Despite having worked for many years in television, I watch very little of it. I prefer reading – books, articles, websites – or talking online, on the phone or face to face.
However, a documentary caught my eye earlier this week. It was shown on Monday night and I eventually caught up with it on Tuesday. It was called ‘Men at War’ and took a journey into the murky world of Men’s Rights Activists.
I’ve read around this subject before; basically the premise of Men’s Rights Activism is that the whole world has gone mad and feminists have everything their own way, an assertion I find highly debatable. Largely because it runs counter to my own experience of life – in so so many ways.
The programme introduced us – of course – to Milo Yiannopolous (who I mentioned in a previous blog post). Milo likes to shock and what could be more shocking to a middle class BBC watching audience than someone defending the troll who threatened to rape Caroline Criado Perez for suggesting that Florence Nightingale should be on a new banknote. We also saw the disgraced comedian Dapper Laughs, whose love of rape jokes destroyed his career in 2014.
Here he is eating humble pie on Newsnight:
But for me the most intriguing character was professional pick up artist Roosh V, who has become a champion of the men’s rights movement.
Here is the website in question. There is a LOT of it:
I had time to kill yesterday and spent much of it investigating Roosh’s website. What fascinated me was the progression from Pick Up Artist – basically a guy tells other guys how to get more sex – to something a lot deeper and more peculiar.
Whereas two years ago, Roosh was telling dweebs how to get their rocks off and publishing such delightful tomes as ‘Around the World in 30 Bangs’, he was now advocating a return to a kind of back to basics morality. Left to our own devices, women make bad choices and Roosh advocates that men must take over for them.
As Roosh explains, in his snappily titled essay We Must Spread Counter Propaganda to Women:
If women are leading the way, what causes them to want what they want? Besides following their instinctual natures, women have been convinced and persuaded by feminists and mainstream culture to prefer degeneracy over tradition and casual sex over monogamy, especially during their fertile prime between the ages of 18-25. This wasn’t done overnight, but through decades of programming and brainwashing by foisting big lies as truth until a generation of women were raised under myths that came to be accepted as fact. While you can argue that the culture today allows a woman to behave according to her true—and very flawed—nature, there is nothing in the establishment that attempts to minimize its worst effects. In fact, they take a small inclination of a female’s nature and amplify it until the individual woman is destroyed, wholly subservient to what corporations and government tell her to do.
What I find especially fascinating is the way – in true conspiracy theory style – Roosh joins the dots. Feminism not only makes women degenerate – he rants and raves like an old time preacher about the evils of female promiscuity, which is ironic since he is best known for trying to persuade women to sleep with him. Then it leaps to the assumption that this behaviour is promoted by the ‘elite’ to try and weaken the population by stopping women from breeding as much.
His peculiar philosophy is outlined here:
It is hardcore conspiracy stuff, up there with David Icke and people who believe in the New World Order and the Illuminati. I see these myths – they are modern myths – as ways in which people struggle to make sense of a very unfair world. I think I wrote about this back in 2012, in a piece called ‘It’s the Illuminati Innit Miss’, based on conversations I had with students at the college. It is fascinating to see how Roosh has woven feminism into the strange tapestry of fear and hatred that is the world of online conspiracy theory.
I guess at the heart of Roosh’s writings is terrible, gut churning fear. His PUA books play on male fears of sexual rejection and invisibility to women, while these latest rantings speak to men who feel left behind. I think fear is at the heart of most forms of extremism and I also think a lot of politics/opinion is driven by individual psychology. Back in the 70s people said that the personal is political; I also think that the reverse is true and the political is personal. Would Roosh write such vicious bile if he felt at one with himself, if his sexual and emotional needs were more integrated? Would he feel such a need to make the Madonna/Whore distinction so violently.
His rantings contrast sharply with another famous pick up artist, Neil Strauss. I picked up his book ‘The Game’ in Kentish Town Library (of all places) back in about 2008. It told the story of how Strauss had transformed himself from a nerd to a player who slept with hundreds of women, by wearing shiny shirts and paying them back handed compliments. I found the book fascinating – so much energy was put into sealing the deal, with no real thought as to what might happen next. No idea about how to form relationships with women, or how to treat them with any kind of respect.
After immersing myself in the crazy world of Roosh V, I was keen to see what Strauss was up to. He has a new book out, modestly titled The Truth, which explains how he turned his back on his wicked ways.
Easy to sneer.
But then I found this:
In the article, Strauss lays himself bare. He explains how behaviour patterns dating back to childhood have affected how he relates to women and how adults act out issues they had with their parents in their own relationships.
I can totally relate to this. It made absolute sense and also helped make sense of Roosh. It helped explain the anger and how so much male anger is about rejection – again the theme of the BBC Three documentary I watched.
I think this explains why so much misogyny is couched in terms of sexual violence – the point of rape is that the woman has no choice. It is a repellent way of expressing yourself and should always be condemned, but it is a way of processing fears of rejection.
A lot of men feel rejected by society as the certainties of life in our parents’ generation have gone – this week there have been numerous articles on the decline of the American Middle Class.
The future frightens all of us and it is comforting to kid ourselves that if we went back to an imaginary past way of doing things. We can regress to childhood and become almost magical in our thinking, kidding ourselves that everything would be OK if we could turn back time. When what we really should be doing is finding ways of how to face up to the future.
Although I am by nature an optimist, I fear the future too. These fears are voiced by my character Rachel Evans (the book’s narrator):
When I was a child growing up in the 1970s, the future seemed terribly exciting. Every Thursday we watched Tomorrow’s World and they told us about all the marvellous things that were going to transform our mundane lives; the flying cars, the robot hoovers, the space food that took seconds to prepare.
Obviously the reality is more prosaic; as my life has unfolded the future has crept up on us – black and white to colour, video to DVD, terrestrial to multi-channel, dial up to broadband, brick phone to smart phone. We live in a world we are in constant communication; where life on screen is sometimes more real than life in our faces – or so it seems sometimes. But you know that anyway. We are living a present in many ways far more extreme than the future imagined on the telly forty years ago, even though we walk the same streets and inhabit the same crumbling brick houses. We still cry the same tears, love, hate and feel much as we ever did. Has anything really changed? How will our children feel about our world when they are older? Will it be tinged with nostalgia or seen as a horror to be best forgotten?
My fear is that future for our children will not be much fun. That they will be slaves and lose the freedoms many of us enjoy – a home, a job, the right to be themselves. That unless they can pay the £500,000 needed to buy a crappy one bedroom flat, that they will be cast out of their city; as they are cast out so other people will be cast out too. I fear that the children playing in the flats will be working two or three jobs – if they can get them – just to cover the rent on a tiny room, or travelling miles and miles for work. I see my beautiful boys trapped forever with their ageing mother, deprived of the choice to fly in the direction of their choosing. Only the very rich will have freedom; beautiful, clever Edona will struggle to fulfil her potential and even Piers’s litter of plump pink boys may find it harder to flourish than their parents assume.
I fear that the city I live in will die, become a dead zone with all colour eradicated. Faceless towers will dominate a skyline punctuated by cranes; only a few windows illuminated at night because no one lives with them. The concept of home will be extinguished and London will divide into a sparkling city of steel and glass and a shanty town of extreme poverty. It’s happening already; look at the bizarre lego towers that have sprung up in Stratford or the concrete mega city engulfing the old railway lands of Kings Cross. Look at the way in which East London has become a bizarre temple to obscure artisan foods, hundreds of ‘pop up’ shops selling products that no one really needs to buy. Look at the way in which the Heygate Estate in Southwark has been regenerated in a way that removes nearly all the residents; look at Sweets Way and West Hendon in Barnet. Look at the luxury flats in Paddington Basin, a shining sepulchre next to the roar of the Westway and the bustle of Edgware Road.
Obviously some of my hostility to now is based on nostalgia for then; rose tinted memories of the city of my youth, when you could have a pretty awesome night out for £20 and it felt like you didn’t have to be rich to live. I am not comparing like with like; twenty years ago I was young and childless, whereas now I am middle aged and the mother of three sons. In many ways I have lucked out; time has been kind rather than cruel. I can’t complain. As long as I can keep working and interest rates remain relatively low I should be fine. That’s if it was just about me.
But I can’t see the world like that. I am part of the human family and I need the people in my community. We all need the people in our community. Lizzie needs me to lend her £20 when she is short and I need her to mind the boys if I am going to be back late from work. Sally is kept safe by the fact that everyone in the flats know that her fights with Terry can turn a bit nasty and aren’t afraid to call 999. Alban Krasniqi knows that his boys are less likely to make the jump from part time to full time criminals in a neighbourhood where everyone knows them. And I will never forget how grateful I felt to the people in my street the time my eldest decided to wander off from a local park; they found him hiding with his friend behind some garages. I was beside myself with fright; they obviously thought it was hilarious. But I wouldn’t have found him so quickly without the help of my community.
At the moment it feels like history is against anyone who shares the values I hold dear. We have just elected a government that cares very little for anything other than profit and I live in a city where land values make even the tiniest and most unpromising patch a target for developers. Ten years ago no one would have seen the flats as anything other than a small, slightly shabby council estate; now they are prime location, as are the grounds of hospitals, schools and even possibly prisons. Will Wormwood Scrubs be turned into luxury apartments, or Holloway or Pentonville? There is no reason why prisoners have to be in London – send them to Hull or Stoke on Trent. Sell off pubs and shops and parks and make London into one giant piece of real estate that no one can afford to live in; is that the future we want.
At the moment that’s what the market says is happening and we live and die by the market, forgetting that the market is not a hurricane or a tidal wave but the decisions of people. We laugh at our ancestors for believing in demons or witchcraft, but are we any different? How will future generations view what we are doing today; will they be proud or ashamed of the polished concrete tombs sprouting across our city? What will the children of the future be told? I wonder….
Before I had my children I was a very different person and would sneer cynically when people said ‘the children are the future’. I thought it was a ghastly thing to say, unimaginative, a cliché. It was the sort of thing that stupid, ignorant people said. Clever people (like me) would never say something so witless. But now I believe that this simple and hackneyed saying is the truth; we owe it to our children to preserve what is good and attack what is bad. How is it good to throw people out of the homes they have lived in for years and to destroy communities that function perfectly well as they are? Piers – or rather Ari – may make serious money out of ‘regenerating’ the Fleet Estate, but what are they replacing it with? All the plans showed one and two bedroom flats – nothing suitable for families. And the prices were so high that not even the affluent could afford them; only developers could cough up the cash and the properties would be snapped up by overseas buyers. Maybe some would be rented out, but there was a likelihood that many would remain vacant, transforming a vibrant community into an overpriced dead zone.
Yes the new flats might look shiny, and yes if Councillor Davenport gets his way, we might get a new school or leisure centre as a sop from the developer. Yet the human cost will be immense – some of the residents will move away, but it is likely that many will end up crowded into tiny spaces and a new generation of slums will spring up. Could someone who works in an old people’s home for £12,000 a year afford to spend £2,000 a year travelling in from the outer suburbs? Could a teaching assistant on £17,000 get to work every day at 8am if she lived in Luton or Harlow? The answer is probably not.
I am afraid of the future and want to show just how much life we will lose if everything that is not nailed down is for sale. Let people be, let them live and for once measure wealth in something other than purely monetary terms. I want my children to be rich in people when they grew up, as I genuinely believe I am myself. Some of those people may be odd, or damaged or have strange secrets, but they are all alive and are part of the human race. In the past we had nightmares of a world where people were wiped out by a nuclear bomb; now it seems that the weapons are more financial than atomic.