A response to Ally Fogg’s “We don’t call this sexism, we call it, err…”
We live in a viciously gendered world. Roles for both men and women are socialised into us from the day we are born and heavily reinforced from all quarters until the day we die.
Except that compared to fifty and even ten years ago traditional role socialisation is far less today. Increasing numbers of parents, of whom I suggest he is one, go out of their way to counter the, often commercial pressures on their children to adopt traditional male / female roles and behaviour.
The masculine gender identity is built upon the repression of many, perhaps most, emotions.
The idea of men crying which once would have been anathema, is now quite acceptable and barely a day goes by – watch the Olympics, without us seeing a grown man blub before the world. But don’t let empirical evidence get in the way of polemic.
We (boys and men) have self-preservation instincts trained out of us, with narratives around courage, heroism and self-sacrifice. Violence is integral – we are taught to tolerate and expect it from others and to inflict it upon others in response to attack, challenge or insult. And then we wonder why some boys grow to be violent men.
Where is this cult of violence taught – in a tiny minority of homes maybe? Where is it experienced? – far more in the form of smacking which the UK has yet to ban and in violence against women, particularly by husbands and male partners.
And since when were the virtues of courage, heroism and self-sacrifice, so associated with violence that it determines the characters of boys and men? Most people’s first experience of violence is the bully, either at home or in school and in general such characters are despised. Of course some boys grow to be violent men, but to generalise this to all men as Ally does, flies in the face of reality.
The result is a model of adult masculinity which must be directly implicated in mental and physical ill-health, suicide and criminality. It is exploited, and indeed encouraged, by systems of governance which turn boys and men into cannon-fodder.
Except that the vast majority of men are neither criminal or suicidal and increasing numbers are aware of the need for and the benefits that flow from a healthy life style. As for cannon fodder apart from the disaster of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, which was very much a religion inspired conflict, you couldn’t find a military strategist who advocated or advocates such an approach to warfare since the tragedy of World War One.
Indeed today’s military strategists, for a variety of reasons, have as their prime objective, the minimising of casualties. Which is why to make sweeping generalisations covering the First, the Second and the Vietnam wars like – Young men, often still in their teens, dragged by legal and social obligation into visions of hell from Goya’s nightmares, display a woeful lack of analytical thinking.
As for this on military recruitment policy:
They weren’t selected by suitability for the role by personality or physicality, they were sent to be killed, tortured, maimed and traumatised, and indeed to kill, torture, maim and traumatise others, on one characteristic alone: their gender.
Perhaps Ally can name one senior military figure who would admit to recruiting young men to torture and be tortured, to maim and be maimed?
The difficulties of recruitment in the Boer War, First World War, when only 1 in 3 conscripts were found to be fit, and in the 1930s, posed a major problem for the military. In 1933, 95,270 tried to join the army and only 28,841 passed fit.
Today a large majority of countries, including the USA, the UK and most advanced industrial nations no longer have military conscription and many countries that do, such as Austria and Taiwan, offer an alternative to military service while in others, conscription is not enforced. And of course millions, probably the vast majority of recruits worldwide, never experience combat.
It (Ally’s model of adult masculinity) largely explains why men make up 92% of workplace deaths and about 95% of prison places.
Or maybe men commit most crimes and traditionally have reserved for themselves the most dangerous occupations and rejected the safer ones like keeping home and caring for their children.
Perhaps there is a nugget of truth to some generalised assumptions about gender differences……
Like men on average being taller, heavier and stronger than women? That’s some nugget and it’s why male on female domestic violence is far more damaging to the unfortunate recipient.
In reality the only nugget of truth is in the rest of this paragraph:
It is often assumed that aggression, risk taking and violence are inherent to maleness, a product of testosterone or neurology. This seems unlikely. If it were true, why would boys need to have all of these traits literally beaten into us by parents, teachers and (above all) our peers? Why would we need such extensive social shaming and so many conformity triggers to make them stick?
Once again this obscene mixing of on the one hand aggression and risk taking – important, indeed crucial aspects of among many other things, all sporting activity, with violence, is even more perplexing. So with what objective?
Could it be that only by conflating the three, aggression, risk taking and violence can Ally provide some credibility for a half-baked hypothesis designed to re-define sexism from the systematic oppression of one gender by another to something the ruling class does to boys and men and which they are obliged to accept and behave accordingly.
Sexism is the systematic oppression of one gender by another. I don’t agree with that definition, but never mind. So this is not the oppression of one gender by another, it is the oppression of one gender by the values of the ruling class.
So how can a man who ranks Emma Goldmann as one of of those who influences what he thinks and believes, propose this ruling class determined redefinition of sexism?:
“My lack of faith in the majority is dictated by my faith in the potentialities of the individual. Only when the latter becomes free to choose his associates for a common purpose, can we hope for order and harmony out of this world of chaos and inequality.”
Boston, the city of culture, has gone down in the annals of Puritanism as the “Bloody Town.” It rivaled Salem, even, in her cruel persecution of unauthorized religious opinions. On the now famous Common a half-naked woman, with a baby in her arms, was publicly whipped for the crime of free speech; and on the same spot Mary Dyer, another Quaker woman, was hanged in 1659. In fact, Boston has been the scene of more than one wanton crime committed by Puritanism. Salem, in the summer of 1692, killed eighteen people for witchcraft. Nor was Massachusetts alone in driving out the devil by fire and brimstone. As Canning justly said: “The Pilgrim fathers infested the New World to redress the balance of the Old.”
Emma Goldman – in The Hypocrisy of Puritanism
And what about free will – for each to determine how he or she behaves? Here’s Chomsky, another of Ally’s guides:
But you’re going to need a very powerful argument to convince me that something as evident as free will is an illusion. Nobody’s offered such an argument or even pretended to offer such an argument.