(Sorry, long-winded rant ahead…)
This’ll probably upset my female friends, not to mention my mother (considering I’m going home to visit her this weekend), but I feel I have to get on my soapbox about this topic: the vilification of heterosexual men. Er, anyone who asks why I’m so offended on behalf of heterosexual men can go stuff themself with any implement of their choice, because (if I haven’t mentioned this before) I am myself of the straight persuasion, what with John Barrowman being off the market and everythi… what? Oh, shut up and stop distracting me!
To be serious, this is something that’s troubled me for a long time, but two things really crystallised it recently. The first was a story my newest friend told me of an incident he’d witnessed on the Tube, and it should be noted that this was apparently only one stop from the terminus, thus rendering the situation all the more bizarre:
Woman: May I sit there, please?
Man: Are you pregnant?
Man: Then no.
Was this man a sexist pig, was he standing up for equality, or was he an upstart defying the new order? Come to think of it, am I a sexist pig for always sitting as far from the doors as possible on my morning commute, to reduce the likelihood of being asked to give up my seat, on the grounds that the only reason I as a man should ever even have a seat is so I can give it up for a woman?
I’m in favour of equality between the sexes: I think women should be paid the same money for doing the same work as men, and that they’re just as capable of doing the same work (although physical labour clouds the issue, there are plenty of physically strong and tall women out there who can hold their own). I’m also not “threatened” by “strong women” (okay, my mother threatens to beat me up, but that’s a separate matter… just kidding, Mumsy, don’t hit me when I get home!), and would be delighted to see more women in IT, for example, to break the whole “boys’ club” stereotype. I didn’t like Thatcher, but that was because she was Thatcher, not because she was a woman, and I don’t like MPs Jacqui Smith or Claire Perry because I think they’re incompetent, and that they want everyone in our supposedly “free” country to be treated like a child and a potential criminal (which seems to be the general thinking of politicians in the world today, but I’ll rant about that another time).
What I’m against is the notion that even when we finally achieve gender equality, smash the glass ceiling, see off the sexist “old guard” into their graves etc. (about the same time we’re rid of racism, presumably), men should still have to be “gentlemen” all the time, and that a man should give up his seat for a woman not because she’s pregnant or otherwise “less able to stand”, but solely because he’s a man and she’s a woman. Surely anyone who’s young and fit should be willing to give up their seat, hold open a door etc. for someone else who needs it, regardless of gender, simply because it’s polite?
(Being a gentleman for your date is a separate matter, because that’s a choice, not an obligation — and some girls don’t care about it anyway!)
Oh, and don’t even get me started on pregnant, overburdened etc. women who just stand there huffing and puffing about the insensitive man who hasn’t noticed she wants his seat, because apparently she “shouldn’t need to ask”, or indeed those who think a man who does offer his seat is being sexist for “assuming” she needs his seat and doesn’t wait for her to ask. Men can’t be expected to be telepathic (despite what Rule 13 says) any more than women, and there needs to be some kind of polite consensus on this, rather than the current attitude. It feels like women are saying: “We want men to get it wrong so we have something to criticise them for, and so our negative opinion of ALL MEN is validated!”
On that topic, it does seem that women in offices are allowed to make bigoted generalisations about men, of the “they’re all the same” variety (I have personal experience of this), yet if the genders were reversed, a man who said such things would be in serious trouble and probably lose his job. Why is this? I don’t accept any notion that the men of today “deserve it” as reparation for all the hardships men inflicted upon women in times gone by, and I refuse to accept this “sins of the father” punishment.
Do you understand? I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT MEN DID IN THE PAST, and until such time as I become a manager, an officer, or indeed a father (and perhaps not even then), I will not be responsible for the actions of other men. I will try to be a good person and treat women with respect, but I am horrified by the idea that persists in our culture today that male heterosexuality is something of which I should be ashamed and for which I should apologise and atone every day of my life, through abstinence and self-vilification. How many women hate themselves simply for having sexual thoughts, and more to the point, how many women think they should?
And that brings me onto the other thing that finally made me write this long-awaited post: a plot in the EU to “ban pornography”, which follows calls in this country for it to be censored from the Internet “for the sake of the children” (words that are often used to justify removing freedoms). Leaving aside my belief that it should always be the parents who decide what their children see and do online, and not some unaccountable government diktat (because it absolutely will be expanded to include anything the government du jour doesn’t like), how about defining what you mean by “pornography”? Are you including gay porn, or porn aimed at lesbians or heterosexual women (such as that Chippendales video my mother probably wishes I hadn’t remembered her watching)? No, it’s been clearly stated that it’s porn aimed at heterosexual men, because it “exploits women” (and I can’t see someone even as misguided as Claire Perry ever deliberately alienating gay male voters by telling them they’re just as bad as straight men).
Yes, apparently all women who so much as dress in one-piece swimsuits are tragic victims of exploitation, and any man who looks at any even remotely-titillating image of a woman is a vile, sexist beast who thinks that sex is all women are good for. Presumably the “ban porn” brigade don’t care about blokes who aren’t in relationships and can’t get laid (believe me, there are guys out there more hopeless at getting a girlfriend than me — guys in their 30s who have never been kissed!), or wish they would just “stop existing” because they’re an inconvenient complication to their porn-free Utopia. But look at the current scandals in the Catholic church for an example of what happens when you cut out any form of sexual release for people you expect to be celibate!
Are men more biologically compelled to think about sex than women? Well, almost certainly, but that doesn’t make us all rapists-in-waiting (and indeed, availability of porn correlates with reduction in sex crimes — I know that doesn’t prove causation, but it certainly implies it), or even worse, proto-paedophiles. The reason there’s overwhelmingly more porn aimed at heterosexual men is simple “supply and demand”: men want it, and there are women who are willing to supply it. I have no problem with there being porn for women featuring men (just as long as I don’t have to see it, because I’m not gay, as I forgot to mention before). Porn doesn’t turn people into rapists any more than violent video games turn people into psychopaths (people who are compelled to become psychopaths may choose to play violent video games, but that’s a debate for another day); maybe there’s nasty exploitative stuff out there that degrades women, but that doesn’t describe all pornography for straight men, any more than all porn for straight women portrays men as figures of fun, fit only for the derision of superior femalekind.
What do I mean by that? Well, the fact that it seems to be okay to exploit men sexually in advertising, in a demeaning way that absolutely wouldn’t be allowed if the genders were reversed. Never mind the Diet Coke adverts that are making a comeback (at least this time it’s twentysomethings rather than middle-aged married women ogling the shirtless hunk while Etta James sings in the background): tonight I saw a Bertolli advert where a group of cackling old Mediterranean ladies get a dog to steal the towel from a visibly nervous young man getting changed on the beach, and cheerfully photograph his, ahem, junk. Okay, it’s fiction and the guy’s just an actor, but tell me why that’s less offensive than a smiling topless woman on Page 3 of The Sun (leaving aside the fact it’s a dreadful tabloid owned by an evil man), since we actually see the guy’s bare behind in this dreadful commercial!
There was also a recent Kinder Bueno advert with the two women stealing a man’s clothes, so he has to run naked from the sauna while they laugh… a man who did that to a woman would be torn apart, so why is this okay? Should all men suffer like this for the actions of previous generations, or just the handsome ones?
My mother once told me, when I was a naive teenager, that women do nothing but “laugh” when they see male strippers. So men admiring Page 3 girls or female strippers and regarding them as goddesses is sexist and depraved, but women looking at handsome naked men like they’re cattle is somehow fine, because it makes them laugh, especially if the man is visibly uncomfortable (as in the above advertising examples)?!
I agree that quasi-pornographic images are rammed down our throats (ooh, Matron!) in public and on pre-watershed TV, and I agree that there needs to be less overt sexualisation in our culture, but not because I’m trying to “apologise” to womankind for the crime of having a Y-chromosome; rather, because I think sex should be a personal thing and not inflicted upon people without their consent. In private, I’m more than happy to ogle women who are willing to put their bodies on display, but I don’t think they’re inferior beings, or that unattractive women are somehow of no value to society. I hope women feel the same way, but it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. I also don’t like XXX stuff, largely because it features men, and I don’t want to see that. (Don’t say “herp derp imagine you’re the man”, it’s stupid — I don’t imagine myself as Jack Bauer when I watch 24!)
As I’m sure you’re tired of me saying (especially since I said I wouldn’t go on about it), I want to find a woman and make her happy, but also be made happy by her — it’s a two-way thing, and I would not be willing to become a second-class citizen to an overbearing bully, as some kind of “payback” for all the times a woman’s been trapped in an abusive relationship. But while I want to find that one special person, I’d also be (prepare yourself for this) happy with a harem; it wouldn’t be a case of exploiting women and treating them as interchangeable sex objects, it’d be about making several women happy instead of just one… and not to mention making up for lost time! I’d only have consenting women in my harem, of course: no sex slaves, and I’d have no issue with anyone leaving if she wished to move on with her life. Obviously, in this hypothetical situation, they’d be happy and fulfilled, because I’d be some kind of Casanova-esque sex god who could give a woman thrills with one raised eyebrow… yes, I’m into the realms of fantasy here: I can’t raise one eyebrow, no matter how much Star Trek I watch.
(As an aside, something Stephen Fry noted: why is bigamy illegal, even if all parties consent, yet adultery is legal, even though it’s a violation of trust? Is it because bigamy would complicate the tax arrangements of marriage and the legal matters of divorce, e.g. who gets what? You’d think politicians would be willing to create more jobs for their friends in law and the tax office, and thus give them more power over us “plebs”!)
Finally, and perhaps most sinister of all: what’s with the notion that rape and domestic violence are less important when they’re directed against men? (Jacqui Smith took it a step further, by campaigning to stop “domestic violence against women and girls” — not “women and children” — as though she was implying that little boys don’t matter!) Why is it that in some parts of America, the man is automatically arrested even if it’s the woman who attacked him, and that a man who is knocked unconscious by a woman can still be done for domestic violence if he “grasped at her clothes as he fell”? And then there’s the idea that it’s also “funny” or “satisfying”: would you have laughed if Tiger Woods had hit his wife in the face with a golf club after finding out she’d had an affair, or Ross Kemp had beaten up Rebekah Wade for reasons probably not unrelated to consumption of alcohol? (Okay, the latter isn’t a good example because she’s a thoroughly despicable excuse for a human being who deserves to go to prison, but still!)
And let us not forget John Wayne Bobbet, try as we might…
Then there’s the story (it’s the Daily Fail, but I think it’s true anyway) of a female Russian shopkeeper who overpowered a robber, tied him up, force-fed him Viagra and raped him: is that somehow “vengeance”, rather than a hateful sex crime for which she should be punished, and which would be abhorrent if it had happened the other way round? (He was no angel, but rape is often cited as “worse” than robbery or violence…) And what idiot wrote 40 Days and 40 Nights: I know I shouldn’t complain about things I haven’t seen, but the protagonist, who has wagered he can go the titular amount of time without sex, is raped by his ex-girlfriend so she can win the bet, and has to apologise to his new love interest for “cheating” on her. And the ex-girlfriend GETS OFF SCOT-FREE. Is this okay because men are all “gagging for it”? If the genders were reversed, it would be an obscenity, no doubt about it, so why is this all right?
What it comes down to is this: I will stand forever by what feminism should be — the campaign to ensure men and women are treated as equals. Maybe we’re not the same, but we both matter the same, and neither of us should be subservient to the other. And for that reason, I reject the notion that “women are more equal than men”, and that they could do without us but keep us around out of the goodness of their hearts. We’re all humans, and we all deserve to be treated as such. Can’t we all just… get along?
If I’ve said anything tonight that has offended you, remember, this is your blog too (well, not literally), so feel free to post a comment and we’ll have a
slanging match debate about this hot topic. Maybe I’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest, but I know nothing ever changes if people don’t talk about things, and I don’t like the status quo!