Being a man

[Note: the material on this blog piece was later published, on 15.2.14, by ‘A Voice for Men’:

The comment stream is worth reading, as usual with AVfM.]

The inaugural ‘Being A Man’ Festival was held in London last weekend:

It was an event primarily focusing on how men should change so they could better serve women’s wants and needs – ‘redefining masculinity’, that kind of thing. A recurring theme of narratives around ‘redefining masculinity’ is that men must become more like women, in order that women can become more like men. There’s never any recognition in these narratives that the majority of people are gender-typical, for example that many working women would prefer to be at home looking after their children, rather than working to raise the money to pay strangers to look after them. In the UK the tax system militates against women making the choice they’d prefer.

The founder of The White Ribbon Campaign was a speaker. The campaign’s strapline is, ‘Men working to end violence against women’. No mention in the Festival programme of men as victims of violence at the hands of women, needless to say.  No mention of the many other problems men and boys face today, and what might be done about them.

The event was predictably lauded by the left-leaning press. A piece in the Guardian:

From the article:

The festival is – obviously – the idea of a woman, Jude Kelly, artistic director at the Southbank Centre. Her mission, she suggested, was in part age-old female wisdom: that men need reminding that it might be a good thing to share their anxieties. Or, as she put it, to provide the space “for an overhaul of masculinity” and an “opportunity for men to go naked” – prompting a proportion of her male audience to cross their legs.

The end of the article:

All movements need a manifesto, and it took Grayson Perry in one of his Bo-Peepiest pink party dresses to provide one. Few men have done as much original thinking about what it means to be male as the transvestite potter, champion cyclist, therapy survivor, Turner prizewinner, devoted husband and father.

Grayson insisted that all we believed about men could be unbelieved – men can, despite the propaganda, multitask (“I never go upstairs without carrying something”) – and they can prevail in the constant battle with testosterone and keep it in their pants (frilly or otherwise), if they put their minds to it.

He ended with a scribbled series of demands. “We men ask ourselves and each other for the following: the right to be vulnerable, to be uncertain, to be wrong, to be intuitive, the right not to know, to be flexible and not to be ashamed.” He insisted that men sit down to achieve them. He received, deservedly, a standing ovation.

I’d sooner gnaw off a hand without the benefit of anaesthetic than attend such an awful event, so I was pleased to read a letter in yesterday’s Daily Mail. It was penned by an intelligent man, Andy Dumas, and takes up the remainder of this post:

“Attending the much talked about Being A Man Festival at London’s South Bank, I discovered that most of the organised discussions about modern masculinity assumed that 90 per cent of males spend 90 per cent of their time watching hard-core porn online.

Manliness as a topic was shunted aside in favour of a feminist agenda which catered only for grievances against the Great White Male.

One focus group, advertised as a discussion of the challenges facing black male professionals, digressed immediately into a predictable, hackneyed, ideological attack on culturally-embedded racism.

I admit superficial multicultural policies have failed to eliminate institutional racism, but I read all about that at university, long ago. What I wanted was an insight into the psyche of a black man operating in this pseudo-equality environment.

A panel discussing male sexuality, promiscuity and fidelity, soon drifted into a bland discussion about the evils of pornography and Britain’s uninspired sex education curriculum. Might there not have been more intellectual usefulness in exploring how men express their masculinity in the context of increased gender equality?

The final session of the day focused on ‘ordinary blokes’ – such as plumbers. Plumbers were referred to several times by the distinctly unblokey panellists to describe the archetypal ‘bloke’. But each struggled to describe how he had experienced the blokeyness so typical of plumbers.

The day descended into farce when the festival organiser, a woman, mounted the stage to screech about the evils of white male dominance, finishing by reading A Man’s Bill of Rights which was so neurotic it could only have been written by a girl. Smirk. But I was wrong! It had been penned by Grayson Perry. Smirk. It included, among other stupidity, ‘the right to be wrong’. What self-respecting man, black, white or brown, straight, gay or transgender, would sign up to that?

On balance, this show was intellectually vapid, politically cloistered and a waste of £12. I blame Jon Snow. I went only because he did. Next year I’ll take my £12 to the pub and watch the footy with the plumbers.”

About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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  • Indeed,an attempt to make men believe that they do not need to achieve,they do not need to win,they do not need to try,and if they do try,it is perfectly okay to fail,is not only anti-masculine,but anti-British as well,in every sense of the word. It is those,who propagate this kind of thinking,that are unfit to govern.
    Max B.

  • Furthermore,imagine that British men had been taught two centuries ago,as they are taught today, that there was no need to achieve,no need to work hard,no need to explore,no need to try to succeed and it was just fine to fail all the time.Would the British Empire ever come into existence? Would the English language be the world language today? Woud Britain be able to fight off Nazi Germany in WW2 and WW1 ? Hardly. Neither would the living standard be one tenth of what it is today. Every piece of machinery would have to be imported. Radar would never have been invented and foreigners would call the shots on the British Isles for a very long time by now..
    It is clear for all with any brain to see what the outcome would have been. So,why should our men be encouraged today to behave in such ways? Once again,only those with little sense of responsibility and very poor vision could ever come up with such self-defeating ideas.We all know who they are…..

  • I attended this event on the Saturday. The opening speech, on the history of patriarchy, was delivered by Akala, a black rapper. Akala has no specific credentials for speaking on this subject which was obvious from the content which read like a GCSE essay struggling for a grade C. Presumably the organisers thought that Akala’s identity as a black rapper, a group known for its unpleasant attitudes to women, trumped the absence of any intellectual authority he had. In other words, if a black rapper says there is a patriarchy, it must be true.

  • I watched a YouTube video of the Michael Kaufman lecture – I lasted 4 minutes into the video because it was so sickening.

    The problem was that the idea was quite good – the execution was a disaster for men. Perhaps next year they may do something for men, but I won’t hold my breath.

  • They complain, we don’t.
    When they see a half naked them they complain, we don’t.
    When they are looked at sexually they complain, we don’t.
    When they wake up next to a naked person they complain, we don’t.
    When we finely say something, they complain.

  • It all sounds so familiar, the same old, lame old, patronising gynocentric bigotry.