To read about sexual oppression in the Western media storybook is to enter a surreal world. In its distorting mirror, sex-pesting experienced by celebrity women on their way up the ladder of fame gets magnified to huge proportions while horrors faced by millions of women beyond the protection of Western social mores blur into insignificance.
Within the confines of the West itself, it is a world where news of violence against women is either called out for the evil that it truly is or discreetly parked in the media closet – all depending on who is the perpetrator.
In order for it to arouse sustained media passion, news of oppression must conform to a narrative (one that originated on university campuses but has now leeched into the mainstream) whereby the villain must be ‘toxic masculinity’ in general and ‘white patriarchy’ in particular. The
American Psychological Association hit the news recently with their mission to rid coming generations of young men of this ‘toxic masculinity’ and Gillette jumped on the bandwagon with their now notorious Best Men Can Be ad. In Australia, this same theme has been fairly high profile since 2015 with various government campaigns; in particular this one featuring a young white boy – as archetype of the nascent ‘toxic male’ – gratuitously intimidating his sister.
Underpinning all this are two currently fashionable myths. The first is the ‘white patriarchy’ slander. It must take a breathtaking level of obtuseness for anyone with even the flimsiest grasp of history or awareness of what are currently the most brutish places on earth not to recognise that, if ever there was a place on earth for women to thrive, it surely is the twenty-first century liberal West. And yet so powerful are the psychological seductions of virtue signalling that ‘educated’ Western liberals in huge numbers do manage just this.
The second is the radical feminist one – that there is something essentially ‘toxic’ about masculinity per se.
In truth, there are few men alive in the West today (though plenty in the rest of the world) who would demur from the proposition that women are entitled, not only to robust legal protection from male aggression but also to absolute equality with men in the opportunities that life has to offer. And to initiate a discussion about aspects of the male psyche that can lead to aggression towards women (or other men for that matter) is not inherently wrong. It becomes wrong when it is actually a proxy for some other battle – as is the case both with radical feminism and its partner in victimology ethno-masochism.
Liberal preciousness about ‘racism’ has given rise to endless media fictions in television drama and advertisements obscuring reality behind a politically correct smokescreen. The Gillette ad is a particularly gross example, comprising, as it does, sixty seconds of sexual harassment by white men and boys followed by fifty seconds of coloured men sweetly explaining to them that such behaviour is not acceptable. Until I saw it I had thought that this Transport for London public awareness video fictionalising a middle-class white man groping a black woman had plumbed the PC pit. These absurd fictions speak volumes about the mental universe of the advertising agencies that produce them and the public relations executives who commission them.
They are easily refuted by a huge body of statistical fact and informed analysis much of it coming from dissident female intellectuals. But such is the monopoly of politically correct mood-music in news and entertainment broadcasting (for that great majority of folk who aren’t interested in delving beyond) that cold hard evidence counts for little in the face of it.
The Australian campaign videos are perhaps less gross but lurking in them too is an inference that abuse of women and girls is endemic amongst Australian males as a whole whereas such statistical evidence as is available shows – unsurprisingly – that it is much more prevalent in some social groups than others. This is an example of an insidious way in which political correctness distorts discussion of all kinds of social problems: the euphemism ‘We’ and ‘Us’ to hide from that pc bugbear ‘discrimination’. ‘We’ have a problem with domestic violence; one in two of ‘Us’ suffers a family breakdown. ‘Toxic masculinity’ is a particularly egregious example: it is aimed at ‘men’ but few are in any doubt that this really means ethnic-majority white men.
Meanwhile, from mainstream media commentary, you could get the impression that what might constitute the ‘good masculinity’ that the campaigns are seeking to promote amounts, in fact, to ‘less masculinity’. These ABC News pieces give something of the flavour: “This week I sat watching two dorky, funny English boys of indeterminate sexuality whip thousands of tween and teen girls (and some boys) into a squealing frenzy” which the writer goes on to describe as “a celebration of all that is good online”. More androgyny then is it that we need?
On the flipside of this androgyny project, Play Like a Girl encourages girls to feel affronted at being called girls because they are “equally tough as men”. In contrast, this article celebrating the heroism of the Thai Cave Rescue provides eloquent testimony to the potential downsides of less masculinity.
Even conservative opponents often fall into the trap of allowing discussion to be on PC’s own fraudulent terms of reference. Hence ‘toxic masculinity’ gets hotly debated in terms of whether men, en masse, either are – or are not – guilty of it. But a more robust challenge would be to acknowledge that, yes, there is a problem with violent, misogynistic males but political correctness censors discussion of it. It is a serious malaise in certain ethnic sub-cultures.
In both Europe and America, politically inconvenient crime statistics showing the hugely disproportionate offending rate in subcultures of black African origin are one of the West’s best-kept secrets even among conservative politicians and media outlets. Institutional political calculation allowed sex ‘grooming’ rings to fester for years in British towns and this article lifts the veil on similar official obfuscation in Germany and Sweden. The way that governments and media alike have averted their gaze from ‘honour killings’ occurring on their own soil is baleful evidence of how Western liberalism’s moral principles have been hollowed out by a virtue signalling guilt trip.
The media has been almost entirely silent on the home-grown outrage of British girls being shipped off to South East Asia for forced marriages; it has inspired the commissioning of no ’brave’ TV dramas. If ever there was a great cause for twenty-first-century feminism to get passionate about, these issues should surely be its primary and enduring focus? But fathom, if you can, the tortured logic of the feminist Left in Australia helping to stop a lecture tour by the anti-female genital mutilation activist and feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The tragedy is that willful media selectivity in its focus on sexual oppression – as with the ever-widening politically correct definition of it – merely serves as a virtue signalling parlour game and a distraction from what arguably should be one of the biggest issues in the world today. Even more bizarrely, some kinds of violent misogyny can even be fashionable in bien-pensant circles.
Rap artists boasting of subjugation and even rape of their ‘bitches’ can be lapped up by adoring white college kids. And, in Europe at least, it is now commonplace for ‘whodunit’ dramas to be larded with voyeuristic graphic depictions of sadistic rape and murder of attractive young women. (The villain invariably, of course, turns out to be white.) One of the worst offenders is the ever-so-pc BBC. Its defence of its lurid dramas like The Fall, Luther and others on the grounds that they “provide insight into the motives of sadistic psychopaths” is enough to make you retch. Only those cocooned in public broadcasting self-righteousness could make such an obtuse and self-deceiving claim without blushing red.
Beyond all this selective demonising, a grown-up feminist discussion on the truly complex dynamics of male/female sexual relations is long overdue. Before the advent of the ‘toxic masculinity’ intelligentsia fad – if you were the kind of man who didn’t try to pester women into going out with you, bully them into sleeping with you, intimidate them into not leaving you, the kind of man who didn’t try to waylay women in the office corridor near the broom cupboard, didn’t try to sidle your sweaty self up next to them on the subway, then you could count yourself a fairly decent sort. Whereas now, a young man hungry for romance can find himself in Catch 22: he knows from ancient folklore that faint heart never won fair lady but he also knows that – in the feminist chic lore of the women’s pages – one definition of sexual harassment is merely being hit on by someone other than the one that you had secretly been wanting it to be.
Mainstream media ‘women’s pages’ are full of coy little pieces in which feminist journos gush faux exasperation with those awful predatory and promiscuous beings called men but never seem to do the maths and work out that a world where some men have ten women is also a world where other men (ten times the number in fact) are either cuckolded or have none. They perhaps also keep from admitting to themselves that, in the elite world of their imagination, it is only those types of men that even figure.
These pages can get really weird: you might assume, for instance, that feminism and sadomasochism could never be in the same bed but no: according to this Guardian piece, as long as the woman strapped to the bed has ‘agency’ she can apparently still be a feminist icon. But when dissident feminist Katie Roiphe dared to wonder if a degree of submissiveness and attraction to powerful men might somehow be hard-wired into female sexuality, she found herself excommunicated from the sisterhood.
Radical feminism is the confused and petulant antithesis of such a grown-up discussion. That it has succeeded less completely than other narratives of political correctness is thanks, in large measure, to women themselves. Most of the pushback against it has come from women.
Christina Hoff Sommers has written of the “statistical illiteracy among journalists, feminist academics and political leaders” whereby “in cases where men are better off than women, that’s injustice. Where women are doing better – that’s life.” Ashley McGuire speaks about “the willful blindness to basic biological difference under the mantra of equality [that] ultimately disempowers women” and of the dreary asexual ‘gender neutrality’ of the Midwife Alliance of North America re-designating pregnant women as “birthing individuals”.
Representatives of an older wave of feminism such as Germaine Greer have hit back at the all-men-are-potential-rapists mantra and incurred the wrath of campus ‘de-platforming’ brats by opining that “most (non-violent) rape is just bad sex”.
And then there this from liberal grand-dame of letters, Fay Weldon. She deserves the last word on this insanity:
Human society is not ‘fair’ in all kinds of ways. Men are born larger and stronger than women. Tall men earn more than short men. Pretty girls earn more than plain ones… Some inequalities can be attended to by law, others cannot.
Graham Cunningham is a British writer of occasional essays for various conservative-leaning journals.
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