You know that cry, “It’s not all men”? Actually, it is all men. I know it, and I know you can’t entirely solve it – not alone, anyway, and men aren’t brought up to be good at thinking together. It would help if more men could get their heads round exactly what it is they need to solve. Perhaps you could be working on that. (The following are a few random shots I took from social media of men working together on what matters, just to show that it is there, if you go looking.)
Race, sex and class are the main weapons of what we used to call capitalism… I say “used to” because we know it’s folded into desperate, neoliberalist last-ditchism now, with their billionaire-powered, global-reaching digital messaging but still, whether they mean to or not, those who are still wealthy, still powerful, are benefiting by the long-term axes of oppression and, despite the proliferating categories brought to you by modern academics, the most successful of those weapons they defend their world with are still race, sex and class.
Just as the conventional left never really faced the truth about class, the world of men has never really faced the truth about sex.
I often say that we in the UK have the best Equality Act in the world. I say so because it recognises the main weapons and also some of the middle-ranking ones such as age and disability – weapons that lead not just to prejudice but to systemic disadvantage, which translates into voicelessness, and so on to illness, deprivation and death. A lot.
It’s not a hierarchy of oppression. It’s not about whether someone used a tasteless word in some book. It’s not solved by putting a woman and a black person on every committee (or even better, doing two in one by making it a black woman, or a trans (male) woman). It’s about weapons that need to be dismantled, weapons that kill people.
And yet many people who consider themselves “woke” and politically left are still not recognising that sexism, the major player in oppression, the first and most ubiquitous according to Engels, has a variety of new forms – many born of, and centred around, the sex industry, or that the greatest of them is gender ideology, which is powering the terrible, terrible tendency girls have had (for centuries — from anchorites to anorexics) of reacting to sexism and related stresses around adolescence by rejecting and/or attacking their own bodies.
To me, it blares out of many of the issues currently buzzing around social media. They cry out for the big question: do these issues play out the same for males and females? If not, why not? Why, for example, is Mole’s vision of “We, Julia” a bitter joke, an idea that probably won’t happen, whilst “I, Joan” is setting up right now to be a really fashionable hit for the Globe Theatre?
Why do you suppose denying the “woman” element in female role models is so much easier to sell than “de-manning” male heroes? What do you suppose that does to our girls?
The freedom of speech thing
Salman Rushdie has just fallen victim to an attack on freedom of speech (writing, publishing) that’s been running for some thirty years. Most people, without question, defended him and deplored the threat to him, whether they liked his books or not – even if they hated and were offended by his words. The same has not been true of J K Rowling, who, as far as I know has never threatened anyone. She had a bit of trouble persuading the powers that be at Twitter that she could do with some protection from the latest (of many) threats against her…
So no, it’s not all men and yes, it is all men. It is a society that sets the idea of maleness above the idea of femaleness, and creates at the very least, awkwardness from well-meaning people. I see men I love and trust acting in times of stress as though women have some mysterious quality in common with a bomb that might just go off without warning. They feel insecure, because they know, on some level, what they are buying into.
I see that awkwardness sometimes in people who are more securely at the wealthy end of “middle class” than me (I think that’s about class — although it might be more about invisible disability) and looking the other way, I have felt it myself at times when dealing with people who the mechanisms of society aim to set me against, so I recognise it in men’s reactions to me as a woman. It is all men, because it’s systemic, and you can’t help it — but you could help to dismantle it.
It’s why the Labour Party never really got itself sorted out over issues of race, sex and class. It’s why gender-ideology is far, far more dangerous to girls and women than it is to men (statistically, that is. There are vulnerable gay boys who have suffered, too). It’s why we as a society have to do better than not being overtly sexist, racist, classist, homophobic, ablist, ageist – we have to understand and unpick those forces – we all do, but not by joining in the minor squabbles of the Oppression Olympics. We need to deal face-on with the major, lethal weapons — sex, race and class. Our survival in the last battle against neoliberalism depends upon it.
What men need to do right now, here in the UK
Get it clear in your head who the vulnerable groups are in the “gender wars” (I’ll tell you about two of those groups — but there are more — think it through).
Kids who’ve been groomed by crap education on sex and gender. Stonewall et al started going into schools with this “you may be in the wrong body” stuff in 2008, persuading a generation that “gender” ie, sexism, is an innate part of them, something they need to protect in order to survive. 2008 — a decade-and-a-half ago — so do your sums and check out that age group. They are defending sexism (that lethal weapon) as though their lives depended on it — many believe their lives do depend on it.
Now the Tavistock’s GIDS service is for the axe, and lawyers are lining up for the retribution cases. That is a major battle we’ve won, the kids who’ve been physically and emotionally damaged will begin to get some support — but the GPs and other services set to fill the gap when GIDS closes are still being fed nonsense. The corporate health-care billionaires are still making big bucks from the gender ideology industry. We need to watch that, and keep fighting.
Here in Sussex, GPs were recently offered a fee for “treating” “trans, intersex and non-binary” patients. Those groups have only one thing in common. They are potential prey for the gender ideology industry. If you’re a councillor or health worker, look out for them. Everyone, though, can help the women save the kids from gender ideology, by understanding and campaigning on this.
Women who spoke out
Next, but equally important please try and get it into your head that just as our political movements have always missed out on bags of talent, skills and sheer numbers by passing over black and working class people, in the last ten years or so, our political movements have lost thousands — yes, at least thousands — of our strongest and our best women, by treating both feminism in general and discussion of sex-based rights in particular as mad, bad, or too scary to deal with.
It’s on you. Please find those women — the trade unionists, the councillors, the writers and the speakers and the thinkers — go find them, and bring them back in. You can ask the doughty few — those women who stayed in their roles and their parties, despite the onslaught. They’ll know where you can find your “lost women…”
Brothers and allies
I know a few men of the left who have been quietly supportive of the women — the “terfs” — and quietly critical of gender-ideology. I thank them, sincerely. I know a few men — I can count them on the fingers of one hand — who have spoken up regularly and consistently, even in places where that’s hard to do. I thank them sincerely, I am eternally grateful, and I ask them to get to work encouraging and teaching more brothers.
Is this women’s work?
You might also think about whose job it is to understand and deal with those males who don what they have the nerve to call “women’s clothes”, then spend their time bullying women out of jobs, political roles and anywhere else they want to be top dogs. It’s been hard and scary work for the women, dealing with them, as has endlessly trying to persuade male politicians and executives, local and national, who aren’t good at listening to strong women. You could help there, too.
I know from my experience and that of many women friends, that my final comment applies to all but a very few brave, clear-thinking allies…
You sat and watched them hounded out, those women who were political officers, trade union reps, authors, actors, artists, civil servants, whatever it was — it’s been happening everywhere. Pushed out for speaking out. You say you didn’t push them out? You didn’t know how hard it is, to be bullied and watch colleagues silently watching their shoes? Silence doesn’t count as bullying? You didn’t see, you didn’t know, you didn’t know why they left or you don’t know where they went? Please go and find out.
They may not want to come back — it’s healthy, and full of love, here in the women’s movement. Of course there are rows — we make up half the population — you expect us all to agree on the politics of it? But it’s better here, away from your damning silences and rug-pulling judgements. If the women you talk to don’t want to come back, find out what their groups are doing, and see if you can help, visibly help. In time, that will bring the groups back together, into a movement that can function.
It’s on you to bring them back. You say you’ve spoken to some women, and they say there’s no problem? They say that those women they pushed out were mad, bad and scary? Yes, that’s oppression talking. Would you believe a black man who told you black men can’t be trusted? An old woman who told you old people are stupid? That’s oppression talking. It’s on you. Sort it out.
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