What Bettina Arndt Is Missing About Men's Rights And Masculinity
Bettina Arndt is one of the many who have come forward to “help” men, and in doing so was rewarded with an OAM for her significant service to “gender equality through advocacy for men.”
As a young man who has felt the pushes and pulls of masculine culture, I feel it is important that we continue to talk about the health and well-being of men.
My issue is that when people such as Bettina Arndt defend men’s rights by criticising an “anti-male” culture, they fail to address the solution that would liberate more men. When the importance of men’s rights is discussed as Bettina Arndt does -- as an attempt to combat a world that supposedly demonises us for being men -- it so often upholds, or offers too small a reflection on, the structure that actually tears so many of us down.
We have a masculinity crisis.
I see it at the bar where the competitive spirit of one-upmanship, and the need to measure ourselves against one another, is funnelled through the number of drinks you can have in a race to see who can get the most pissed.
I hear it in the silence of lunchtime coffees after the same few topics have been discussed, the same few jokes told, and no one wants to ask anything more personal.
I felt it on the cold hard steps of Randwick TAFE where I spent one winter's night after being unable to reconcile my own emotions.
We have a masculinity crisis.
It’s the fact that the leading cause of death for men aged 15 to 44 is suicide.
It’s the fact that men searching for a tool to displace their own pain divert it through the only means they think is appropriate -- their fists.
It’s the fact that on average one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
Everywhere I look, I see masculinity in crisis.
In school yards where your status as a young man is uplifted by losing your virginity as those who fail are relegated down the chain.
In online message boards, which are dominated by young men often reported as being “rejects” to male culture, I see a deep over-conformity to masculine standards. It’s visible in the language of “cucks” and “alphas” and “betas” that derive from the adherence of masculinised hierarchies where winning is the only option.
Why are men suffering?
When we lose our jobs, or don’t get a promotion, or take a pay cut, why does it cut so deep? Why do we feel so inferior and hard done by?
When you’re primed your whole life to be “the breadwinner” and constantly try and find your place in the hierarchy you think you must climb, then these feelings will inevitably arise.
If we lived in a world that wasn’t so dominated by the entitlement of men to their jobs, who are told their sole purpose is to win the bread, then losing a job, or not getting that promotion, would not be the oppressive force some say it is. In fact, an approach to gender equality in the workplace, and a less gender-stereotypical parental leave system, so that men are not seen only as providers, would be for the betterment of everyone.
And when we talk about toxic masculinity, are we demonising young men?
Contrary to what Bettina Arndt may say, no we are not telling young men they are inherently evil.
Over the years I’ve had many beautiful and sincere moments with men who have given me a shoulder to cry on in my darkest times and I’ve felt a great sense of inclusiveness and camaraderie in many male groups.
But masculinity can become toxic.
It becomes toxic when you feel the only way to fit in or to be a man is to scull that drink you’ve been handed through fear that if you don’t, you will be called a “pussy” and lose status in the group. It becomes toxic when it provides a far too narrow scope for manhood.
If we speak of male oppression and an "anti-male" culture -- as Bettina Arndt does when she says our school system is "constantly demonising boys" and that "we never do anything to praise men" -- then we should speak about the chains of toxic masculinity that are so often the source of the pain we feel.
With the focus of men’s rights activists, such as Bettina Arndt, the attention is far too often shifted towards an external enemy; typically, women and gender equality. Such was the case during her campus tour, where she criticised universities for “kowtowing to a small group of feminist activists" and lying about the safety of young women on campus.
In reality we must confront what it is that tears us down from within ourselves. The thing that pushes us to climb the hierarchy and makes us feel inadequate if we don’t. The thing that says to be a man you have to be tough, take what is yours, and turn the wheel.
We are in the midst of a masculinity crisis. In this crisis, we have the opportunity to rethink what it means to be a man, and as a result, shift our idea of what “men’s rights” truly are.