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The Men Are Revolting

17/11/2016 09:23
Simon Winnall via Getty Images

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It used to be the case that when someone said something ridiculous, outdated, racist, misogynist, homophobic, anachronistic, you could respond 'It's 2016' and leave the argument safe in the knowledge that your grounding in modernity, and their oafishness, was palpable enough to settle the matter. But since 2016 has been the year that Brexit preceded Trump, the dragging of the two most conspicuous 'Western democracies' back centuries on social liberalism is kryptonite to the date. Now if someone calls you a bitch, or a faggot, or a nigger, and you take umbrage, they can say 'It's 2016' and you're stymied.

Animal masculine display at its worst caused Brexit, and Trump (and the wars, and all the fights on Friday night, and ignoring global warming, and....) and its testosterone- fuelled tentacles inevitably ensnared women too, because that's what patriarchy does. Statistics showing 52% women voted for Trump isn't evidence that misogyny played no part in his success, any more than it's proof that Trump-supporting 'traditional, conservative' men coerced their cowed wives into voting for him too. Trump has a wife. That's at least one woman who is prepared to overlook his pathological misogyny.

With Brexit, a resonating argument among those who voted Leave appeared to be the regaining of sovereignty. This was nonsense. We don't give up sovereignty when we agree to pool elements of it. There was nothing to regain. Agreeing on European-wide protections for workers, necessary because it was a single market is not the same as giving Someone Else the right to control your laws. Using medical researchers from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and the rest, and the UK, and letting them pool intellectual resources, and gain access to funding from multiple countries meaning budgets for crucial research are larger, is not reducing your sovereignty; it's enhancing it. Especially if such endeavours cure cancer and half your population benefits from its fruits.

But framed as it was as a power struggle, it lured out the worst masculine impulses of people to see opposition where there is none, to set up Us against Them, and it was thus incredibly easy to get people to vote Leave. The attractiveness of making our country more powerful, through the false notion that we getting something back, as opposed to just backing out of lots of things, was siren-like in its ability to cause deafness to the destruction (or dismantling) that was being voted for. All of that Farage froth was toxic because its allure was destruction, that most distinguished masculine trait. When all you want to do is topple a building, you don't care what happens to the rubble. You don't contemplate what to build there next. So of course, there was no post- Brexit plan.

All Trump had to do to win was to expound a version of brash masculinity that people have been crying out for ever since it suddenly wasn't okay to keep slaves, or rape your wife, or sack someone for being black, or force a trans woman to use a male bathroom. The pushback against these tragically basic humanitarian principles has been spearheaded by white men who believe that other people having rights means they've somehow lost their own. Trump rode a fascistic wave that for some reason is being called Alt Right (all trite?), but that wave was also so virulently misogynist that even the most qualified woman on the planet to run America ( I mean, she didn't bomb enough people for these men to vote for her? Come on!) couldn't beat the man who loves America so much he wants to topple its economy. At least the usual US warmongering is to fill the American coffers.

This is a huge roar for masculinity, which feels threatened by the voices of women that social media has helped amplify. The exchange of views as never before has entrenched so-called gender wars, instead of easing them. I suspect this is because most social media platforms are by design superficial. A snapshot, or 140 characters, is not designed to foster depth, and so inter- group discussion breaks down easily. When factoring in the anonymising and dehumanising effects of cyberspace, it's clear that social media enjoys its gladiatorial- and masculine- infrastructure and ethics can hang.

When Facebook ums and ahs over whether to alert people to fake facts, you know they're not that interested in facilitating ethics in media. You can of course use social media for purely joyous purposes, but to deny its impact in fostering oppositional dialogue where sexuality, gender, race and the rest are concerned is to ignore reality. Heartening discoveries of similarities make up half the coin, violent opposition to your existence the other. No amount of muting and blocking will shield you from the onslaught. So people make the choice to persist in asserting themselves, while taking the abuse. Once, the only voice we heard was white and male. Now other voices are amplified, and patriarchal white supremacy has got itself in formation.

What men are scared of is losing dominance. This should not be a controversial statement. We need to get to grips with the danger that this particular brand of toxic masculinity poses when cornered. It's so dangerous that it ploughs through intersections like a speeding car. Mexican men will vote for Trump's masculine and violent vision despite his racist comments. Women vote for him despite the threat that rape culture poses to them and their daughters. What is it that's so alluring about Trump or Brexit's message, other than surrender to our destructive impulses?

The answer is obviously not gender- specific. Marine Le Pen will use toxic masculinity to push favour for her racist agenda as much as Trump will should she gain power. The answer is elusive actually, but getting in formation right back must surely be the beginning.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around men to highlight the pressures they face around identity and to raise awareness of the epidemic of suicide. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, the difficulty in expressing emotion, the challenges of speaking out, as well as kick starting conversations around male body image, LGBT identity, male friendship and mental health.

To blog for Building Modern Men, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com. If you would like to read our features focused around men, click here

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