C: Pixabay

Who laments the Patriarchy when men are sent to fight wars? 

This is going to sound a bit crass. International Women’s Day passed with many celebrations of women across the globe but there was one celebration that did not happen at all. It is not a surprise that it was not celebrated but it is probably the greatest benefit of being a woman that there could possibly be right now.

All men from aged 16 to 60 in the Ukraine were told they were not allowed leave their country and that they had to be prepared to fight the Russian invasion. Women and children are allowed to leave.

And rightly so.

But this ‘social norm’ is a relic of a patriarchal society where ‘the men’ do the fighting and the women look after the children. Gender equality demands the end to patriarchal social norms. Yet, there was a silence when the Ukrainian President issued this order that belied the commitment of the feminist movement to radical equality – in everything everywhere.

But radical equality has never been the demand. Lack of equality in STEM is highlighted repeatedly as an indication that gender inequality still exists. There are apparently glass ceilings for women and girls choosing to work in those sectors.

Inequality in rubbish bin collecting is never an issue. Inequality in the care services is regularly highlighted.

Yet, the gravest, starkest in equality to perpetrated in modern Europe did not raise a protest. If anything, there was a deliberate silence.

In the midst of something as serious as what is happening in the Ukraine it feels small minded to bring up this issue. Anyone who would bring it up is making a mountain out of a molehill in comparison to the scale of the tragedy unfolding.

Yet, this is the challenge. When groups such as the NWCI fail to stand up for equal treatment of women when and as it suits their agenda, it is important to call it out. Not that it will matter to them or any other selective equacktivists but it shouldn’t be left unsaid.

Clearly those who trumpet equality do not disagree with the decree from the Ukraine. Their silence tells us that they tacitly endorse it – or certainly do not care about it on its merits as a decision or the fact that it is egregious inequality. And those who do not spend their lives looking at life through the lens of identity grievance do not consider it an issue. That is both sides of the coin, so why say anything at all if it is not an issue?

It isn’t an issue in itself. The issue is with the inconsistency and the double standards employed when it comes to days like International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day, gender equality, once the spectre of war or some other extreme hardship knocks progressive society out of its daydream, become optional extras. They are the luxuries of a modern society that has little else to be occupied with.

In an era where leisure time is greater than it ever was, the working week is shorter, life expectancy longer, serious illness is on the long finger and the spectre of disease and pestilence are all but forgotten, where disposable income is a right rather than luxury, social safety nets mean there is no need to go to work if you do not wish to, people have time to be pre-occupied with the type of gender inequality that exists in Ireland.

Toxic masculinity can be something that can be protested against and promotion of ‘positive’ masculinities is something that governments will fund activists groups to go into schools to teach children about.

Yet, when there is all this talk of positive masculinities, no activist groups talk about the willingness to go to war, to take up arms, to defend the country from invaders. The ‘positive’ masculinities are the emasculating type. And there is nothing wrong with being more tender and caring, sharing the burden of carework, being open to your emotions – there are many positive aspects to these qualities but like all virtues, there is the danger of swinging to the extremities.

Just as there is courage, it lies between rashness and cowardice. The modern, ‘western’, progressive masculinities risk under-emphasising the attributes needed for courage, leading to, if not cowardice an inability to be effectively courageous, which is equally as bad as over-emphasising and landing in rashness. In the event of extreme events, society cannot simply switch on the virtues needed, just as Europe cannot roll out the weaponry to defend itself without prior investment.

And like the depletion of defence forces and mechanisms across Europe caused by governments and society falling ever more deeply into the somnolence of an assumed perpetual peace, the deprecation of masculinity is a short-sighted self-destructive luxury for those wrapped in the benefits of modernity, insulated and ignorant of the threat that human nature brings.

Gender theory would tell you that Vladmir Putin is an example of toxic masculinity. He is a bad guy and that falls under the definition of toxic masculinity. Now, if you try to get a concise, more specific definition, you will be doing well – but it will be suitably vague as to be described as cultural traits or norms in men that are harmful to themselves and society.

Thus, it begs the question. Toxic masculinity is by definition, bad. And if something is bad, then it is an example of toxic masculinity.

Dig a bit deeper, and you might get told that Putin’s authoritarianism is what makes his masculinity toxic. Or now, his aggression against his neighbours. It is his masculinity that is toxic. We never heard of toxic humanity. Or toxic femininity.

You hear a lot these days about feminist leadership. Ask what it is and you find out it has nothing to do with being feminist but are just general modern leadership approaches – not to everyone’s liking; but old style command and control type leadership is derided as patriarchal. This is par for the course as language increasingly means very little and the usage of words bear no relation to their actual meaning.

As International Women’s Day passed without a celebration of the cultural, patriarchal norms which mean that the men go to war and the women and children go first, it is important to remember the first rule of identity politics.

Things I like: Good. Things I don’t like: Bad.

Or, more correctly,  Things I like: Feminist. Things I don’t like: Masculine

The rest is just window dressing.



David Reynolds

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