“Who run the world?” asks Beyoncé in her recent hit song, before answering unequivocally: “Girls.” Her record was the first many had heard of this change of leadership–but it makes you think, doesn’t it? What would the world be like if it were actually true? If civilisation were left in female hands, would we live in a utopia free from violence, rape and urine-spattered toilet seats? Or would we, as feminist academic Camille Paglia once cruelly suggested, still be living in grass huts?
It’s an intriguing thought experiment, and one that many feminists have been doing for decades. What if men invented patriarchy because they were jealous of the amazing societies women had created? What if a female-led society wouldn’t actually dissolve in a fit of bitching and hissy fits?
The idea of girls running the world might make for catchy R&B numbers and amusing listicles in Buzzfeed, but this relentless self-adulation speaks not only to the insecurity of the modern feminist movement, but to something more sinister. Since the 1970s, misandry has been easing its way into the cultural mainstream, driven by a small but vocal clique of militant third-wave feminists. Unhappy with the reality of living as respected equals in the new society gifted to them by first- and second-wave feminism, these radicals have embarked on a mission to dismantle society as a whole. Why? Because society was built by men, and is therefore somehow intrinsically rotten.
According to this worldview, society’s ills can be traced back to the ground zero of human depravity: something called “toxic masculinity”. In order to save society from itself, human civilisation must be cleansed of masculinity. Does that mean the elimination of men? For some of them–lesbians are strongly represented among third-wave feminist ranks–the answer may be yes. Others, however, believe “genocide” is the sort of masculine pursuit that got us all into trouble in the first place.
Step one of the feminist plan to rescue civilisation has been to convince everyone else that gender is an arbitrary construct. In defiance of biological science (a field dominated by men and thus of course steeped in patriarchal dogma) feminists have decided that gender was cooked up by the patriarchy to justify violence against women. Amazingly, they’ve been quite successful: most people accept the sex-gender distinction uncritically.
Second, feminists want to undermine men and engineer masculinity out of society in favour of feminine virtues such as gentleness, empathy and ruthless backstabbing. And it’s here things get ugly. Almost one in five boys in the US have been neutered with drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to control their hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Schools are banning games like “tag.” woe betide any boy who chews pastry into the shape of a gun.
Efforts to micromanage masculinity out of boys reach ludicrous heights in places where women are most “equal” in society. In Sweden, the advertising regulator has been reprimanding toy stores for producing inappropriate catalogues that dare to suggest that girls might like to play with dolls, and has offered “training and guidance” on how to market Barbie to boys.
We know that most boys prefer playing with lego and most girls prefer playing with dolls. Science knows it too: in a famous experiment at Cambridge University, one-day-old male infants were observed to be more likely to look at a mechanical mobile suspended above them than a human face; female infants behaved in the opposite way.
Men enter university to find that expressions of masculinity are not only offensive to women, but apparently contribute to an environment in which women feel unsafe. The display of any remotely boyish behaviour is chastised as “lad culture,” and, when the puritanical feminists can get away with it, punished for promoting “rape culture”.
The claims made by campus warriors about the perverse nature of masculinity are so ludicrous it can be hard to separate fact from satire. Last week, the president of the Cambridge Union suggested that the matching ties worn by some university drinking societies “normalise and institutionalise rape culture”.
Despite the best efforts of zealots to make their daughters play with fire engines and to ban Robin Thicke from the airwaves, business and politics is still dominated by men. This failure to reprogramme men has led to step two of the girl power manifesto; remove men from positions of power and influence by force. The preferred tool for this war on men? Emotional manipulation.
In order to give their case credence, the entirety of human oppression has been recruited to their cause. Men aren’t in positions of privilege and power because patriarchy has gifted them a free pass, but because of an even bigger overarching system that is oppressing women and ethnic minorities and gays and disabled and transgendered people. Especially transgendered people. It’s something the feminist Bell Hooks calls the “white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy”. You will notice it’s only white men who need booting out of their computer science jobs.
The victimhood and whining is working. Barely a week goes by without a commentator in the media bemoaning the lack of women in the upper echelons of the workplace. And by the workplace, they mean cosy bourgeois office jobs, not agriculture, construction or driving trucks. Since 2002, listed companies in Norway have been obliged to meet a forty per cent quota for female directors, a myopic policy that has given rise to the “golden skirts” phenomenon. A small cabal of around 70 suitably qualified women hold multiple directorships; at one time, the most in-demand token woman, Mimi Berdal, sat on 90 boards.
In spite of Norway’s unimpressive track record, Spain and the Netherlands have passed similar laws, Germany has just announced that it will join them and the European Commision is considering imposing the practice across the continent.
Efforts to atone for the sins of the white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchal monsters seem to have no end. Despite the glass ceiling no longer existing in British politics, the Labour party has introduced all-women shortlists, a system that bans their male members from running for office in certain constituencies. This illiberal and anti-democratic policy of over-promotion has unsurprisingly not been the greatest success, both delivering voters sub-par candidates, ruining the careers of talented young women and holding men back.
The most notorious of Labour’s failed shortlist candidates, was the hapless Jacqui Smith whose inexplicable promotion gave the UK its most inept Home Secretary in living memory. After leaving the Cabinet she gave a candid interview in which she confessed that while she hoped she had done a good job “it was more by luck than by any kind of development of skills.” She also bemoaned her “lack of training” for the position of power she was given.
Every cult needs a creation myth and third-wave feminists have a corker of a genesis story that puts Scientology to shame. You see, if men invented patriarchal social norms in order to suppress women, there has to have been a time before the system was invented: a garden of Eden where men didn’t bat an eye at low cut tops and women, unencumbered by societal norms, hunted lions with their bare hands while palming off nappy duties to one of their husbands.
The idea that mystical ancients governed themselves based on feminine principles has propelled much of the anti-patriarchy movement. The doctrine started in the 1860s when Swiss anthropologist Johann Jakob Bachofen argued that early societies were governed by women and maternal love was the glue that held civilisation together. These early people lived in harmony with nature and the universe until men seized control from women and asserted their domination.
The idea snowballed. In her 1930 book Mothers and Amazons, a self described “first feminine history of culture”, the Austrian intellectual Bertha Eckstein-Diener popularised the notion that all societies were matriarchal until they were overthrown and poisoned by the patriarchy. She was capitalising on the rot that had set in a few decades earlier when when Friedrich Engels, in his book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State used the matriarchal myth to justify the overthrow of society. He proposed that before capitalism women dominated men, but as men acquire material goods they needed to created a system that allowed them to pass wealth on. Thus patriarchy, the subjugation of women, capitalism, greed and individualism.
Perhaps the most puzzling thing about the claim that men seized control of the family for their own malevolent ends, is that it is completely at odds with reality. I mean, just ask any husband who really rules the roost in their house. Patriarchy’s genius is that it divides social responsibility along biologically defined lines. Of course there are plenty of exceptions that prove rules, but the differences between men and women are real, and rooted in biological fact.
At this point it’s probably worth defining what patriarchy is and how it relates to masculinity. Patriarchy seeks to produce and protect children by assigning roles to men and women. Women look after the children, men provide for the family. For much of history this may have sucked a bit for the minority who didn’t conform to gender norms: women who hate children and men who like playing house. But, in terms of human survival, it served us pretty well.
What patriarchy has never been is a system for oppressing women. Many men throughout history would have happily had sex with a woman, then disappeared off without providing support or protection if society had let them get away with it. Patriarchy is a form of social control that suppresses men’s sexual instinct for the good of society and keeps them around to look after the kids. It certainly doesn’t act in men’s unfettered self-interest.
In recent years, studies by scientists such as Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge have proved what we already know: women are more adept at empathy and boys are better at systematising. That is to say, that the male brain is better at understanding how a system works and thus how a system can be controlled or improved. Men’s brains are the perfect tool for battling and overcoming the natural world, for example to build cities or aircraft or ships.
The second difference is men come with a greater variance in intelligence. In effect, this means men are more likely to be air-headed simpletons or sublime geniuses, whereas women tend towards the mean.
The final defining difference between men and women is more abstract. Women tend to have less difficulty making peace with their place in the world, while a man’s sense of purpose is often more fraught. Men can find contentment harder to achieve. There’s an innate desire in men to prove one’s worth, to overcome the natural order, to achieve and to satisfy the ego. It’s what people mean when they say men are competitive: boys have an innate desire to win.
That desire to control, a greater propensity towards extreme intelligence and an obsessive compulsion to prove oneself are at the root of both the vilest crimes and greatest achievements of the male species. To again quote Camille Paglia, “there is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.”
When it is perverted, masculinity can indeed be terrifying. But masculinity itself is not a perversion. The patriarchy gifted us fire, agricultural ploughs, wheels, textiles, capitalism, painting, writing, medicine, music, metal, paper, literature, the pyramids, canals, bridges, sculpture, optics, pottery, fireworks, printing, industrialisation, mechanics, electricity, planes, trains, cars, spaceships, phones, radio, TV, sports, towns, cities, skyscrapers, nuclear fusion, computers, the internet, politics, philosophy, economics, democracy, the enlightenment, microwaves, hoovers, disposable nappies, washing machines and even battery-powered vibrators.
The feminists are right about one thing. It’s a great privilege to be a white man. We have liberated humankind from the drudgery of agrarian subsistence and built a world where individual liberty can take precedence over all else. The patriarchal masculinity that today’s feminists are trying to squeeze out of boys is responsible for the appliances that ended domestic drudgery, devised the economic and philosophical frameworks that bestow freedom on women to self determine their own lives and created the birth control pill, freeing women from nature’s animal cycle and from their obligation to keep their side of the patriarchal bargain.
Not to be entitled, but: some appreciation would be nice.