About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (a bad wordplay on Orwell's "double plus good" and old machismo - I'm the realest after all) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear' or 'Unripe language'), the umbrella of several literary projects in Dutch.

This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Why is this in English why everything else in Dutch? Because I want to gun for a much wider audience here. Also, my literary English isn't good enough, otherwise I would always write in English.

Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The myth of the man-beast

Mealy-mouthed crusaders of Internet misogyny, better known as 'Men's Rights Activists' or MRAs, sometimes complain that thanks to feminism, men have gotten a questionable reputation of beastly savages unable to contain their primal instincts of murder and rape. 

As usual, MRAs blame feminism for something that men actually have another group to blame for: patriarchy, and by extension, themselves.

Earlier, I wrote about how the idea of what it means to be a man or how you can define yourself as a man, is a trap. It's always going to end up being restrictive.

That doesn't mean that we shouldn't combat clich├ęs. All too frequently, men (and some women) invoke their so-called inherent primal nature to justify violence, stupidity and generally inappropriate sexual behaviour. But, let's not forget that no proof has ever been offered for arguments made by evolutionary psychology. Even if they were true, they are no excuse. We have managed to get ourselves potty trained, too. No one will defend shitting in the street because it's something animals would do or our ancestors might have done.

Let's become aware of some damaging internalised ideas and behaviour:
  • Men are taught that displaying grief, pain, fear or in some cases affection is a sign of weakness. However, getting in touch with the full range of human emotions and how to express them leads to a richer experience in life and makes it easier to relate to others, ultimately improving overall life satisfaction.
  • Men are taught that they should dominate others, especially women, either as benevolent protectors or as predators. Letting go of that social imperative produces more egalitarian relationships and less frustration for not meeting goals that might not even contribute to your happiness.
  • Men are taught that subtlety, nuance, caution and a fine command of language is a sign of indecisiveness and weakness. However, by getting a grasp on the shades of grey that are simply a part of life, understanding of how the world works deepens, and leads to decisions that are better-argued, with better outcomes.
  • Men are taught that verbal or physical violence is an acceptable answer in many situations. By restraint and resorting to violence only as a very last resort, situations are less likely grow out of control and breed lasting resentment.
  • Men are taught not to say sorry or sincerely apologise. By learning to admit mistakes, you become more honest with yourself and more open in your dealings with others.
  • Men are taught that they are or should be sexually insatiable and incapable of long-term monogamy, conflicting with the other essentialist view of women seeking the comfort of a long-term sexual relationship. An individual approach to sexuality that depends more on what a person wants for themselves instead of feeling pressured to do what they think they are supposed to do will lead to improved relationships and a better sex life.
  • Men are taught that some, if not most women, are there to be ogled and in some cases harrassed and assaulted for crossing some arbitrary line of decency, while at the same time not desiring sex. Breaking this mental dichotomy and viewing women as individuals with individual desires, moulded by social pressure just like you are, leads to less generalising and essentialism.
  • Men are taught that some occupations are manly and some are not. The more equal the gender ratio becomes in a line of work, the better the decisions are that get taken.
  • Men are taught that minorities and women are often out to get them or have a secret desire to oppress them. Realising that minorities and women have legitimate grievances resulting from centuries of systematic oppression that still exist today, but are invisible to you, will make you realise that progress is not a zero-sum game. Others' rights do not infringe on yours.
  • Men are taught that no sometimes means yes. By instead going for enthusiastic consent, you can be sure that partners are into it just as much as you are. The risk of ignoring boundaries is not worth it.
Now, as a last point, it is obviously true that the things men are taught can be and will be enforced by some women as well. This can be frustrating, but you should realise that women can be influenced and immersed in patriarchy just as much as men. Changing some women's binary gender thinking is not your job, but you can at least make a difference for other men.