Wednesday, 23 January 2019

That idiotic Gillette ad may have turned the tide on ‘toxic masculinity’

Razor blade commercials aren’t supposed to make national headlines, but these aren’t ordinary times. Last week’s Gillette commercial playing on the #MeToo movement became the latest piece of corporate messaging to berate and belittle men.

The commercial implored men to “be better,” while juxtaposing scenes of boys wrestling at a cookout, bullies menacingly chasing a boy down the street, men catcalling women and making lewd jokes and generally acting like brutes.

Many Americans were angry, not least men, whom the commercial framed as universal aggressors and rapists.

Fans claimed that those who were upset by the Gillette ad should be asking themselves why. The implication was that, if you didn’t like being lectured by a company trying to sell you razors, it must mean that you are likely the bully and sexual assaulter the ad makers had in mind when they made the commercial.

Well, I’m a woman, and I hated the commercial, because I’m tired of the boy-bashing that has become all too common on our screens and in our world.

“It’s just an ad!” doesn’t fly. Would women shrug off “just an ad” that treated femininity as something inherently bad and in need of modification? They wouldn’t. Women accept far less criticism from advertisements than men do.

In 2015, a company called Protein World released an ad for a diet supplement featuring a fit model in a bikini and the words: “Are You Beach Body Ready?” The backlash was swift. The ad was defaced again and again in the NYC subways, and the city of London went so far as to ban “body-shaming” ads on the Underground.

If there was a moment in time when women collectively decided that they would no longer stand for being body-shamed, that was it.

Similarly, the response to the Gillette ad feels like a dam breaking. This might be the moment when men have finally had enough.

Men are constantly barraged with criticism. “Men are the worst” has gotten old. The word masculinity is only preceded by the word “toxic” these days.

Meanwhile, men have been on a downward trajectory for some time now. Fewer men go to college, more men commit suicide, more men live at home with their parents well into adulthood.

Men take the most dangerous jobs, they fight and die in our wars, yet they are told nonstop that they are terrible, and the future isn’t for them. They are expected to shrug it off because, well, they are men.

If men are traditionally stoic and impervious to criticism, and we like them that way, then the idea that men can take the shots simply because they are strong and manly flies in the face of the commercial — which bashes male stoicism.

Gillette implores men to be better because kids are watching. Yes, kids are watching men portrayed as bumbling idiots in so many ads and as violent misogynists in this one.

The worst part of the commercial is the group of men standing in a row over their grills robotically repeating “Boys will be boys.” The message is that men are all the same. They don’t think for themselves, and they excuse bad behavior in each other. They’re grilling just like your husband, father, brother — doing this activity they enjoy while simultaneously creating bad men out of their sons.

“We expected debate,” Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s North America brand director, told CNN Business. “Actually, a discussion is necessary. If we don’t discuss and don’t talk about it, I don’t think real change will happen.”

No, what we need is to stop insulting men. We can’t elevate women by knocking men down. Some men will nod along with ads that insult them, but, in general, these companies are offending men and doing damage to their own stated cause. On the Gillette YouTube channel, the commercial has garnered more than double the number of “dislikes” than “likes.”

This wasn’t a win for the company.

“Isn’t it time we stopped excusing bad behavior?” Gillette asked in the tweet introducing the commercial. Yes, it is. And that includes the bad behavior of corporate salesmen treating half of the population as monsters, all to sell a product targeted at precisely that segment of Americans.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Louis CK vs the new pearl-clutchers

by Andrew Doyle

There is very little point in attempting to explain a joke. A sense of humour isn’t a universal quality, and in any case is wholly dependent on subjective taste. Those who find themselves unamused are unlikely to change their minds once a routine has been systematically deconstructed. It’s all about the timing.

A recording of Louis CK’s work-in-progress show at the Governor’s Comedy Club in New York was leaked last week, and has been subject to the sort of moralistic scrutiny that now passes for comedy criticism. ‘Louis CK condemned after leaked audio shows him ranting about gender pronouns and school shooting survivors’, ran a headline in the Independent. ‘Louis CK’s rant shows abusers are still casting themselves as victims’, railed the Guardian, characterising him as a man ‘bubbling with wrath’. According to the Daily Mail, he ‘attacked Asians’ with his ‘racist stand-up set’.

Then there was the predictable pearl-clutching on social media. ‘You know what’s the worst, most boring kind of comedy?’, wrote comedian Andy Richter. ‘The kind where older white men are angry that older white men can’t do or say whatever the fuck they want any more.’ According to filmmaker and amateur psychologist Judd Apatow, ‘Louis CK is all fear and bitterness now. He can’t look inward.’ Nuance was jettisoned wholesale by actor Ellen Barkin, who stated that ‘Louis CK is a sociopath and serial predator’ who she hopes ‘gets raped’ and ‘shot at’.

It goes without saying that CK’s critics are entitled to their opinions, however unhinged. He is likewise within his right to ignore or ridicule the backlash. As Ricky Gervais has pointed out, the reactionary response of ‘You can’t joke about anything anymore’ is simply untrue. The controversy over CK’s set is evidence enough that some comedians still refuse to self-censor, although there is little doubt that a less established performer would risk career suicide for a similar routine.

Those who have defended CK have, inevitably, been accused of being ‘outraged by the outrage’, but this strikes me as an unconvincing assessment of the situation, one possibly adopted in an effort to undermine an alternative point of view through the imputation of hypocrisy. If anything, CK’s defenders seem genuinely weary at having to reiterate what we all know already: he is a comedian who was telling jokes. Such an excruciatingly obvious statement wouldn’t be necessary at all were it not for the fact that the overwhelming majority of our news outlets appear to have ignored this reality, wilfully or otherwise.

To my mind, this is the most significant aspect of this story. I may not be outraged by the outrage, but I am fascinated by the way in which the mainstream press seems determined to promote a narrative that very few will find convincing. Even those of us who didn’t consider the routine funny are likely to understand why others might, because only the irredeemably solipsistic believe that their own sense of humour is the benchmark against which all comedy should be measured.

The other curious aspect of the media coverage is the insistence that comedy should be taken at face value. Few who listen to the recording will believe that CK is tickled by the notion of mass murder, yet this is how his set has been perceived by the vocal minority. ‘I would call it a comedy set’, writes Fiona Sturges in the Guardian, ‘but that would give it a credence it doesn’t deserve’. Note the assumption of bad faith in this interpretation. Sturges presumes the worst of CK, and so feels confident in denying that a comedy routine performed in a comedy club to gales of laughter can even be classified as comedy at all.

It would seem that some no longer trust CK as a performer, following a number of women accusing him of sexual misconduct in 2017. Although the accounts suggest that the acts were consensual, CK’s status as a villain of the #MeToo era now means that his material is being reassessed through a process of cod-psychological guesswork. ‘It is possible that this is a calculated career move’, writes Sturges, ‘to restyle himself as a right-wing hatemonger expostulating about snowflakes, virtue-signallers and ethnic minorities… A more likely story is that this is just a howl of self-pity.’ But anyone with the slightest familiarity with CK will know that this new set is entirely consistent with his previous work. Writer Jesse Singal made the point by quoting one of CK’s lines from 2008: ‘I would happily blow 20 guys in an alley with bleeding dicks so I could get AIDS and then fuck a deer and kill it with my AIDS.’

CK has always tested the limits of his audience’s tolerance, and from listening to the leaked audio it is clear that even when his material is still in the developmental stage, his timing, turn of phrase and impeccable stagecraft provoke many of us to laughter in spite of our sensibilities. This is also why when his jokes are reported in the press, divorced from the context of performance, they can seem needlessly cruel. His style hasn’t changed, it’s just that his critics have decided to presuppose a malicious underlying motive. If Louis CK does have a motive, it is surely the standard one that drives all comedy. Simply put, he wants to make us laugh.


https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/01/03/louis-ck-vs-the-new-pearl-clutchers/

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Kirsten Gillibrand's worldview only makes sense if you understand how feminists think

by Suzanne Venker

Tucker Carlson asked Heather Mac Donald a perfectly reasonable question this week: "Why would a group, any group, want to poison the relationship between women and men, which is the building block of everything that's good in the world?"

The segment was about this Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., tweet:



To the average person who's busy living their life, this worldview doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense that feminism, which bills itself as merely promoting sexual equality (a phrase that sounds so utterly innocuous but isn't), could be so destructive that it rips relationships, families, and society apart.

But that's exactly what it does. In response to Carlson's question about why any group would do this, Mac Donald said, "Because [feminists] would rather hate."

Bingo.

Any serious study of feminism reveals startling truths and commonalities among its leaders that have led them all to the same place: a hatred of men and marriage. The vast majority had highly dysfunctional upbringings, fraught with emotional abuse or neglect. Many had mothers who resented their children or their husbands ( here's a post I just wrote about that very thing) and feminists internalized this dysfunction as children.

Here’s a direct quote from Gloria Steinem: “I didn’t understand the degree to which my response has been magnetized by things that had happened to me before, and I think that realization came out of being depressed.”

When women like Steinem grew up, they displaced their pain onto society. They concluded that their mothers weren’t to blame for their problems and decided that if society had functioned the way it's supposed to (with men and women as "equal," or interchangeable) their mothers would have been happy. Harboring this attitude allows feminists to resent their mothers less and hate men and society more.

In other words, once you put their lives into context, the politics that drive feminists make sense. Feminists hate anything that smacks of tradition, especially traditional gender roles, since that family structure reminds them of their past, which they associate with depression and dysfunction. Ergo, they're on a mission to destroy traditional society and to convince everyone else that this country is bad and must be changed.

"Feminism is really at odds with the civilizational legacy we've inherited," adds Mac Donald.
Mac Donald concedes this sounds hyperbolic; but those of us who follow feminists very closely know it is not. Feminists' entire worldview about men, sex, work, marriage, motherhood, and politics is filtered through a hateful lens, and they begin this destructive message in universities, when young women are still impressionable and forming their own ideas.

It is calculated, and it is evil. Indeed, feminists are a hate group. The evidence is all around us, but you have to pay attention. Just the other day Hannah Gadsby gave a pathetic speech for "Women in Entertainment" where she jokingly claims that even good men aren't good.

The dissident feminist Camille Paglia goes so far as to call feminists "literally insane" in a conversation with Jordan Peterson, who then says (which goes back to my point about feminists' upbringing) that women whose relationship with men "has been seriously pathologized can't distinguish between male authority and competence and male tyrannical power." He adds, "They fail to differentiate because all they see is the oppressive male."

In other words, giving feminists power is the equivalent of giving the enemy a hand grenade. This group will never be satisfied until, as Gillibrand wrote, "the future is female."

Wake up to what feminists are doing. Stop letting yourselves be bullied. If you don't, they will get what they want. And trust me, It won't be pretty.

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Suzanne Venker (@SuzanneVenker) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is an author, speaker and cultural critic known as “The Feminist Fixer.” She has authored several books to help women win with men in life and in love. Her most recent, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage, was published in February 2017. Suzanne’s website is www.suzannevenker.com.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Why It’s Not OK to Hate Men

by Tim Lott

Is it okay to hate women? Obviously not. It’s not only stupid and immoral but impractical given how many of them there are and the marked differences between each and every one of them. Is it okay to hate men, then? Again, obviously not, for the same reasons. Except – it’s not so obvious. Because such sentiments are again entering the mainstream.

I say ‘again’, since misandry – the unapologetic hatred of men as an undifferentiated group – is nothing new. Radical feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanis (founder of the Society for Cutting Up Men and shooter of Andy Warhol) were the most famous man-haters in the 1970s, but were pretty much disavowed at the time by many more mainstream feminists and later by third wave feminists. Misandry went out of fashion during the 1980s and the idea that feminists were all ‘lesbians and man haters’ was rightly ridiculed.

Now it’s back – and much closer to the mainstream than it was 50 years ago. Despite all the remarkable advances we have made in gender equality, the idea that all men are the enemy of all women has been given a new lease of life, helped by the disgrace of Harvey Weinstein, the rise Donald Trump and the successes of the #metoo and #timesup movements.

Understandable though this hatred may be as an emotional reaction, it is shocking – at least for a man – to see it in cold print. The highest profile attack came from Susan Danuta Walters in the Washington Post earlier this year, who says, in a piece titled, ‘Why Can’t We Hate Men’ that, far from being irrational, it “seems logical to hate men.”


If this were a lone voice, one could dismiss it as a fringe point of view. But it isn’t.
“You can’t hate all men can you? Actually I can,” writes Suzanne Moore, a British feminist, in the New Statesman in 2016. “As a class, I hate men.” Men are not a class but this doesn’t deter Moore from continuing her peroration. “I think any intelligent woman hates men,” she continues. She even comes up with a hash tag in the hope that this blanket condemnation will catch on – #yesallmen.
Meanwhile, in ‘The Cut’ section of the New York magazine, a member of the public writing in complains to the ‘agony aunt’ – the journalist Heather Havrilesky – that she “hates men” and is in danger of becoming a “cranky old bitch”. Heather suggests in reply that she simply embrace her inner bitch. “Most men are terrible,” she says. “Most men are shit.”

In addition, two articles on Medium – not quite as mainstream as New York magazine, the Washington Post, and the New Statesman, but certainly not fringe – echo the theme. Turns out, it’s not only (self-defined) man-hating women who have turned towards hate as a response to gender inequality. So have some men – like Anthony James Williams who writes in Medium that, “Women don’t have to like us, and history shows us that they have a right to hate us.”

In the charmingly titled ‘When You Can’t Throw All Men Into The Ocean And Start Over, What CAN You Do? Ijeoma Oluo – the mother of two boys, God help them – writes,
This society is doing everything it can to create rapists, to enable rapists, and to protect rapists. This society is broken, abusive, patriarchal (and white supremacist, ableist, hetero-cisnormative) trash. This entire patriarchal society is responsible for every single sexual assault that occurs.
If reading such hatred is exhausting, actually generating it must be even more so. I suspect hate is a young person’s game (although Danuta Walkers and Moore are not exactly spring chickens). It is tempting to shrug off this new misandry as just silly and something of a sideshow, but it’s possible that it represents a real strand of rising consciousness. If that is the case, it is not merely silly – it is dangerous. I have occasionally indulged in group hatred – ISIS in their racist, faithist, head-hacking, innocent-slaughtering prime, the Conservative Party in the 1980s, anyone involved in Prog Rock – but it’s not a very healthy principle to base your life around.

What does it mean to hate an otherwise random and unrelated group of people, as opposed to a specific individual? We can all enjoy hating, say, Nazis, pedophiles, and ISIS executioners beheading an aid worker. Hate can be reassuring, which is why it is so seductive. But when one is hating Nazis, one is hating people who subscribe to an ideology, an idea. Pedophiles and ISIS executioners are historically smaller groups, but they are also defined by a particular idea – sexual attraction to children and the cult of death. At some level, they’ve made a choice. No one is born a Nazi or an Islamist murderer, and even if Pedophilia is genetically influenced, that doesn’t absolve its perpetrators of guilt. However, hating men is not hating an idea or an abhorrent form of behaviour. It is hating half the world’s population, rich and poor, kind and cruel, black and white, gay and straight, just because they happen to have a Y chromosome.

To hate such a disparate group seems – is – demented. However, there is a prism through which it makes perfect sense, the prism constructed by the odd and contradictory fusion of neo-Marxism and post-modernism.

In this scheme of thought, now widely taught in the humanities and social science departments of the West’s leading universities, there are no intrinsically superior, universal values, like love or dignity or general human goodwill – and no such thing as ‘objective’ truth in the scientific sense. It’s all relative. There are just multiple and sometimes overlapping groups that compete for power, and their values, even their idea of what constitutes a ‘fact’, are determined by the relative status of their group. The most powerful group in society – in all societies – are men, and men, therefore, are collectively guilty for the oppression of every less powerful group.

Since anything men utter is tainted by their place in the power hierarchy and their implicit desire to maintain that power – a homeless man at Grand Central station may be surprised, even delighted, to learn that he occupies a ‘privileged’ position in this hierarchy – nothing a man says can be taken at face value because, consciously or unconsciously, it is imbued with patriarchal values and language. Whether they realise it or not, all men are engaged in a struggle to consolidate and extend their power, particularly over women. This is doubtless why, according to this theory, rape is considered a manifestation of male dominance – of the patriarchy – rather than an expression of sexual desire. Power is everything – which tells you something, perhaps, about the status anxiety of this theory’s most fanatical adherents.

Thus it is okay to hate all men – they are all infected by the canker of patriarchy which, unlike individual thoughts and motivations, is a kind of all-powerful super-organism, a hive mind controlling its male worker bees. Men as individuals are simply tokens of something deeper – structural misogyny embedded in institutional power. If you’re a man who thinks you are not a misogynist, who in fact thinks you like women perfectly well, you are deluding yourself. For such men, their sexism is simply unconscious, just as in classical Marxism the ‘good’ bourgeois was unconscious of the fact that he could not avoid exploiting his workers or employees, even though he might be providing them with a decent wage, good working conditions, and health and pension benefits.

This analysis, given a moment’s thought, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Even if you accept that all the ills of the world are down to patriarchy and the dominance of men, you have to concede the corollary – that all the triumphs of humankind are down to the patriarchy also, from medicine and science to the highest reaches of art and culture.

Women may point out that they have been excluded from these fields until now, and that’s largely true, although biology – the lack of control women have historically had over their own fertility and the greater physical strength of men – might be a far more simple and plausible explanation than the existence of a hypothetical, all-powerful super-organism. However, the very act that men hold the balance of power is proof of the existence of patriarchy, according to this belief system.

My own view is that we have not ended up in the place we are, for good or ill, because men are evil and stupid, or kind and clever, or because we’re all enslaved by the patriarchy. We are here largely because of blind chance – biology, the haphazard advance of technology and the peculiarities of human nature shaped by natural selection. Like most ‘ordinary’ people, I am quite sure such a thing as human nature exists and while some sex differences are biological, men and women are psychologically similar – far more similar than they are different.

As such, misandry is deeply irrational. Hating men is counterproductive. Hating men is not going to advance the cause of gender equality. On the contrary, if you tell someone that you hate them, simply because they have a penis, they have two basic alternative responses (other than ignoring you, which is probably the most sensible response). They can cringe and apologise – as many liberals do in the face of such onslaughts, hoping in vain for rehabilitation. The Maoists and their show trials did a lot to reveal the intrinsic human propensity to confess to imaginary sins. Alternatively, and more dangerously, you can respond with, “If you are justified in hating me then I am justified in hating you.”

Therein lies the hazard. I’m not denying that hatred can sometimes produce positive results, even a form of justice. Maybe some white supremacists, learning that they arouse intense feelings of hatred in others, have abandoned their beliefs. Perhaps those flirting with ethno-nationalism have been deterred from embracing it in the knowledge that it will make them a social pariah. But it’s harder to abandon your gender.

Hatred is also useful in providing people with motivation when prosecuting a just war – the Second World War wouldn’t have been won without hatred of the Nazis. But when unfocussed, inappropriate or overgeneralised, hatred is liable to produce far less desirable results. Resentment, for one thing. Anger, for another. More hatred in response. A sense of injustice on the part of good men – and such men do exist in numbers very similar, I suspect, to the number of good women. These feelings may well curdle and lead to an attitude of “If you think I’m hateful then I might as well be hateful.”

Such a response is tempting because hate has an array of psychological rewards. By hating me as a member of my group, you are legitimizing my temptation to hate you as a member of your group. So now I have a ready made justification for hating women, which didn’t previously exist (although a Google search of “I hate women” reveals zero results, unlike a search for “I hate men”).
Hatred can be a way of virtue-signaling – a way of contrasting yourself favorably with the hated party, i.e. as a ‘good person’ in comparison. To hate Nazis means you’re publicly announcing yourself as not being a Nazi. To hate pedophiles means you are not a pedophile. However, for all its short-term payoffs, hate strangles all understanding. This is as true when directed towards genuinely hateful groups – like white supremacists – as it is for those less universally deserving of condemnation, such as men. Once you hate someone, or a group, you don’t have to bother understanding them. It simplifies the world and saves a lot of mental spadework.

I don’t think that many women would say, or even think, that they hate men. But the increasingly widespread perception is that men are generally a bad lot, As Uluo puts it in Medium: “This entire patriarchal society is responsible for every single sexual assault that occurs.” We are, by default, morally in the wrong in most matters and furthermore unfairly privileged and entitled even when we don’t obviously appear to be (as in our homeless friend at Grand Central). This all-encompassing generalisation has a lot of small-scale but significant effects.

In personal relationships, for example, where any woman who thinks men are generally rotten and hateful is liable to take a pretty jaundiced view of any particular disagreement that unfolds between them and their significant other. The man, according to this toxic ideology, is going to be a priori in the wrong before the argument even starts.

I’m not suggesting women should be naïve or unduly trusting of men – yes, men commit nearly all the rapes, and most of the violence, there’s no getting away from that, and it’s no small thing, not in the least. I am forced to admit that in my experience, men are often, though by no means always, capable of being arrogant, ego driven, entitled and insensitive and I don’t necessarily exclude myself, certainly not my younger self.

Hate us if you will – your feelings are your own after all and sometimes those feelings are justified. Just don’t expect it to achieve anything positive, or make you feel better in the long run, or to produce a generous response in the objects of your ire. It may provide temporary relief from the phenomenon of the simple and relentless random unfairness of the world, but there can be a terrible arrogance in hate – the arrogance generated by what is in fact a deep self-doubt and buried fear. Fear of what? Of chaos, of uncertainty, of the fact that its very hard to work out what’s right and what’s wrong in even a single particular circumstance and individual, let alone an entire system or gender. As Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure.”

It is an old and perhaps sexist trope that women should beware of ruthless and dishonest seducers who are out to lead them down the path to destruction. Perhaps it might be useful to think of hate in exactly that way – and send it packing, its ears ringing with curses, and vows of passionate and perpetual rejection.

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Article originally appears at Quillette.com

Tim Lott is a writer and journalist. His best-known book is The Scent of Dried Roses which won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography and is now a Penguin Modern Classic. Follow him on Twitter at @timlottwriter.