Friday, May 26, 2006
I must admit I’ve always found the basic tenets of feminism somewhat puzzling.
I mean: what is Patriarchy? It implies a kind of universal rule of the fathers. But which fathers are they referring to? Is it your Dad, or my Dad, or somebody else’s Dad?
I think it is an abstraction that misplaces the blame onto men in general, and fathers in particular, when men are often as oppressed as women, and fathers are usually very loving people.
I speak as a father and as a man, of course.
So who is the most oppressed exactly: a western woman living in a nice home in Surrey, or a poor third-world labourer living in a shanty-town, struggling to earn enough to keep his family alive? And yet is often these middle-class women you hear complaining the most about “the patriarchal system.”
It could be said that feminism’s only real achievement is that now wealthy families have two incomes rather than one.
I once shared a house with an ardent feminist. We were good friends but we used to argue a lot. She would go to women’s groups. This was in the early eighties, and women’s groups were all the rage.
One day she said, “men don’t talk about their feelings.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“We discussed it in our women’s group,” she said.
“Were there any men there?”
“Of course not.”
“So how do you know that men don’t discuss their feelings?” I observed. “You didn‘t ask.”
Later, again, this purely political feminism became spiritualised, with the notion of the sacred feminine and the rebirth of goddess worship. I think a lot of this was to do with Greenham Common. All these women sitting around the fire under the stars with very little else to do. They started divining religious symbolism into everything.
This, of course, is a good thing. The notion of a father-god without a corresponding spiritual consort is patently absurd. After all, it takes two to tango, as it were, and why would we want to deprive God of the pleasure of company?
But lately there has been a kind of backlash, and men have started going to men’s groups. Women don’t go to women’s groups any more, but a lot of men go to men’s groups.
I went to a men’s group once. We talked about our feelings. We talked about our feelings a lot. Mostly we talked about how honoured and privileged we felt to be a part of this group, to have this opportunity to talk about our feelings. I couldn’t see it myself. To me we were a bunch of men sitting in a room talking. I kind of wished there were some women present.
Anyway it’s easy to find a group of men. Go to any pub after work and you’ll find them there. Better still, go to the pub during the World Cup. There will be a lot of men present.
Of course, they are not talking about their feelings. Generally they are shouting. In other words, they have feelings, and they are expressing them, its just that the feelings are loud and incoherent and are wholly bound up with the outcome of a football match.