Fear of other men teaches us to hate women
“They forced you into war by saying you were weak.”
Men are afraid of other men. We learn this early. The condition of traditional British masculinity is to know where you are in the pecking order of men. Other men teach us to hate women.
If we are not one of the big boys, then we know terror and insecurity. To live beyond the security of being the masculine winner is to live in the condition of exposure and fear. The big boys, the hard lads, the lads at work, the men on the internet, our friends.
The bigger boys tell the smaller boys what to think. The bigger boys tell the smaller boys what they should be. And the smaller boys, in hope of one day being able to be with the bigger boys, try to curry the favour of the bigger boys.
The weapons used by men to force other men to perpetuate this endless cycle of masculine dominance are humiliation, exclusion, coercion and force.
This craving for the love and respect of other men continues through life. But it’s tinged with fear, a fear that makes it possible for men to listen to other men instead of listening to women and to attack men who do. A fear that makes men defend things their hearts should tell them are wrong. A fear that makes you look behind your shoulder at your gang to see if they are nodding in approval rather than turn to face the person to whom you are talking. It’s the fear that the violence that you see meted out to women will someday be turned upon you.
Men stick up for other men who have done terrible things. They can’t ‘let the side down’ by breaking ranks because there are no degrees to treason. Once you pass into critique there is no going back. To maintain a misogyny you must make sure that nothing can contravene that system of hatred and denigration. It’s an all-in activity. Once you have picked a team you must stick with it. Loyalty. Comradeship. Sexism. Misogyny.
A Boy’s Own Story
I grew up in the west end of Newcastle in the 90s. Still a land of working men’s clubs and traditional values. I grew up as the traditional working class areas were collapsing. Walk around now and there are rectangles of grass where whole rows of houses stood. I remember stray dogs and burned out cars. It was rough. Or at least it was rough for me.
I made the required male friends. Was not popular. Tried to keep my head down. By sixteen we were drinking most nights in parks and then in pubs or the houses of absent parents. We were not hard lads, but were not the lowest on the pecking order either. Not fighters, but not necessarily prey. At least not together, not in school. There were parties and there were young women and we all, in one way or another found our way into the world of sex and relationships.
I was not comfortably male as a teen. I’m still not. Looking back at what few photos there are of me you can see an obviously not straight, maybe not even male, creature desperately trying to become invisible, like an animal plastering myself with twigs and mud to try to remain undiscovered, always fearful of the predator that would swoop from the empty grey sky or leap unannounced from the hollows between rocks.
One night, in the cosy living room of a friend’s house on an estate in Blakelaw a gender mixed group of us were drinking and watching MTV. One of us had brought a stolen bottle of whisky and was blind drunk, rolling and ranting in his armchair. One of us who would later claim to have joined the National Front. One of us I would pass in the street years after we lost touch and who only had the word ‘puff’ to say.
Shouting, cackling, he told the young women of the group to ‘get in the kitchen and make him a sandwich’. Told them they were good for only one thing. Told them they were tarts and slags and ugly: “You sour faced frigid bitches.”
In a rush of rage and anger I picked my side, leaping from the floor to stand in front of him, unsure what to do with my drawn back hand. Unsure, shaking, I swung it in a slow and lazy arc, finally planting an open palmed slap onto his cheek. “You don’t say things like that, OK?” I said. “You just don’t.”
In the cold of the yard outside, pacing back and forth, there was only me. I don’t know where the anger came from but it arrived and it made a decision for me. I knew what side I was on. And I knew that I wasn’t scared. I also knew that I had crossed a bridge that would burn behind me.
Be a cuck
If you try to leave the team, the team will let you know you’ve let them down. That is the rule. In April 2016 We Hunted the Mammoth (“The New Misogyny, tracked and mocked”) published a piece trying to understand why ‘cuck’ had become the flavour of the month term of abuse thrown about by certain internet powered right wing men. Quoting a post from an Alt Right blog, the logic of the term cuck is explained as: “ “cuck” is devastating to leftists because they are being described as the most humiliating kind of man possible, one who gets aroused by letting another man — or other men — have sex with his wife.”
A cuck, then, is any man who bows to the needs of women and who does not profit by it. A cuck is one who pretends that they are cool with the liberties of women’s assertions of desire and agency. In the notion of the cuck is the idea that any man who is insufficiently controlling of the women of the world is just letting the real men fuck them, too. In the world of the cuck slinger, any man soft enough to lose at the hands of a woman is a man who has already lost in the eyes of his fellow men.
I’m a cuck. I hope you’re a cuck, too. The implication of the word is that you are the kind of man who, given a choice, will make sure that the needs and interests of women will be met. It’s the kind of term thrown at men who agree with women that structural inequality exists and needs to be addressed or who suggest that, you know, maybe women have the right to go about their everyday life without incursions from men who in one way or another are hopeful of getting their end away. Men who, in other words, aren’t utter dicks.
The quickest way to leave a war is to lose it
What makes men utter dicks? Why do men stay dicks? You can leave the international brotherhood of aggrieved sexist men. It’s possible. I’ve done it. It’s easy. You don’t even have to hand your membership card back and stop your subs. You just stop looking at everything as man versus woman. You just stop seeing every step towards equality as robbing you of something. You just spend time with women and look as if you are neither going to eat them or try to lift them onto the back of your white charger and spirit them away from this fallen world. Why wouldn’t you? What benefit does being a great big misogynist provide you?
‘But,’ the cuck slinger will say, ‘why are you siding with the women? Don’t you want your freedom? Don’t you want your needs met? Don’t you want to be the winner? Why are you letting those stupid feminists and liberals win?’
‘Why,’ they ask, ‘are you humiliating yourself in front of the altar of women when you could stay safe with us dude?’ At the heart of is the idea that the welfare of men and the welfare of women are antithetical and that given their incompatibility, the benefit of the doubt should always fall with men. Why rock the boat?
This is the one of the biggest con jobs in history. Men who should and do know better are horrible to women because they are scared of other men. (Or because they are horrible. Either is unpalatable to me.) The men that cause women problems are the men who would cause you problems if you went against them. You men are scared. Scared of having the lens of violence turned upon you. Scared of losing the protection provided by paying dues to a lord who would behead you otherwise. Every time you go along with sexism you are paying your taxes so that the baron will not torch your barn and gut your cattle. You pretend that you are powerful but all you do is stand behind the whip hand for fear of being in front of it.
You want respect. You will never have the respect of women if you follow the rules that dictate you must never give any in return. All you have is the hollow, empty comradeship of men who will just as soon detest you should you ever grow up.
The brutal police state of misogyny
Why is it impossible to conceive of a world where men are not horrible to women? Why can’t men picture a world where they are not in a constant war of attrition with women to erase them from public life altogether; or to reduce them to objects of sexual pleasure; or to entomb them in gender roles decades out of date? Or all three?
The answer is always other men. Other men who will give them grief. Other men who will make them feel small. There are two sides: men versus women. The basic premise is: men and women want different things. This is not the same as acknowledging that men and women have different experiences. It’s not even the notion that different men and different women have different experiences from each other. It’s the idea that the interests of men and the interests of women are totally and irrefutably different;opposing sides contesting a very small space. To relent even slightly in the hardline stance is to cast doubt over the whole rigged game. So you must be kept in order. The rules must be enforced and transgressors punished by force, by coercion or by threat — The holy trinity of masculinity.
It took me a long time to understand that being attacked in the street by complete strangers wasn’t normal. The burning shame of handing over all the money in my pocket, the attempts to set my coat on fire on the bus, the knowledge that crossing the road to avoid the gang of lads at the bus stop was both a kind of defeat and a sensible tactic but one that still burned my cheeks nevertheless. It wasn’t just kids from school, known aggressors that could fit into a narrative about bullying that said that the bully felt inadequate or challenged.
It was men. Random men. Men intent on making sure the world worked according to the vision of gender relations passed on to them. Making sure that everyone knew what they were and what they were in relation to everyone else. Men who stated and restated their position as men; like brutal cops ensuring that no one stepped out of line, like cops dishing out beatings to demand respect.
Walking down the street men maybe three times my age hurling insults. A man maybe twice my age demanding a cigarette. The menace of a gang of men behind me in a queue saying ‘puff’; ‘queer’. The call ‘you, come here’ the command that needed to be obeyed as if word from a vengeful and stern father. And the running. And the walking quickly. And the constant sense of exposure, like walking across a town square covered by a sniper’s site.
And this was replicated in private realms, too. What was correct and manly behaviour was reinforced at all times, a kind of self limiting system. Anything that might challenge the ideas implicit in the situation could only be allowed to grow for so long until it was slapped down, the person carrying it punished as a warning to the rest. What were those ideas? That women were infinitely desirable but also infinitely undesirable. Women were to be pursued, evaluated and ultimately mastered. Often underneath there was real tenderness and love and concern, an affection and concern for women and the worry at the implications of the attitudes and actions that passed as common currency. On the surface, in company, the facade had to be maintained. The order could not be challenged.
Throwing the fight
Men who hurt women will always hurt men who refuse to hurt women. Men who fear, who feel small and lost will move not into the realm of possibility and of change but hang back in the comfortable hierarchy in the hope of one day moving up the pecking order. Scared little boys will always convince themselves they are big men. Pick Up Artists, gamergaters, trolls, men’s rights activists, alt-righters all want to make life unworkable for women first, and then men who do not stand with them at their misogynist barricades.
To be a feminist man, or a feminist ally is not just to be nicer to women. It’s to counter actions by men and the structures created by men that actively try to remove, or prevent the achieving of, status, autonomy, security or possibility from women. Then it’s to support wherever you can the deployment of tools and action from the toolkit of feminist responses to oppression, marginalisation and male violence.
The starting point must be to refuse to serve in the sexist army that conscripts you. You can walk out. You can make the transmission of poison of misogyny stop with you. Instead of being goaded into craving the protection from harm that being one of the boys might give you; just walk away. Throw the fight. Help someone terrified for their place in the world to see that there is a possible life beyond the poisoned well of masculine self-interest.
Admit that the men whom you most fear are the same men who do their best to destroy the possibility of honest, safe and equitable relationships between men and women. You can stop being a little boy by stopping passing on the big boy’s messages. You can stop being a dick and doing so you can make the space for other men around you to stop being dicks, too. Make a gap in the pecking order.
As a man, once you break free from the fear of sexist, misogynistic men the land beyond is freedom.
(If you fancy getting me to write something, send me a DM on twitter. My DMs are open)