed with the physical capacity to overpower the female; and to dismiss this as a banality or as something unimportant is to lurch not only into egregious idiocy but into the realms of extremist ideological nastiness. To have one’s world view confronted, or to be left a little red faced is something from which one may readily recover (however painful it might be), but to be raped or to have acid thrown in one’s face, or indeed to be murdered is clearly another order of suffering. Men who somehow fail to understand this are, in my view, either intellectually challenged, seriously lacking in empathy, or are the disgruntled dupes of a simplistic and exploitative gender narrative. Or perhaps they just failed to progress beyond 12.
- Having been the target of male sexist violence for many years as a younger man, I am here to confirm that being called names – faggot, honky, poo-jabber and so on – is far easier to confront than having bottles hurled at you from moving cars, red-faced alpha bullies threatening to run you over, or having to flee over back fences from intoxicated homophobes at parties; let alone being cornered on train platforms by iron bar wielding thugs wanting to prove their mettle to their watching buddies. Sorry fellas, but I’ll take the ‘laughing at’ bit any day – but please, feel free to prefer being raped and murdered if you’re feeling unduly oppressed.
Yet perhaps the most hotly contested area of the gender dispute is not political but personal (feminist sloganeering notwithstanding). Men’s advocates frequently cite what they regard as the systemic pro-female bias of courts when it comes to divorce disputes and custody battles.
Clearly – without knowing the gender and ruling record of every judge in every case in every jurisdiction – this claim would be difficult to either fully support or deny. Furthermore, whenever relationship breakdowns end up in court the terrain is usually tricky. Stakes and emotions are high, complex psychological and financial considerations are in play, and workable, enforceable solutions can be difficult to extract from the mess of acrimonious claim and counter-claim. The stress, cost and pain involved – for all parties, children and extended family included – should not be blithely dismissed or crudely weaponised by gender zealots.
What is clear, however, is that underlying psycho-cultural norms about parenting and care-giving – specifically that women are the better or more ‘natural’ child minders – were not concocted in left/elite thinktanks, nor are they the result of a feminist takeover or liberal media agenda. Indeed, many feminists have railed against this stereotype.
In my view, the intricacies of contested separation and custody, and the obvious problems that arise from this, require a far deeper analysis than that offered by the vast majority of either feminists or men’s rights activists.
Here perhaps, we see the core folly the current gender dispute, especially in the wi-fi enabled, Twitter fed West. In place of a modulated and compassionate discussion we have devolved the ‘debate’ into an undergraduate slanging match. Here on the internet – where consequence free ranting is lingua franca – complexity is routinely reduced to snack-size, shareable simplicity and moderate voices are crowded out by a cacophony of trolls.
To borrow a paragraph from the aforementioned feminism piece: no serious social movement can conduct itself primarily in the media – corporate or otherwise. Media necessarily distorts. It can only ever give a partial view and it will always tend towards the attention grabbing axes of drama and emotion. Whereas this feeds neatly into the way our brains prioritise and memorise data (heuristics, perceptual bias, etc) it is precisely this exaggerated impact and the easy recall of lurid and simple media tropes that make them more dangerous.
If men seriously wish to address the way in which sexist stereotypes negatively impact them, blaming women or PC, or decrying diversity and indulging in nostalgist fantasy is not the way forward. Like the social media sisterhood, the internet brotherhood needs to look up from the phone, get off You Tube and begin by accepting that we are all affected by the continuing prevalence of often harmful gender orthodoxy. It needs to stop hankering for an imaginary retro-utopia and instead focus its efforts on genuinely helping those men who most feel the stigma and bear the brunt of the violence that befalls those who transgress narrow and, dare I say, toxic masculine norms. Remember brothers, it’s men who beat other men to death for being gay. It’s predominantly men who con young boys into strapping on suicide vests or signing up to die in futile wars. And it is mostly men who rape and murder your sisters and daughters.
Let me be frank with you, boys…I will never join you in your squalid cave of miserablist whinging. Sure, the girls may have laughed at me. Dumped me, cheated on me, played me for a fool. Some probably assumed, like many of you, that I was not a real man – whatever the fuck that is – but they never tried to corner me and beat me senseless. They never swerved to try and run me over in the street. Because they weren’t afraid of me. They weren’t scared of the unsettling feelings my atypical maleness clearly aroused in them. But you are – and that is your problem, not women.
Men…you are afraid of yourself.
So yeah, we guys do need liberating. From ourselves. From the brutal and awful ways we police manhood. From the seemingly endless, dick waving rituals of toughness and triumph. From the fear of being seen to break.
True, women contribute to the resilience and toxicity of these stereotypes – but maybe there is a clue in that. If we wish to continue in rancour and blame, to keep fighting the now redundant and frankly juvenile gender war, then we will never truly graduate from the playground tribalism that has so often contributed to our slaughter, enslavement and misery.
Therefore, as I said to feminists, I repeat to the chieftains of the men’s movement. I look at it now and think ‘why on Earth would I participate in that?’
1: The ‘male disposability’ alluded to by men’s groups may more accurately be considered as arising from deeper issues with power and status in human societies. Some will focus on class/caste, suggesting that it is the poor who are disposable – cannon fodder, factory fodder, etcetera. Others will point to deeply rooted structural factors underpinning commerce, or indeed to the mechanics of power that emerged as societies stratified and ramified in the wake of the agricultural revolution. Deeper still, there are factors pertaining to the hierarchical bias of our species and to the role that perceived status plays in the determination of value, especially around skills & functionality, goods & tools, prize objects & other symbols, and even people – how valuable are you to the tribe or as a mate? The point is, we have always been prepared to sacrifice more ‘disposable’ individuals for what we believe to be worthier causes.
2: Men’s groups love to contest this. They will argue that there is a secret trove of data that governments ignore, and supposedly left/liberal media outlets artfully avoid. Firstly, the data isn’t secret, and the suggestion that victims of violence are ignored by government agencies and other service providers simply because they are men is most likely an ideologically motivated over-statement. In my country (Australia) the numbers currently suggest that roughly one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner, with one man a month suffering the same fate. Whereas approximately 16% of women report having experienced partner violence since the age of 15, approximately 6% of men report the same. Likewise, more than 75% of those seeking crisis accommodation after fleeing domestic violence situations are women. Clearly, this is a complex space – from a legal, cultural and service perspective – and this is something rarely captured by media reports, much less appreciated by audiences addicted to sensation and simplicity. Violence is an ongoing issue for all human societies and to reduce it to mere ordnance in a spiteful gender war is simply to add fuel to an already damaging conflict.