In the beginning was……Warren Farrell?
Err, no. In the beginning was Neil Lyndon. Neil’s book No More Sex War: The Failures of Feminism was published in 1992, the year before Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power. And Lyndon’s book was presaged two years earlier by the essay Badmouthing which was published in the Sunday Time Magazine. You can read it here (or have it read to you here). The AVFM editor notes, “Neil Lyndon’s historically significant 1990 article…was probably the first ever published to discuss a mainstream culture in the UK in which men were habitually derided; and it was the first to itemise the disadvantages and inequalities to which men and boys are subjected – in a society which ostensibly oppresses women”.
The Sunday Times own reviewer stated it bluntly. “What a brave man Neil Lyndon is. To criticise women – wow! To criticise feminism – bravery beyond the call of duty. But to criticise lefty feminist women – that is putting his head into the lion’s mouth. What a man!” Punch claimed that Lyndon would in time be seen as the Christabel Pankhurst of the Men’s Movement (not an analogy I would welcome, but kindly meant I expect). These positive opinions were the exception, however.
It must be the earlier essay to which some of the quotes on the back cover of No More Sex War relate, as they are dated 1990. The book was a rip-roaring success. Well, perhaps not by the usual standards. The usual standards would involve huge sales, great reviews, the right kind of fame, and guaranteed lucrative work for years ahead. Unfortunately, things were otherwise – very otherwise. The opposite, in fact. Miniscule sales, wantonly destructive reviews which did not bother to engage with the arguments, the wrong kind of fame, and a catastrophic career death spiral (our intrepid hero taking some ten years to pull out of the spin). Nevertheless, the book was a rip-roaring success in the sense that it annoyed the right people.
Helena Kennedy, (yes, her), in a round-up of books of the year, simply advised readers not to buy Lyndon’s book. No discussion, no critique, just don’t buy it. The quotes on the cover make amusing reading. Suzanna Moore, Independent, “I can go down the pub to hear the kind of stuff he comes out with”; Clare Short, MP, “He may be unhappy and insecure in his maleness”; Carmen Callil, Sunday Times, “There must be something wrong with him – perhaps the size?”. Oh, really, Ms Callil, surely you could do better than that. But Neil came in for a lot of small-dickery. Nearly 30 years later we no longer expect any more incisive critique than that garbage, because there isn’t one to be had. Small-dickery badmouthing is all they’ve got.
Prior to Neil’s solo charging of the feminist machine guns he had enjoyed, for some 20 years, the sort of stellar journalistic career that one might expect of someone of his talent and Cambridge background, hobnobbing with the great and the good and earning well. By the late summer of 1992 he was bust and work as a journalist had, most mysteriously, all but dried up completely. During his divorce, his wife’s QC would haul piles of newspaper cuttings into court, “proving” Lyndon to be a danger to women because in every newspaper in the land feminists said so.
They don’t change. Here is Julie Burchill talking to Julie Bindel 17 years later in Guardian Women, 13 May 2009: “But part of what makes a man a man is that he never takes offence! When you see sad-sacks like, what was his name, Neil something – Lyndon, author of No More Sex War: the Failures of Feminism – ‘Men’s Lib’ – that’s the opposite of a man, to me. Just shut up and take your lumps. And then we can all have a laugh.” No, ladies, by feminism’s own logic we’re due a few centuries of laughing whilst you “take your lumps”. Burchill actually has the nerve to say “I like men and get on much better with them one to one than I do women, who can be a bit emotional”. How nice. Unfortunately – and I think I may speak for Mr Lyndon here – we don’t like you. And why in God’s name should we?
Despite the barrage of flak that came the way of No More Sex War, the book was actually emasculated compared to its original manuscript. Feminists almost universally refused to agree to being quoted – against all authorial convention (such permission normally being a mere formality). But no matter. In 2014 Neil published the ebook Sexual Impolitics: Heresies on sex, gender and feminism which includes the unexpurgated version of the 1992 book, as well as other material. Strongly recommended.
And, amongst his less controversial journalism, Neil has continued from time to time to push against the feminist narratives, and take up the cause of men and boys in print. Articles are far too numerous to list, but here are a few from recent years for your delight & edification, published in The Telegraph: Why has everyone forgotten about male suffrage?; The blame for this rape case crisis lies squarely with the CPS; Finally, powerful women are speaking up for the rights of men; Henry Fawcett and the forgotten men of the suffragette movement; Children of single parents are denied life’s little extras – yet we ignore the inequality they suffer; Should dads-to-be have the right to opt out of parenting?; Why today could be a turning point in the history of men’s rights; The campaign to criminalise paying for sex is anti-male and illogical; I know how frightening intolerant students can be – I was one of them; Why do we treat boys as though they are naturally bad?
Neil attended Gillingham School in Dorset where he was Head Boy. (No, not tedious bio stuff, there’s a point). At 16, Neil told a teacher, Frank Hodgson, that he would have to leave school to get a job, because his family needed the extra income as his father was in prison. Hodgson decided to pay the family, out of his own pocket, the amount Neil would have earned so that he could stay at school and complete his A levels. Neil did so and became, in 1965, probably the first student from a comprehensive school and on free school meals to be awarded an unconditional place at Cambridge University. You can read Neil’s personal account in Boys need help to break the cycle of crime. He later set up a Trust for the school, in the name of Frank Hodgson, in gratitude. The Trust continues to provide financial support to sixth formers at the school. One of the Houses at the school was called Lyndon after him. And, yes, it still is.
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