Are modern men being silenced by women?

To call men the silent sex is like … well it’s like calling men the silent sex. There’s no analogy that conveys how stupid this is that does the job better than just repeating what you wrote back at you.

To call men the silent sex is like … well it’s like calling men the silent sex. There’s no analogy that conveys how stupid this is that does the job better than just repeating what you wrote back at you.

I edited the student paper when I was at university. It was, for the most part, a pretty swell job – even if we were (and we calculated this) getting paid roughly 12 cents an hour for our efforts. There were, of course, plenty of irritating things about it, but none more so than when we’d put out the yearly women’s edition.

To be absolutely clear, there was nothing annoying about the edition itself; if anything, it was a welcome week off for us while we handed our office over to the Women’s Collective. The annoying thing was the inevitable stack of letters we’d find when we got back to the office, all written by men, all with more or less the same content.

"Why isn’t there a men’s edition?", they would all collectively wah. "If it’s really about equality, then why not give an edition to both genders?" There was always that edge to it, that suspicion that this wasn’t about promoting women’s issues at all, but about censoring men. It also carried this vague sense, never really articulated that while they couldn’t quite so as far as saying they were being persecuted, they were most certainly being short-changed. Interestingly, nowhere in these letters was any indication of what they wanted to do with the edition, or why they wanted it, beyond a seething sense of entitlement. I didn’t like what these guys had to say.

I thought about those guys when I read this article by Adam Blanch. It was posted on Women’s Agenda last Monday and it created a minor shitstorm on social media, and with good reason. It’s a wilfully provocative, completely hyperbolic piece of sub-telegraph rubbish, designed to elicit precisely the response it received, and does nothing to further the conversation about gender or anything else.

The piece is broken up into five different parts – in that way its like the Fast and The Furious franchise, or if you prefer, a bullshit-cake that has been broken up into five different parts. Each of these parts addresses a different group and tells them, with what I can only assume is a straight face, 'what men want'.

Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this in theory. Men are not prohibited from telling people what they want. In fact, this willingness to not be coy about what we want is just one of the reasons why we have owned, throughout history, most of the things. So no one is saying that suddenly the needs of men are irrelevant and to be ignored. I mean, that’s just such a tediously obvious point, that in order to put that argument forward you’d have to posses the kind of myopia that renders you unable to acknowledge even the most self-evident of truths. Truths like the fact that the increase of rights for one group of people does not, in any sense, mean a decrease in rights for another.

The first group Blanch addresses is 'The Women’s Space'. Now, it’s very unclear to whom exactly he is referring here, and I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that he doesn’t really either. Nor do his demands of this group make this any clearer, all we know is that he would like them to stop talking about men in a way that is ‘sexist, prejudicial and derogatory’.

He goes on to declare that men will no longer be –

‘the silent sex, whose ideas are automatically disqualified if we disagree with the feminist polemic.’

The silent sex? I'm sorry what? To call men the silent sex is like … well it’s like calling men the silent sex. There’s no analogy that conveys how stupid this is that does the job better than just repeating what you wrote back at you. And in what arena, by what arbiter and by what means are these men’s voices being silenced? You can’t just write, with the best of intentions I’m sure, assertions as outrageous as that without providing examples. And it’s not just outrageous, it’s demonstrably untrue. If views that disagreed with the feminist polemic were automatically disqualified, tabloids would be little more than a place to sell your fridge, talkback radio would be reduced to static, and your article would not be published on a site called Women’s Agenda, champ.

But yes, if you publish opinions about gender that are outmoded, or offensive, or just poorly thought through, you’ll probably be called on it by people for whom these issues have significance. To assume that there is a gender conspiracy designed to silence men, it’s clear you’ve not considered the possibility that the reasons your arguments are being dismissed is because they are bad arguments – not because you are in possession of some balls.

But he’s not done holding the candle for all the silenced men out there, because from the next group he demands that men have a voice. He does so on the grounds that when ‘the media’ talk about gender, they focus too much on women’s issues. And you know what? Deep down, buried deep beneath the bullshit foundations Blanch has decided to erect his nonsense-palace, there is a kernel of a point, and one that I agree with. Serious men’s issues need to be discussed more. To read the bulk of men’s health mags, you’d be forgiven for believing that at least 90% of problems facing men are ab-based. This is not the case, and journalists, editors and commentators need to lift their game in this respect. It’s crucial that they do so, because we’re dealing here with issues as grave as suicide, depression and incarceration.

But this has absolutely nothing do to with how women’s issues are covered. It’s a perfect example of the most startling flaw with Blanch’s article – he simply can’t resist the temptation to bring it all back to his narrative men being treated unfairly at the hands of women. The story being peddled here is that serious men’s issues are being ignored in favour of women’s issues, and this is just confused. Why does a prevalence of articles about women’s issues mean there can’t be more about men? It’s not an either/or. It’s completely indicative of an argument that has inherent to it’s composition the steadfast belief that women can’t get nice things without men suffering.

This has been a difficult article to write because it seems to me that Adam Blanch’s intentions are more or less admirable ones. The man works an incredibly difficult and important job – helping men who’ve experienced trauma put their lives back together. He knows far better than anyone that just because you are a man it does not guarantee you an easy ride. And I feel guilty sniping from the sidelines, not least of all because I have a suspicion that what I’ve taken away from his piece is not what he intended. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I would assume that he wrote this after he, having spent a career dealing with broken men, got tired of hearing people say that being male presented no unique difficulties.

But by focusing on this, he’s shot himself spectacularly in the foot. A piece that was meant to be about raising awareness of the sort of tragic things he witnesses every day became a barely cogent rant in which he frequently pits men against women in the oppression stakes. He can’t win on this ground. It’s not that he’s overplayed his hand; he’s brought Boggle to the poker table.

So to Adam Blanch, I really do hope that we see more articles that address directly the issues that are faced by men in Australia. This is the only way that things are going to get better. I just hope they look nothing like the one you wrote.

 Ben Jenkins is a Sydney-based writer. He blogs at abafflingordeal.com and tweets at @bencjenkins

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106 comments

  • "why we have owned, throughout history, most of the things"

    Apex Fallacy. Just because a very small percentage of men throughout history have owned a lot of things does not mean this was shared amongst all men. Once you take a look at the stats you'd see that men are among the richest and poorest in society. Especially our society where there are far more homeless men than women and men are the victims of violence far more than women.

    Ignoring this obvious truth shows how blinkered you are. Maybe take a bit of time away from the Women's Studies department.

    "If views that disagreed with the feminist polemic were automatically disqualified"

    Like they are here where comments are "moderated" if they point out the author's inconsistencies, bias and untruths? Happens every day.

    Men do have a voice and we also have a brain. Perhaps we should be educating our brothers to exercise them more judiciously so that we make decisions that benefit us.

    "that just because you are a man it does not guarantee you an easy ride"

    I'm surprised you made this admission.

    Commenter
    Bender
    Date and time
    November 27, 2012, 8:51AM
    • Agreed.

      The only worthwhile thing in this diatribe was the link to the Adam Blanch article.

      Commenter
      Greg
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 9:53AM
    • I think Adams article was quite reasonable. It seems to me that this refutation is more along the lines of faux outrage that Clementine Ford gets on about. There is nothing unreasonable about Adams article to mention it again, but I know that my saying so will attract all the usual personal invective that the female commentators can muster and is generally a feature of the moderation of these articles.

      Commenter
      John Holmes
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 10:09AM
    • The point, Bender is that if you are concerned about the position of men in society, do something about it instead of complaining that women have created a voice for their own issues, and saying 'but what about me?' For example, men are the victims of violence in society, but that violence is to an overwhelming extent perpetrated on them by other men. It is the fault and responsibility of society as a whole, and needs to be addressed as such and should not detract from other societal inequities or problems. As the article correctly points out, it's not "either or".

      Commenter
      whaaaaa!
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 10:22AM
    • +1 whaaaaa!

      Commenter
      LOL
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 10:41AM
    • Was that the right link? Ben Jenkins took such great umbrage to that piece? Only someone who lives in a gender studies environment could think that. Yes men have issues. Compared to women, men do more and talk less. When men talk they usually don't talk about their feelings, at least they talk less about feelings than women. As Warren Farrell said, "women don't hear what men don't say".

      Adam Blanch's article, was an attempt on international men's day to open a dialogue on men's issues. It is important for men to speak out on the issues that affect them, even to have a voice on "female centred" places. Such an attempt get the response of vitriol and abuse, by a man who says men should shut up and listen or tow the gender studies line as he does. Listening to men means just that, you don't have to agree, but doing such a vicious hatchet job on a reasonable article shines a very unflattering light on the women's movement.

      Commenter
      JohnA
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 10:55AM
    • whaaaaa!
      That not what the original article was about at all. For example, the final paragraph,

      "From women: We want collaboration. We want to work with you to create a future in which our children our safe, supported and empowered. We want to co-create a society in which we all enjoy freedom from violence, prejudice and disadvantage. In essence, we want the exact same things as women do."

      Outrageous that men could want that!

      There are real issues that affect men globally, yet these are trivialised or dismissed by the gender studies industry. Most men who ask for men's rights are not asking for the winding back of women's rights, they are asking for men to be heard and for men to be freed of their traditional gender restrictions.

      Commenter
      JohnA
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 11:19AM
    • @JohnA

      But, JohnA,where is the men's movement for that cause? I just don't see it,sorry. I applaud that you want the kind of world you say you do, and I am glad many men have the same view as you, I know a lot of men who share your view. But women have had to overtly fight for every bit of 'rights' that we currently have, and there are still more to go yet. Men have not willingly handed them over, certainly not initially, and reading many posts in these online mags illustrates the level of sexism that remains among many men.

      The lack of a public men's movement is probably part of the reason why there continues to be so much antagonism between the sexes. Women still feel like men don't want to come to the party .... not really, when all's said and done.

      I think women would be very grateful and relieved if their was an obvious men's movement for the kind of world you say you want ,and I suspect they would join you.I would.

      Commenter
      Humanist
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 11:58AM
    • JohnA - Humanist has made the point for me... if you feel mens' concerns are not being addressed, do something. Women have had to, and there's still a way to go in some areas. I can only repeat - it's not either/or.

      Commenter
      Whaaaa!
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 12:48PM
    • It takes a fairly special type of chutzpah to whine that "men are the victims of violence far more than women" without mentioning that men are responsible for violence far more than women.

      Commenter
      The Claw
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 27, 2012, 1:27PM

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