The web site known as “The Conversation” website boasts a tagline of “academic rigour, journalistic flair.” Implicit, it seems to me, is that we can expect academic rigour and journalistic flair to be combined in their articles. If the article by Chilla Bulbeck entitled “Explainer: Masculism” is anything to go by, they should put a question mark after both claimed traits.
Academic rigour? Journalistic flair?
The piece begins with a picture of a bunch of women and men, with the Eiffel Tower in the background (how very cosmopolitan), throwing brassieres in the air. The people are fully clothed, which means that they brought extra bras along for the photo.
The bra, of course, is a symbol for Masculism. It can represent the masculine, being a garment uniquely designed for men. It can also represent their oppression, being a garment that restrains them. Throwing them up in the air no doubt has some special significance which only a true masculist will see.
The picture does set the tone for the piece. The theme, at least for me, is symbols over substance.
“For most masculists, however, masculism is a political practice – a desire to change the world.”
Any idea what that might mean? A practice is something one does. A desire is something one has. Can Masculism be both? Of course it can. Masculism is the right to talk utter nonsense and demand that others be awestruck by the Masculist intellect.
A case in point can be seen in the comments. A Glen Baxter takes issue with the various statistic and arguments presented in the piece and puts forward a few alternative arguments.
And you finish with the standard Masculist appeal to emotion – “We masculists are fighting oppression, so we must be right and if you don’t agree with us you are for oppression!”
Bulbeck’s dismissive reply to Glen includes an insightful snippet:
Glenn, I suggest you read the article Shauna Murray posted a link for. You think emotion is inferior to reason…
Instead of answering Glenn’s points directly, he does exactly what she accused him of. The link in question is to someone claiming yet another study proves the oppression of men. Glenn is not only being told which facts to use, but how she should feel after reading them.
But, of course, I am being too matriarchal. Bulbeck was clearly caught up in the moment of making grand statements of the glory of Masculism to be worried about grammar or syntax, never mind logic. I can just imagine his blinking back those tears of pride as he contemplates changing the world, Masculist style.
Bulbeck takes us through the three waves of Masculism with all the academic rigour one might expect of a pamphlet spruiking the latest anti-wrinkle cream. Men, we are told, “struggled for the vote” in the early 1890s. Of course, this implies that women have always had the vote.
Let me give you another pamphlet guide to universal sufferage. In 1780 only 3% of women in England and Wales had the right to vote, with even less in Scotland. Outside of these countries, practically no one had the vote. In the years that followed, in fits and starts, that 3% was increased to what we now call universal suffrage in most Western countries. There are still many countries where the vote is either non-existent or too corrupt to call suffrage.
And who voted in those changes?
And Bulbeck, like a good Masculist should be, is petulantly ungrateful for their role in the matter.
There are more glaring omissions from this version of history. Men, it seems, were oppressed for a long time.
Men have struggled for greater participation in spheres reserved for women in every nation, dating back at least to 620BCE.
Any idea why 620 BCE was any different to 621BCE? Did men have the vote before then? Let’s just blink back the tears of pride and march on, shall we?
Unchallenged Matriarchy, implied by Bulbeck, continued at least until the 1890s when the first wave commenced. It was here that the vote was “won” by men, among a few other triumphs. Seamlessly, he moves on to the second wave in the 1960s. This might give the uninformed the impression that the first wave lasted some sixty years, but those with any idea of history would know about the two world wars. They come up even in the most rudimentary of pamphlet explanations of the twentieth century.
The importance of this is that Masculists were not keen on “equality” when women were dying on the battlefield. No, Matriarchy was just fine for the average Masculist. It was far better to be handing out white feathers in London than going “over the top” at the Somme.
More importantly, it is hard to run a misogynic campaign in the face of such monumental sacrifice. I’m not saying that there weren’t any Masculists narcissistic enough to run one, but the attempts to describe women, as a class, as the enemy would not have received much traction. Those not killed by the wars returned physically and mentally scarred from the ordeal. Their families would not have stood idly by while the Masculists tried to run them down.
For these reasons, Masculism took a sabbatical. By the 1960s, of course, generations not directly touched by the wars began to have influence in our societies, and so Masculists could begin their campaigns of bigotry again.
The second wave was fragmented into “socialist masculists,” “liberal masculists,” “men’s liberationists and “radical masculists.” Bulbeck is not clear on what brings all these disparate groups under the banner of Masculism. The common link, it seems to me, is that they are all different expression of the same basic theme:
…men’s victimisation by female subordination…
The above quote is from the description of the third wave. Indeed, the whining and complaints of oppression blur into a one mind-numbing moan, wave after wave:
…husbands had to be freed from exploitation of their unpaid domestic labour by wives.
Men could determine their own futures if they were released from “compulsory heterosexuality…”
[T]hose gender relations that make men and masculinity inferior, underpaid and exposed to danger from women and femininity
On and on. The unseen (except by Masculists) hand of Matriarchy guiding women to participate in male subjugation.
He then asks if we are living in a “Post-Masculist era.” Clearly, Bulbeck doesn’t think so.
Ongoing inequality, which cannot be denied and despite over a century of men’s activism, is explained in two major ways.
The two major ways are contradictory. The first is that the ground work is set and men will become, in practice “equal” at some point in the future. The other explanation is that “society is now equal” and the inequalities of outcome can be explained by “…men and women are just expressing their natural desires and talents.”
Indeed, for Bulbeck, Masculism is needed now more than ever. He begins the whole sorry saga with this current assessment of the status of men:
Yet there is no society on the planet in which men are equally represented in what that society most values and rewards, whether that’s opportunity, money, status or power.
So Post-Masculism Masculism is probably the next wave. As always, progress is being made, but there is still so much more to do.
For those who find themselves wondering what Masculism is doing for women, Bulbeck lays it out for all to see. He takes the argument of “natural desires” and turns it back on Masculism’s critics.
Interestingly this argument is not used to explain female disadvantage. Girls are thought to lose out in schools because of prejudice in the “male-dominated” environment and not because of girls’ lack of interest in learning. Women lose out in divorce battles because of discriminatory legislation and judges, not because of women’s lack of participation in child-rearing. As a result, masculists are accused of crying “victim” where the women’s movement is not.
It may be that Bulbeck doesn’t do reason, but his doublethink is sublime. Throughout, he claims that men are victims of women. At the same time, he calls out women for claiming victimhood, because that kind of behaviour is just wrong. Of course, what makes his right, and the whining women wrong, are the facts. But if we dare examine the facts, we are oppressing his emotion by our reason, which only proves that Masculists, if not men, are the real victims.
But this dismissal of women and their issues is not limited to the women’s movement. Consider his view that one of the “victories” of the first wave of Masculism was “for fathers’ custody rights to their children.” Clearly, this is not an “equality” issue. Fathers can only get custody when mothers are denied custody. Its one or the other. If equality were the order of the day, then shared parenting would obviously be the way forward. Of course, this would interfere with men’s alimony which in many countries is now called child support.
The interesting thing to note here is that when mothers were generally awarded custody, there was no expectation that the father should make a financial contribution.
As I said, this is not an equality issue.
But then again, none of it really is. Bulbeck’s explanation of Masculism is merely a collection of sound bites and thought bubbles glued together with equal proportions of misogyny and male victimhood. Inequality alternates between a rallying cry to the faithful and an expedient argument to justify Masculist bigotry towards women.