One of the feminist narratives which angers me the most is that men are inherently violent, and that if more women were in charge of countries, we’d see fewer armed conflicts. Given the readiness with which some women manipulate men to assault and even kill men who’ve displeased them – “violence by proxy” – it seems to me a ridiculous claim. The fact that in most cases of unreciprocated domestic violence the perpetrator is a woman surely tells us that women are not inherently less violent than men.
A few months ago my father (Malcolm) died, at the age of 90. He was born just five years after the end of WW1. A gentle, kind and generous man who grew up in the Outer Hebrides, he was a lifelong hero to me, in no small measure because on his 21st birthday, a few days after D-Day, he jumped onto a Normandy beach as part of the unit supporting General Montgomery. Recently the BBC broadcast a remarkable documentary about the men who served in WW1, 2014 of course being the centenary of the start of that conflict. It moved me deeply, because it said so much about the sense of duty men – such as my father – feel to protect the vulnerable, often at terrible personal cost:
I found the documentary very moving. It consists mainly of interviews of men (and a few women) recorded about 50 years after the outset of WW1, in the early 1960s – about 50 years ago. Any man who watches the documentary will surely stand a little taller after watching it. Any woman who watches it – any woman with a heart, anyway – will surely be grateful that men (then, as now, as always) have been prepared to die in order that women and children don’t.
50 years after my father jumped onto that Normandy beach I took him to visit the Normandy beaches, the war cemeteries etc. It was the first time since WW2 he’d been back. We went to one of the British cemeteries in Bayeux, where he politely asked to be left alone as he walked down line after line of graves. It was clear from the crosses on the gravestones that most of the men who’d died on the Normandy beaches were around 20 years of age, as he’d been at the time. Many were only 17 or 18. We later went to the enormous and impressive American war cemetery, with crosses and Stars of David marking the final resting places of huge numbers of similarly young men – all facing the United States – and I recall thinking that any European spouting anti-American sentiments should be required to spend an hour or two walking slowly around that place.
Whilst walking past all those graves my father evidently had tears streaming down his face – the first and only time I ever saw him cry – and he was obviously laying some ghosts to rest. He was to live for another 19 years, and I saw him regularly over those years. It was rarely he didn’t find the time to say how much that trip had meant to him. A wonderful father. A wonderful man.
I wrote a short blog piece when he died, saying I thought he was from the last generation of men who weren’t automatically vilified on account of being men. He never came close to understanding about feminism, maybe the two things were related. It’s been speculated that feminism was enabled and energised by the notion that it was men who’d started two world wars – and other wars – and that men collectively were somehow to blame. The facts that only men were in positions of real power at that time, and 99% of the victims of those wars were men, were of course never considered worthy of mention.