Some have called Gillette’s recent campaign ‘feminist propaganda’. Others have called for a public apology from Gillette.
But morals aren’t feminist propaganda, they’re human decency and surely, as men, we must hold ourselves accountable before we can demand that others be subject to our scrutiny?
If we ask a few questions about what these responses mean, we can learn a few things about what masculine culture really is and who it benefits.
Throughout university and when I started work, my brother Ryan and I used to come home every weekend to protect our mum and sister.
Our father would shout that I should be at the pub drinking beer like a ‘real man’, rather than spending my Friday evenings with Mum and Charlotte.
He was a miserable man. He always tried to force me to be like him. To be a ‘man’ like him. He tried to force Mum to be as he expected women should be (a slave to him).
It made me realise that holding traditional views of masculinity not only harms women, but traps men too.
When we tried to leave him and live a better life, our father murdered our mum and sister in cold blood before committing suicide. He believed he was entitled to kill us if we didn’t obey him.
My family’s case is extreme, though by no means a lone instance. Masculine culture necessitates men to believe that we are godlike. It is due to the Faustian Bargain we made: we sacrificed worthwhile emotional experiences or connection, but we demanded power in return.
If anyone on the outside of the cult raises concerns about masculine culture, it closes ranks and unites against a common enemy. Masculinity is relational, it is constructed in relation to and against an Other, which it perceives to be below it (for example: femininity). If we could all be who we wanted to be, then there would be no distinct Other: there would be no prize for the masculine sacrifice.
If anyone on the inside of the cult raises concerns, masculine dogma shames its members into conformity or forces them to run the gauntlet to escape. It uses taunts, threats and violence to discourage independent thinking and to enforce its worship of hierarchy. Once initiated, new members become yet another cog in the fascist machine that is masculine culture.
‘Fascism, you say?’
Militarism, nationalism and authoritarianism: yep.
Masculine militarism is our violence, 96% of homicides globally are committed by men. Globally, every year 60,000 women are killed by men. I could quote statistics for pages upon pages showing that serious violence is almost entirely a male activity. In most cases where women kill men, it is in self-defence against this onslaught.
Masculine authoritarianism is our peer pressure, enforcing strict obedience to masculine dogma at the expense of our individual freedom beyond the masculine border.
Masculine nationalism is our collection of trite tales on masculine mythology, stories of our biological endowment: we are lions, we are predators, we are natural leaders in the world.
You may protest, ‘I haven’t harassed, raped or murdered anyone. The men that do are just mentally ill.’
But masculinity needs those lone soldiers to uphold the regime. It is this background threat of violence that keeps men in power. Every time a man negotiates against a woman, like a militaristic state with its arsenal lined up behind it, he gets favourable negotiating terms because of this implicit threat.
‘But wait, men are victims too.’
Yes, of other men. Globally, 80% of all murder victims are men. Yes, this is the dark secret of masculine culture: we are the biggest losers to this broken order. Those men who shout the loudest against opening the strict borders of masculinity are not supporting men, they are simply defending masculinity and the existing power structures.
If the current state of affairs is the best a man can get, then we either need to accept there is something wrong with masculine culture or we need to accept that men are, by nature, flawed. We can’t deny both.
We can change this: we must remember that it is easier to dismantle a system you are within, and for this reason men have the greatest responsibility and power to destruct the system. This is not a solely altruistic pursuit. We may not have experienced male violence directly, but our emotional suppression has still alienated us from ourselves and made us miserable. If men must tackle masculinity from purely selfish reasons, then so be it, but understand that it is in our interests as much as women’s.
The existing culture of masculinity costs us all too much.
Luke Hart is a campaigner, with his younger brother Ryan, against domestic abuse after his father murdered his mother, Claire, and 19-year-old sister, Charlotte, in 2016. The brothers have written of their experiences and challenged hegemonic masculinity in their book, Operation Lighthouse, named after the police investigation into the murders.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com