Yesterday, on International Women's Day, I received an article via email from a stranger, asking for my consideration as Editor of my student newspaper.
As a company and an entity separate from the union, we regularly receive press releases and information from non-student-related sources. Rarely are these sources particularly linked to campus affairs or the city of York. In the last few days alone I've received information about schoolchildren's food allergies, a note on British Pie Week, genealogy and the appearance of Darth Vader outside a charity shop in Middlesborough. Rarely do these kinds of articles make it onto The Yorker's site - we focus strictly on news relating to the University of York and its students' union, as well as the city itself.
This article was different, however. "15 ACTIONS MEN CAN TAKE TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AGAINST FEMINISM," the title read.
It seemed more than coincidental that, only a short while earlier, the men's rights group Justice for Men and Boys (J4MB), about whom I have written earlier, shared one of my articles for The Yorker on its website. I had written about a talk given by Ella Whelan, staff writer at spiked, on the shortcomings of contemporary feminism. I introduced the article with a quote from J4MB and some examples of their ridiculous arguments against feminism. Clearly, the fact that I wrote that their arguments are based on "Largely on the basis of incredulous logic and conspiracy theories" and that it is "sad that so many of them mean what they write" didn't make a difference to the bright spark who shared the article; a hyperlink to a ramble which compared feminism with Nazism was quite enough to make it worthy of passing on.
What a charming thing to receive, on International Women's Day of all days. I am getting tired of the number of things with which feminism is regularly associated by its many, many critics - authoritarianism, gender supremacy, misandry, Nazism, communism, the enslavement of men, intellectual dishonesty, fascism, deceit and so on. In the spirit of healthy discourse, I thought it would be fun to explore (and most likely reject) as many of these fifteen ways as I could. If you fancy reading the article for yourself, click here - it's already been published by men's rights outlets such as 'A Voice for Men'. ["Post courtesy of J4MB." What a coincidence!]
Before even considering the fifteen ways that a man can protect himself against feminism, the author of the proposed article makes a number of contentious assertions. For example, the claim that "Men can be arrested and held in custody for 24 hours without being told why." Really? It's a violation of police conduct for a policeman to arrest a citizen without informing them of the reason. Following government instruction, the police should identify themselves, state the reason for arrest and the crime for which a person is suspected to be responsible. So it's not the case, legally, for men to be arrested and held in custody without knowing the reason for this. Whether this does actually happen is something for journalists to investigate - but it's not true that the government permits its police to arrest men without saying why.
Moving on to the points...
"1. RECOGNISE THAT WOMEN HAVE BECOME WEAPONISED... Under Home Office guidance, the police must now accept everything a woman says, believe everything a woman says and check very little. All female complainants are referred to as “victims.” Under the 2014 Positive Action Policy of the police YOU WILL be arrested. Under the Zero Tolerance policies of the Home Office and Alison Saunders at the Crown Prosecution Service YOU WILL be prosecuted. YOU WILL be treated as guilty until proven innocent and YOU WILL have to prove your innocence."
In the space of a paragraph there are a number of unsubstantiated claims about the way in which men are treated by police, magistrates and the courts. Unless the government has given up on centuries of civil rights, I sincerely doubt that the Home Office dictates that everything an individual claims must be accepted and believed by the police, regardless of their sex, nor that the police are intent on arresting any men for speaking out against female complainants. Finally, being treated as guilty and asked to prove one's innocence goes quite against British law.
"2. SHUN FEMINISTS AND VINDICTIVE PSYCHOS..." The reader is told to avoid feminists, whether they are married or not. Why would that make a difference? Are married feminists less of a danger than unmarried feminists? We are never told - it is left to the reader's prejudices to answer.
We should "Avoid women who have degrees in gender studies, use the word “victim,” or think the solution to their problems is to report pettiness to the police (or anyone for that matter)." Why so? These are relatively harmless character traits. Holding a degree in a particular subject, using a particular word and regularly disclosing details about problems to figures of authority in the hope of assistance don't strike me as indications of being a 'vindictive psycho'.
And finally, "Never have sex with them if they’ve had more than two drinks – they lack legal capacity to consent and they or their feminist friend can later accuse you of rape..." Would that mean if they were sober, their consent to your sexual advances would be automatic? The focus on how sex with someone who cannot reasonably consent would impact you, rather on how it is wrong to have sex with someone without their consent, is saddening to say the least.
"3. INSURE YOURSELF AGAINST FEMINIST ACCUSATIONS."
Yes, that's right, men should prepare themselves from the inevitable financial repercussions from interactions with feminists. £20,000 should be kept away and its existence kept secret from a man's partner. Will J4MB provide any assistance with funding that £20,000 'feminist defence policy'? I doubt it. There really is no need. Feminists can sue and accuse... but so can socialists, conservatives, accountants, metalworkers, Members of Parliament, lorry drivers, zookeepers, anarchists, milk men, swimming pool lifeguards, Liberal Democrats, or anyone else of any political persuasion and occupation - even men's rights activists!
"4. PROTECT YOURSELF WITH TECHNOLOGY. "
This instruction makes reference to Theresa May and the Conservative government's illiberal policies on surveillance and the use of the World Wide Web. If Michael Gove had become Prime Minister last year, would the author of this article be so worried? Or is it just because Theresa May is a woman that these policies are so worrying? I suspect the latter. Theresa May's policies on surveillance have barely anything to do with her being a woman, but the author would like you to think that it is a paramount condition of her attitudes to civil liberties. No, they are not.
"5. STICK TOGETHER AS A FAMILY."
The feminists - they're coming for your wife! They're coming for your children! But seriously, the author contends that the family unit is the best defence against a "male-hating, family-hating state." Is this still related to feminism?
"6. DISTRUST POLICE AND CIVIL SERVANTS... Teach your children NEVER to speak to these people without you or a solicitor present. This is especially true for your teenage or older boys. Don’t be naïve - NHS staff and state school teachers are now social services informants...Do not cooperate with the police, especially the Community Service Unit (the relationship police). They will lie, twist and exaggerate to create a case against you. Video or voice record every conversation or encounter you have with the police, social services, parking wardens, NHS staff or any other state worker. Your iPhone is your best weapon and your best defence."
I imagine this goes against the advice that many parents have given their children, at least in my lifetime or the lifetimes of my own parents. The fear of the police to such an extent is baffling. Also, how is this related to feminism again? This is the second instruction in a row to be barely related to feminism, unless the author is about to argue that feminism has led to the decline of the police, the civil service, the family and Internet freedom.
"7. EMBRACE WOMEN WITH STRONG FATHER FIGURES AND COMMON SENSE... Do not date women who demonstrate a sense of entitlement, victimization or extreme emotional instability. Be particularly aware of women who threaten you when jealous or make up or exaggerate stories about other men they have dated. Reduce your risk by vetting all women you date with a background check, searches on their social media websites such as Facebook, questions about previous relationships and how they ended. If necessary, hire a private detective to ensure they don’t have a record of making false or petty allegations against previous partners."
The lengths to which the author believes that men should go to be confident around women is unparalleled. The advice might as well recommend avoiding women who feel any sense of injustice or dissatisfaction with anything in life - or maybe even females who are capable of rational thought? (This coming from J4MB, perhaps they believe that females simply aren't capable of even that.) Can the paranoia get any worse? If you feel the need to hire a private detective to investigate women you are thinking of dating, you might need to hire someone else. When you're flicking through the yellow pages for that private eye, see if you can find a good psychiatrist as well. Or maybe arrange an appointment with an experienced taxidermist.
"8. AVOID NON-COMMITTAL NORTHERN EUROPEAN, BRITISH AND AMERICAN WOMEN."
A thought: if feminism encourages women to divorce their husbands, would it not also encourage women not to get married in the first place? The author thinks that feminist women will be after your money, but "family-orientated women" won't divorce their husbands. I mean, if a woman has a family, why would she any need to divorce her husband? It couldn't possibly be, say, because her husband is abusive, or has been up to no good with another woman?
The ninth ("MINIMISE YOUR TAXES"), tenth ("STAY OUT OF THE SYSTEM") and eleventh ("DITCH YOUR TV LICENSE AND STOP FUNDING THE BBC") instructions bear barely any relevance to the apparent evils of feminism; they appear to be badly-written, panicked versions of neoclassical economic arguments for the minimisation of taxation ("Tax is theft. Practice legal tax avoidance and stop funding the state’s war on men") and the privatisation of services, as well as a bit of a moan about the decline of university education. Still, we are told that "Broadcast television media, most notably the BBC, have become rabidly anti-male. Men are depicted as bumbling idiots and worse. There are almost no male news presenters anymore." I can name plenty of male news presenters off the top of my head - Huw Edwards, Alastair Stewart, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, George Alagiah. But even if there are no male news presenters anymore, is there something inherently wrong with that? Are female newsreaders universally incompetent?
The twelfth ("BE RESILIENT"), thirteenth ("BE GREAT AT WHAT YOU DO") and fourteenth ("STAY HUMAN") instructions manage to make tenuous links between feminism and a man's individual weaknesses amid some generic encouragement for self-betterment and persistence. Men should regularly exercise, be good at sport and their line of work, be open with their emotions and so on - what pleasant and normal advice, for once!
So, here's the final instruction, and, like #9, #10 and #11, there's barely any relation to feminism here...
"15. FIGHT BACK AND DEFEND YOUR RIGHTS. Most men in the UK are unaware of how their rights have been assaulted by the state’s actions and changed over the past years. Get informed and stay informed. Know your rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Exercise and stand up for your rights and family values. Recognise the laws are wrong, Police and CPS application of the law is wrong and the justice system has become politicised. Engage in non-violent civil disobedience. Rational debate and free speech no longer exist. Be prepared to risk getting arrested."
This call to arms could easily be found at the bottom of any old political document - stand up for yourself, challenge the system, prepare yourself for state disapproval and potential arrest. Not long ago, women's liberation activists did these things too.
Overall, the fifteen-point plan for men is a dismal collection of unsubstantiated allegations against feminism and feminists. Feminism is responsible for a great deal of evils and afflictions in society, an accusation made possible by the lazy habit of critics to lump every feminist into one group and rail against "feminism" in general. Funnily enough, this is the same criticism that I levelled against Ella Whelan in my article for The Yorker which kicked off this little episode! Whelan is not alone in speaking about "contemporary feminism" in a disappointingly vague way, enabling her and others to subject it to all manner of criticism for which contemporary feminists are apparently responsible; but Whelan's criticisms of feminism stand in stark contrast to the conspiracy theories and blanket lies of J4MB and their acolytes.