While careful to point out that he is not anti-feminist, Benatar calmly lays out the facts. Men are far more likely to be the victims of violence, he contends. We are conscripted, overlooked in child custody cases and depicted as idiots in the mass media. It is only when we tackle this discrimination head on that we will begin to construct a fairer society, he concludes. Right on, brother, I’m tempted to hoot.
The received wisdom that men cannot multitask, for example, has always struck me as horsewallop (I ironed a week’s worth of shirts in front of Match of the Day only the other night). The idea that men never catch flu, only “man flu”, is so pervasive, we have become complicit in our own oppression. “Ah, it’s only a man-fracture,” we jape, wincingly resetting our own femur.
Still, I can’t believe any of this is nearly as corrosive as the idea that you, yes YOU, have been uniquely wronged (call this number for a free quote, no win, no fee). For it is victimhood, rather than sexism, that is the definitive modern disease — and not one I feel like catching.
It’s as if life’s winners decided that if they couldn’t beat the complaining lesbians or the wronged asylum-seekers or whevs, they may as well join them. No need to examine real prejudice, or have a sensible discussion at all, in fact. All you have to do is work out how you have been discriminated against and complain about that too. Was it because of your education? Your social class?
Any gripe will do — witness the nascent “Is it cos I is posh?” movement. Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, is exemplary here, with his belief that to be British in Britain is to be uniquely oppressed, by the banana-straighteners of Brussels and the Sharia-wallahs of Bradford. Likewise, in his book, Pity the Billionaire, Thomas Franks details how the US Tea Party movement advanced “by way of tearful weepy woo”, convinced that they were the real victims of the financial crisis. Franks shows how they in turn confused their cause with that of the most self-pitying group of all: the super-rich.
It makes for a shrill, senseless debate. I am troubled by the assumption that men are emotionally illiterate and lazy. But to challenge it we need to teach boys to be positive about their identity. We shouldn’t fret about “the trouble with boys”, creating a narrative of failure, and we certainly shouldn’t encourage a victim mentality. That not only trivialises genuine victims of prejudice — it is quite literally self-defeating.