Men need to stop hijacking the feminist debate and carve out a modern definition of masculinityby Richard Benson / December 2, 2014 / Leave a comment
A few years ago fourth-wave feminists coined the phrase “but what about the menz?” to lampoon men who effectively derailed discussions of women’s issues by asking how those issues affected themselves. The term certainly nailed a tendency in the gender struggle but, judging by events in 2014, men are still attempting to hijack the debate. So far this year, we have seen the Fawcett Society’s “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” T-shirt campaign turned into a battle about who of Clegg, Cameron and Miliband would wear one; parades of male celebrities holding up pro-#heforshe feminist placards; Obama’s somewhat jarringly-titled “It’s On Us” anti sexual violence campaign—and, inevitably, Britain’s first populist, pro-male “backlash” book, Peter Lloyd’s Stand By Your Manhood: A Game-Changer for Modern Men.
Many of these developments are positive and apparently driven by good intentions, but it’s interesting how much of it involves conspicuously identifying with feminism rather than changing male behaviours to help facilitate equality. Perhaps it has to do with the attacks on masculinity about which Lloyd is so fond of writing; to be fair, they are not in short supply. Christine Largarde, MD of the International Monetary Fund, has said that Lehman Brothers would not have defaulted had it been run by women; Harriet Harman wants to use equality law to force more women onto “macho” bank boards. The futurologist and marketing consultant Faith Popcorn has gone further, claiming that “It is clear that women are going to create the future,” because they “are better at synthesizing multiple data points and thinking holistically. And the areas of their brains devoted to long-term planning are better developed than the male brain.”
Of course it’s always easy for moaning menz to take quotes like these and call misandry, and anyone with any sense can see why less machismo and more cooperative “feminine” values will be important in reshaping organisations to meet future demands. But arguments like Lagarde’s and Popcorn’s are fairly common, and they do invite a question. If women are better at planning, cooperation and synthesising information, and if they also have the superiority in other skills that are routinely claimed for them, such as listening and nurturing, then what qualities do men have? In other words, if some…