Being a man

The inaugural Being A Man Festival was held in London two weeks ago.
It was an event primarily focusing on how men should change so they could better serve women’s wants and needs – ‘redefining masculinity’, that kind of thing. A recurring theme of narratives around ‘redefining masculinity’ is that men must become more like women, in order that women can become more like men. There’s never any recognition in these narratives that the majority of people are gender-typical, for example that many working women would prefer to be at home looking after their children, rather than working to raise the money to pay strangers to look after them. In the UK the tax system militates against women making the choice they’d prefer.
The founder of The White Ribbon Campaign was a keynote speaker at the Festival. The campaign’s strapline is, ‘Men working to end violence against women’. No mention in the Festival programme of men as victims of violence at the hands of women, needless to say.  No mention of the many other problems men and boys face today, and what might be done about them.
The event was predictably lauded by the left-leaning press. A piece in the Guardian had the following to say:

The festival is – obviously – the idea of a woman, Jude Kelly, artistic director at the Southbank Centre. Her mission, she suggested, was in part age-old female wisdom: that men need reminding that it might be a good thing to share their anxieties. Or, as she put it, to provide the space “for an overhaul of masculinity” and an “opportunity for men to go naked” – prompting a proportion of her male audience to cross their legs.

The end of the article:

All movements need a manifesto, and it took Grayson Perry in one of his Bo-Peepiest pink party dresses to provide one. Few men have done as much original thinking about what it means to be male as the transvestite potter, champion cyclist, therapy survivor, Turner prizewinner, devoted husband and father.
Grayson insisted that all we believed about men could be unbelieved – men can, despite the propaganda, multitask (“I never go upstairs without carrying something”) – and they can prevail in the constant battle with testosterone and keep it in their pants (frilly or otherwise), if they put their minds to it.
He ended with a scribbled series of demands. “We men ask ourselves and each other for the following: the right to be vulnerable, to be uncertain, to be wrong, to be intuitive, the right not to know, to be flexible and not to be ashamed.” He insisted that men sit down to achieve them. He received, deservedly, a standing ovation.

I’d sooner gnaw off a hand without the benefit of anaesthetic than attend such an awful event, so I was pleased to read a letter in yesterday’s Daily Mail. It was penned by an intelligent man, Andy Dumas, and takes up the remainder of this post:
“Attending the much talked about Being A Man Festival at London’s South Bank, I discovered that most of the organised discussions about modern masculinity assumed that 90 per cent of males spend 90 per cent of their time watching hard-core porn online.
Manliness as a topic was shunted aside in favour of a feminist agenda which catered only for grievances against the Great White Male.
One focus group, advertised as a discussion of the challenges facing black male professionals, digressed immediately into a predictable, hackneyed, ideological attack on culturally-embedded racism.
I admit superficial multicultural policies have failed to eliminate institutional racism, but I read all about that at university, long ago. What I wanted was an insight into the psyche of a black man operating in this pseudo-equality environment.
A panel discussing male sexuality, promiscuity and fidelity, soon drifted into a bland discussion about the evils of pornography and Britain’s uninspired sex education curriculum. Might there not have been more intellectual usefulness in exploring how men express their masculinity in the context of increased gender equality?
The final session of the day focused on ‘ordinary blokes’ – such as plumbers. Plumbers were referred to several times by the distinctly unblokey panellists to describe the archetypal ‘bloke’. But each struggled to describe how he had experienced the blokeyness so typical of plumbers.
The day descended into farce when the festival organiser, a woman, mounted the stage to screech about the evils of white male dominance, finishing by reading A Man’s Bill of Rights which was so neurotic it could only have been written by a girl. Smirk. But I was wrong! It had been penned by Grayson Perry. Smirk. It included, among other stupidity, ‘the right to be wrong’. What self-respecting man, black, white or brown, straight, gay or transgender, would sign up to that?
On balance, this show was intellectually vapid, politically cloistered and a waste of £12. I blame Jon Snow. I went only because he did. Next year I’ll take my £12 to the pub and watch the footy with the plumbers.”

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