Feminist commentator Clementine Ford would be a nightmare in couples counselling I suspect. If her crazy-making political antics translate to her love life, she’d be whipping out her frequent flyer victim card and pointing the blame finger before Mr Ford could spit out his first gripe. How could any therapist help one of the shrillest radical voices in Australia get along better with her partner when deep down she doesn’t appear to like or respect men very much? Senator Leyonhelm recently termed it “misandry”, the female version of misogyny.
In one of Ford’s more recent Fairfax rants she sarcastically professes, “as everyone knows, the most oppressed person in the world today is the humble white man”. For a split second, I caught myself feeling sorry for her son’s father, a white guy, for the racist rants he must frequently cop. In my private practice, I generally view relationship partners as ‘volunteers’ and try to avoid dealing victim status to either gender unless there are significant levels of unilateral partner violence. Even if Ms Ford is keeping her hands to herself, I imagine Mr Ford might benefit from some military-grade assertiveness coaching.
Ten years as a couples counsellor has taught me that men and women both can act out aggressive tendencies during conflict. Bettina Arndt, in her classic article Always Beating Up on Men, notes “most family violence is two-way aggression, with international research showing about a third of couples have a go at each other — pushing, slapping, shoving or worse”.
Lena Dunham, America’s version of Ford, said during the Trump election “white men can’t understand what it’s like to be under attack”. Tell that to the thousands of boys abused and neglected daily by their Aussie mums or the growing numbers of Australian men shaking off the stigma and revealing they are bashed and bruised both emotionally and physically by their female partners regularly. Of course, some women act out aggressively and, yes Ms Dunham, women attack men.
They also attack other women. In her article, Ford paused from trashing men and shifted her cross-hairs to Sydney Watson who’s organized a March for Men in Melbourne this Saturday. Sydney has a masters in journalism and a growing YouTube audience interested in Australian conservative values and free speech (free speech isn’t protected by the Australian constitution). Sydney says, “As far as I can see society is unlikely to be functional if we continue to put down one entire gender in order to prop up the other — what we’re trying to do (with the march) is show we care about the men in our lives and we care about the issues that concern them.”
There is a crisis of masculinity and no Ms Ford, not because of ‘patriarchy’ or ‘toxic masculinity’. Terms she, and others like her, deploy as divisive red herrings designed to discount men’s humanity and the very real suffering many men across Australia experience daily. Imagine being told by a defunct family court system that as a father you aren’t allowed to see your children but it’s okay to go neck deep in debt continuing to provide for them. Or boys being singled out in public school classrooms by a demeaning, tax-payer funded White Ribbon campaign whose questionable agenda forces them to stand up (while girls stay seated) and endure a public shaming for being male. Boys and men both internalize these culture-wide ‘men suck’ messages and our masculine self-image and mental health are damaged as a result.
Six Australian males kill themselves every day and while culture and government are being hoodwinked by Ford’s style of polarising anti-male propaganda good men everywhere are falling through the cracks. The truth is every one of us personally knows a male in crisis, if not several, in our family or community. Which means our community and national leaders are continuing to drop the ball when it comes to accurately assessing and effectively supporting men’s physical, mental and emotional health (try googling “Australian minister for men’s affairs”).
As families and friends, we can all actively check-in with close men by asking questions regarding how they’re coping and hanging in for answers even if they go stoic or try to shrug you off. If red flags outnumber positive signs take action by helping them access male-friendly support. Do your research as many government-funded community mental health agencies frame their treatment models on Ford’s destructive brand of feminism. More than you might think.
The March for Men is this Saturday, August 25, from 1 – 4:00 pm at Federation Square in Melbourne. Please join us in standing together to show appreciation for the men and boys in our lives and celebrate the value of masculinity in our society. You can find us on Facebook at MarchforMenAus.