Ally Fogg reviews Michael Kimmel’s new book at Comment is Free.
When one looks at the horrific abuse meted out to feminist campaigners such as Caroline Criado-Perez for having the temerity to ask that a woman should feature on British banknotes, to Laura Bates for fighting back against street harassment and everyday sexism, or to Anita Sarkeesian for highlighting sexist tropes in video games, it is hard to see it as anything but aggrieved entitlement. The hate campaigns seem firmly rooted in outrage that uppity girls should be intruding upon men’s inalienable right to behave how they like, harass who they want, control culture as they wish and shape society in their own image. Like: “You’ll prise Lara Croft’s skimpy shorts from my cold, dead hands.”
It is easy, and indeed essential, to condemn such misogynistic hate campaigns. However if those attitudes are at least partially stoked by very real and profound economic and social changes that have left some men feeling disempowered, marginalised, maligned and neglected, is it enough to simply demand that they suck it up and deal with it? I’m not sure.
No, but that’s not the question. The question is, is it still reasonable to demand that they stop bullying women regardless? I am sure. Yes it is. Whatever the sources and roots and origins of your rage, they don’t entitle you to persecute other people. Period. That’s true by definition. Persecution is by definition not justified.
The gender script for women has been largely torn up – a young girl has unprecedented freedom to grow into a doctor or a nurse, a soldier or a solicitor and/or a wife and mother while men, to a large extent, are stuck with a script for a role that barely exists. To be a real man, our culture still insists, is to be the protector and provider within a society that no longer guarantees to deliver that opportunity, and where male protector-providers are not entirely necessary. It is not much of a stretch to assume that this causes immense stress and psychological conflict, which is sometimes directed inward in despair and depression, sometimes outward in anger and violence.
Hang on. A young girl has unprecedented freedom to grow into a doctor or a nurse, a soldier or a solicitor and/or a wife and mother, but she is still very likely to be punished and bullied for doing so. That gender script hasn’t been torn up at all, in fact it’s been turned into a whole Library of Congress worth of scripts.