Today (19th November) is International Men’s Day.
That, apparently, makes some people angry – men shouldn’t be focused on, this is sexist, what about women? (The angry people appear to be a minority, albeit a vocal one – on Twitter, a lot of women are sharing tweets supporting help for men’s mental health, concern about the male suicide rate, etc, which is great. Some men, sadly, aren’t helping the cause by treating it as a pity party, and whining about how the “tampon tax” isn’t actually unfair, because “men have to pay tax on things, too, like trousers, and underpants.” Riiiiggghhht. Newsflash – women likewise have to pay tax on clothing, guys…)
I’m a man – I’ve been physically attacked by a woman, on three separate occasions (three different women, in case you’re wondering why I put up with it so long!), none of whom were romantic partners, none of whom I’d mistreated. The first was a fellow student at high school, part of a group of boys and girls who would bully me on literally a daily basis – I committed the heinous crime for young men of being intelligent, unattractive, and not particularly sporty: she kicked me in the face, sending me flying backwards down a flight of stairs, giving me a cracked rib, and causing my metal braces to break, and rip up the inside of my mouth – as I was walking to the toilets to try and clean up, a female teacher, seeing my torn and bloodied shirt, literally grabbed me by the scruff, pushed me against a wall, and screamed in my face “What the hell have you done? Who have you attacked?” (I was frothing blood at my mouth, shaking, trying not to cry out in pain every time I had to breathe, and it was straight in with accusations and aggression. I was 14.)
The second time, I was 17, and was pushed into the path of a reversing bus by a woman the same age, who was high on drugs – fortunately, I was quick enough to roll out of the way of the bus. The woman then kicked me in the face before running off, attacking a member of the bus station staff who was on their way to see what was going on.
The last time, I was 26, and my mother attacked me with a knife, screaming that I was responsible for my father getting cancer. (I wasn’t – that was the asbestos he’d been exposed to when he was the same age I was then.)
I am Asexual – I have no interest in anyone, male, female, non-binary or otherwise, sexually. I am happily married, and not looking to upset that state of affairs. I don’t make unwanted approaches to women – I have social anxiety, and rarely look at, or talk to, anyone. It took me the best part of an evening to find the courage to cross the room and talk to the woman who is now my wife at the event we met at – I’m not about to start making inappropriate comments to random women in the street – I’d probably end up having a panic attack, which would make everyone uncomfortable.
And yet, as a man, I’m not allowed to be made uncomfortable by “ironic misandry” when it says “kill all white men.” I’m not allowed to be afraid, hurt, lonely. I’m not allowed to feel inadequate.
When I created an event poster featuring a woman, facing the camera with a direct, bold gaze, dressed in jeans and a grey vest top, smeared with paint, with brightly-coloured smoke billowing around her, I had a single comment, among a lot of people – including many women – who liked the poster, and thought it was a strong, effective image – saying that the image was “inappropriate” as it “sexualised” the woman, “because she’s very skimpily dressed, and the coloured smoke makes it look like she’s at a strip club.” That kind of comment wouldn’t have happened if I’d used the same background, same surrounding imagery, but featured a topless male figure – because it doesn’t matter if people drool over the male physique: if a man takes off his top, that’s what he’s there for – women can admire him, and men can envy him. It’s always a deliberate play to the gallery on the man’s part.
(This is the poster, by the way – I’ll be creating a couple of other, different, ones, too, to get maximum reach – you might even get a whole blog post about the event!)
Men can be good, bad, or a mix of both – just like women.
Men get cancer and mental health issues – just like women.
We get upset about things, angry about things, triggered by things – just like women.
We encourage women to pursue STEM subjects, but view with suspicion men who want to enter care professions or the fashion industry.
Black men are damned as “violent, aggressive yobs.”
Asian men are attacked because “You support a misogynistic religion!”
White men are blamed for all the evils of the world.
My father – a gentle, compassionate, intelligent man, with a great sense of humour, who viewed women automatically as equals, and treated them accordingly, and with respect, made this comment, when the drive to get more women into STEM subjects was first being launched, and the chattering classes were exerting themselves over the idea of female engineers: “It makes sense, when you think about it – they’ve got smaller, more supple hands, so they’ll be better at manipulating tiny, fiddly components – I don’t know why people think it’s not suitable for women to do that sort of thing.”
I will not have that man’s memory, and the futures of men like me, destroyed by someone else’s agenda.
I will not sit by and watch the world and its people being destroyed by human greed, arrogance, and selfishness, while everyone gets involved in taking potshots at each other because our genders happen to be different.
Nor will I play the blame game I’ve seen happening – “the reason for Brexit and Trump is left wing nonsense and identity politics – people have had enough.” Things are rarely that simple. There are many other factors at play beyond the according of equivalent rights to people who are not cis het white men.
Men and women are complements and blends, not opposites.