For the last week, liberals the world over have been looking for someone or something to blame for the election of Donald Trump. My view is that it is down to economics – Trump rose to power on an uneasy coalition of wealthy people who wanted to pay less tax and working class people who are pissed off by globalisation. Much like Brexit in the UK. But according to many commentators (especially in the Guardian newspaper) it’s all about misogyny. People didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton either because they are male (and misogynists) or female (and have internalised misogyny). It was nothing to do with her unappealing track record or her habit of patronising the electorate. Oh no, it was all about misogyny.
As you can probably tell, I don’t really buy this. I wouldn’t chose a candidate because they were female, or male, or young, or old, or black, or gay or trans. I would chose them on what I felt they had to offer me, my friends, my kids, my community and the country at large. I would not see myself as having internalised misogyny if I chose not to vote for Theresa May – I am not a Tory and don’t like what she has to offer. Likewise, I would not waste my vote on the Women’s Equality Party – I see them as too niche. I genuinely do not care whether the leader of a political party is male or female; after all Margaret Thatcher was a woman.
You get my drift.
But the constant discussions about misogyny got me thinking. If we accept that there is misogyny (which I do) in certain sections of society, where does it come from? I am not going to come over all Daily Mail and blame it on ‘PC gone mad’, though I do think anything designed to promote women is grist to the mill of sexists the world over – a quick browse through the website of our old friend Roosh V will provide you with all the evidence you need. Roosh and his chums in the ‘manosphere’ are rabid Trump fans and see his election as some sort of harbinger of a new era of masculinity.
However, I am less interested in what causes extreme misogyny – as typified by men’s rights activists – and more in exploring the subject in general. Is it something that all men basically feel (even the nice fluffy liberal ones) or is it something nasty that only really happens with really bad men?
This lead me to the work of Dr Adam E Jukes and a book called ‘Is There a Cure for Masculinity?’. It is possibly one of the most intriguing books I have ever read and I tore through it yesterday. I want to go back and re-read bits of it as I am a super fast reader and tend to skim when I am enjoying something as much as I enjoyed this book.
Jukes’s belief is that all men feel misogyny to a certain extent, whilst some are overwhelmed by it. This has nothing to with any political or moral beliefs; it is something that dates back to your relationship with your mother. Jukes believes that in order to become a man, you reject your mother and begin to identify with men. However, a lot of male children turn that process round on its head and see the mother as rejecting them. They subsquently spend the rest of their lives looking for ways to heal the hurt and a lot of aggression towards women is based on the fact they can never find the love they feel they need. Male pain manifests itself as deviant behaviour – crime/violence/substance abuse – and also very nasty treatment of women. Men fear female rejection so badly that they act out these fears by belittling or trying to control women. Or they anticipate rejection to such an extent that they refuse ever to get close to a woman – the ‘commitment phobe’ of many a women’s magazine article.
This all makes a lot of sense to me – both on a personal and political level. As a heterosexual woman I have at times been frustrated/confused by male behaviour and reading this book was very useful. It also helped me understand why even men who claim to be liberated or progressive (words that always send a shudder down my spine) can struggle with women in the workplace. Female power according to Jukes equals castration and nothing could be worse than a competent female boss. Obviously men who are secure in themselves are happy to work alongside or for women, but they are not necessarily in the majority.
The book also interested me as the mother of sons. I don’t want my sons to be misogynists – who would? It is up to me that I make sure that they don’t and although it is tempting to ram gender equality down their throats, I am not sure this is the answer. I have to be there for them in a way that allows them separation and independence but also reassures them that I still love them as much as teens/adults as I did when they were little. If they know I love them, then hopefully they won’t be looking for a fantasy woman to take away their pain as adults. It is a massive challenge and who knows if I am up to it. The only thing you can do is try.
I guess what I am saying that after reading this book, I can no longer see misogyny as something men do to women. It is a dynamic between the sexes. I don’t think it helps that public figures – like Trump – are openly misogynistic, but the misogyny would have little or no impact in a world where the male psyche was alligned differently.
I did have one glimmer of hope today. One of my students was late for a lesson this afternoon. He is a big bloke, studying to be a mechanic. He was late because he had been crying – he said he was very stressed and had been rowing with his girlfriend. I felt touched that he could tell me this. He didn’t feel frightened or ashamed about the way he felt. A misogynist would not have had the courage to talk to me like that.